Effective Leadership & Power of Choice – Voting

As India votes in the Lok Sabha Elections 2014, here are some important lessons about the way we as leaders can choose to view critical life situations.

An incident that happened today reminded me of a key principle that should be a part of every Leadership Training Program. I was on my way to exercise my right to vote for the Lok Sabha elections this morning, I met the Garbage Collector of our colony. He was earlier than usual. My neighbor asked him “Why so early today?” He replied. “Well, I have to go and cast my vote. So, I am finishing my responsibilities as early as I can so that I can go and vote.”

It made me proud to hear this. Around me today democracy is alive. It is displayed by empowered people exercising their right to vote. From neighbours to friends to colleagues and even domestic help. Almost everyone I have met today seemed thrilled to vote.

This reminded me of the amazing ‘Power of Choice’. While circumstances are often not in our control, we can choose our responses to them.

With a vote, we have the power to choose our future leaders.  Similarly, we have the power to choose our responses in a given situation. We may get criticized. We have the power to choose to let it bog us down or learn from it. We will face challenges. We have the choice of letting it deter us, or turning them into opportunities for growth. We will have situations that cause anger. We have the power to choose between ‘being angry’ and ‘channeling that anger’ into productive energy.

One of the most amazing gifts that we have is that we can choose our mindset in any given situation. An interesting example of this happened very recently in a training session I conducted. The session was being held on a Saturday, which was normally a ‘day off’ for the participants. Their collective energy was very low, at the start of the session. Most of them wore a look on their face that said ‘I would rather be somewhere else’. I knew I had to do something different.

I said “We have a choice. We can choose to brood about all the things we would rather be doing today. Or, we can acknowledge that we are here for learning and choose to make this a day where we enjoy ourselves and the process of learning that we have been given the opportunity to embark on.” Immediately, I saw a smile on all their faces. They had recognized that there is an opportunity for choice in the situation. I then asked, “Who is ready to take this learning journey with me today?” Everyone sat upright and put their hands up. There was an immediate shift in energy in the room and the rest of the session went well.

This is something that we focus on in Leadership development programs. This could also be an interesting talking point for Leadership training in India.

The power to choose is a blessing. India fought for its freedom to allow for its citizens to have the freedom of choice. Martin Luther King fought for equal voting rights for Americans from varied ethnic backgrounds. This power is not to be taken lightly. It comes with responsibility. Research the candidates, read the political party’s manifesto and then cast your vote. When making a choice to vote, make it an informed choice. Let us make a choice to have Effective Leadership.

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.” – Larry J. Sabato

Creativity and Innovation – A Leader’s Nightmare?

“Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate”
– Edward De Bono

Creativity and Innovation - A Leader’s Nightmare?Creativity and innovation are buzzwords in today’s business world and the need for Creative Thinking Skills Training is vital and pertinent. When we think of creativity, the names Steve Jobs and Bill Gates come to mind. These names often overwhelm people and creativity becomes a daunting task, as they feel incapable of reaching these levels.

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” — Henry David Thoreau

This picture is a manifestation of the quote. An everyday scene of two zebras grazing in the pasture triggered the photographer to take a picture that could be termed ‘innovative’, ‘creative’ and ‘thought-provoking’. The capability of the photographer to see the ‘unusual in the usual’ is what led to this photograph. This, in short, is the most desirable competency in a leader today.

There is an opportunity for embracing a new way of doing even the simplest things – how you give feedback, how you reach customers, how you position your products and so on. All things in this universe are reduced to a lower state with time. A wooden table starts to wear, humans lose energy and organs start to fail, roads have to be re-laid etc. The way a person did an activity at age 20 will have to be different when he does it at 50 and 80. How the roads were tarred 10 years ago is very different from how it is done today. In short, we are constantly innovating. Noticing the small innovations will build up the capability to embark upon bigger ones.

“The key question when we conduct leadership training isn’t “What fosters creativity?” But it is why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.” — Abraham Maslow.

So if you are one of those who find yourself all at sea when it comes to creative thinking and left wondering how to improve creative thinking, it will help you to know that it is after all a skill that can be learnt. MMM Training Solutions offers programs on creative thinking skills that can just be the answer to your problem. Our creative thinking training programs helps you develop a disciplined approach to innovation, idea generation, concept development and strategy.

Simple Solutions to Complex Problems

Simple Solutions to Complex ProblemsThere’s a story I heard, it may be apocryphal, but even if it is, it serves my purpose in introducing my thought.

A huge U.S corporate giant built a new high rise headquarters. A month or so after the headquarters was fully occupied, the employees began to complain about the slowness of the elevators. Soon, the complaints were so rife that the management spoke to the architects of the building for a solution. The architects were asked if the elevators can be made to move faster or the size of elevators be increased. The architects were quick to respond saying it is possible to increase the size of elevators but it would involve months of work demolishing, extending and reconstructing around the elevators shafts. The noise and commotion surrounding such a task would be highly disruptive to all the employees.

The story goes on to say that the corporation did nothing to the elevator shafts. Instead, full length mirrors on every floor were placed beside the elevator doors and on the inside-walls of the elevators. The employees spent an extra few moments grooming themselves and looking at one another in the mirrors and the complaints faded.

My point is, almost every problem (not all) has a simple solution to it.  I concede that there are a few things that are not simple. For example rescuing people in a building that is engulfed in fire. It involves a lot of coordination, resources, courage and competency of a big team of rescue-workers. But fire-fighting is not a daily affair, or is it? Our day-to-day problems that we face at work or at home are, in reality, simple. Many a time we look for complex solutions when simple ones would be easy to find, easy to implement and appropriate to the problem. Here are few things I suggest that should help you in becoming better problem solvers.

  • The problem should be described in not more than 25 to 30 words
  • Ask simple questions – who, why, what, where, when, how
  • Expect simple answers
  • The solutions should be described in not more than 25 to 30 words and in 30 seconds or less.
  • If your solution is way too complex, please ask yourself if there is a simpler way.
  • Check if you made any unnecessary assumptions about the problem and allow lateral thinking to give you simple answers

 

Most problems can be solved if we use simple logical thinking. Our mind has the ability to search for simple answers to seemingly complex problems. Instead of getting lost in the details and complexity of the issue, let us stay focused on the most important part – the solution.

“You don’t drown by falling in water; you drown by staying in there” – Edwin Louis Cole

Can ‘Tough’ Feedback Make You ‘Tougher’?

Lizzie Velasquez started her talk by saying that she was called the ‘ugliest woman in the world’. She also said that someone wrote an online comment about her asking her to ‘Do the world a favour and put a gun to her head’. Imagine what it must have felt like to be Lizzie at that very moment.

She then said something that revealed the strength of her character. She said that she chose to take those negative comments and let them fuel her rather than dishearten her. She chose to define herself the way she wanted to be, and not by the perception of others. Hers is a truly powerful story.

So, what lessons can we take away from her life experience. I think the power of choice is one of the greatest gifts that a lot of us have today. The power to choose our response to a situation. The power to choose how we want to ‘define’ ourselves. The power to choose who we want to be.

When I first failed in making a presentation in front of a group, I also had negative thoughts. I had people smile at my misfortune. For a while, I defined myself by my negativity and said that “I am not going to do this again”.

Fortunately, something in me ‘clicked’ and I chose to overcome this challenge. I took my fear of public speaking and used it to drive me, to change the way I made presentations. I consciously put myself in positions where I would need to present in front of an audience. I wanted to turn this ‘tough’ feedback into fuel for positivity.

It helped me overcome my fears and I ended up making a career out of it.

The questions I would like you to reflect on as readers is ‘Do I want to be ‘tough’ on myself?’ ‘Do I want to seek criticial feedback?’ ‘Do I want to turn the criticism into a driving force that will fuel my growth?’

Criticism is simply a matter of perception. Although, Lizzie was called ‘ugly’ she embraced the beauty that was inside her. Today, we see the beauty that she embodies and the strength of her will, because that is how she chooses to see herself and, as a result that is what we see too.

“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly” – Lao Tzu, a key wisdom that MMM Training Solutions uses in leadership training.

Creativity and Appetite for Risk – Is Jeff Bezos a fool or a leader?

As I read about the octocopter drones in the newspaper yesterday morning, I thought I was watching a science fiction movie in my dream. After pinching myself to reality, I raced to the Internet and watched Jeff Bezos of Amazon being interviewed on 60 minutes.

I was entranced by the octocopter but even more mesmerized by Jeff Bezos who has the courage to take such a huge risk. Bezos stated that the time between receiving the request from the customer and delivering the product to the customer is shortening everyday and if the innovations are not targeted in this area, the business dies. In his quest to keep his business fresh and listening to the voice of the customer, he has revealed that Amazon has invested in the research and development of the octocopter which is a GPRS driven electrical device that will deliver packages (of maximum weight of 5 pounds) within a 10-mile radius in a window of 30 minutes. The description of ‘fast’ needs to be rewritten in the dictionary!

“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”― Albert Einstein

As a leadership trainer, people who push the limit and are willing to take the fall always fascinate me. Managers who are conservative and cautious are becoming obsolete in today’s market. The ability to explore unexplored paths and make imagination a reality are core competencies of a leader today. In the 19th century, business encouraged people to be risk-averse but today people have to risk-hungry. Situations that are risky are seen as an opportunity for creative thinking and growth.

Corporates that focus on leadership development should be asking themselves some key questions – Are we encouraging creativity, innovation and risk-taking in our people? Are we rewarding these qualities and is it a part of performance management? Are we talking about these qualities only for the top management or are we creating this environment for people as soon as they join the company?

The leadership programs conducted by MMM Training Solutions focuses on the core competencies of a leader that are essential for success in the 21st century. Some of the distinguishing features of our program are – duration of 3 to 6 months, combination of individual coaching and group training and individual assignments that help the participants to put the learning into practice.

Handling Critical Situations Productively – A Leadership Essential

Handling Critical Situations Productively – A Leadership EssentialHandling critical situations is a leader’s responsibility. Critical situations are what are usually referred to as ‘stressful situations’. So one of the key areas of the development of a leader is to learn how to handle stress productively or else their capabilities as a leader will be greatly tested.

“You cannot run at full throttle when applying your mindset to all of the different things running through your head. Focusing is the key to manifesting your desires.” – Stephen Richards

Stress usually in the result of lack of time or competence. But of these two I think that time is most important as we can enhance our competence if we have the time. So let us look at some ways in which we can create more time in our day thus increasing our ability to enhance our stress management.

As with any change in our habits, we need to first shift mindsets or beliefs. Below are three common mindsets that come in our way of being more effective with our time;

  1. “Productivity is directly proportional to the amount of effort we put in.”
  2. “I am the only one who can do it right.”
  3. “This problem is urgent and needs to be attended right away.”

“The essence of self-discipline is to do the important thing rather than the urgent thing.” ― Barry Werner

Here are some effective ways to create more space in your day:

  1. Commit to leaving an hour early from work everyday and vehemently deny yourself the permission to carry work home on the weekends.
  2. Organize your paperwork in three piles:
    • Pile A: Contain items that are of indubitable importance and require your personal attention. Do not have more than 3 items in this category.
    • Pile B: Items that are important but do not need your immediate attention. From this pile sort out the ones that you can delegate. This could contribute to not only your time management but also to the learning of your subordinates.
    • Pile C: In this category are items that could contribute to your knowledge base or passion. Books, newspapers, magazines, TV programs etc. Ensure that you allocate time for this and diligently not allow spill over as this is the category that could make you stray.
  3. Ensure that you throw away everything that not important or urgent. Use the question asked by the legendary Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., ex. President and CEO of General Motors: “What is the worst that can happen if I throw this out?” to help you decide which ones you need to discard.
  4. Allocate half a day a week towards time to introspect. A new and fresh environment could give you the space to break out of the routines and tickle your innovation.

“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” ― Tony Morgan

 Stress and TimeManagement Training is a part of our leadership development programs because of the immense impact it has on productivity. Contact us to know more about our leadership programs.

Courage – A Leadership Essential

‘I’ve had my ups and downs,’ he says. ‘My fair share of bumpy roads and heavy winds. That’s what made me what I am today. Now I stand here before you. What you see is a body crafted to perfection.  A pair of legs engineered to defy the laws of physics and a mindset to master the most epic of splits.’Jean-Claude Van Damme

Volvo released a commercial ‘The Epic Split’  on Nov 14th, 2013, in which Jean Claude does an amazing feat – does a split between two Volvo trucks. The commercial brings out the precision of the Volvo trucks with perfect clarity. But to me, as an Executive Coach, what was even more fascinating is the feat done by Jean Claude.

As I studied about his life, the two values that he embraced from age 11 were Consistency and Courage. At the age of 11, his father took Jean Claude for martial arts lessons because he was physically weak. At the age of 15, Van Damme started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976-1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in matches.The application and dedication to the sport has contributed significantly to an enviable Hollywood film career for him.

Jean-Claude  has struggled with substance abuse and mental illness for a significant period in his life. He had reached a point when he had strong suicidal tendencies. 1997 was a turning point in his life when started to pull things back to normalcy in his life.

As I read about Jean Claude’s life, I was impressed with the way he kept his singular focus on martial arts through his difficult times. This focus gave him the ability to deal with the other circumstances.

As leaders, do you have a purpose, which gives you direction in your life? “A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” Rudder is the smallest part of a ship without which a ship is directionless. It takes courage to have a purpose and even more courage to hold on to this purpose through challenging times by consistently altering our mindsets. May we have more leaders like Jean-Claude!

Shifting Limiting Mindsets – A Leadership Essential

Shifting Limiting Mindsets – A Leadership Essential

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”  – Mary Engelbreit

At the age of 26 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating and progressive neurological disorder. By age 42 I had to use a wheelchair. The first few years of my life in a wheelchair were an absolute misery. I felt less than other people; I felt that I could not compete in the real world; I felt that my life had come to an end. I was bitter, angry and resentful. I was exhausted and sick.There was nothing that could help me to see the brighter side of life. I saw the wheelchair as a curse.

One significant day in my life, I was having a conversation with my father. I cried to him about the way my life had changed and wept about my stagnancy. My father was a quiet man of very few words. He did not have many motivational conversations with people as he always saw facts and not possibilities. But on this day he saw the possibility that changed my life; he said, “If President Roosevelt could rule America for 12 years in a wheelchair, what is stopping you?” I am not sure that it was earth shattering when he said it but as the days went by it permeated every cell in my being and I went from being in bed for 22 hours in a day to where I am today – traveling the world by myself in a wheelchair doing the work I love. I am an Executive Coach and a Leadership Trainer. I started MMM Training Solutions from my bed 8 years ago and today we have an enviable client list.

The wheelchair I once saw as a curse I now started to see as a blessing. Nothing had changed except my thinking. I moved from a Victim Mindset to a Creator Mindset.

There are two primary mindsets that we can all identify with – the first one is the Victim Mindset where a person with this mindset constantly feels victimized by his circumstances, his work pressures, his boss, his family – just about everyone and everything in his life. The victim mentality sucks the life out of innovative energy and has an excuse for every situation. Victims are addicted to complaining. They spread negative energy and want others to take on the same victim mentality that they are attached to.

The second one is the Creator Mindset where the mind is constantly looking for possibilities and has a single-minded devotion, diligence and dedication to what it wants to achieve.  Such people are energized by challenges as they welcome the learning that they get from it.

The fundamental difference between these two types of mindsets is on where the person places their attention & focus:

  • For victims the focus is on what they don’t want. People who see themselves as victims feel victimized by everything – the economy, the pollution, lack of time, an illness in the family, a bad childhood…the list just goes on and on and on. Such people rarely rise to new heights in their organization. Most successful leaders have looked into the mirror, recognized a victim mindset, taken steps to shift theirs to a creator mindset and have gone on reach dizzying heights in their personal and professional lives.
  • Creators place their focus on what they do want. They ask the questions – “What outcome do I want? How do I get there?” Their goals, targets and purposes are crystal clear. They do not leave this to memory but they write it in significant places, they talk to significant people about it and plan their life around it. This helps them to push through all the vicissitudes of life with their eye on the goal. This is the only mindset of leaders.

 “Limitations can only be true as long as we believe them. Believe in yourself instead. Amazing things will happen.” Doe Zantamata

Leadership Training and Development – What is it about?

Leadership Training and Development – What is it about?

Recently I was running a leadership development program for a group of branch managers of a public sector bank. Repeated requests to turn off or put their cell phones on silent fell on deaf ears. As the session progressed one the issues that quite a few participants voiced was that it was hard to handle generation Y. They said that the new generation had very little respect for the seniors. At this point I asked the participants this question, “I have asked you many times to put your mobile phones on silent and you have not respected my wishes. Is it possible to get the respect of others when you are not doing the same?” There was pregnant silence.

What is leadership training and development about? It is about choosing to live the life that others desire to follow. It is about being authentic and creating the desire in others to live in this authenticity. It is about embracing a life of values and these values being displayed in the smallest of your actions. Is this easy to do? Of course not! But living the life of a warrior is difficult but the life of a coward is decidedly easier. A life of mediocrity is simpler than a life of excellence. What are you choosing? What are you doing to stay on this path of continuous improvement?

Problem Solving Training, Communication Training and Team Building Training– these are buzz words in developing leaders in the training industry. But my point of view is that unless one decides to embark on a path of self-awareness and continuous development none of these trainings will have the desired effect.

Michelangelo who sculpted ‘David’ – a 17 foot robust statue sculpted out of one block of marble with only a chisel and a hammer – had this to say when he was asked how he was able to make such a perfect piece, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

As managers, you are the sculptors who have to see the David in each one of your team members. You have to see their inherent potential, which even they are not aware of and awaken it to be productive. How can you carry this colossal responsibility if you do not live your life authentically?

Hence, I would like to conclude this blog by hoping that you have seen the wisdom in making a decision to be the leader that your people would desire to emulate. Personal development is the focus of the Leadership Training programs that are conducted by MMM Training Solutions.

Essentials for Effective Communication

Essential for Effective Communication

Watson Wyatt, a leading worldwide human consulting firm, did a study to understand the impact of effective communication in companies. The study was done over a five-year period (mid-2004 to mid-2009) and the study shows that shareholders got a 47% higher return from companies that communicate effectively.

“Effective communication helps engage employees, and that has positive implications for productivity and the bottom line,” said Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Watson Wyatt.

This survey found that companies scoring high on communication parameters, are good in 3 areas – courage to continuously address employee concerns, innovatively adjust employment deals to match market conditions and measure progress with stringent discipline.

Courage, Innovation, Discipline – Watson Wyatt has identified these, in the study, to be essentials for efficient communication. Let us look at how these values are relevant to communication.

  • Courage: Watson Wyatt defines it as “telling it like it is.”

“Communication is truth; communication is happiness. To share is our duty; to go down boldly and bring to light those hidden thoughts which are the most diseased; to conceal nothing; to pretend nothing; if we are ignorant to say so; if we love our friends to let them know it.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader

We often try to shield people from bad news. This creates a layer of deception and hampers trust. The best way to build trust and relationships is to state the facts without diluting it. As many studies have found out, the top most reason why people leave their jobs is not because of dissatisfaction with their pay but because of their relationship with their bosses. Bad news hurts at first but it is the reality and facing these situations in a healthy fashion is what creates maturity.

  • Innovation: Creating a favorable environment for people to be innovative is the responsibility of an organization.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
― Peter F. Drucker

Organizations need to be comfortable suspending what they are used to and foray into unknown territories, thus encouraging their employees to do the same. Innovation should not be restricted to products but should extend to every aspect of the business. Continuously communicating in the abstract space of possibilities to employees sets a precedent of a mindset of innovation.

  • Discipline: Wyatt stresses the importance of the need to set directions, take stock of the movement on a regular basis and, most importantly, communicating all this to the employees on a regular basis. This will serve as the rudder on a ship – providing direction and causing the employees to adjust course. With the fast changing marketplace the need to have heightened awareness is very high. Email blasts from the CEO, town hall meetings, blogs and video messages from key people on significant topics relevant to the employees can all serve to enhance the comfort level of the employees, as they will, at all times, know the performance of the organization.

As an engine is to a train, so is communication to an organization. The power and efficiency of an engine dictates the direction of the train. Hence, the emphasis paid to communication should play a significant role in any organization.

Today most organizations provide communication training to help their leaders and managers communicate with employees. However, only 3 out of 10 companies are training managers to deal openly with resistance to change. In the same Watson Wyatt study it was identified that highly effective communicators are more than 3 times as likely to handle resistance to change openly than the least effective communicators.

We at MMM Training Solutions provide customized communication training to all levels of management. Our ability to target the issues specific to each organization contributes greatly to the success of our program.