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.

Understanding Empathy: Lessons from Cyclone Phailin

“My shop has been badly damaged in the showers and the wind, but I had promised my customers I would serve them food from today itself. Hence, I have opened my shop,” stated Rahul Kant, an entrepreneur, one day after Cyclone Phailin. Rahul runs a south Indian eatery on the beach in Gopalpur, which was the epicenter of the cyclone.

I was amazed to hear about the attitude and commitment of this man who wanted to open his shop a day after a major cyclone had struck.

As a training consultant, I am always asked the question, “Can you provide a training program on ‘Fostering Ownership’?” Sounds easy on the surface, however, we all know that one training program is not enough to do so. Ownership and Accountability are what we term assoft skills, which, put simply, are the skills paramount for effectual interpersonal relationships.

Where does ownership come from? I keep looking at the statement made by Rahul Kant and I ask myself the question – “What within him is driving him to overlook his safety and focus on the needs of others and open his store to provide food for his community?” I think the answer is empathy, a soft skill that is a key part of Emotional Intelligence. Empathy helped him to prioritize the ‘need of his community’. Empathy enabled him to take ownership for the recovery of his people.

I believe the key to fostering ownership is giving people a cause to believe in. One that is bigger than themselves, and connecting it to how they play a role in contributing to that cause i.e. the ‘bigger picture’. This clearly explains why enhancing soft skills is a major focus of leadership programs today. The ability of a leader to see the bigger clarity and lead his/her people there is imperative to the success of an organization.

The cyclone Phailin that hit Orissa in India brought out some wonderful examples of people suspending their personal agendas and working together to contribute to the ‘bigger picture’. The Hindustan Times reported that 30,000 electricity workers in state of Andhra Pradesh, who had been on a strike to protest the division of the state (the Telengana issue), came back to work to deal with the emergency situation. Rediff.com also reported that Hindu and Muslim communities in Orissa joined together in offering prayers for the safety of the people of the state.

There is nothing better to bind people together than a common goal. The disaster prevention efforts for Cyclone Phailin have been termed a success because everyone saw the ‘bigger picture’ and took ownership to make a contribution in the roles that they could play. I believe the key in corporate business is the same. People need to see the ‘bigger picture’. That is why in leadership training programs today, leaders are encouraged to answer these questions:

• What is the ‘bigger picture’ that our organisation is contributing towards?
• How do we enable employees to understand the ‘bigger picture’ and their contribution towards it?
• How do we connect their ‘inner picture’ to the ‘bigger picture’ of our organisation?

Cyclone Phailin has left a lot of devastation in its wake but it has also given us the opportunity to witness the goodness and courage in people like Rahul Kant. I am proud to be an Indian!

Communication – A Leader’s Trump Card

ACommunication – A Leader’s Trump Card

Communication is an area that is identified for improvement in a substantial number of performance appraisals. It is a skill that is critical yet under-developed. That is why Communication Training, which is an integral part of Soft Skills Training, is a highly sought-after program by corporates today.

Stephen Covey, in his book The 8th Habit, describes a poll of 23,000 employees drawn from a number of companies and industries. He reports the poll’s findings:

1). Only 37% said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why

2). Only 1 in 5 was enthusiastic about their team’s and their organization’s goals

3). Only 1 in 5 said they had a clear “line of sight” between their tasks and their team’s and organization’s goals

4). Only 15% felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals

5). Only 20% fully trusted the organization they work for”

An often-asked question is, “What constitutes good communication?”. There are many schools of thought but I would like to focus on the three critical elements identified by Aristotle – ethos, pathos and logos. Even though Aristotle emphasized it thousands of years ago, it still stands true.

Ethos is essentially your authority on the topic of communication — it is the reason why people should believe what you’re saying. This is something you earn based on your prior, repetitive performances on the subject.

Pathos refers to the emotional connection you are able to make with the audience while you are communicating — essentially, people are able to answer the question, “What is in it for me?” People see the relevance of the subject in the context of their life. This is what made Martin Luther King and Gandhi outstanding orators; they made their speeches relevant to their audience and effectively tapped into their emotions. Taking personal interest in each of your team member’s development, being passionate about your organization’s progress and recognizing people for their efforts are ways in which to enhance the pathos. Of the three dimensions, pathos has the greatest impact on the perception of people rating the leader’s effectiveness as a communicator.

But all the authority and passion will not help you if you are not able to help the people understand your reasoning. Logos refers to the appealing to others’ sense of reason. People often mistake this to mean that you need to support everything you say with facts. This is only a small part; the bigger part is the ability to make explicit the connections that they derive from the data, which strongly supports the conclusions that are being made. Hence, strategic thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills are critical skills for today’s leaders. This enables them to express logical ideas in clear and compelling enough terms to influence outcomes.

The Communication Training conducted by MMM Training Solutions, a specialist in Soft Skills Training, focuses on all three elements. They have to be well balanced in order to increase your impact as a communicator.

“When we change the way we communicate, we change society.” – Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Communication – A Leadership Competency

Communication - A Leadership CompetencyIn today’s marketplace, one’s upward mobility is dependent on one’s ability to present one’s thoughts with clarity, alacrity and impact. In short, one’s presentation skills are a key factor in career growth.

The communication training and leadership training programs conducted by MMM Training Solutions lays great emphasis on enhancing one’s presentation skills. The ability to understand the needs of the audience is as important as the ability to present with power. What complicates this scenario is that presenting in front of an audience is a skill that does not come naturally to most people.

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops, until you stand up to speak in public.” – George Jessel

In our communication training, participants’ presentations are videotaped and live feedback is given to each person. For 3 months after the training program the trainer coaches each participant individually – either by reviewing videotaped presentations or being present at a time when the individual is delivering a presentation and giving real-time feedback. The results of this training have been phenomenal and we have done this program for top leaders all over the world.

The potent impact, in my opinion, is because the group training is followed up with individual coaching. Coaching works to enhance one’s confidence and overcome the fear of looking ridiculous in front of people. But as good as you are one thing is sure, presenting in front of an audience is a difficult art.

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfield

Making a Sustainable Change

With the emergence of BPOs in India, housewives got an opportunity to teach English and the simpler aspects of Customer Service. But with the boom of the Indian economy competitors for this space started to spring up all over the world. This demanded that the Indian taskforce has to be on a path of continuous improvement, which, in turn, mandated a higher level of capabilities in the trainers. Since this industry got a late start in India, accomplished trainers are still hard to come by. So we at MMM Training Solutions, being a soft skills training consultancy, pondered as to how we could contribute to this situation.

 

At this point, I saw the movie ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’. This film is about a fisheries expert who is recruited to help realize a sheikh’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the Yemen desert. The intent of the sheikh was to ensure that water was plentiful in the desert and that fly-fishing was a trade that the locals could benefit from. However, he did not consider the fact that the locals, for generations, had only lived in the desert. He also did not take their opinions or get them ready for the change. This venture was an exercise in futility as the locals sabotaged it.

 

Anytime a change is being initiated, three things need to happen:

  1. The people need to be informed and they need to see the wisdom in the change.
  2. Clear and systematic plan for the change needs to be laid out.
  3. People have to be taught the new ways of doing things.

 

Because of the competition in the marketplace, the first two items were already addressed. Hence, MMM Training Solutions decided that we would go to the root of the issue and increase the capabilities of the trainers. We decided to conduct Open House Train the Trainer Programs all over the country. We have already conducted two in Chennai and the accolades received spurred us to conduct the next one in Mumbai on Feb 22, 23 and 24.

Thought Leadership

 

Gautama Buddha, SriSri Ravishankar, BabaRamdev, JKrishnamurti, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Osho Rajneesh, Sathya Sai Baba, Srila Prabhupada of ISCKON fame – What common thread binds all of these big names – yes they are all spiritual gurus revered and followed by millions all over the world. Apart from this they have another amazing quality – their power to influence the thoughts of their followers – these are spiritual gurus whose kingdom far outreaches the geographical influence of any king or government stretching as they do from one corner of the world to the other. Their followers hail from diverse backgrounds – the common man, artists, politicians, world leaders, homemakers, children, drug addicts, the conscientious working man – the spectrum is really all encompassing.

As early as the 1920’s saw J Krishnamurti urging people to “reject authority particularly one that instructs you on thought”. The promise of freedom from thought instructing authority had thousands eating out of his hand!

These pied pipers of spirituality recognized many years ago the power of establishing the value of a thought or an idea in the minds of their followers. Vedanta, meditation, yoga, kriya, karma and dharma were tied together with the firm thread of “Thought Leadership”. Spiritual Gurus come and go, much like the flavor of the day, they remain in the minds of people for a while – what lives on is their power to influence the thoughts of their followers.

So what is “Thought Leadership”? It is the ability to sell an idea to a group of people – one does not necessarily have to have power, position or authority to display thought leadership. And the changes may not be initiated at the organizational level. The changes can be small scale at the team or group level. Thought leaders can demonstrate using a prototype or use logic and evidence to persuade people.

To be a thought leader a person must be the king of content – the stronger the content the lesser the effort to sell the idea – content, evidence and demonstrated usage will speak for itself. The credibility of their idea is the key to its acceptability. Thought Leadership is radically different from traditional top down leadership.

Let’s compare this to a journey – Traditional leaders define the destination, lay down the road map and sell tickets to reach there as well. Thought leaders on the other hand merely sell the tickets for the journey and allow people to get there on their own or with the help of facilitators, coaches and managers. They just promote a better way to get to the destination.

Thought Leadership ends when the target group accepts the idea. This is where the thought leader becomes a manager and starts to manage the implementation of the idea either on his own or with the help of other managers.

Thought Leadership requires a youthful rebellion and tremendous courage, bravery and conviction to charter new paths. Once a part of an organization’s culture Thought Leadership can add to the sustainability in the long term perspective. Folks go out there and break the mould..yet again!

Leadership Skills – The Gandhi Way

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2nd October 1869 – 30th January 1948), is lovingly known as Bapu (Father), and is the Father of modern and democratic India. As we stand at the threshold of his birth anniversary, we need to remind ourselves that there is so much that we can learn from this amazing stalwart that mankind has known. It has never failed to amaze me as to how he was able to achieve what he aspired for – without force or might, by his indomitable will.

At a time and age when morals and values are trampled upon in the mad rush for fame, power and money, we need to stop and think: could it be possible to achieve all of this and more by upholding morality to the highest decree?

Another aspect of Gandhiji was his amazing and inspirational leadership style. His life story during the struggle for an independent India conveys an important management lesson on leadership – you can motivate and inspire your followers when you have a consistent high regard for values and character.

I ensure that a little bit of Gandhi is alive in the Soft Skills Training and Executive Coaching that I conduct. I urge all my readers to study the life of Gandhi – his subtle messages speak aloud and make characteristic sense today. His ideals can be applied to life and business alike.

MMM Training Solutions remembers Gandhiji with deep reverence on his birth anniversary and re-dedicates itself to helping its participants strengthen themselves – not by physical capacity, but through an indomitable will.