Leadership Is All About Handling Adversities

Life is full of problems but what really matters is how we react to those problems. We have various options – to become hard and miserable or react positively to the various situations that life throws at us. Then, “What is leadership?” Leadership is all about handling life’s difficulties with courage and forbearance. Business leadership is being able to handle organisational problems with the right attitude.

“Giving people self confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do because then they will act.” – Jack Welch

Recently I read a thought-provoking story about a young woman who learnt a revolutionary lesson from a simple demonstration from her father. She was once complaining to her father that her life was full of problems and that she did not know how to handle them. Her father, who was a chef, listened to her patiently. He did not say a word to her but took her to the kitchen. There he took out some eggs, some potatoes and some coffee beans. He immersed them in separate bowls of boiling water. After a short while he asked her to touch all the three ingredients and share her observations. She noticed that the potatoes had become really soft, the eggs had become hard and the coffee had a rich aroma to it!

The potato, eggs and coffee beans had all faced the same problem– that of the boiling water. However, each one responded to the adversity differently. The potato went in hard but came out soft and weak, the egg was frail when it went in and emerged from the water harder than before. However, the ground coffee beans were different! After they were exposed to the boiling water, they created something positive about the experience – fresh, delicious coffee!

“Which one are you?”, asked the chef. ”Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

A leader should be like a coffee seed. When he faces problems he should see this as an opportunity to transform.

In life problems are only 10%, 90% is about how you handle these problems. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business environment, one should be able to develop leadership skills that enable one to adapt to uncertainties. Leadership qualities that help one to make predictable the unpredictable are critical in the 21st century.

Leadership training programs that help to develop the blind area and the unknown areas of the Johari Window are the programs that one should attend. It enables one to develop the untapped potential that helps to traverse unchartered territory.

Is Your Feedback Constructive?

Most managers would agree that one of the most challenging tasks for a manger is to give constructive feedback and ensure the team member take appropriate action. Effective solutions to such challenges are addressed in our Performance Appraisal Training and Leadership Training programs. The challenge is not so much in giving the feedback but in making it constructive. It is common to hear feedback that is vague and contradictory. For example: “Shyam you have put in a lot of work on this project, but I feel….” This is a classic feedback gaffe. While the first part of the sentence is an appreciation, the second part is a criticism. Feedback that uses ‘but’, ‘however’ and ‘although’ mostly evoke mixed feelings and spoils the chances of taking corrective actions. So, how does one really give constructive feedback?
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark
Effective Leadership involves understanding why people resist critical feedback. It is then, lot easier to give constructive feedback. Neuroscientists have found that our brain is designed to resist negative feedback. Our brain acts as a defense mechanism and protects us from threats to our ego and self-esteem.
The main objective of performance appraisal is to help people grow and develop. So create an environment of discovery where people discover their areas of improvement. Here are few steps that can help you give constructive feedback, especially during performance appraisals.
Be in control of your own emotions. This will help in giving feedback that does not come across as a threat.
1. Prepare the recipient’s mind for feedback. It is important here to understand the science behind resistance to negative feedback. The amygdala, a very small part of the brain near the thalamus, hijacks the rational brain as it senses danger and triggers the fight, flight or freeze response. In order for the recipient not to perceive danger, it is important for the person to get the permission from the recipient to give the feedback. This prepares the mind to receive the information without being threatened.
2. Use the technique of feed-forward in your performance dialogue. Before giving feedback ask the recipient these questions:
1. What are your thoughts on how you handled the situation?
2. What did you do well?
3. What could you have done better?
Responding to questions help them overcome amygdala hijack and gets the pre-frontal neo-cortex, the thinking part of the brain, to respond. This ensures that they are now ready for feedback.
4. The feedback should focus only on the area that needs improvement and not on the person. Avoid judgmental language and display empathy with the body language and tone of voice that shows concern. It is important to avoid sarcasm while giving feedback.
5. End the feedback with a mutually agreed upon action plan. Here again, it is important to allow the recipient to design his own action plan as he/she has to own it and commit to the actions. The person giving feedback can ask questions that will enable the recipient to explore various options.
Managers will lead teams more adroitly only if they realize that an open mind is a must for receiving constructive feedback; the objective being, to create an opportunity for people to improve and grow.Understanding the brain science of constructive feedback will help people move seamlessly from a state of impasse to a state of insight. David Rock, in his article, ‘Managing with the Brain in Mind’ explains this with great thoroughness. Being insightful allows effective action planning. Implementing the action plan extensively, forms a habit. Giving constructive feedback is an integral part of our Leadership Training program to ensure their team cultivates productive habits.
For more such interesting articles please see the link below:

Empathy – A Necessary Trait

Shifting Limiting Mindsets – A Leadership Essential

Authenticity – A Leadership Essential

What It Takes To Develop The Leader In You

Of all the places I could have found examples, the TV show ‘Survivor’ displayed some good anecdotes of how an ordinary person can become a leader under the right circumstances and when left with no choice. Over the period of a few weeks, I saw a nervous, timid and docile contestant become a passionate and inspiring leader to the rest of his team. It demolished my perspective that leaders have to be born and not made. The task of bringing out the leader in you is precisely what leadership programs aim to do. In this article we will look at some common areas that they focus on.

Leadership Training Programs   are designed to identify, assess and harness the skills and talents of an employee in order to not only bring out the best in them but to be the catalyst in paving the way for future leaders as well.

  •  Self-Confidence – This is primarily what companies want to tap into. If a candidate has zero to low self-esteem, building that up to a point where he or she can be equipped to do more things can be very challenging and require a longer curve of training and investment. A healthy self-confidence or self-esteem is a great foundation to build upon other skills that anyone can rely upon.
  •  Emotional Intelligence – Another leadership skill that organizations are very interested in developing is ‘Emotional Intelligence’, a soft skill that is worth its weight in gold in the corporate arena. The ability to sense the pulse of oneself and the team that one is working with is a tremendous skill to have in working closely with people in the workplace environment. ‘One Simple Concept that will infuse your Leadership with Success’  is an article to help you let the leader in you emerge.
  •  Role Model – Any team is only as good as its own leader. Companies look to examine the character, values and ethic of a person to assess any possible leadership potential. A leader who can think right, lead right and serve right, can always be counted upon to be the right influence and inspiration for his or her team. While leadership style is often emphasized over anything else today, the intangible force of being a good leader over a charismatic one far outweighs any style aspect.

For more information on Leadership Training Programs, please refer to the following links:

What to look for in Future Leaders  

Essential Differences Between Leaders and Managers

What Should Leadership Training Focus On? 

Exemplification of Leadership

4 Effective Ways To Manage Your Time

We’ve all done it plenty of times in our lives. The complaints usually all sound the same – “If only there was more than 24 hours in a day”, “Where did all the time go?”, “Why does time fly when you’re trying to get something done” and the endless list continues. What is it about time that is so elusive? Why does it always seem like it moves slowly just when we want it to fly and flies when we want it to move slowly? It almost seems like it has a mind of its own! But we’re the ones with the minds.

Time Management Training programs are especially crucial for companies where every man-hour made or lost is directly proportional to money made or lost. The more efficiently a company manages it’s time through resources, systems or personnel, the more cost effectively the company operates by saving on time wasted. Hence it is one of our key programs for Managerial Training and Leadership Training.

Time Management, it turns out, is not really one of the unsolved mysteries of the Earth or rocket science that is beyond our comprehension. It takes some organizing and some discipline, the two key ‘ingredients’ to successfully manage your time. Lets look at how those aspects interplay with each other:

Goal Setting

This is the first step to begin with. To-Do lists are generally not very efficient because they only keep getting longer and after a while can get overwhelming. It is also important to set not only the ‘type’ of goals to achieve but the ‘number’ of goals that need to be done as well. Setting a goal of 5 things to do in an hour maybe more efficient than 20 things to do in the same hour. The more realistic the goals, the more achievable they are. ‘How does one manage time more effectively’  is a great article that gives you many simple, yet effective, techniques.


This goes hand in hand with goal setting. Some people attempt to just get ‘chunks’ of work done without prioritizing them according to importance. Consequently sometimes these are the very same people who just never seem to have time to do the things that actually matter. Prioritizing the goals that need to be achieved is the best way to maximize the efficiency of the limited time available.


Next it is important to actually put these priorities down on a schedule or calendar. Especially within a business context, there are often numerous tasks that may sometimes require our attention at the same time and having our priorities scheduled will help in allocating them into available slots through the workday.


This is the rivet that holds every other piece of the time management structure together. If this isn’t managed, everything else mentioned above falls flat on its face. Once the system of goal setting, prioritizing and scheduling is setup, it takes a lot of hard work through diligence and discipline to keep the system running smoothly. This is often the area where most people falter. If discipline is maintained within our time management skills, we will discover rather quickly that time need not be our foe but can actually be our friend.

Here is a fun, albeit effective, way to manage one’s time.


What To Look For In Future Leaders

Leadership never operates in a vacuum. There are always leaders and then there are always leaders in the making. Companies operate and rely heavily on the wisdom, experience and tenacity that leaders bring to the table. And it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that this trend must continue for the greater good of the company and all its employees. But spotting a candidate that is ‘leadership material’ and than investing and grooming him or her for such a role is easier said than done. This is primarily what Leadership Training are for – to train and equip managers in their respective departments with the right tools to help identify, assess and groom candidates that have the potential to be leaders in order to fill the void that their predecessors will someday leave. So what does this process look like? Here are three key questions that managers must ask themselves before they begin:

What To Look For In Future Leaders

• Does the candidate have the essential competencies to be a leader? In other words, does he have what it takes? It is important that this potential candidate have not only the qualifications or knowledge but also the fundamental understanding of key concepts, facts and dynamics as they exist within the business.

• Does the candidate have the commitment to be a leader? While it may be true that they have great ambition or desire to be a leader, are they prepared to put in the hard work, perseverance and durability to not only survive through tough times but in fact thrive in it? Leaders need to have the ability to ‘weather the storm’ when the going gets tough. This is a foundational aspect of leadership skills training.

• Lastly does the candidate have the character to not only be a good leader but even a better leader? Do they have the principles and values necessary to help them lead their team or company with honesty and integrity? And will this character stay consistent during times of stress or challenge? Character is ultimately the foundation upon which the leader must stand. This is crucial to organizational leadership.

Leadership Programs are constantly in the process of fine-tuning individuals with the skills necessary to identify and develop talent. For more info on how this is done, please refer to the following article:What It Takes To Be A Successful Business Leader

Leadership – Asking the Tough Questions

Leadership – Asking the tough questions

Being a leadership coach I often have the privilege to be in the presence of future leaders. There is one question that I ask in every session, “Who is the leader that you emulate?” I get answers like, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and disappointingly………… Hitler. It happens session after session.


Regardless of how consistently it happens, it still saddens me to think that mankind can see something remarkable in a human like Hitler. It takes me a while to re-center myself but after I do, I ask a simple question, “Are you aware of how Hitler died?” There is a pregnant silence after which they say, “Suicide.”


Leadership is action, not position.” – Donald H. McGannon


After this awareness is created, the participants always reconsider their stance that Hitler is a leader to be emulated. I heave a sigh of relief; there is hope for mankind ………..


Being a leader is about asking the tough questions – it is not about providing the answers but it is about the asking the questions that stimulate thinking. It is about knowing that your opinions go through continuous change as you enhance your awareness and learning through your journey in life.


A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there. – David R. Gergen


Leadership Traits of The Legendary Leader William Wallace

Leadership is one of the most admirable traits in the long history of mankind. Almost every nation and era has seen the rise (and sometimes fall) of great leaders; men and women who changed history for the better, who made a dent in the universe, who irreversibly had a lasting impact on all mankind. In the great nation of Scotland, lived the 11th century legend of William Wallace, who though being an ordinary landowner at one time went on to become one of the leading persons in the revolutionary Wars of Scotland. Wallace’s remarkable tenure in the War was portrayed magnificently by Mel Gibson in the 1995 Academy Award winning movie, ‘Braveheart’. Although a historical depiction, the movie is full of enduring illustrations in leadership skills. For our purposes however, we will look at one of my most favourite scenes that exemplifies this.

Before an intimidating array of English forces, stand the Scottish army, weary, low-spirited and reluctant to fight the English for fear of loss and death. Wallace rides from atop the hill, blue war paint streaked across his face, with his eye on the English forces on the horizon. He faces the battered Scots and begins talking to them. Several features of his leadership skills emerge from this breathtaking dialogue which leadership can incorporate even today:

“If this is your army, why do you go?”

Wallace asks the forces what their purpose is amidst their identity as an army. This is a crucial first step in helping people see the bigger picture – who are they? What are they here for? What drives them? Before focusing on the objective at hand, he gets to the heart of their personhood. Leaders must first learn to get to the hearts of the people they lead.

“I see my countrymen as an army…here in defiance against tyranny”

To the bickering and skepticism of the Scots, Wallace reminds them of the significance of why they are really here. People, including employees within a company, can easily be intimidated or skeptical of the task ahead of them. It is then when leaders must remind them to stand strong, face down the challenges that stare them in the face and stand for something bigger than their fears. It is when the odds are against them that true leaders find the strength within themselves to lift everyone else up.

“They may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!”

Wallace reminds the Scots of what is on the line here – not their comforts, happiness or even their lives but their legacy, their destiny, their freedom. Leaders must always be ready to remind their followers of those things that are bigger than them or their challenges. There is more at stake than just a job, a paycheque or profits. There is integrity, effort and excellence. And when the day is long gone and the problems are far behind, one can rest in the fact that they gave it their all, for the greater good.

Leadership Training Program focus on developing such intangible qualities that help their managers and leaders, not only achieve their goals and targets, but strive to empower everyone around them to reach greater heights as well. Here is an article on 10 qualities of superior leaders: 10 Qualities of Superior Leaders   

For more information on Leadership Training Programs refer to this article : Is Intuition an Important Leadership Trait?



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

What It Takes To Be A Successful Business Leader?

What It Takes To Be A Successful Business Leader?
I have always enjoyed watching epic war movies. Whether they were movies based on ancient history like ‘The Legend of Troy’ or more recent ones like ‘Saving Private Ryan’, I’ve always thought it captivating how the commanding general made decisions of great consequence under the intense pressure of a grueling war. To me, it seemed occasionally, that these men who were at the front lines of a raging war, with lives being lost all around them, were the epitome of the quintessential leader. I’ve often pondered over how I myself might function in a situation like that. Would I take the risks that leader took? Would I put my men in harm’s way for the greater good? How far would I go and at what cost, to accomplish the ultimate objective at hand? The questions are many and I can only speculate. But I speculate in awe of such leadership skills.

The stresses and strains of our modern urban life however carry a different sort of burden. Leaders are still needed today. Most of us still make decisions that cost incredible amounts of time, energy and people. And in our current corporate culture, those are invaluable assets that need to be utilized efficiently. Regardless of the nature of leadership required, there are certain leadership skills that leaders tend to have, that set them apart from the regular folk. Lets look at a few of these:

  • True leaders are trailblazers. They seldom take the conventional safe route and often prefer the road-less traveled. They make their own path, one that ordinary people have stayed away from. Risk taking is an important leadership trait because beneath the surface it reveals many other things about the leader – courage and unconventionality.
  • Leaders are not pressurized by negativity or criticism. Often even in a modern corporate environment, there are always skeptics and pessimists who will often tend to see the glass as half empty. The negative and discouraging words that they spew can be disillusioning. Other times, situations can just look plain bleak and difficult. But leaders are not moved by such odds. Instead a driven leader will often perceive an obstacle as fuel to drive him or her further to overcome the hurdle.
  • Leaders lead by example. They understand intuitively that the ‘buck stops with them’ and if they don’t take responsibility and step in, no one will. Leaders will put their own necks on the line in an effort to inspire others. When leaders are willing to be on the front lines, his or her team line up supportively.

Companies today understand the importance of Leadership Training Program and developing good quality leadership in every rank and department of their company. They understand the significance of people needing a model or a standard to look up to. And understandably they’re willing to invest in the making of such leaders: How top companies breed stars?

For more information on Leadership Training Programs,  refer to this article: Leadership Training and Development – What is it about?

Why All The Hype About Executive Coaching?

Executive Coaching
“I’ll bet most of the companies that are in life-or-death battles got into that kind of trouble because they didn’t pay enough attention to developing their leaders.” – Wayne Calloway, former Chairman, Pepsico, Inc.

Recently I heard the CEO of a very successful organization address his top performers. One of the critical points he made was that in his first 5 years as the CEO, he did not focus on grooming his top leaders but focused more on the numbers. However, as soon as he realized it, he engaged a world-renowned consulting company to plan and implement ongoing executive development through leadership training programs. This program has played a significant role in the stupendous results the company has been experiencing in the past 10 years. He considers the delay in starting the leadership coaching and training to be one of his greatest follies.

I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.” – Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot

In the 21st century change is rapid and constant in the business world. The marketplace demands that the time span involved in the process of maturation that transforms a manager into a leader has to shorten. It is similar to expecting a fruit to ripen in a shorter timespan. This cannot happen unless you pick the unripe fruit and apply heat through external procedures that will accelerate the ripening process. Using this analogy, executive coaching is to transforming a manager to a leader as heat is to accelerating the ripening process of a fruit.

A lot of organizations hesitate to engage an executive coach because this service is very expensive. But MetrixGlobal LLC says that, “In one study, executive coaching at Booz Allen Hamilton returned $7.90 for every $1 the firm spent on coaching.” Coaching allows people to unearth talent and potential that they never knew existed within them. It provides a person with a trustworthy advisor who has the highest intention for the growth and development of the coachee. A coach not only is a sounding board but also a cheerleader, always standing on the sidelines and rejoicing in the coachee’s victories. The business world is now catching up with the wisdom of the sports world – hiring a coach to help them reach their goals.

“Who exactly seeks out a coach? Winners who want more out of life.” – Chicago Tribune

Pramila Mathew, MEd, MBA, is an Executive Coach in India who has over 20 years of experience both in the US and in India in the field of coaching. Having worked both in the US and India, and having been educated in both Business and Psychology, she has the exposure and experience to be a catalyst of major transformation in her coachees. In the recent years she has provided executive coaching in India to the top leaders of organizations like Novartis, Dun & Bradstreet, Sanmina SCI and many more.


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