Why Communication Skills are the Epitome of Human Progress

Why Communication Skills are the Epitome of Human Progress

Good communication skill does not just mean the ability to be understood, it means more than that. Effective communication skills can help humans convey their emotions that may be hard to discuss.

Since the beginning of time, what has set humans apart from animals has been our cognitive faculties and the depth of our Communication Skill. Like animals we too have the basic senses but we have something extra – self-awareness. And not only do we have self-awareness but we have always been able to communicate that when needed. Modern commercials and advertisements pick up on this subconscious ability and play to its strengths. All one has to do is watch a commercial of Calvin Klein (CK) or Apple. In the CK commercial you will immediately notice that the product itself is almost never shown. Instead they sell you a ‘mood’, ‘attitude’ or a ‘personality’. CK understood intuitively that often what a product makes you feel or think is more powerful than the immediate image of the product itself. The subconscious feeling one gets when watching a CK commercial is not even centered around the product but instead about feeling, ‘adventurous’, ‘sexy’ or ‘dominant’. Similarly Apple commercials rarely drone the watcher with close-ups and technical specs of their products. Instead they show you a montage of clips of how diversely their products touch people’s lives. From a five year old in a classroom to a seventy year old at home, from the medical labs of Harvard to a cottage in rural China, Apple commercials show how their products bring joy to people all over the world. They’re not selling you a product, they’re selling you a ‘life-style’. This is how to communicate effectively!

Even in the corporate world, communication skills are the brain, heart and blood of a company all at the same time. From casting the vision, to formulating a game plan, to planning a methodology all the way to the execution and gauging of the process, it is communication that drives the entire corporate engine. The corporate world is now looking at helping its employees in the process of ‘how to develop communication skills.’ All types of communication skills intuitively take into account the following:

• Clarity of Objective – No one wants to hear a muddled message. Yet most communicators fall into the trap of getting lost in ‘their’ story. Good communicators usually ensure their presentations, conversations and e-mails have single themes. They keep their meetings to the point and ensure that their communication follows Stephen Coveys principle of ‘beginning with the end in mind’.

• Practical Impact – Often in an official presentation, it is assumed that merely presenting the data and numbers will tell the story for itself. But actually, showing how those numbers have real-time effects on the company and consequentially on an employee will have a more personal and powerful effect on the listener.

• Vivid Expression – With the advent of media and graphics in presentations, the effects of decisions made can be shown in a more graphically intuitive manner that gives the listener a sense of realness. For example, showing how the net profit can blow past the previous years’ profits by implementing the current plan of action using graphics and animation can be more effective than just showing the adjusted figures.

Communication Skills Training is an important facet of corporate operations and management.It is the only medium that serves as the nerve center for the healthy exchange of ideas and feedback between the management and employees and even amongst themselves. Even Fortune 500 companies constantly work on improving this facet: Read related article in Forbes.com

For more information on Communication Skills Training, refer to this article: Is Communication Skills A Part of Soft Skills Training

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

The ‘Y’ in HAPPYNESS

The ‘Y’ in HAPPYNESSIn the movie ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ one of the characters wrote the word ‘Happiness’ on the wall but spelt it as ‘Happyness’. When questioned about using Y instead of I, he said that there should be no ‘I’ in Happyness there only should a ‘Y’. It took me a while to get the deeper meaning to the statement. After dwelling upon this for a while, I also agree that there should only be a ‘Y’. ‘Why is it so?’ I am sure you would wonder. Read on…………

Well let’s admit that there are metrics to measure just about every aspect of our lives – our money, our well being – physical health, emotional health, our success, economic security and now I’m told research and science is just a step away from measuring our life span as well.

Which brings me to a question – why are we scampering to collect metrics on these aspects? Does this indicate how happy we will be when we collate the information? Why do we need what we need – home, money, family, security, health?

A realization hit me one morning a few weeks ago as I was travelling to work – I had metrics to measure all the above aspects while I lacked any framework on measuring the single most powerful driving force – the desire to be happy.

Did I have reasons to be happy? I sure did – I was a facilitator – cannot imagine doing anything else for a living; I had friends, family and my health….

Then I started to ponder about the ‘Ys’ or ‘Whys’………..Why then was I snapping at the same people who I care about so deeply once too often? Why was getting dejected at the slightest setback-professional or personal? Why was I losing my temper too often and too easily? Is that how a happy person should react?

I thought long and thought hard and realized that if I could figure out the ‘Ys’ I could increase my feeling of happiness. Here are some of the changes I made in my life which resulted in me being a happier person:

  1. Eat and sleep in time – science has enough evidence to prove this affects how happy we can be.
  2. Hold on to your anger – Every irritation does not have to be aired as soon as you start to sense it – this only adds to bad feelings. Allow your irritation to dissipate a little and might be that as time passes you might feel that you need not air it at all.
  3. Enjoy the fun of failure – People who are happy are the ones who dared to do things differently. As Shiv Khera says "Successful people don’t do different things, they do things differently.” Challenge yourself to learn and explore. Failure and success are mere byproducts – the satisfaction of having tried has no equal.
  4. Money can buy happiness – Using your money to be closer to your loved ones, to buy products that will increase your efficiency and productivity – the list could be endless. Go ahead splurge wisely and make others and yourself happy.
  5. Exercise to be happy – there is enough evidence to prove that even a ten minute walk can boost your mental and psychological health.
  6. Let the second best be good enough – In life it may not be always possible to get the best – no point in fretting over choices available or choices made.
  7. Give a thing only as much importance as it deserves – this is entirely from your life’s perspective and never from anyone else’s.
  8. Act – Reflect on what will make you happier and take concrete steps to get closer to whatever makes you happy

This won’t take forever to garner and it is totally worth it!

Creating Leadership Readiness Through Animated Movies

 Where do the best learning’s take place – in schools? In colleges? At home? At work??

Well the best learning takes place in a movie hall – specially when we watch movies of the animated kind – have you ever noticed how these creatures we call animals so beautifully mirror thoughts, actions, behavior, attitudes and morals as recorded in different faiths – they are perfect teachers – from whom we can glean a wealth of insights on human behavior.

Animals for centuries have been used to depict life’s lessons and the inevitable truths in a magical way. For many decades now we have experiences this magic through animated films. These films inspire charm and teach in ways that live -people films, limited by shackles of reality, struggle to do.

Let’s talk about Cinderella – Once the magic of the fairy tale wears off what life lessons are we left with to ponder over?

Cinderella had a step mom who made the devil scurry home to finish his housework before he dared any devilry – what did she do about it? Did we ever hear her complain – not one whimper from those pretty lips. It is so commonplace to complain, lament and lash out at the world for our miseries – Cinderella was the epitome of quiet strength and beauty. Harsh treatment and harsher words did not deter her commitment to her responsibilities – heck she even made the most of her adversity by daring to dream.

Cinderella teaches us an invaluable lesson – persist with the cards life has dealt you with and you will find gold at the end of the rainbow. It also teaches us the priceless worth of forgiveness – Beauty is a treasure but graciousness is truly priceless. If she could forgive her step sisters and step mother at the end of the story, we can surely try to forgive to build and further relationships.

Persist..One day a prince will appear who will help us flourish into the princess we always were.

Lots of hard work, a little patience and the clock striking twelve will definitely not turn our carriage back into a pumpkin!

Leaders – How Clean is Your Window?

It was raining very heavily and the little restaurant where I was having dinner was very crowded. All the tables were occupied and some hungry customers were waiting for their turn. Some children were crying as they had to wait and the harassed waiters were hurrying to serve the diners.

Amidst all this confusion there was one waiter called Chandran who was serving everyone with a smile. His communication skills were fairly advanced. He was serving each customer according to their need, carefully listening to each order, checking his understanding and then executing the order. But Chandran’s smile was short lived as very soon there was a huge commotion at one end of the restaurant. One angry diner had flung his plate across the room and was screaming at him.

All eyes turned to that part of the room. It was surprising to see that Chandran was involved in this situation. As a regular diner I had always admired Chandran for his skill at customer service. Always polite and quick to serve the customers, he was indeed very popular with everyone. In fact he had also very recently received the “Employee of the Month” award from his employers. So what was going wrong?

The customer was actually accusing Chandran of physically assaulting his little son. The manager rushed to the spot and, after pacifying the customer, got to the bottom of the issue. Most of the people around also had seen Chandran drag the little boy across the room but what was Chandran’s version?

Then we came to the final truth. Unnoticed by the parents the little boy was playing with a fan that was kept nearby. As Chandran was passing by he noticed that the child was pushing his fingers dangerously close to the fan. Chandran quickly dragged him away from danger. A moment’s delay would have had dire consequences. Instead of thanking him these parents were shouting at him!

The attitude displayed in this situation reminded me of something that I had recently read:

“And so it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look.” – Author Unknown

When we look through a dirty window the world outside looks dirty and when we clean the window and look through it, the world outside is a beautiful world. The window we look through is really the perception we have of people and situations.

If only those parents could clean their window and look at the situation. Instead of shouting at him they would be thanking him for saving their little boy!

“We see the world not as is but as we are. By improving, refining, and defining who we are, we see the world from the highest, most enlightened perspective”.

– Robin Sharma in Leadership Wisdom

Avoiding Gaps In Communication – An Anecdote

Here is a humorous story that throws light on effective communication skills:

A man feared his wife could not hear as well as she used to and thought that she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he visited a doctor to discuss the problem. The doctor thought for a while and explained that he could perform a simple test to evaluate the extent of hearing loss.

That evening, the wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner when the husband came in. He thought to himself, “I’m about 40 feet away, let’s see
what happens.” Then in a normal tone he asked, ‘Honey, what’s for dinner?”

No response.

So the husband moved to closer to the kitchen, about 20 feet from his
wife and repeats, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”

There was still no response.

He then walked up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. “Honey, what’s
for dinner?”

Again there was no response.

As a last attempt, he walked right up behind her and asked, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”

To which the wife answered, “Sam, for the fourth time, we are having CHICKEN!”

The learning point in this anecdote is easy to see – always consider closing any communication gap that may arise before coming to conclusions.

Communication gaps arise due to many factors. They may be extrinsic – like noise or clutter; they may be intrinsic – lack of focus or preconceived ideas. Always keep an open mind during any form of conversation and aim at reducing the impact of uncontrollable factors. By consciously taking the effort to indulge in effective conversation, you can really go a long way in forming better relationships in the workplace and in your personal life.

Business Writing From Abe Lincoln’s Perspective

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most loved Presidents of the USA. He is an admired leader of the world for he always thought before he spoke. The incident given below highlights his thoughts on writing and the learning can be extended to helping you to improve business writing skills.

One day Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury Chase said, “Oh, I am so sorry that I did not write a letter to Mr. So-and-so before I left home!”

President Lincoln promptly responded:
“Chase, never regret what you don’t write; it is what you do write that you are often called upon to feel sorry for.”

(From Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories, by Colonel Alexander K. McClure)

A well thought, structured and concise mail or report is easier to read. It saves the reader a lot of precious time in today’s busy world. Lincoln’s seemingly simple response in this story has great meaning. You have to be careful of the words you speak – even more of the words that you write. You are responsible for what you have stated in your writing.

This gives you even more reason to ensure that you recheck the contents for its grammar, punctuation and flow of thought before delivering it to the intended recipients. A minute or two spent in rechecking this way would save you a lot of time, trouble and explanations later.

The bottom line is: Be aware of what you write and how you do so, since it has an impact on your image and career. Improving this aspect of your communication skills can go a long way in putting your career on the fast track.

Business Communication – Understanding Boundaries

We learn many valuable morals from the famous Aesop’s fables. I shall share my thoughts with respect to business communication with regards to the following fable today:

A crab and her child were walking down the beach one day. While doing so, the crab irately watched while the child strolled in a one-sided manner. She said, “Why don’t you walk in a straight manner? It is easier and more pleasing to the eye.”

The young crab replied, “Mother, if you could show me the straight way to walk, I promise I will follow you.”

The mother crab decided to show her child the right way. But as much as the crab tried, she could not walk straight. She finally realized that her child learnt to walk from her; all her effort was in vain, and that she should not have reprimanded her child without any basis.

In business communication, always ensure that you make educated statements about a subject – be it written communication or verbal communication. In other words, ensure that you are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) in what you say and deliver. By doing this, you can go a long way in paving the way for a successful career. This is because such individuals come across as those who can communicate effectively under all odds, are decisive and is consistent in thought and action.

Workplace communication skills are hence a cluster of intelligent thought, effective words and powerful actions.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Stephen Covey

Business Communication: Effective Questioning

Here is a well known anecdote that reinstates the importance of effective questioning in verbal communication:

Two young men were walking home after having attended a religious service by a renowned priest. One man said to the other, “I wonder whether it would be alright to smoke while praying.” The other replied, “Why don’t you ask the priest?”

The next day, the first man went up to the priest and asked, “Father, may I smoke while I pray?” The priest replied, “No son, that is disrespectful.”

The young man went back to his friend and recounted what the priest had said.

The second man replied, “I am not surprised. You asked the wrong question. I shall give it a try.”

Saying this, he went up to the priest and asked, “Father, may I pray while I smoke?” The priest replied, “By all means, my son. By all means.”

What is the learning point of this story?

Communication skills consist of effective questioning methods. It is an understood fact that you can elicit the desired response by asking the right questions. This would require a certain amount of tact and presence of mind. With practice, you can get better at asking the right questions. By mastering the art of effective questioning, you would be able to consistently communicate, and hence improve your verbal communication in an effective manner.