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.

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

Follow your heart – Courageous Leadership

On December 1, 1955, when a White person got into the bus, Rosa Parks, a 42 year old Black woman refused to give up her seat at the front of the bus and move to the back. Today the action seems simple but not in 1955, when black people were treated like slaves and second class citizens by the white people. This action created a major uproar and Rosa Parks was put in jail overnight. When in jail, she got up to get herself a glass of water and she was informed by the jail warden that the water fountain was only for white people. This was the straw that broke Rosa Parks’ back. She decided that she would do what it took, even at the risk of losing her own life, to attain liberty for Black people from this oppressive situation. She joined forces with Martin Luther King and was one of the key people responsible for the Civil Rights Movement which released the Black people to a life of freedom.

Now what would prompt a woman who was a seamstress in a local department store to take a brave stance of this magnitude? I think that she had a clear vision for success that was propelled by her passion. “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” John Maxwell quotes.

What Rosa Parks did was not an act that was planned with a specific personal objective. In fact, what she did was spontaneous, triggered by her quest for equality and her rejection of racial discrimination. The loss of a job or even the loss of her life didn’t deter her from continuing her quest for equality. Leadership takes courage – courage to step out of one’s comfort zone and explore unknown territory. Rosa Parks did just that.

Are you willing to constantly challenge yourself to go beyond what you think you are capable of?

Follow your dreams!