Saakshi Nagpal

Archive for the tag “Communication”

The Leader as Coach

In this world there are two kinds of leaders one who loves to collaborate and partner along and second who loves to direct and are control freaks in nature.
If partnering and collaboration are more gratifying to you rather than directing and controlling then I hope next few minutes would be helpful for you and if you are among the second group, please pay attention ,  you may find something interesting.

Most of us see ourselves taking leadership positions in near future and some are already in leadership role and Toastmasters gives us platform to practice and hone our leadership skills. Among team management, time management, stress management, project management, some XYZ management and lot of etc etc imaginable managements ….. . the most important responsibility is to grow and develop the team.

Henry Kissinger, a German born Noble prize winner American writer has once “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been. “

As a leader, you are measured, recognized and rewarded not for what you do, but for the accomplishments and achievements of the people you lead. If you want to achieve your goals, you must do everything you can to help your team succeed. If you consider present and past great leader they are alike in 3 areas.

  1. They provide a clear direction through their mission and vision.
  2. They foster collaboration through team building, delegation and coaching.
  3. They motivate team members to achieve by providing feedback, support, recognizing and by resolving conflict.

Many of the world’s greatest leaders say that their team growth is how they measure their own success. Dhoni is considered as the most successful Indian Cricket captain of all times. Not just because he ia great player & his hair styles are trendsetters, even his bald look is still in fashion. But because under his captainship India has won world cup , Twenty 20 world cup , so many series and has set records.

Following Henry Kissinger’s advice , when you coach others to reach their potential you are helping world’s future leaders to gain strength and skills to succeed. You are writing new success stories. People have more potential in them  than they currently show in their lives. If they only knew how to surface their potentials they would have already done so. But the ground reality is that most of them don’t. If provided coaching they get to surface their greatest potential.

Looking for the most convinciable example of being leader as  a coach & writing history, I am able to pick a name close to Indian hearts – Kabir Khan ( sattar minutes ….. Chak De India) . He proved his innocence, his capability , his patriotism by coaching women hockey team and lead them to the path less travelled …. Indian Women Hockey team won 2002 Commonwealth Games.

Some leaders are fortunate enough to get formal training in coaching skills, many are not. They have to develop these for themselves.

 If you  search the techniques on internet you will find numerous tools and techniques which will help you to learn to trust your instincts to become a better coach and so enhance your team’s performance.

 Does this sound daunting? Indeed it is.

 We are talking about how to grow the capabilities of a team and help them achieve what might they have just dreamt. After searching a lot , the easiest approach  to implement and to remember , I got was the GROW Model.

 GROW is an acronym standing for Goal – Current Reality – Options – Will.

 The model is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring a coaching or mentoring session.

 A useful metaphor for the GROW model is the plan you might make for an important journey. First, you start with a map: With this, you help your team member decide where they are going (their Goal) and establish where they currently are (their Current Reality). Then you explore various ways (the Options) of making the journey. In the final step, establishing the Will, you ensure your team member is committed to making the journey and is prepared for the conditions and obstacles they may meet on their way.

 How to use GROW model ?

 Grow :

First , you will help your team member define a goal that is specific, measurable and realistic.

In doing this, it is useful to ask questions like:

  • “How will you know that you have achieved that goal?”
  • “How will you know the problem is solved?”

 Examine Current Reality

As the team member tells you about his or her Current Reality, the solution may start to emerge.

Useful coaching questions include:

  • “What is happening now?”
  • “What, who, when, how often”
  • “What is the effect or result of that?”

Explore the Option

By all means, offer your own suggestions. But let your team member offer his or hers first, and let him or her do most of the talking.

Typical questions used to establish the options are:

  • “What else could you do?”
  • “What if this or that constraint were removed?
  • “What are the benefits and downsides of each option?”
  • What factors will you use to weigh up the options?

Establishing The Will

By examining Current Reality and exploring the Options, your team member will now have a good idea of how he or she can achieve their Goal. That’s great – but in itself, this may not be enough! So your final step as coach is to get you team member to commit to specific action. In so doing, you will help the team member establish his or her will and motivation.

Useful questions:

  • “So what will you do now, and when?
  • “What could stop you moving forward?”
  • “And how will you overcome it?”
  • “Will this address your goal?”
  • “How likely is this option to succeed?”
  • “What else will you do?”

So ready to go  , hold on !!

Beware of common mistakes :

  • Assuming everyone is coachable
  • Overestimating the short term results from coaching
  • Assuming every situation provides the opportunity for coaching
  • Failing to establish rapport which creates the trusting space for coaching to occur
  • Failing to get others’ permission to coach them
  • Confusing coaching with training or supervision

 Benefits of Coaching

Again , investment done in coaching results in improved performance. This investment reaps other benefits too.

a)    High Morale : When everyone is working together and achieving goals, team members feel good about their work .

b)    Empowerment . People feel confident and willingly accept more responsibility.

c)    Development. Team members learn and improve. As they grow, they become more creative and are able to contribute even more.

Does it sounds good ? Here is lot more to it…… Team productivity increases, and the team complete tasks to your expectations . As their skills increase, you can delegate more so you have more time for other leadership responsibilities.

Win Win situation.

 Lets accept the situation, world needs strong , competent leaders now more than ever before. Effective leaders not only in government and industry but even in our civic organizations and toastmasters. At the end of every year, Toastmasters international rewards titles to every club –be Distinguished, Select Distinguished or President Club . The difference between successful clubs like this and unsuccessful clubs is the quality of leadership within the club. Being a leader its your duty to ensure you do everything possible to improve the performance of your team and……………………… to take them where they have not been.

PS : This article was my speech as one of the projects required for ALB (Advance Leader Bronze) Certification by Toastmasters. I hereby completed my ALB , yeah !!

Saakshi

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Resolving Conflicts

Just Imagine :

You’ve just arrived to your workstation which you share with a colleague, and it looks as if it’s going to be another frustrating day.

Your side of the office is neat as a pin and incredibly well organized. You take care not to talk loudly when you’re on the phone, so that you don’t disturb your office mate.

Your colleague, however, is the exact opposite. Empty cups and crushed biscuits wrappers litter his side of the office. He sometimes puts the music on while he’s working, which breaks your concentration. And hell breaks when he is chit chatting with others while you are on call.  Stationary items at your side of office are often misplaced, at times you dread yourself coming into the office every day, simply because you don’t like sharing your space with your colleague. He drives you crazy, and you often argue.

Can you recognize that there’s conflict between you two because the two of you have completely different working styles.

Let us try to understand this..

What’s Conflict?

It’s the difference of opinion with two or more people, real or perceived that is not resolved, worst if someone is getting aggressive.

All of us experience one or the other conflicts at work, personal life and even in Toastmasters. Members can have disagreements over programming, logistics, meeting styles and people.

Conflict is not always bad. When it is addressed and resolved, conflict often leads to positive changes, increased productivity, better decisions, innovation and bonding among people. Adversely, unresolved conflict can lead to poor productivity, low morale, distrust, and failure.

A leader must know how to handle conflict.  He/ She can choose to ignore it, complain about it, blame someone for it, or try to deal with it through hints and suggestions; or can be direct, clarify what is going on, and attempt to reach a resolution through common techniques like negotiation or compromise.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is what we do to identify and address conflict in a mature and respectful way.

Why there are conflicts?

Root cause of all conflict and complaints – unmet expectations. Unmet Expectations from others!

Lets us take a closer look when and where conflicts occur.

a)      Conflicting resources

ð  We all need access to certain resources –  office supplies, meeting rooms, scheduling conference calls via desk phones. There are n no of employees and limited resources , hence their needs can be at odds.

 b)      Conflicting Styles

ð  Everyone works differently according to  his/her individual need and personality. For instance some people love the thrill of getting things done at the last minute, while others need the structure of strict deadlines to perform. Whenever there is a difference in working style it may call a conflict.

 c)       Conflicting Perception

 All of us see the world through our own lens, and difference in perceptions of events cause conflict. For instance HR Work from Home policy. There will be employees happy with such a policy being strictly followed, whereas there may be few who are not that pleased. Their perception – why it bothers so much to HR when by any means the work is done. Office politics comes in this section.

d)      Conflicting Goals.

Sometimes we have conflicting goals in our work. We all work on projects which involve multiple stakeholders.  One of them may ensure the high quality service is top priority but another stakeholder may focus on regular project updates and statistics. It’s sometimes quite difficult to reconcile the two!

e)  Conflicting Pressures

We often have to depend on our colleagues to get our work done. However, what happens when you need a report from your colleague by noon, and he’s already preparing a different report for someone else by that same deadline?

f). Different Personal Values

ð   Imagine that your boss has just asked you to perform a task that conflicts with your ethical standards. Do you do as your boss asks, or do you refuse? If you refuse, will you lose your boss’s trust, or even your job? I hope this won’t be case with anyone here.

g)  Misunderstandings

 When rules and policies change at work and you don’t communicate that change clearly to your team, confusion and conflict can occur. Lack of or incomplete communication can lead to misunderstandings.

 Cost to individual

No points for guessing, conflicts are generally destructive in nature, with time, emotional and health costs. Conflicts with others results in stress, loss of confidence, unhappiness, hostility, withdrawal and even illness.

Cost to the organization

Research indicates that a typical manager loses 25% of the day responding to helpful conflict. This is time lost to creative, productive work.

Take a medium sized organization with 100 managers. Let’s assume average monthly salary per manager is Rs 80,000. With managers losing 25% of their time on conflict, the cost will be Rs20, 00,000

This only accounts for management time. The true cost will include higher employee time, higher staff turnover, missed opportunities, absenteeism, inefficiency, low morale and poor teamwork.

 How to resolve conflict

So how do you deal with conflict and complaints?

Do you become aggressive back when it becomes a matter of who “wins” or “loses” the argument?

Or do you use cunning and well thought through communication and interpersonal skills to get you through the other end with the outcome that you desired?

In any case if a conflict has taken place, being a leader you have to approach it.

Method 1 : Ignore it.

In some situations, the issue may not be important and it may be best to ignore it. Often, though, this method does not work. The conflict does not go away.

 It festers.

Method 2. Smooth it over.

 This method is appropriate when the issues are more important to the par­ties involved than they are to you and the team’s goals. This method preserves harmony and goodwill.

 It heals.

 Method 3  Force.

  A leader uses power to resolve differences. This method is best used when an emer­gency requires a quick decision. However, it usually results in “winners” and “losers,” and losers can be resentful.

 It wounds.

 Method 4. Compromise.

 Each party makes a major concession to arrive at a solution. Since both parties lose something, they may have less support for the compromise solution.

 It either unites or divides.

Method 5. Collaboration.

This is a good way to resolve conflict. Each side recognizes the other’s needs as legitimate and important and acknowledges their ability and expertise. They work together to arrive at an agreement that will resolve the conflict. When each party wins, they have greater commitment to the solution and no resentment or distrust

It spreads harmony.

Collaboration offers a framework that will result in a win-win situation. You can facilitate the collabo­ration process by following these seven steps:

  1. Find the root cause.

Once the issues have been determined, focus on solutions not blames.

  1. Allow all parties to speak

3. Encourage all parties to listen.

4. Identify areas of disagreement..

5. Identify areas of agreement. Once everyone has spoken, help them find and discuss areas they agree on, such as: Common goals, Interests and values

6. Search for solutions. Everyone

7. Reach a consensus, by, THE BRAINSTORMING METHOD

All ideas are written down as they are generated, without discussion or evaluation.

After the ideas are exhausted, team members return to the first item on the list and discuss it, evaluating its positive and negative aspects.

Eventually, the list is narrowed to the idea that best resolves the problem

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is what we do to identify and address conflict in a mature and respectful way.

 

When it is handled well it can lead to

  • Improved relationships between those who were in conflict
  • Increased understanding for the different parties around a situation or topic
  • The identification and hopefully, the improvement of the processes that aren’t working

If conflict is not handled well.

if it is allowed to escalate , relationships , the team’s ability to function, the workplace , and the product or service produced will all suffer. So understanding how to handle conflict is vital to ensuring that you can be as effective as possible in the workplace.

Somebody told me, leadership is not just about managing people it’s more about managing people’s ego.

 This article was actually my speech as one of the projects required for ALB (Advance Leader Bronze) Certification by Toastmasters.

Stay Calm and Blessed,

Saakshi

How do you communicate with Business ?

Hie,

Picture this:

It’s a Monday morning after a long weekend when you took Friday off to get out of the city , travelling across 3 states . You have to attend your cousin’s wedding, a family affair !! This results in no ‘allowed’ access to e-mails. Back to Monday (travelling early morning) – you fire your email application and you have some 300 + unread emails.

What will you do?

a)      Sort them according to sender’s name?

b)      Sort them according to ‘high importance’?

c)       Take a deep breath and grab a cup of coffee.

d)      Panicked and start replying in order you receive those emails.

This is like what my morning is, today. The troubled part was I have to again apply for a leave (long weekend) for coming Monday and Tuesday. A road trip to Badrinath, with family.

You may be wondering if I am having such a number of e-mails ,either  I am not managing my clients / projects well, or I am keeping them aloof for the project  status or they are not informed well in advance that I am taking some time off for myself. (In India , taking time for family is equal to  taking time for yourself. Whereas I believe, there are 4 defined sections – work , family , friends and yourself , demanding their own time).

Just to justify my situation, my leave was planned and communicated beforehand (out of office also placed), project status always up to date. Such an alarming no of unread mails were because of few CC’s and a lot of system generated notifications. But still looking at the no, it does create a panic situation.

Regardless of your communication skills, it always comes down to your personality how you deal with such a situation. Some will reply back just saying “Done. Please check.”  And some will draft a long blog like e-mail.  We all will agree, inviting everyone concerned on a short conference call, probably with screen share is the quickest way to reach the solution .But is it reliable? (ah ! making MOM and wasting time again 😦 )  Next comes the Instant Messenger, IM  (which often shows all stakeholders offline when you wish to talk and magically online just as you wish to go offline.) So the solution comes back to e-mail.

As a Business Analyst (BA), which mode of communication is preferred and reliable (!!)? From past few months I am working across so many cultures – American, British, German, Italian , Mexican , Middle East and Indians . Through the way they communicate (emails , IM and telephone  calls) , the clear difference in styles made me believe it was due to the culture they inhibit. Later I closely observed within our Internal team , my manager always ping me to ask if it’s a good time to talk , if yes then please  come to meeting room and on the other hand  my team mates put everything on e-mails; CC manager . So is it the generation difference? Managers or the SME (subject matter expert) are more senior, experienced and are in more responsible positions, they need immediate responses. Whereas BA, the younger generation grow up with texting messages, find it reliable and follow the e-mail norm religiously. 

In my CBAP (Certificate Business Analyst Professional) training workshop classes, my trainer told me “BA is 70% communication skills and 30% technical skills”. I fully agree. It’s the way we communicate that earns us fame along with bread and butter. So whether you choose e-mails, Instant messenger or telephonic calls , make your message crisp clear ,make sure the  timing is right. Study stakeholders well (yes, this is the unsaid part of your job, accept it)to decide what they would prefer a e-mail or a short call.

In my opinion e-mail is the best way, marking all stakeholders to be on same page. It makes the documentation work easier too. And it will serve as a life line, if something goes wrong when anyone is on leave.

Coming back to leaves, I am working in IT industry and as most of you may have expected, my planned leave stands cancel. Sipping my coffee and a long to-do list , I am now deciding communication strategy – how to deal this with family?

Wish me luck.

Saakshi

Being Confident – My learning from Toastmasters.

Hie ,

How are summers going ?? 🙂 🙂

Last week , I completed my Competent Communicator along with  Competent Leader certification from Toastmaster manuals. Happy me 🙂 , I am just 9 month old with this programme .

Below is my project 10 from Competent Communicator manual : Inspire your audience.

My dear fellow toastmasters, I still remember my first speech. Those who have given their Icebreaker will be experiencing a sweet smile on their face and those who are still planning to give will experience goosebumps. Mine was a bit different. I thought I was dead sitting on the chair waiting for my turn. Fortunately or unfortunately mine was the first. I gave my first speech at Area Level Humorous speech competition representing our club at Adobe systems  

Before the competition, when I was bothering myself with the questions like ‘Can I do it?’ ‘ What I will do if I go blank?’ ‘Do I have the confidence, that I can make it?’ Our Mr President come to me , and ask to volunteer for Vice President  Public Relations role.

I was like uhh !! you can’t do this to me. I am the kind of person, who can work till late will never crib but interacting with entire organization and always being upfront to create a buzz ., this is just not me. I am the person who needs to be dragged to parties and then needs  some solitude to regenuate. I am not a social butterfly.  Now I am grateful , for the confidence Mr President has shown in me. 

From that day till today, the club meetings are like  weekly lessons. Thank you for all your support and guidance through the journey of learning till date. I can feel the brand new me J within me.

Lets think again, aren’t those questions scary ? Most of us , including myself try avoiding such questions b’coz deep down we have some or the other kind of fear of unknown. It can be driving, swimming, singing, dancing, public speaking or socializing.

I fear of social gatherings, no please don’t take me as an introvert or something it’s an area where I just don’t feel comfortable.. Comfortable of mass?? NO may be lack of confidence to communicate with the strangers at a personal level. I am well read , well travelled ,  enough to carry on any conversation except stock exchange and cricket !! But still … ahh !! I just can’t do that. I literally get cold feet.  Being socially inactive, my motivation was at a decline.

Finally I took charge of myself, coz , I was sick of this feeling, it was always a herculean task to approach someone and say “ hello , whats up , how u doing ? “ .  One fine day, there was a circular in my mailbox asking nominations for membership of an internationally recognized public speaking and leadership club. I at once nominated, without giving second thought or even looking at the cost. I nominated myself. I never had stage fear. In fact  I was the head girl of my school, a regular figure on stage not only b’coz  my mom can see me and hear me performing but b’coz I love the feeling of being here on the podium and addressing people. I can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but I go insanely awkward in groups and specially when I have to initiate any conversation, so I joined the club to exploit myself. Exploit b’coz in my heart I was confident that I can do it. As they say ‘no pain no gain’ my moto was ‘ if it doesn’t torture, then it doesn’t matter’.

The fact that here in Toastmasters, there is no one to judge you  or score you , here we all learn in a mutually supportive, positive learning and non threatening  environment. This means fewer chances of embarrassment and also a good opportunity to interact and socialize. Now the fear of public humiliation did the trick. Result, I am here , regained the lost self esteem projecting the much desired confidence .

This was my part of story. But one question has the power to either make it or break it – Do you believe you have confidence?

They say change is the only constant thing in life. I believe Change is other definition of life. With my year long journey with Toastmasters, now I accept that change is the only truth of life. To accept the eternal truth, one needs to have confidence and confidence in plenty. The confidence should be like a solid, which even when challenged will never backed down. The confidence should be your armor against all odds.

So, from where will we get this confidence? And when we find it , will this confidence remain with us ?

It’s a myth that confidence is a state of mind which is built by a constant thinking. The fact is confidence is within you, it’s in your heart; it’s in your belief.  Confidence creates a positive vibe around us and spreads too.  Don’t tell me you don’t try certain dance steps from Dance India Dance at home , don’t tell me you stop yourself singing in bathroom, don’t tell me  you  don’t try your hands at your favorite cuisine at home. No matter how absurd you may have performed it gives you a certain sense of happiness and satisfaction. A feeling of being ‘too good’.    

So, clearly you have the desire, take a step forward show confidence in yourself and just do it. Who knows the world around you may feel proud of you.

You love to dance, dance with your friends, feel the spotlight on you. You love to sing, then why in confines of your bathroom, don’t you think that echo ruins the melody? Call your buddies for Sunday brunch, have fun , someone may like the food and ask for tips!! Try it out

Find confidence in whatever you love to do to overcome the fears you always desire. It may not be easy because in reality, the world behaves in such a way that makes a vicious cycle revolving 360-degree without any clue. You may have fought with your fears and gave a shot but in the end, found yourself back to same place.  It must be very hard.

Most importantly, it is your confidence that tells your true worth no matter where you are and what you might be doing. Confidence is a treasure which boosts our  morale and helps in keeping us focused towards our dream despite of all odds.

And if you are thinking how to retain this confidence (I know it’s fragile) ,then have a TEAR in your eye.

Try , Enact, Analyse , Reform.

As I have been practicing this via Toastmasters, though I will be completing CC this afternoon , I don’t want to stop now. For me the fun and learning has just begun! so having said that I am confident that  I have inspired you enough to come forward and present your icebreaker , what you all need is just the CONFIDENCE and let it oozes out from your pores.

Let me know your take on this.

Keep Talking,

Saakshi

Toastmasters Hidden Bonus

It all started with big dreams and very high hopes, both from the program and from me. My desire to be come out of my den of fears was going to be fulfilled. I joined Toastmasters program and on top took the responsibility of Public Relation officer for our corporate club. I thought this post could be the forceful driving force to achieve my aim.
During this Diwali break, I was wondering apart from scribbled goals of Toastmasters Club, what else can I earn from it?
This is what I found, the hidden bonus, could be my short term syllable .Of course, I plan to be engaged long term with this program and there is much more to learn further.
A. Polishing and Unpolishing
I joined it to polish my soft skills as a speaker. And I believe that the most compelling thing a speaker can do is to just be themselves. Often this involves an unpolishing of patterns, habits, and performance techniques. The idea is to be comfortable, relaxed and at ease just being you in front of a group.
Be awesome, stay Confident.
Be yourself, stay Unique!
B. Planning and Executing.
Toastmasters provide multiple opportunities to plan, organize, prepare and deliver talks with specific objectives. Guidelines are provided for each and every presentation. Learning is in this way. But it also gives the platform to execute our learning. Most important is to learn the immediacy to respond to what’s happening at the moment. I will learn silence as an audience, only to further learn “to listen”.
C. Flexibility and Balance
Attain flexibility and gain the ability to think on my feet through an exercise called Table Topics – where participants are chosen randomly to deliver an impromptu speech for 1-2 minutes on a given topic. The balance comes from learning to trust ‘ yourself’ and to be comfortable being ‘ yourself’ in front of an audience.
As I usually say “All roads lead to Rome with a new maze coming at every turn”, this time also, I have started the journey to further explore myself and make a unique space for me. I will keep continuing digging out some more artifacts and share with you all, but do let me know, how well they are received at your end !!

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