Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Conventional Essence of Communication

Leadership Story

The day we start giving more importance to Face-to-Face interactions will be the day we will understand the true meaning of communication.

--- Chintan Srivastava
Chintan Srivastava Leadership (CSL)

Right from the leadership seminars he delivers to the articles he writes, he focusses a lot upon communicating in the so called Old Fashioned manner of writing letters, sending greeting cards; preferring a phone call over a text message and personal meetings over phone calls. He is so obsessed with his mission of helping people realize the importance of these conventional yet powerful ways of communicating that people simply prefer to call him- THE CONVENTIONAL COMMUNICATOR.

Just before he was about to leave for his beautiful home in Frankfurt, we were lucky to catch him for a quick session at one of his favourite cities- Istanbul, where he just delivered a seminar to over 500 people.

There are so many aspects of personal development but communication has always been one your prime focus areas. Any particular reason?
It's the ESSENCE you see.
Communication- whether verbal or nonverbal is possibly the only way you can transfer your thoughts and feelings to the other person. Just because we do it on a daily basis, we just don't realize how crucial or as I believe- what a blessing it is.
In my seminars, whenever I ask people that how many of them had written a letter in the past 6 months or even a year, at most I see 10 hands going up; at one instance, it was just 4. That's why I always encourage people to make the most of this special gift in the most extraordinary possible manner. Whatever you say, whatever you write, do it from you heart, make people feel special.
Send cards and letters to your loved ones to express how much you value them and give out small hand written notes to your friends and associates as a token of your gratitude for their precious time and company. You'll be stunned to see how much people value these small gestures and these go a long way in building a lasting relationship.

But wouldn't that be impractical in today's fast paced and globalized professional world?
It's not just the medium of communicating in which I urge people to sometimes follow the conventional ways; it's also about what goes inside. E-mail, text messages and phone calls are extremely important especially in the professional world as they are quick. I would certainly not recommend you to write a letter to your client or your partner in another country and then wait for 2 weeks to get a reply for something that can be sorted on an E-mail within minutes. What I mean is, that personal touch in whatever you convey, that genuine sense of concern for the other person, and displaying that feeling of gratitude for the one you are writing to should be there no matter whether you write an E-mail, a letter, or even a Whatsapp text.
In fact, why to just keep it confined to the written ones. All these things can be efficiently done during a personal meeting or a phone call as well; they are easy to implement and will be extremely effective.

Don't you sometimes think it's overrated?
Absolutely Not! There's enough data & research to support that. The surprising part is that despite of training people for a long time now, occasionally even I get surprised on knowing some amazing facts. An  article published in the August 2014 edition of the Entrepreneur magazine- 'How do top leaders spend every minute of their day' finds that on an average, a top executive spends around 5 hours everyday in verbal or written communication. That is MASSIVE. We all know that right from the company policies to business strategies, a lot of decisions are taken at the Top Management level and effective/non-effective communication can greatly impact it. Still, right from school to college to organizations, communication is something which is taken for granted or considered secondary at the least. Indra Nooyi rightly said- "You can never over-invest in communication".

What about those who may not be able to express themselves so well?
Many people think that saying or writing something only in 'fancy' way will make an impact.
That's a communication stereotype as I may call it. See it's not a competition, the gesture in itself makes it special. It's not important that you decorate a letter or E-mail beautifully and write poetry, although you may- but that's not the primary intention. Anything expressed clearly, respectfully and above all with good feelings touches the heart of the other person no matter how simply said or written.

Seeing that people have now become more comfortable with text messages or E-mails, any tips on how can we become better at face-to-face conversations?
Unless you frequently deal with emergencies, the first thing to remember is that the person in front of you is always more important than the phone. If you are about to start a meeting and are expecting a call in the same duration, tell the other person upfront- "Sorry, but it's possible I might have to take an important call in between; will try to keep it short". This will show that you greatly value their time and your conversation with them. Also remember that people can see through people. One doesn't have to be an expert on body languages to notice that you are either not interested in the person, or the conversation. Rather, save yourself the embarrassment and avoid meeting in the first place if you genuinely don't want to. Please don't do it just for the sake of doing it, you won't be doing any justice to either of you.
Last but not the least- "For heaven sake keep that phone aside at least for sometime". In your life you will rarely come across a situation which could not be handled a little while later. There's no point in checking your whatsapp or e-mail again & again and then giving a lame excuse- "Oh just in case there's something important"- No, it won't be because if it's urgent, people will call you! Let me go a step further and call it an insult to the person sitting in front of you if you're constantly getting distracted by a DEVICE- a non-living, non-sensible piece of plastic.

Remember, don't worry if you're not exceptionally brilliant at communicating. It's a natural gift, a blessing that you have which can be conditioned and improved with time. Value it, value others and the rest will be just fine...


Monday, 12 June 2017

From the Cubicle to the Cabin

"People don't get promoted for doing their jobs really well, they get promoted for demonstrating their potential to do more"
-- Tara Jaye Frank
(Vice President, Hallmark Inc.)

Getting a promotion is a delightful moment for all. But it also leads to some major changes in our own ways of working as well as our relationship with others, especially when one moves from middle management to the senior management level. A few tips can be helpful for a smoother transition:

1) Remember what brought you here- Out of all the things that fly out of the window when a person rises up the corporate ladder, 'humility' is usually the first one, very closely followed by 'hard work'. Staying connected to your roots and ensuring that basic yet important qualities like these are not left behind is necessary for long term success. If you prefer, ask your boss about the qualities that lead you here and also reflect on your own work in the past, the challenges that you have overcome and the mistakes you have made to extract the learning out of them and to continuing the good work.

2) A little more to the next stop- Top leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith correctly titled his book- "What brought you here won't get you there". The cabin brings along new challenges and responsibilities with it and the way you have worked to come this far may not be ideal to attain the same growth levels. Becoming crystal clear about your roles and responsibilities can help you maintain your growth trajectory and competitive edge. Have a frank conversation with your new boss and team members. It's good to be aware of what they expect from you and at the same time, for them to know if  their expectations are reasonable and attainable. This will help all of you to be on the same page since the very beginning and will prevent any misunderstandings, over-estimations or over-expectations in future.

3) It can be lonely but wait- We all have built workplace friendships, some have more, some have less but we surely have people who are more than just colleagues. In the cabin, you will definitely miss the quick refreshing conversations with the person on the next workstation and those cafeteria breaks whenever you prefer as your new responsibilities may or may not give you the level of liberty you enjoyed earlier. But at the same time, having your own space can help you leverage a very important human quality- "Focus". When distractions reduce, it becomes easier to focus on our work, self-learning, and finding innovative ways of doing things. Moreover, your new team members are also humans having the same emotional needs so you can be sure of finding new buddies quicker than you think.

4) Be prepared to re-win trusts- Let's face it- you'll suddenly become the boss of many who were sitting right next to you just yesterday. Now that you'll be seeing things from a broader perspective, your opinions and point of view might change as you would then need to make decisions for a greater good. People with whom once you worked with may suddenly become skeptical about your actions or expect you to be a changed person simply because of your new designation. To avoid any such misunderstandings, it's important to stay equally connected with them especially for the first few weeks while you settle in your new role. Talk to them as frequently as you did earlier, take a break with them so they don't feel left out and eventually become confident about the fact that only your position has changed- Not You.

5) When in doubt, open your mouth- It doesn't matter if you are an intern in your company or the CEO, every day is a lesson and learning never stops. Just four words for it- "DON'T HESITATE TO ASK". Many senior executives lose their competitive edge simply because they think asking questions or clarifying simple facts will make them look dumb and their juniors might question their capability. Remember- "You are a Human. It's okay if you don't know it all; till the time you are willing to learn, you're good"

There surely must be many more things one could do to ensure that the new corporate journey begins on a positive note. What are your suggestions on it? Drop them in the comments below!

Chintan Srivastava Leadership