Tuesday, 22 December, 2009

Listening Skills - Golden touch for Communication in career !

This is my second step on Toastmaster journey . Additionally I have started participating in club activities (like word/thought of the day ,grammarian etc. ) proactively . I can immediately see the improvements , not only in my speech - but overall my look towards reading articles , blogs etc.

Toastmaster prepared speech second project is "Organize your speech". Objectives of this project are
  • Select outline that will allow listeners to easily follow and understand your speech.
  • Make your message clear with supporting material directly contributing to that message.
  • Appropriate transitions when moving from one idea to another.
  • Create strong opening and conclusion.
This time my speech is just little above 6 minutes and I had to keep an eye on time limit. I think to end comfortably ,I need to end it within 6 minutes while practicing itself.

Purpose of the topic is to improve my own listening skills as well as to understand more about listening skills. I think this is highly ignored ,but very important soft skill.

Again Six minutes blog was extremely helpful in drafting the speech and supporting material for the speech came from various books and Google search.

Here is the draft of speech.

Toastmasters - Find a Gold mine !

Are you able to hear me ? You and You ?
And are you listening too ... ?

Yes - There is world of difference in hearing and listening. One is just input and other is Intake. If you are not listening , you will not understood , worst is you might misunderstood . No wonder Turkish has a saying which says “If speaking is silver , listening is Gold !”.

And Fellow Toastmasters I am going to talk about this gold - Listening Skills. I will talk about three points ,One - importance of listening . Two - difficulty in listening . Three - overcoming the difficulty.

First about Importance. Listening is important . Listening was sole means of communication ,since when books were not available . Till today it is important.You listen to your Boss , subordinates and colleagues . You listen to your friends , childrens and spouse too . Off-course they always complains that you don’t listen. But still fact remains that it is important skill. Researchers have found that professionals earn 45% of their salary from listening ,executives and managers upto 70%. So as you move up to lead , listening skills becomes more and more important. It can lead you to higest level. For example Buddha’s the most charismatic thought leader of his time , was great listener , who listened everything around him. This is always symbolized by long ears in his statues. So bottom line is listening is very , very ,very important - I would say if speaking is silver ,listening is goldmine.

But then what stops us from getting this goldmine ? There is a pecularity about spoken word. You have always only once chance to listen !. Buddha had compared it with Arrow , Today we can think of bullet . Once it is fired , Gone !!. See on other side speaking is faster than reading .Listening is still faster. It is 10 times faster. So 90% of speaking time “Listener” is idle , it is waiting. 90% ! That is a lot of time. And this empty listening mind , devils house flickers , loose focus , it can’t concentrate. Ultimately your listening quality drops down. very much natural cycle.

But wait , don’t panic. There is a solution . Listening is a skill and can be nurtured too. First you can use 7 steps given in Toastmasters leadership manual. ( I was not aware of it ,when I started preparing for the speech .) That will help you to build your awareness at external level . Second -I will tell you a simple exercise , that will take hardly your one minute and you can practice anywhere. ( I picked it from Marshal Goldsmith’s bestseller - what got you here won’t get you there ). Close your eyes and count 1 to 50 slowly , calmly in your mind. And try to listen to it. Seems very easy ,but not so . You have to listen so that your attention is 100% .but you will find that all sorts of thoughts creep in. Problems at work , home will prop up. May be your hunger or thirst will strike you and you will find that it is impossible to focus. But please keep practicing .It is just a minute or so , you can practice simply while you are traveling or when you are about to sleep . And over certain days you will find that you are able to count without loosing attentiveness/focus. That is key. Slowly your awarenss while listening will increase multi-fold. you can focus with your will and your listening skills will improve dramatically.

Thus in conclusion - we saw importance of listening skill . we understand the root cause in listening attentively . At the end we have seen the solution at external and internal level too. This is bound to improve your listening. We already have a silver by practicing speaking , so lets get gold by practicing listening. I urge all of you to practice & find that goldmine of listening skills.

Saturday, 21 November, 2009

East and West - Mythology explains business behavior

I watched this small video on TED , which draws parallels in eastern and western mythology with respective thinking and behavioral patterns. Video is really insightful and fascinating , a kind of must watch. It is inspiring to look at behavioral patterns from this perspective.

It really tells us why the best practices invented in Japanese and American thinking will not work in India . How the culture differs and how it impacts the behavior of individuals and organization.

It surely instigates Indian mind to critic management thinking from different perspective.

Thursday, 10 September, 2009

Toastmaster Speech 1 : The Ice Breaker

Thus my journey of developing speaking skills started . Though I used to participate in speech contests in school , I have never done it over long period . I wish to conquer speaking fear as well as acquire public speaking skills , which will help me in all walks of life.

Toastmasters prepared speech first project is "The ice breaker". Objectives of first project are
  • Simply begin speaking in front of audience.
  • Find out weakness in public speaking so as to improve them.
  • Introduce yourself to Fellow club members.
I used "Six minutes" blog liberally to prepare for this .Though it has large number of example speech in text and video ,I found the section on "Speech preparation" most useful.

Fitting your story in maximum 6 minutes is pretty difficult task, mine is still going little above 6 minutes and I wonder ,how and where do I curtail it .But now I wish keep this as it is and let fellow toastmasters comment on it.

I centered my speech on how and why academic is my best career option Here goes my speech -

Lost in India ,Found in Japan.

Good Evening Fellow Toastmasters.

Introducing “yourself” looks very easy and simple , but now I realized that it is one of the most difficult thing to do. But for Toastmasters I gathered my courage ,did some soul searching and standing in front of you with my little story.

I born and brought up in typical lower middle class Indian family. My father was clerk in Government service, mother house-wife and I have a younger sister. We two ,ours two , short and sweet family. Life was not very harsh ,but it was neither comfortable and luxurious. My mother always hammered ,if you want to grow and come out of all hardships ,study hard. You eat ,drink and play ,yes play also that helps in study. Just be a better student.

As a student once I played the role of Teacher on “Teachers day” .We taught in other classes for one full day. That left a lasting impression on my body ,mind and soul. I used to teach my sister too ,who was junior to me by 6 years. It was more than helping in studies. I used to coach, teach and scold her too. Everyone enjoys bossing around brothers/sisters ,isn’t it ? .But it worked. word spread among her friends and I became a kind of “Community teacher” very early in my life. This continued till Junior college. And it helped me too. Helping others to learn , helped me to learn. I became a better at studies and got good grades.

Eventually I got admission to Engineering college. This was my regions most prestigious engineering college. I started working in IT and was posted to Chennai - a South Indian city.

Here too I used to counsel and help my juniors to become a better at work.Again helping others to grow ,helped me to grow. It fine tuned my skills And I became better at my work, got better opportunities. It helped me to land in the land of rising sun ,Japan. Starting from one part of India to Southern India to Japan , the career graph was up-rising ,rewarding .

But still “something” was missing .I had feeling that my potentials are not used fully.

To search this “Something” and expand my wings , I participated in JMEC - Japan Market Entry competition in 2006, (Again one of the inside secret - In the super-expensive Tokyo that was the only affordable learning option.) .I learn lot about market survey, financial and writing business plan. Further I enrolled for MBA and completed it. But that “Something” was still missing.

So I returned to JMEC director ,talked to her and volunteered, to mentor JMEC team. We competed with other 12 multinational high profile teams. As a Mentor ,I worked beyond expectations.I searched for ways to to help team learn better, faster .and yes again It worked !. We were winners in 2009.

I started reflecting , did you ? Have you got the pattern. Whether studying , working or volunteering , or in my home-state , another state or another country too. So in different time, space and roles I was best when I was counseling , coaching & mentoring too.,Essentially I was teaching in one of the three ways.

Yes that's it- teaching ,that's where my heart is. In India I lost my teaching heart to IT and found it in Japan. So I decided to switch my career to teaching , teaching in business school ,where I will be able to counsel, coach and mentor to aspiring minds. I am very very very happy and satisfied about my decision as it will help me to grow with growing minds.

Statistics And Context - Presentation

Being research student , we always use statistics in one or other form . Rather we abuse it more than we use. To avoid the pitfalls you may like to see this nice presentation .

This is part of entry in "Best presentation contest" on www.slideshare.net

You may like to check other nice entries , some of them which really needs mention are

Presentation ,Speaking Skills and ToastMasters !

Communication is one of the most important skill ,that is hardly taught .Primary aspect of communication is public speaking .It is the most important skill whether you are addressing big audience (for example big gathering ) or small group (for example team meeting). Survey after survey shows that majority around you will have phobia for public speaking ( Technically they call it Glossophobia) .

But for the leader in making ,Public speaking and Presentations is the number one skill he/she must attain.

One of the best way to achieve the presentation and speaking skills is to join Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a non-profit organization dedicated for communication , public speaking and leadership development. Some major features are

  • It is inexpensive.
  • Toastmasters have time tested methods and self-paced graded program. Anyone can follow and acquire the skills. More than 4 million have discovered the benefits.
  • It is not bookish or mere textbook learning ,but interactive and "learning by doing" . You will actually do small projects and gradually build required skills. You will have mentor and fellow club members who will help in learning. Whole environment is supportive and friendly.
Next natural question will be where do I find it , just click here and search.

I am also participating in the club meetings and started with basic communication manual . I shall post my speeches on this blog for follow up and feedback. watch out the space for more updates.

In addition to the Toastmasters manual , I am using online resources at "Six Minutes" liberally for this development. You may like to visit the site for its rich and very useful content.

Wednesday, 26 August, 2009

Smile and Move - A excellent Presentation.

I am interested in developing presentation and speaking skills . And I keep on following some blogs/sites related to it . Further try to collect the motivating and excellent examples. Here is one more excellent presentation "Smile and Move" , I found it on "The Extreme Presentation Blog".

Thursday, 20 August, 2009

Spirituality and Job Satisfaction - 1

In general IT (Information Technology) industry in India is considered lucrative and IT professionals are said to earn comparatively higher salaries .Still attrition rates are very high in IT industry. As attrition (Or employee turnover) is negatively related to the job satisfaction , there are various attempts to increase Job Satisfaction to address the issue.

Spirituality at workplace is being explored and researched as one of the means to boost performance,change attitude towards work and increase job-Satisfaction .This Survey is intended to study spirituality and job satisfaction among Indian IT professionals. Some of the questions that we are probing in this survey -
  • Is spiritual belief prevalent among Indian IT professionals ?
  • Whether Job-Satisfaction and spirituality are related in anyway ?
  • Is onsite/Abroad opportunities/postings impacts the above relationship ?
  • In general whether spiritual belief & Values guide & shape behavior of IT professionals ?
Please revisit the blog for further updates on the survey.

Tuesday, 11 August, 2009

Excellent Presentation - on Social Media

The subject is interesting and appealing ,but additionally the whole presentation is nicely prepared . A excellent case for making self-explanatory impressive presentations ,

Monday, 10 August, 2009

A case for Statistics !

As a student of science and then engineering , I studied calculus .

I am sure that its true for majority of management students in India , many are from Engineering background. And for all of them Statistics is a shock . Still a bigger shock for non-quanta background students ( like humanities and arts ).

Here is a impressive clip by Mathemagician Arthur Benjamin . He argues the case for Statistics. In a interesting way he explains why calculus forms major part of our mathematical study and more important - why it should be replaced by Statistics . Being a student of management science ,I really appreciate argument and hope statistics will form a major part of basic education in future.

Those who wish to see Arthur's magic check here.

Thursday, 23 July, 2009

Words are important .

Extrememe presentation's Dr. Andrew Abela posted a interesting video from youtube. It emphasizes again on how words are more important .

Original post is here.

This specially applies to the situations of business presentations, as Prof. Mehrabian's formula ( 7% words ,38% tone of voice and 55% body language ) is not applicable to these situations. It works only when communicator is conveying about his feelings and emotions.

Thus it is paramount important that your communication speech , need to boil down to central theme or ideas ,translate those ideas into key-words . Use these key-words in your power-point/keynote slides. Experience tells that graphics associated with these key-words will further enhance your message for pursuasive delivery.

Watch this interesting video .

Saturday, 4 July, 2009

Winning JMEC !

And ultimately we won JMEC !

Winning always has a good feeling, especially when you are through a tough competition. Ecstatic mood of whole team is well captured in this photo. No wonder about it. Team was struggling through sleepless nights through research, and totally uncertain about where they stand with respective to other teams due to confidentiality measures.

Once the business plan is submitted , feeling is like "Oh, there is light at the end of tunnel" . I empathize with them.

... When I look back on my experience of JMEC-12 , JMEC-14 and JMEC-15 , I realize today as a team-mentor that it is very important to keep up team-spirit. The way stretched rubber looses all its tension , team looses the steam after submitting the business plan.They just don't show up same level of enthusiasm while preparing for presentation. Most important is to boost team spirit for presentation and facing judges which is almost a month away after plan submission.

I think that's what makes the winning difference !

Whole JMEC cycle is a rich learning experience not only for Participants but for mentors too, giving excellent exposure to real life business scenarios. I am looking forward for similar learning experience in future too.

Thursday, 2 July, 2009

Presenting Business Plan

As far as JMEC ( Japan Market Expansion Competition ) goes ,though team has prepared the BEST business plan , still they are far away from winning. Team still need to present it to Judges ,face the critic and satisfy their doubts.

This post looks at the Presentation aspect.

JMEC arranges a excellent workshop on presentation skills specifically with respective to business plan. Further as a mentor I advised team to take a serious look at Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 rule of presenting business plan.

In general all following rules apply

  • Very punchy, good start will ensure that judges will listen more attentively.
  • Too much to read on slides or jazzy graphics, both is distracting .
  • As a thumb rule less than 4 lines on a slide & less than 6 words in a line .
  • Remember bullets kill and bullet points too ,know this "Death by Power-Point" ?
  • It is good to prepare a list of potential questions with model answers – if possible with some backup slides.

From my experience ,sure tips to ensure satisfaction of Judges -
  1. Does plan address market potential ?
  2. Does plan establishes market need ? [ Do you understand the difference ?]
  3. What magic team is recommending to the client to address 1 and 2 ?
  4. And most importantly whether financial section supports this magic ?

Thursday, 4 June, 2009

Indian Bureacracy - HR perspective .

Today I read the news about worst south Asian bureaucracy - India.

Those who area aware of Indian bureaucracy should know that majority of them come through the most grueling and difficult selection process of UPSC. Many bright and brilliant student spend years studying as this brings prestige ,salary ,power and unparalleled benefits. Many view it as kind of dream service with life-time employment and almost negligible performance accountability.

Moreover constitution of India protects these bureaucrats from fear of persecution ( mainly from politicians ) and financial insecurity. ( Details here. )

Prima facie bright employees and excellent career opportunities should result into high performing change agents , but Indian case is proving it wrong.

One of major reason may be the environment in which they work ,reminding me of article titiled " why good people do bad things ? " making a case for impact of system on individual behavior.

Though it is true that system in which these people work is practically difficult to change - but from HR perspective how about providing means ,practices and expert advice about how to cope with this system and remain efficient and high performing individuals ?

Any thoughts ?

Tuesday, 2 June, 2009

Japanese adopting western Bonus culture !

Financial times dated 1-jun says "Nomura's 1600 staff- more than 50% of its investment arm adopted western style contracts" .

This will cut basic salaries , provide higher performance bonus and it will be easier to fire them in case of downturn.

Though the firm maintains that it is essential for integrating Japan and European acquisitions of Lehman , still it is in stark contrast with Japanese employer outlook of "stable Jobs" as well as against the government and regulators efforts all over world to curb executive compensation and golden parachutes.

So is Japanese embracing western culture in pay-packages ? It is difficult to comment with one such example.

More-over news article no where comments about employee reaction .One may doubt about the negotiating power with employees given recessionary trend and downturn in job-market .

Lets keep watching how other Japanese firm are responding ...

Wednesday, 27 May, 2009

Future Success and Delayed Gratification

Here is interesting experiment ,( And funny too ) - which evaluates delayed gratification and links it with future success. I find it interesting . I wonder whether the traditional Indian wisdom of asking children to wait for everything has links with success ?

More-over - it does mean that self-discipline is really important in all walks of life .

Still experiment raises one question in mind - whether ( in general ) 1/3rd population has more potential for success ?

Chinese Mania of learning English

It is well known fact that India's one of the strength is its English speaking population - but see the way china is bridging the gap - no wonder that it will be world's largest English speaking country soon.

Communication - Excellent short film

What a nice and touching short film about Communication ..

Tuesday, 26 May, 2009

Amazing Inspiring video

Looks like cadbury people have created this - but it is amazingly creative.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull - always inspiring

Jonathan Livingstone seagull - by Richard bach which echoes typical vedantic views ( I think ) about continuous learning and development so as to work towards excellence. And gives the message that perfection is not only life-long but passion beyond life.

Achieving your childhood Dream

This is one of the phenomenal and really inspiring lecture by Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch. Everyone who wish to achieve his/her dream must watch this .

Forgot to Live ....

I found this on web , somewhere - I think posted by Gautam Ghosh. Picture and the comments are so appealing that I thought of posting them again here.

Friday, 22 May, 2009

Japan Market Expansion Competition

If you are foreigner in Japan , then you already know that how difficult it is to get insight about how business works in Japan and why certain things - which prima facie looks very normal to you ,don't work in Japan.There is a way to get around this problem and understand intricacies of Japanese business - enroll for JMEC.

JMEC is Japan Market Expansion Competition ,though it is named as a competition - it is an intensive learning program that runs approximatly from October till June. Essenec of program is "writting a real time business Plan" in a live environment. Program is divided in two phases. In first phase you learn over a period of around 6 saturdays sessions. These lecturs and workshops covers practical aspects of Japanese business from experienced business players. This lecture series is like mini-MBA that will make you sensitive towards issues and practices specific to Japan. Then participants are segregated into different teams with confidentiality pledges. They meet project sponser - a real firm who is doing business in Japan or willing to enter Japanese Market. Team - guided by mentor and a consultant ,works on market entry problem and submit "Business Plan" to JMEC appointed Judges and Project sponser.

JMEC Judges grades these plans. Team gets a chance to present and defend this plan to judges and the client. This presentation is graded and combined grades will decide the three top winners out of all competiting teams. This competition sprit is the principal motivating factor behind high quality plans.

If you are university degree holder working in Tokyo , fluent in English and have minimum 2 years of experience , you can apply for JMEC.

JMEC is a very good opportunity -

* If you want to expand your horizons beyond the nuts-n-bolts of your daily grind.
* Great to network in multinational environment as participants are from many countries.
* Ideal to hone your language skills in business settings as each team has Japanese and English speakers.
* Gain practical business skills like market research , financial planning, strategy and time management.
* Yes and you can win exciting prizes and earn a certificate of participation - which is valued.

Friday, 9 January, 2009

Free - a world where you don't pay .

Business models where products are available for free and that too with no hidden costs is a reality. As this BBC Article talks about Chris Anderson's book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price." The time has reached where underlying costs are so much cheaper , that it makes sense to give it free.

And some one else will pick the bill for you.

Open source is great example of this , essentially the software is free , what firms pay for is support cost. It is great example of what interlinked world of collaboration and break-down of traditional distribution channels will do with the business.

Business models like Flickr, where few premium customers are paying and most others are using services as good as free has limitless possibilities and both segments are happy with it.

It is straight-way counter-intuitive for traditional business mind-set , where you literary don't give anything for free. It will be really interesting to see how business model is evolving .

For example you have free air-travel and cargo firms , tourism-centers and few premium customers pay for travel. One more example Metropolis is a popular high quality print magazine among foreigners and it is free , even classifieds are free and business ads support the revenue. And One of the best example I have seen is Dells 100 yen ( Approx. 40 Rs or 1 $) Netbook. Yes it is true and I am not kidding !!. Basically you get the Netbook at 100 Yen and sign for a mobile wire-less internet contract which is binding for 2 years. But still at the end it is attractive option and the unit is selling like a hot-cake in Japan.

I sincerely feel that idea has potential in all walks of life in strategy building , with a personal experience with following example. Vipassana meditation camp was not available everywhere. When S.N. Goenkaji made this 10 day residential camps 100% free including your residence and food ( It should be pointed that the motivations were never profit driven ). The growth that vipassana saw was phenomenal and exponential. Now one can find vipassana camps at almost every part of world with same rules/regulations and conducted totally free (check here ). It was pleasant surprise for me to see one in Japan. It is worth-while to note here that the move was counter-intuitive for others ( As S.N.Goenkaji mentions in his lectures ).

Basically Idea of FREE has enough potential to ponder and toy around in your way of work.
Gautam's this post helped me to explore more about the idea here.