Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Driving through Change

Internet has started giving goose bumps to many of managers in big multinational organizations. It’s not that change was not happening earlier. What Internet and globalization are doing is making it all visible and impacting the speed of change. Attracting global markets was never that easy. Even before Internet, change specially the one which causes disruption for your current business model was never welcomed by most of the managers.

Organizations have people which are most of the time capable, specialist.These people as well have resources at their disposal.These smart people as well can see the change coming. But still one individual is more successful in one organization then other. Where is the issue then? What is that quality in a manager which can help them?
Before we go there, lets understand organizations a bit.”Businesses” & “Organizations” like a “society” or a “country” as a “whole “ consists of values,capabilities & processes.These qualities exist even without an individual arrives there. Where managers fail many times is to make use of those inherent qualities as much as they focus on theirs. Managers can become much more effective if they can develop a better understanding of their organization’s capability & constraints. At the end its organization where change has to be implemented .How much capability an individual has to absorb change is one of the deciding factors? Same is true with organization. There are so many programs & training available for managers which can help them to become a good people manager but so few which can help them through the organization’s capability which means abilities & disabilities both.

As organizations grow their strengths can become weaknesses. As much as this is true for organization,it is true for professionals. To take this thought little further the same strength in one organization can be a weakness in another organization. So managers have to think beyond their own strengths and weaknesses.   

As you grow or attempt to grow, the same very People, Processes, Technology & Values can be an organization’s strength in one situation but as well can be a weakness in another situation. The same strengths can be good enough to address one business challenge but may become a weakness to address another business challenge.

I have often seen organization’s creating cross-functional teams to overcome the challenges of “silos” mentality which exists in most of the organization. So because you are not able to or don’t have enough motivation or sponsorship to change the culture as a whole.You either start responding to the less optimal culture by becoming the same culture and further strengthening it or you try attempting to create a new culture on a small scale. This is good for experimentation or pilots but when it comes to organization wide implementation, the same success story is not being replicated

How we can address this challenge, I will continue talking in my next blog. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Making a Powerful Presentation -How story telling helps

Presentations have been used as a powerful tool to persuade your target audience in a business environment. The earliest written work by Aristotle called ‘Rhetoric’ (~ 367 BC) is being referred quite often by people who want to study Public speaking. I have not attempted to read the entire works by him but got to read the summary of same.

The end result of a presentation is to persuade the audience to say “YES” to what you want as an outcome. The YES can be a decision or a call to action. Aristotle says that you can persuade by appealing to “logos” -rational mind, “pathos”-emotional mind or through “ethos”- by the personality or character of the speaker. These principles are timeless and still hold as much true as they were in fourth century BC.

Now take a moment and think of few situations
-          a situation when you bought something from a shopkeeper or a salesman
-          You arrived at a decision while attending a business presentation
-          You took actions after being advised by your boss

In my experience, the guiding energy behind all my decisions or a call to action was logos, pathos and ethos. I have been into situations where I am being persuaded by people who I like or I have respect for – we all go for it actually. Sometimes we bypass logic or emotions as well because he says so. Many times I have seen presenter making use of his position and personality to persuade or influence audience. In my two decades of corporate experience, I have seen business presenters making use of logos and ethos as their persuasion method .I have seldom seen presenters using the “pathos” or emotional mind .This is a bias which exist till date and may need a correction in coming years.      

The bias may have come because historically corporate honchos unconsciously relate the emotional mind/pathos to artistic/poetic things and business to logos/rational mind. I see a bias in corporate thinking that they have always given a preference to thinking mind over feeling mind. We forget that people sitting in the room are human beings first & businessman later. We should also not forget that in the total history of life on this planet earth, human beings exist for a relatively shorter duration and have a longer history of being animals and other living beings but not human beings.

When I look at presentations being used as a means to motivate or call to action, emotions play important role in getting a person motivated towards taking action. Even for a presentation that involves decision-making, you need to go beyond numbers…to be more effective.
Presenters sometimes confused “story telling” as “telling stories”-both are different.
“Story telling” is not in conflict with “fact telling”. In fact it complements. If you put all facts in a sequential connected way than the “whole” becomes bigger then parts. Stories are like a soul to the presentation. Stories live forever .They live beyond the life of presenter and their impact goes out of the room beyond presentation. Storytelling helps you to engage with your audience in a much better way, Storytelling is also not about using stories in your presentations.
It was interesting for me to see some case studies where people have used statistical data to prove that use of statistics can be more persuasive. I think story telling makes facts more memorable. When I discussed this with a friend of mine who is a neurosurgeon, what he told me was quite interesting. He told me that our long term memory and our emotions come from the same part of brain called limbic system of our paleomammalian brain. Studies have been done that by invoking feelings, we can improve recall of facts.
If presentations are dull or difficult to follow and do not answer the question of Why? I do not think they will be effective in conveying their message clearly & effectively. The advantage with a story is that it is convenient for the presenter to share, it is pleasant to listen for the audience and last but not the least you can remember it easily as it has high recall value.

Yes it does mean that when you create a sequence, you will ignore some facts as not all facts will be in sequence but ignoring facts is not same as hiding inconvenient truth or facts. Also story telling means that there is a surprise element in there for the audience. A good presenter will take his audience together with him for that surprise element.That's all for this post.Please let me know where are you with your presentations?     

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Overcoming a Analysis Paralysis mindset

Business decisions are all about speed & quality.I have seen many times people just cannot decide.They sit on them and delay their decisions by weeks,months and sometimes even years.They get bogged down by too much of research,brainstorming and unending discussion back & forth with their colleagues,friends & family.We call this procrastination or a Analysis Paralysis mindset

In this situation the volume of analysis overwhelms the decision making process. Professionals who are victim of same, may take a lot of time to take business decisions. If you are able to recognize this, you can address this as well.

There are decisions which are more critical than others. There is no doubt that research & analysis pays. Analyze all costs & benefits quantitatively as well qualitatively with  pros and cons. This is important and necessary. No doubts….

This becomes an issue when this becomes excess to an extent that this leads into inaction and no longer is considered to be smart & prudent. There has be a “continuous flow”   between    information gathering and using information. If you gather the information and get overwhelm by it and are not able to use it, it’s making you inefficient and ineffective from a business point of view. Your colleagues and seniors may see you as being indecisive

The difficult part is to admit it first.

Have you ever thought of why it happens despite of knowing that this is critical? Something holds you back..and you don’t trust yourself. You fuel the inertia and sometimes become irrational to the extent that you keep asking for more & more information. We may think that this happens because we don’t want to fail and it’s our fear of failure which make this happen.You may be surprised to know that some of the research done on same explains this to the fear of success & not failure. Why we fear success?
For some, our mind is more conditioned to face rejection and failure then success. We don’t trust us when we arrive at a decision(arriving decision symbolizes success here) on something  critical as well important for us. Our subconscious mind is surprised on how we can arrive at it so fast. Mind conditioned for failure wants to believe that something is missing here rather than trusting himself. By the time we will believe ourselves , the opportunity has already gone.

Six fixes which I am aware of which can help in this situation:

·       Don’t wait endlessly because you cannot get it “perfect”-A completed imperfect task is better than something which never got started
·        Look for something you love – When we don’t enjoy doing something ,we start procrastinating. That is us ,our mind.. Lack of interest in what we do, acts like a food for procrastination. Find something of your interest-can be a hobby or a new job..& you will see how things change
·       Procrastination as a way to manage stress – When you are stressed ,you get anxious and hence slowdown yourself .Reduce stress in your life. It will help.
·       Boost your energy levels – Any form of exercise may help here. Important is that you should feel good about it.
·       Better activity & time-management – Make a list of things which are important for you & need your attention and start acting on those. Cut down others which are occupying your calendar.
·       Fear of Skill & Knowledge Gap –Start learning & doing..there is no shortcut to get knowledge & skills

I hope this helps.That's all for this week...