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The Streets of Today Mimic Life

street

 

The streets of today miss a beat

The streets of today are not a treat

Empty and desolate it is sad they are

No people you can see even if you look afar

We are losing the touch to personally connect

Our laptops and gadgets we choose to dissect

The impersonal choice grows unabated

Our lives have become increasingly gated

Let us choose to laugh, to cheer, and share

Let us choose to be human without a care

Our streets should be playful and joyful places

We should be present within them with happy faces

 

Written by Warda Zaman, April 2014

 

 

 

 

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Create Fuzzy Feelings to Build Positive Reception to Your Messages

Getting thank you cards is great! Receiving them makes us feel special and warm and fuzzy inside. We feel others care about us and appreciate us. What really surprises me, however, is that we can feel the same way about thank you cards even if they could be a  marketing tool acting as a precursor to things we dread. Our family recently had such an experience and I thought it would be nice to share it with you.

Recently, we got a thank you card in the mail before a bill was supposed to be mailed to us. I was expecting the bill when I saw the company name but when I looked at the envelope, it was made of nice card stock paper. It did not look like that envelope contained a bill and I was correct. Inside the envelope was a thank you card signed by an important person in the organization.

Perhaps this card was just to prepare us for the bill or perhaps it was a genuine acknowledgement. To me, that does not matter. Someone in the organization took the time to think of sending such a card, signing the card and mailing it out to us. The act in itself was important. How many organizations or people take this step to build better connections? As customers we usually feel slighted or squeezed one way or another. We often face ‘sticker shock’ when bills come our way.

This experience has me convinced  that thanking people is the first step to building stronger bonds with them. Thanking people makes us appreciate our blessings and teaches humility. We start operating in this world from a position of abundance rather than scarcity. In our case, we are now better prepared for what is to follow and our feelings about the organization are positive –perhaps even a notch better.

To build positive relationships and create stronger bonds, let us thank more people today, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives. I am sure we will build a happier society.

 

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Tunnel vision

I went to the store one day to buy a pair of glasses. The salesperson behind the counter seemed unconcerned about what I was looking for. He forgot to ask me what I wanted or needed and allowed me to look around- allowed me to experience absolute confusion at the myriad of choices at my disposal. Perhaps this person had experienced the irritation of strangers way to many times and had decided to stop talking, or perhaps he didn’t care.

There is a fine line…

There is a fine line between annoying someone by hotly pursuing them and gently coaxing them to reveal their inner truths or desires. Just like air conditioning (which is rarely just right), the art of influence is rarely mastered by people. When it is just right, it strikes a chord and makes music and when it is wrong, it is jarring.

As a customer…

I really wanted the man to show me the pair that would fit my needs but he did not and I walked away from the store with no answers and no glasses.

What he could have done…

The moment I walked in to the store, he should have tried to assess me and what I could possibly be looking for–a bit of proactive thinking on his part. Then he should have asked me what I was specifically looking for–this to narrow the range within which I should be looking. If I was confused, he could have used probing questions starting with what, how, why to find out more about my needs. If he noticed that I wanted to be left alone, he could have quickly addressed my immediate concerns and informed me that he was available if I had any questions.

The most important thing, however, is that he should have looked interested in his job. I sensed his lack of energy and that also drained my excitement about the store and the glasses I wanted to buy.

Takeaway…

Organizations are tunnel visioned when they think of only profits and how to cut costs. Manpower and training are the first casualties. Yet, it is these two areas that  will drive down profits even lower if they are skimped upon.

Having said this, customer service does not occur in a vacuum. You can train the heck out of people but your business fundamentals need to be in check as well. Are you aligning strategy, structure, systems, shared values, style, staff and skills (elements in the McKinsey 7 S model)? If one part of these is amiss, you probably will not achieve your goal for a sustainable solution to the customer service issue.

How many people walked out of your store today due to poor customer service? Do you know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HR Topics

Talent Waits to be Valued–But Not For Long

talentwaitsfornoone1A few years ago, while living and attending seminars abroad, I heard most of the HR executives lamenting that they could not find the talent they needed to perform the jobs in the market. When I returned to the US this year, the story is the same–magazines, books, newspapers continue to inform us that the future jobs depend on talent that not only understands the complexities of a rapidly changing workplace but can also add value by bringing its own creative skill sets into the mix.

The alarm bells being raised about talent deficit are relevant, yet one is surprised to see stark differences between the approaches towards talent. Some organizations take talent management seriously and put all necessary processes in place to onboard and manage talent effectively. Others, however, consider talent expendable—thinking that there is much more out there to choose from, so if one person leaves, another person will easily take their place. The SHRM Workplace Forecast 2013 mentions that some companies are still doubtful about a future debacle in talent management, but adds that, “… there is growing evidence that some disconnect exists between the needs of many organizations and the qualifications of certain job seekers.” In today’s global economy, this disconnect might be dangerous if nothing is done about it.

Although the process of managing talent is very detailed, an organization can take the following three steps quickly to steer itself in the right direction. The first step is to acknowledge talent management as a critical competency and instill this thought across its length and breadth. Second, the organization must train its personnel to recognize talent and groom it. Spotting and developing talent is an art and is usually developed by focusing on the details that matter. Targeted programs that train the staff to manage talent well are a good answer in this situation. Finally, the organization must be aware of talent management trends and regularly evaluate and streamline its talent management approaches.

The world is moving at a fast pace and your organization’s talent is waiting for you to make the first move towards its betterment. If retention of top employees is an organizational goal, recognizing and building talent and making it a priority in your organization will be the best investment your organization can make to secure its future.

Also posted on: http://instituteod.com/news.php?id=80&cat_id=&p=&search=#ontitle

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Working Together– Millennials and Previous Generations

 

According to a recent World Bank report “More and Better Jobs in South Asia”, eight South Asian countries (including Pakistan) will have to create 1-1.2 million new jobs every month over the next 20 years in order to satisfy the increasing demand for work by a more youthful population. This change will result in more Millennials (people born after 1982) entering the workforce with each passing day and will increase the diversity in the organizations that hire them. Millennials, having been raised very differently from the previous generations, will bring in working styles and behaviors which might clash with those of their senior colleagues and may affect the overall productivity at work. Therefore, if organizations are to thrive in the future, it is important that the younger and older generations proactively figure out ways to improve their interactions with each other. A few ways they can get along better are mentioned in this article.

Appreciate Strengths and Increase Level of Patience

Firstly, Millennials and the previous generations can develop good working relationships with each other by appreciating each other’s strengths and increasing their level of patience. Millennials are technologically savvy and quick to adapt to change whereas their senior colleagues have years of experience under their belt. Technology and experience are both essential for organizations to survive in the global marketplace and a simple appreciation of this fact alone can bring both parties together. With mutual respect, both parties can be less impatient with each other, willing to listen, and work out disagreements.

Share Knowledge

Secondly, both generations should share the knowledge that empowers them. In the digital era, where information is freely available online, it is a matter of time people catch up to those who are unwilling to share. Individuals who hoard knowledge may not get very far because their focus is on making things difficult for others rather than creating value. Positive behaviors of giving and sharing, that help people go farther in their careers and personal lives, win the respect of peers and encourage similar behaviors in others.

Remove Bureaucracy

Thirdly, bureaucracy should be removed.  Given the fact that speed and efficiency is generally preferable to slow and cumbersome processes, supervisors and peers are encouraged to cut the red tape and ease the frustration in their younger employees. The ease of doing things will help the organization as well.

Use the Best Communication Method

Fourthly, the method of communication should be relevant to the situation. Senior generations generally feel more comfortable with face-to-face communication, whereas, the Millennials prefer electronic communication. Although it may not be possible to satisfy everyone’s interests, it can help to know which communication mode the other party prefers. If too many meetings are called, the Millennials may become frustrated, and if too many e-mails are exchanged on a certain issue, the senior generations may feel slighted. Therefore, it is important to keep these specific preferences in mind before initiating communication and use the best method for that particular situation.

Emphasize Value-Addition

Lastly, Millennials and their senior colleagues both need to realize that successful organizations reward creating value- addition rather than maintaining the status quo or achieving seniority. Employees helping the organization save money, building new business or improving processes, have a much better chance at a promotion than those who merely consume resources. Also, by focusing on developing themselves, both parties can attain growth in an organization rather than at the expense of each other.

In conclusion, when Millennials and their senior colleagues collaborate effectively, they can create spectacular results for the organization. The trick is to get over preconceived notions about each other and look for ways to work together. Through a greater appreciation for each other’s strengths, more patience, better communication, sharing knowledge, lesser bureaucracy, and value-addition, employees can build constructive relationships, enhance commitment, and improve productivity across the board. When this happens, having diversity will be a pleasure!

Article by Warda Zaman. Also published in August 2012 issue of Jahangir’s World Times.

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Business Communication

Interpersonal Communication Tools

Interpersonal skills are essential for career success these days because of the growing importance of teamwork in organizations. Those who handle criticism and conflict well, manage negotiation better, and develop a positive atmosphere in the workplace find working in teams easier. For those that face a tougher time getting things done in groups, some simple tools in this article can help in getting started. The most common tools used by skillful communicators are verbal communication, body language, tone, listening, questions and feedback. This article shows how individuals can work on these tools to perform better in groups and improve their chances of personal and professional growth.

VERBAL COMMUNICATION

When it comes to verbal communication, it is important to ensure a positive use of language and to avoid putting others on the defensive. When handling a request for action, some people try to get away by saying, “This cannot be done”. Instead of giving unhelpful responses, it is much better to focus on facilitating people building relationships. The statement, “We will try our best to..” indicates one’s interest in satisfying the other party and generates goodwill from the other side.

Another way to make verbal communication work well is to stress the impact of the communication on one’s feelings and to use the word “I”. The statement: “I am concerned that this type of discussion will not serve any purpose” opens doors for communication because it is non-threatening; whereas, the statement “You are extremely difficult to deal with” may generate a defensive response because it can be interpreted as a personal attack.

BODY LANGUAGE AND TONE

According to Ali Mehrabian, a body language researcher in the 1950s, body language constitutes 55 percent of the verbal communication process. With such a big part of the communication process being devoted to non-verbal communication, a conscious effort to manage body positioning, interpersonal space, facial expressions, eye movement, touch, and breathing becomes imperative because body language can negate your words and project a different story from the one you want to tell. Walking with hands in one’s pockets can indicate dejection and patting one’s hair can be taken as a sign of insecurity.

Additionally, the tone of voice can result in others forming an opinion about one’s personality. A person who yells out an order “Can you get my tea?” compared to someone who says the same thing politely, might be considered difficult by others and avoided.

ACTIVE LISTENING AND ASKING QUESTIONS

One of the best ways to improve relationships is through active listening and asking questions.  The technique of paraphrasing in listening helps ensure clarity in the communication process and removes any misunderstandings. The statement: “So if I have heard you correctly, you would like me to prepare a three-page report by Friday noon? Is that right?” is an example of paraphrasing.

Questions that solicit detailed information start with the words, why, when and what and are very useful in developing an understanding about the situation. By having more information through listening and questioning, people are in a better position to give advice, negotiate well and manage conflicts. Both these tools also help people win friends because those who use them make others feel important and happy.

FEEDBACK

Giving and receiving feedback is very helpful for people to stay on track, and in order for people to deliver on their targets successfully, it is important to give specific, behavior-focused, and timely feedback. Saying: “Your reports are usually late and badly written,” to a poor performer at year-end is ineffectual because this statement puts the recipient of the exchange on the defensive. Giving feedback about the report at the time of the event, specifying the actual problem in the report, and speaking about the impact of the bad report will be more useful in improving performance.

While receiving negative feedback, people should control their emotions and listen carefully to what is being said. Usually, such conversations can contribute immensely to self-improvement–it depends on how the recipient interacts with the content. By looking for the essence of the conversation, and not taking matters personally, people can derive usefulness from any type of comment.

For the most part,  people who speak positively, use suitable nonverbal cues, listen actively and handle feedback well have a greater chance of going forward in their organizations. This is because they are more likeable and are better equipped to work in teams. An effective use of interpersonal communication tools can also bring about a positive change in people’s personal lives by helping them build happy relationships and enhancing their spiritual satisfaction.

Article by Warda Zaman. Also published in Jahangir’s World Times, July Edition 2012

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What it Takes to be a Corporate Leader

“Come to the edge.’ ‘We can’t. We’re afraid.’ ‘Come to the edge.’ ‘We can’t. We will fall!’ ‘Come to the edge.’ And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew.” 

Guillaume Apollinaire

This  is a succinct exemplification of a very basic concept – that a leader’s main job is to inspire greatness in others so that they will perform to their full potential. In order to do so, leaders must possess certain traits which inspire others. Though there are a myriad of qualities that people have written and talked about, I will discuss the four key talents  listed by Goffee and Jones1 that help corporate leaders to achieve spectacular results: approachability, intuition, tough empathy and uniqueness.

Approachability connects people and increases learning. Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines, is known for his personable style and down-to-earth attitude. While at Southwest, he encouraged people to communicate with each other in a pleasant manner and his ability to make light of difficult situations evolved into a corporate culture that people loved. As a result of continued dedication to their jobs and loyalty to their company, Southwest Airlines employees propelled the organization to the top five “Most Admired Companies of America”, a position it retained for many years. Leaders who allow two-way communication, help others to learn in the process since they serve as mentors and enable others to climb the ladder of success quickly. When people learn new ways of achieving results, they are able to accomplish more by meeting challenges with confidence.

The second quality mentioned by Goffee and Jones, a strong intuition, enables quick decision making which is critical in the business world. Since most decisions must be made by connecting the dots well, many people falter because they lack the ability to visualize trends and forecast. A leader, because of strong domain knowledge, can analyze the facts easily and  use intuition to arrive at a good decision. When Lee Iacocca was at Ford, he had a challenge to introduce a car which would appeal to a large audience. After reviewing market data and talking to people, he realized that the best way to launch a profitable car was to give customers the choice to add features as they chose. His intuition and confidence made people believe in his dream and in 1964, Ford launched the Mustang which was an instant success because it offered options based on customer demands. In the first 18 months a million Mustangs were built—far surpassing the sales forecast of fewer than 100,000 cars for the first year.

Good corporate leaders also use tough empathy to help employees achieve the required performance level. Since they are passionate about the work done in the organization, they use candid feedback to reinforce behaviors that determine success. Jack Welch, ex-CEO of GE  implemented the 20-70-10 performance appraisal system, which divided employees into groups based on their performance as excellent, average and poor. This encouraged a culture of excellence because through timely feedback employees were able to improve their performance. With Jack Welch as the CEO, GE’s share price rose 4000%; it was considered to be one of the most valuable companies during his tenure.

Finally, true leaders are not afraid of being different. In fact, they use their unique abilities to create value in their work. Steve Jobs, ex-CEO of Apple, showed the world that his love for calligraphy and simple design could be translated into computer fonts and a host of technological products that have become indispensable. His team shared his enthusiasm and Apple developed products that were different and exciting. With Steve Jobs at the helm from 1997-2011, Apple bounced back from a dismal performance in previous years. By 2010, Apple’s market capitalization had surpassed that of Microsoft, and its shares had hit an all-time high of $300 per share (The current share price is $542 per share).

In the final analysis, approachability, intuition, tough empathy and uniqueness are essential for corporate leaders to rally the workforce around a common goal. Even though other traits such as vision and strategic direction are very important, the qualities of a good leader discussed in this article actually endear employees to their superiors. When leaders have such loyal followers, they can instill in them a desire to perform at their peak, and by taking on challenges and opportunities with eagerness and confidence, the entire team can prove that the sky indeed is the limit!

1 Goffee, Robert and Jones, Gareth, Why Should Anyone be Led by You (Harvard Business Review: Sep/Oct2000 Vol. 78 Issue 5) 62-70.

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