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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.”
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.
Superior University recently held a seminar on “Organizational Sustainability Through Building Brands”. The talk centered on the preparedness of Pakistani companies in the face of global competition. The questions about our local organizations were thought provoking because even though we see a surge of local brands in Pakistan, we often do not know what is really happening behind the scenes. It is mostly through word-of-mouth or sometimes the Pakistani media, that one gets to hear things which are not very flattering or encouraging about the state of our organizations.
Recently a newspaper published an article about the disorganization of our fashion designers at a very famous fashion event in Paris. Most of the fashion designers when quizzed about their lack of professionalism defended their behavior by blaming the other party. Some of the panelists gave the example of our fashion industry as a strong brand for Pakistan. I disagree. If we don’t have our inner workings right and defend our bad practices, we will have difficulty in maintaining our international presence. It is time we look at ourselves from the eyes of the people who interact with us.
The brands in the educational system are in business because of high fees and a monopoly. If you talk about the quality of education they deliver, you are left wanting. Parents are dissatisfied with the lack of homework, creativity in the kids and the attitude of teachers. If a new brand enters the market promising better quality with lower fees, these schools will get a run for their money. What unique selling proposition do they actually have? Does only the architecture differentiate them or is there quality in everything they do?
One can examine many other brands in Pakistan as critically and reach the same conclusion that improvement is needed on many fronts. Organizational sustainability will come only through imbibing a philosophy that centers around the consumer. All the stakeholders of an organization, including employees, must feel a powerful connection and loyalty to the brand and own it. The whole objective of sustainability in the future is to keep the stakeholders happy by delivering goods above expectations and creating a level of excitement that sustains the brand through good and bad times.
Writing is probably one of the most nerve- wracking activities one has to do at work. When we put things in writing, we expose the quality of our thoughts, language and abilities. Our nervousness usually stems from the fact that if our job is shoddy, our reputation and dignity will suffer. Luckily we do not have to be so tragic and can overcome the fear of writing by following simple but effective steps in drafting business documents.
Think about your purpose. When you write do you think of why you are writing? What is the final objective?
Know your audience. Who are the people you are writing for? Answer all questions about these people that come to your mind.
Do your research. Get all your facts and supporting documents in one place.
You should brainstorm and use techniques such as mindmapping. Write down all the points you need to cover. The idea is to first get uninterrupted ideas flowing and then connect the relevant ideas to each other.
Draft your paragraph. Write the part of the document you are most comfortable with first. Remember, this is just a first cut and will be revised multiple times.
Paragraphs require topic sentences which need a topic and a controlling idea. The topic sentence conveys the main idea of your paragraph and should not be too specific or too general. An example of a topic sentence is “One of the strongest arguments in favour of good relations with Afghanistan is that Pakistan will benefit from trade between the two countries.”
In the next few sentences you can give your reasons of why you think this is so and conclude the paragraph with a summary of your thoughts. Back up your statements with evidence or logical arguments–don’t leave thoughts hanging in the air.
A connection between sentences in a paragraph is crucial. Remember to connect the sentences to each other through transitions or pronouns. If the sentences are disjointed, you will create zero impact and only confuse the reader further. Practice writing good paragraphs and you will win in the writing world!
Carefully review your paragraphs for unity, cohesion and coherence. Talk about only one idea in a paragraph, connect the thoughts around the idea well and ensure you have built your case logically.
Ask someone to read the document and critique it. Another pair of eyes can spot flaws better sometimes. Other people can also give more insight into your document.
Revise your document based upon your own and other people’ s review through careful editing. You should look out for things like misplaced or incorrect words, your tone (your attitude towards your reader), your style of writing (manner in which you write to your audience), and proper grammar and punctuation. Short sentences, simple words and active verbs will enhance your writing. Formatting the document well can make things stand out better.
The editing process is tedious and can make you start all over– please keep that in mind.
Once you are done, you should proofread your document in different ways. Try reading in the opposite order (last line and upwards) or read after different intervals so that you catch what you have missed so far. Revise if you need to.
Voila! You have a finished product after proofreading and you can pat yourself on the back because you went through an arduous process to get it. For any creative process, please remember the famous adage — no pain, no gain. Merry writing to all of you!