Why #leadership development #fails & #How to #fix it!

What’s with the # – It’s for #twitter. But imagine if everything was written with a ‘#’, if everything was a keyword? How would that work?

Well, it is no different for the first time leader. A new language, new words, new meanings and too much information which can be blinding. A new place where everything has an alternative and every decision has a repercussion, more than ever. If you are already what one can call a ‘leader’ you know the pressure I am talking about.

The pressure to change, to live up, to manage, to drive and to deliver! But how? With a world where everything seems to be top priority, like the # or the keyword, every new leader takes one of two ways  :

A: Ignores all hashtags ‘#’ and goes with the best guess any way! OR B: Tries to deal with all of them and eventually burns out!

While our poor protagonist is making the wrong choice or the wrong choice, the mounting pressure teaches him/ her to either pretend or defend. That’s the behavioral approach which is the social equivalent of being either a lifelong victim or a ‘know it all’. Where is the ‘leader’ in all this, you ask? So do I!

Add to this, a dose of the ‘leadership development workshop’ and the person in question hears the following :

#Sources of power for a #leader | #Types of #leaders | #Leadership principles | #Leadership Best Practices | #Leadership Models | #Delegation | #Situational Leadership | #Action centered #leadership | #level5 Leadership | #Feedback | #Lead by #example | #Team-Management | # Task-Management | #Conflict Management | #People & #Project Management | #Inspiration | #Problem solving | #Decision making | #Motivation”

Thats pretty much every two day leadership workshop ever designed. To you, me and every other L&D / HR professional these are must have skills! To the protagonist, nothing but more words.

How do these words benefit them? What should they do when, under pressure, these words frankly just don’t occur to them?

The answer is not to change everything head over heels and de-credit what the best of thinkers and management maestros have thought up. All the buzzwords and # (hashtags) are both important and relevant. The challenge however is in how these are driven and drilled down the to-be leaders #neural network?

The answer may be in Bloom’s taxonomy. Blooms taxonomy is a model that demarcates levels of adult learning. Understanding this could be the key to teaching and driving leadership development.

Most of current leadership content takes people (learners) to the receiving andresponding level i.e. they understand the definitions and are able to recall it when faced with the terms in day to day conversations.

Some workshops, practice oriented sessions and customized learning experiences do manage to take this leadership learning to the organizing level i.e. participants are able to plot valid responses, scenarios and tools together. But is this enough to prepare these learners for the real world challenges and expectations?

To make meaningful difference, we need to take this learning to the ‘Valuing‘  and ‘Internalizing‘ levels. How?

While even through workshops that are limited in content but deep rooted in practice, some amount of this is certainly possible. However, I have always seen the best results through #gamification and #simulation.

Here are some ideas that you can use for the next set of people you work with :

1. Use theatre – It’s nothing complicated and there are many ways of using this. For e.g. Make and prepare a drama club in your office and use them to drive situations where learners participate and get to respond to complex workplace conversations as leaders and managers. Feel free to take this to other avenues of learning like communication and customer service. If not this, give simple scenarios and get teams to role-play them without knowing what the opposition plans to do.

2. Use Gamification – I don’t mean to complicate at all, but this simply means to create content where people get to decide on their own, pay for the consequences and build rewards on their own with limited supervised learning. For the nay-sayers, this is not idealistic because the activity is still very much supervised, the learning is not! For e.g. here are few things you can do :

  • I designed this simulation called the ‘6talk plan’ for managerial development.
  • This is basically the 6 key conversations every manager needs to have with their subordinates – 1. Start of the annual goal setting 2. Quarterly / Incidental Review 3. Half Yearly Review 4. Personalized feedback / teaching moments (Task based) 5. Personalized feedback / teaching moments (Behavior based) and 6. Annual review and appraisal discussion.
  • I recommend that you go the whole hog and invest a week in building content for this. You will need a Fictitious company brief, a CEO brief (To whom everybody reports including the protagonist), a Manager Brief, Team member profiles 4-5 (Fictitious). This is just background.
  • Then you need situational cases for each of the 6 conversations and cue cards for concepts / models that you would like people to use. If possible, even video record these briefs as personal anecdotes instead of words on paper.
  • Each case then needs to be played by unique trio’s , Manager – Team Member – Observer (Regulate roles here!)
  • You can also record an ideal conversation on video so that people can learn and compare to.
  • Quick-tip – Make it tough and realistic at all times. Too basic and you will have people bored, too complicated and they will disengage. Don’t be afraid of some trial and error.

3. Use Business Simulation – Personally, I am a big fan of Ram Charan’s and Larry Bossidy’s book called ‘Execution’. I feel it effectively describes what every leader should know about getting things done. In essence it says that there are three key aspects to perfect execution : People, Operations and Strategy

Points 1 and 2 in this article work really well when teaching ‘People’ and to some extent ‘Operations’ aspects. But for strategy the key is to teach people about the broader picture. Strong debrief, business leader feedback and buy-in are crucial here. If you have a good budget, maybe you can go for some real time online simulation like Capstone etc., if like me the budgets are often tighter and the management wants ‘Harvard’ like learning in ‘private-tuition’ costs, try using Monopoly and/ or Human Chess!

What I have shared here are merely some quick ideas of building more meaningful leadership development options for your workforce. Needless to say that the intent is not to prove that theory isn’t important. The question simply is how to treat it the right way to ensure application?

While you try your hand at the above tips, please do use your judgement focusing on how to leverage on these ideas and not just replace everything else. Let me leave you with a story that tells us why this judgement is critical for both , leadership development and learning in general :

This is allegedly a true story. Engineers at a major aerospace company were instructed to test the effects of bird-strikes (notably geese) on the windshields of airliners and military jets. To simulate the effect of a goose colliding with an aircraft travelling at high speed, the test engineers built a powerful gun, with which they fired dead chickens at the windshields. The simulations using the gun and the dead chickens worked extremely effectively, happily proving the suitability of the windshields, and several articles about the project appeared in the testing industry press.

It so happened that another test laboratory in a different part of the world was involved in assessing bird-strikes – in this case on the windshields and drivers’ cabs of new very high speed trains. The train test engineers had read about the pioneering test developed by the aerospace team, and so they approached them to ask for specifications of the gun and the testing methods. The aerospace engineers duly gave them details, and the train engineers set about building their own simulation.

The simulated bird-strike tests on the train windshields and cabs produced shocking results. The supposed state-of-the-art shatter-proof high speed train windshields offered little resistance to the high-speed chickens; in fact every single windshield that was submitted for testing was smashed to pieces, along with a number of train cabs and much of the test booth itself.

The horrified train engineers were concerned that the new high speed trains required a safety technology that was beyond their experience, so they contacted the aerospace team for advice and suggestions, sending them an extensive report of the tests and failures.

The brief reply came back from the aero-engineers: “You need to defrost the chickens….”


Abhinandan Chatterjee (Article also available independently at www.abhinandanchatterjee.com / www.humanwareworks.com / LinkedIn)

Connect on twitter for #HR folks : @humanwareworks

Creating Shared Value : The business of development & 3 things YOU can do !

Understanding businesses today

Part 1

Long time ago, there was a tortoise and a hare who had an argument about who the faster runner was. They finally decided to take on one another for a race.

As the race started, the hare sprinted ahead briskly for some time. Realizing that it will take some time for the tortoise to catch up with him, he decided to seek shelter from the sun under a tree before continuing the race. As he sat under the tree, he gradually fell asleep. The tortoise, crawling at a steady pace, eventually overtook him and won the race. The hare woke up and realized that his complacency cost him the trophy.

Moral: By the 1970, the industry and government was working on their own agenda and businesses felt that being slow but steady would get them to win the race.

Part 2

The hare realized that he was over confident, complacent and took things too easily. He decided to have a re-match with the tortoise. The tortoise accepted his challenge.

This time, the hare ran with all his might and didn’t stop until he crossed the finish line.

Moral: Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady. By 1980’s business were realizing the need to be faster and agile, India saw a splurge of global interventions that was to make Indian businesses work faster.

But the story doesn’t end here.

 Part 3

This time, it was the tortoise that did the soul searching and he realized that if the hare didn’t stop, there is no way he will beat him. He thought hard and decided on a different course and he challenged the hare to another re-match. The hare, of course, agreed.

With the lessons learnt from his earlier failure in mind, the hare kept on running once the race started and didn’t stop until the route leads him to the bank of a river. He was taken by surprise and he did not know what to do, since he could not swim. There were no bridges in sight and no one to ask for directions. As he was cracking his head, thinking of ways to cross the river, the tortoise strolled slowly along, dived into the river, swam across it and ultimately, finished the race before the hare.

Moral: Know your strengths and take on your competitors in areas of your core competency. Do you remember how all of sudden all doctors were specialists by 1990, It just wasn’t the doctors, but all businesses.

While the governments were busy with their bureaucratic tantrums, the industry learnt to discover its strengths and live through a quickly globalizing fast-paced market. By the 1990’s, everyone was specializing, everybody who was doing everything was now picking battles that appealed to their personal strength.

The business and government were both becoming technically savvy but at different levels.

The story still hasn’t ended.

Part 4

With the hare and the tortoise spending so much time together racing, they have learnt to live together, they have also developed mutual respect for one another as they realized that they are both different and they have different strengths. They decided to race again, but this time, as a team.

As the race started, the hare carried the tortoise and they sped to the river bank. There, they switched positions and the tortoise ferried the hare across the river. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they crossed the finishing line together. They completed the race in a record time that both of them can never achieve if they were to do it alone. They also felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they’d felt earlier.

Moral: After the year 2000, it has been increasingly the sense of partnership governing most successes in businesses and otherwise. We a seen a remarkably higher number of government and industry partnerships. A higher number on mutual decisions that benefit most and most importantly a say in the policy making. While it has its glitches but for good cause people do come together.

Driving CSV for the future – Impacting the bottom line

In all this slowly has emerged a third partner, society, it elects the government and is a supplier to businesses. A very interesting position to be at.  Society is now at the driving seat towards the future and it only will decide the fate of government and and business in the years to come.

Simply put, growth of the nation depends on the education and decision making abilities of the society which in turn will govern the sustenance of industry. It is multi-dependent situation to be in and everyone has something at stake. One can’t function without the others any  more.

That is what makes this era, the era of Creating Shared Value between society and business.

Enough with the background. I know this sounds good for people with Moolah to match. But Not Everyone – right ?

Nestle is doing a good job with their bit in helping the society and in the process helping themselves.  Read more about how they are creating shared value at http://www.nestle.com/CSV.

But is the Nestle story enough to convince the SME’s to give a hand with CSV?

Here are three things you can do as an SME with the reasons why :

1. It’s a give and take world : As a business if you want to take people’s money, it’s just not going to work any more. People are smarter and penny-wise. Look at what can you give back to the immediate society.

Example: You are a small business owner who manufactures candles. Maybe you can look at starting at candle making school for local population and take their material at a good price. That’s much cheaper than hiring people and drives considerably more commitment.

You are getting a finished product with a better margin as a business and people are becoming entrepreneurs in return. That’s CSV.

2. Give enough and you will get it back – compounded :What you do for the society drives as leverage. Sounds almost Utopian? It’s not.

Example: Fab India – What started as a small venture led to employment of thousands of people. recession and inflation came and went , unions were set up and dissolved – They never really had a strike that impacted their output. While all their neighbors did. Guess why – Because their workers stood up for them in difficult times. That’s what you get when you give with an open heart.

3. Take only what you need: While most people (SME business Owners) work on the philosophy of ‘Take what you can!’ ; ‘ Take only what you need’ may be the change in attitude the society is looking for. CSV is not an annual investment or tax benefit, its not CSR, donation or charity. It about you as a business being an enabler for the society.

Example: What can a small NGO do which has absolutely limited budgets ? There is one story that I know of; a small kid introduced to his first camera in an orphanage. Today he is one of the best photographers in India. Google up – Vicky Roy – INK Fellow.

In a simpler sense, all I am saying is spread hope.

To summarize – three things all SME’s can do to create shared value :

1. Find common ground where you can get what you want from the society directly while helping them become employed.

2. Build social credibility to drive social commitment to your business.

3. Spread hope that allows people to believe in the possibilities.

Other than Nestle, another organization that makes me want  to work with CSV is Maruti – when they came to India in 1982, they did not have any vendors or suppliers. So they found people and enabled them with the technology, learning and skills required to be their suppliers. In some cases even the investment needed.

Today those vendors are multi-million dollar companies.

So take a step – go the extra mile – create shared value!

Creating Shared Value : The ‘sunrise’ direction

What can a business do?

Like most of us who run, transact with or know businesses will say that a they can only make money! Not true any more !

A really interesting Initiative that I came across was the ‘Nestle Creating Shared Valueand their perspective towards the role of business in development is simple, clear, driven and the way I understand – Very practical.

In my humble opinion, they seem to believe ‘If they build a better world, even they will benefit from it’ something that everyone should learn from and strive towards.

Read more about their work here . Or watch a video here

I believe in this idea and want to learn more, after receiving an invite recently from the Creating Shared Value Forum,2012 (Organized by Nestle SA and FICCI) to be held in New Delhi, India on Nov 5th as a Key Online Opinion Leader, my focus is now to see what is actionable and write about it.

Stay tuned here for two more articles on this thread :

1. Creating Shared Value : The business of development

2. Creating shared value forum 2012 : Top 10 actionable items that your business can start tomorrow.

Connect with the forum directly on twitter at https://twitter.com/nestleCSV  

#NestleCSV stay tuned for my tweets from the event day

OR connect with them on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Nestle

Personally, since I am doing a workshop on ‘Execution tactics’ for a leading automobile company today, I feel the best way to sum this up for now would be to quote The Tonite Show anchor and entrepreneur – Jay Leno

“Life begins at conception and ends at execution’

My Testimonials

This is what some of the participants had to say after attending my workshops through I Train Consultants (I) Pvt.Ltd:

  • “Our discussion was very relevant and addressed our challenges well.  What we discussed very practical and real life. I will definitely implement what I have learnt today going forward.”
    • Mid-Management, McKinsey & Company, On Leading 
  •  “The workshop was far better than the one we had last year from IIM Kolkata Trainer. We would be requesting you for further workshops in the future and we would definitely recommend to our friends”
    • President, Book Supply Bureau, On Motivation
  • “This training should be a mandatory training for career levels. Abhinandan is just amazing.”
    • Senior Manager, Sapient Corporation, On Negotiation Skills
  • “Abhinandan helped us to pull our internal things, which we always missed out. The workshop was interesting and enriching.”
    • Middle Management, UCB, On Managing Ambiguity
  •  “Your program is absolutely perfect for our team. It’s good for gaining knowledge. We will definitely use it in our professional and personal life. Everything is perfect”
    • Sudhir Gensets, Mid-Senior Management, On Project Effectiveness
  • ” I have spent many years in the army and the a few here, but this is the best training program I have ever attended. Very Fruitful and practical”
    • Indus Towers, Middle Management, On Negotiation Skills

My Work Profile

Abhinandan’s strength lies in his ability to get people to participate, think and act! “Learning is not compulsory, neither is change, nor is survival”, is his idea to introduce learning by relating to the audience & making them comfortable to step out of moulds and benefit by sharing their perspectives. He says ‘ to change the world, change yourself first’Abhinandan joined I Train Consultants (I) Pvt. Ltd. bringing with him over seven years of experience in the training and development function.  He passed out of the prestigious Army School GRC and moved on to do his Bachelors in Business Administration followed by an advanced diploma in Organizational Psychology from The University of Stonebridge, UK.

Apart from being a FIRO-B® Certified practitioner, he also comes with an excellent understanding of participant behavior and adult learning best-practices. His background helps him design and deliver a wide range of programs, across levels, with a strong focus on participants’ development through the use of innovative tools and methodologies.

His humble beginnings and experience in other spheres such as counseling, sales, hospitality and advertising allow him to offer a wide variety of perspectives during his workshops.  With his uncanny sense of humor and energy which is always contagious; his workshops are ever ‘Alive’, creating an environment where every participant feels empowered and included.

His regular interventions , workshops and keynotes include Leadership, Managerial Effectiveness, Creativity, Problem Solving and Decision Making, Analytical skills, Influencing and Negotiation Skills, Assertiveness,  Communication, Sales & Collections, Conflict Management, Planning & Organizing, Stress management, Motivation, Coaching & Feedback, Achievement orientation, , Team building and Interviewing Skills across audiences with 0-35 years of work experience.

Abhinandan’s clientele is spread across industries with clients like Mc Kinsey & Company, Wipro Consulting, Right Management & Book Supply Bureau in the business consulting domain. Maruti Suzuki India Limited, JCB, Motherson Sumi Group & Valvoline Cummins in the automobile sector. Canon, HP, Benetton, Dish TV, ESPN-Star Sports, UCB, Shree Cement & ACC cement in the Manufacturing and Consumer products sector. RBS, Religare, American Express, XL Capital and AA Insurance in the financial services domain, Embassy of the United States of America and IFCI in the public sector And Indus Towers, SAP, Sapient, Toluna , Aircom, Avaya, Adobe, Navisite, Serco Global, Quatrro and Huawei in the IT/ITES and Telecom Sector.    Amongst others.

He is based out of gurgaon, India where he lives with his wife, Prerna. He is an author, adventure sports enthusiast; a black belt holder in Karate, also loves blogging at www.abhinandanchatterjee.com , tweeting, poetry, photography, painting,  while enjoying socializing, good food and soccer.

Ask me a question !

If you have a business situation, a challenge in life or while achieving your goals; this is our platform to ‘ ask me a question’. Based on the work I do and whatever I little I know, I am committed to assist you in getting what you want in life.

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