The Meaning of Executive Presence

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Young Guns, New Bees or Veterans! Startups or Vintage! Culturally Progressive or Old School! Do take a note. The phenomenon of executive presence is gaining more prominence and permanence. Interesting though elementary, it is notable that what matters much ahead of how you conduct yourselves, is how your presence is perceived in the organization. Should you be the one who sets the tone in meetings, get on-board with confidence, has a sense of balance, composure and dignity of manners, is functionally assertive to constructive conflict, can take a call upon and decide – you could be having it in you what the ‘Selectors’ are looking for in players to ‘play the big match’ and that’s Executive Presence.

Should you be one who knowingly or unknowingly is feeding to your cravings for control, dominance and popularity and realise too late that the bridges are being burnt before they are built – you would rather be perceived as the ringmaster. So good luck on any transformations that you attempt either people wise or process wise.

Executive presence is subtle yet strong. Complex to define and measure but simple to feel and perceive. The best of the competency models and the most of the validated and reliable psychometrics, not sure, if they can make an empirical presentation of executive presence.

A rather significant determinant of your executive presence is your appearance and attire. It is not only about what you wear. It’s also about the way you wear it, the way you appear to others is what others see you as carrying yourselves and that casts the impression and judgements that people form about you. Can’t help! Organizations are made up of human beings and here it is needless to say the rest.

Additionally important is what Daymond John says – “Good grooming is integral and impeccable style is a must. If you don’t look the part, no one will want to give you time or money.”

So, is there a way to increase the Executive Presence Quotient? Researches by Human Processes Scientists and Organizational Development Professionals reveal that executive presence is associated with deeply held values, increased self-awareness to acknowledge one’s own needs and willingly working to manage those needs, seems to help.

© Satyakki Bhattacharjee

How could the Training Industry landscape trend from 2015 onwards?

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Indian Economy seems to be coming out of the troubled waters and 2015 is expected to see a 6.4% growth. The head hunters are gung ho, the ‘make in India’ vision getting an okayed action plan from PM himself, is all set to enable and boost the Indian Manufacturing environment. The Global Economic activity too is broadly strengthening and expected to increase further in 2014-15. However, the top questions that remain for Learning & Development Professionals and Managers in the Training Industry are:

  • Will all these ‘Feel-Good’ translate into ‘Do-More’?
  • How would the Training Industry landscape look like from 2015 onwards?
  • What is trending in the Training Industry?

Curating the experience from the past few years and estimating the future of the training industry, the following trends could be useful for the Learning and Development strategists.

  1. Organization Development (OD) & Learnings in VUCA – No matter how much pleasant the economic breeze feels, the monster of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) is yet to go away. Risking to sound pessimist though, it would be wrong to assume that happy days are here forever. The monster of VUCA could be in hibernation or hiding until another 9/11 wakes it up. The probability for which can never be believed to be zero, ask the world leaders. So learning and development managers need to devise their strategy and present a plan that is fairly VUCA proof. This does not mean that the Instructor Led Programs (ILP’s) are gone forever but prompts us to make sure that Self Directed Learning Interventions and Informal Learning Interventions are well included in the plan and forms an integral part of the strategic OD intervention of the organization.

The next few years are going to see an upraise in OD work. Organizations, however small or big, despite the cool breeze of economic growth will still need to have special focus on managing change. Rather, an impetus for change to align with the overall positive economic stimuli will be experienced by most organizations. Deeper and serious top-driven organization-wide interventions to bring about a planned change will be back in radar, with Boards outlining enterprise-wide organization development strategies to plug the gaps in its results page and focus on untapped Market opportunities deploying People Strategies. More and more internal people could see developing as OD professionals and authentic OD Consultancy would stand starkly separated from gift of gab.

  1. Answering PE & VC’s (Private Equity and Venture Capitalists) – My last visit to an engineering school in India recently firms up my belief that the Next Gen does not compulsorily agree to appear for the campus placements. They dream to own startups and soil their hands in making business sense out of things that are interesting though elementary. And there you go, the PE’s and the VC’s are putting money and betting on them, cheering them in the race. The PE firms and the VC’s invest in the business and make money by exiting. Good or bad, while they are there, they demand results. The entrepreneurs have to answer the PE’s and VC’s on results and this is where training the people sooner to give faster results gets mandated. Thus the need to train up their people soon to show quick results to the PE’s and VC’s. Learning and development professionals must gear-up to meet this challenge. Yes, learning interventions now must be like “quickies” which can give visible results on-ground in much shorter time. Time as a luxury would no more be available to Learning and Development professionals. Yet, beware, the expectations are even higher.
  1. Content would be God – One of the ways that learning and development managers handle the pressure of yielding sharper results in lesser time is by re-orienting the Content and redesigning the delivery.   An important aspect of learning and development, which I feel the L&D professionals have not paid serious attention to and practiced, is that of Instructional Design (ID). It’s time that we believe that designing a training program is a Science. Principles of ID deployed in program designing increases the efficiency of the training program as the design then is specifically tailored for the learning results. Unlike what most training and development professionals believe, effective Instructional Designing is actually much more than just organizing the information to be shared. With the demand to deliver learning results in short span, time has come for all of us to believe in and practice authentic instructional designing.
  1. Mobile Learning – Mobile technology is changing the way we learn and is beginning to change the way we deliver learning, either in isolation or as a combo offering with other computer based technology(CBT). If only Learning and Development professionals accept the fact that the content they create can be delivered in a way that is ‘Convenient’, ‘Comfortable’ and can be ‘Carried Along’, they have delivered what is Mobile Content. With smart phones, tablets and E-readers almost replacing the note-books and the ball point pens, Training would survive only if, a large part of it can get into these mobile devices. Increasingly, organizations are pushing their academic and corporate learning activities through this emerging platform.
  1. Learning Management System – The next few years would see an augment in delivering, measuring and monitoring processes in the training industry. Whereas now, all the managing, monitoring and control of the Learning and Development activities in an organization is largely devoid of a standard centralized e-based application, it won’t be long before organizations serious about Learning and Development, adopts an LMS and in a way the training industry gets a sort of an ERP fever.
  1. MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) – Free is Big and Open Source is a Great Source. With Comfort and Convenience becoming a significant aspect determining learning effectiveness, MOOC is getting soon to be on top of the charts. The MOOC platform gives us the L&D professionals, course creation tools which are easy to create quality courses online. It helps to control the content and enhance the learner experience driven by latest tools for great interactivity. This is one trend that is going to transform the learning community soon integrating the world of academia, corporate businesses, government institutions and trainers and facilitators offering Training Industry a One Globe Platform.

Not to say that the Management Development Programs (MDP’s) would dry out and INSEADs and Harvards would have to hard-sell; is just that the offers to these programs would be even more selective and only the fittest would survive to experience these famous class rooms.

Wishing good luck and a year of accomplishments to all my L&D colleagues.

Satyakki Bhattacharjee

© Copyright Satyakki Bhattacharjee

Learning Managers of Today – Victims of the Buzz or True Champions of OD?

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Human beings, being social creatures, get easily attracted to often intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something. The buzzword in corporate now is OD. In a refreshing though gradual departure from the ‘Training is Time Pass’ to ‘Learning is Business’ mindset, executives are missing the forest for the trees. But where does that leave the Learning Manager? Indications are that there is a lot happening around the execution of training initiatives – unlike sometime back when classrooms were seen as safe houses for poor performers and Trainers as their guards, playing the second-fiddle in the organization, if not anything else.

Technology’s arrogance that it alone can deliver the demands of Cost, Quality, Service & Speed in business have proved to be a tall claim that business managers could not finally settle. Business pressures led to realizations in chorus that Process cannot be seen in isolation of People. And so came the holy consciousness that Companies doing business has to be seen and treated as Organizations run by People.

Organization Development (OD) is undoubtedly a welcome idea to the Leaders and Managers, particularly of those entities who are keen to strengthen their resolve – never to become a Texaco, Enron or even for that matter the Indian watch maker, HMT. Yet, what is happening in the name of OD? Where is the Strategy? If learning is an integral part of business – for the people, by the people and of the people, can it continue to stay alive and breathe life into the mainstream organization without a systemic approach and a Learning Management Vision & Strategy? Unfortunately that’s what is happening. Adhocism in the area of OD is giving feeble or no results. Organizations are often seen to be investing a lot of money in the so-called Training & Development activities, in peace-meals, focusing acutely on the accomplishment of targeted learning man-days! That’s exactly the scenario when they are counting trees but have no idea of how the forest looks like. The hyper-focused approach on the training deliveries have taken the eye off the larger goals of the organization, which OD was supposed to help accomplish as an enabler. Learning professionals are falling prey to this. When happiness of accomplishments exists around adhocisms in learning – a Learning Manager must wake up to the clarion call.

Learning managers must ensure that training and development activities in the organization are the subset of the overall OD strategy. They do disservice to the organization, should they miss to integrate the training calendar to the larger OD Strategy and the disservice is not only to the organization but to themselves too, in their professional practice. It may be pertinent to note that the OD strategy is the mother of all the training and development related activities and that the calendar cannot be emerging from nowhere. The mandate here is to draw together the strategic objectives, priorities by way of a meticulous diagnosis of the business challenges in the organization and how OD can aid the fulfillment of those, as its own goals. T&D is one of the means to fulfill the OD strategy and not an integrative strategy in itself. Significantly important is to note that all training and development in the organization, as a subset of OD, must cater to address the challenges ever emerging due to the constant changes that the organization is going through. Needless to mention that change being the only constant – is a common ecosystem for every kind of business and thus dedicated strategic focus on OD becomes less of a choice for any organization and its learning manager, irrespective of its size and business that it is in.

This refers to a broad key responsibility area of the Learning Manager. To follow the diagnosis and deliberately plan and embark upon enterprise wide endeavors, with training activities only as one of the initiatives, to increase the organization’s effectiveness, efficiency and overall readiness to battle the weathers of change. The Learning Manager must have a long range, long term holistic and multi faceted approach to help the organization achieve transformational change through its people. Being sensitive to the above responsibilities helps the Learning Manager fall prey to the deceptive trap of adhocism.

The Learning Manager’s plate is still not full… The lack of a robust measurement system could be his potential derailment factor. Having measuring systems, processes, benchmarks and controlling through a PERT gives handles to measure OD efforts and helps cover some distance on measuring otherwise debatable aspect of ‘effectiveness’. An organized, scientific and empirical approach taken by Learning Managers for all OD efforts helps him or her to co-relate the OD interventions to business results, highlight areas for future investments, and also to justify budget allocations. If learning is business, the Learning Managers better be more accountable for how the booty is spent within their organizations.

Lets all not lose the forest for the trees…the traps are many.

© Copyright Satyakki Bhattacharjee 2014

Design Approaches to Advance Leadership Development Program Interventions

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In my previous post I had talked about the use of the ‘Know, Do, Be’ model as an approach for Basic Leadership Development. The next iteration in the area of Leadership Development requires discussing, what could constitute an Advance Leadership Development Program,

In Basic Leadership Programs the objective is to tell the incumbent participant about the ‘pre-requisites’ that constitutes Leadership. Pre-requisites refer to preliminary necessary critical behaviors that could barely make a person begin to exhibit signs and symptoms of Leadership Behavior. These are essential components without which a leader can’t be termed as a Leader.

When moving towards Advanced Leadership Development, the focus is on the ‘Be’. In a way, in the Advanced Leadership Program, the incumbent is equipped with the awareness of the several broad long term strategic intents and roles that a leader may have and choices are laid out to pick one that he or she would like to take up in the long run.

Around these, the domain of Advanced Leadership runs on the axis having Situational at one end and Transactional on the other end.

Approaches to Situational Leadership Development

Situational Leadership proposes that effective leaders must have a rationally balanced understanding of the circumstance to respond appropriately. The essence of Situational Leadership is that of Task Orientation. When designing a Situational Leadership Program, enough emphasis must be laid upon the Leadership Style and to link the Style to create an appropriate Climate that facilitates Task Accomplishments.

Since effective Situational Leaders are those who are high on achieving task
accomplishments, any program or intervention to develop Situational Leaders must have modules that cover giving definite instructions, learning structured methods of communication, learning to understand and interpret operational climate dimensions to integrate Product-Services Goals and Processes of the organization.

Such an intervention is expected to have learning inputs around Communication Styles, understanding critical behaviors that characterize Task Oriented Competencies and components of Time Management besides offering other Models, Matrix and Methodology of task accomplishment like Project Management. The criteria to choose these modules are that all of them contribute towards developing the incumbent into a Production-Oriented leader with a Directive approach.

Approaches to Transformational Leadership Development

Transformational Leadership has been ‘the single most studied and debated idea within the field of Leadership’ (Diaez-Saenz, 2011). In the leadership body of knowledge, many instances of business leaders’ turnaround success, middle management effectiveness, charisma-based leadership is attributed to Transformational Leadership.

Transformational Leadership is all about becoming an influencer, having people to follow and in the process scaling up the consciousness level of the followers about the significance and value of desired outcomes and the methods of achieving such resultant.

In organizations, Transformational Leaders are those leaders who are able to influence the team members to rise above their self-level interests and goals in the interest of the organization while also, as a parallel, satisfying the needs of the team members progressively elevating on the Maslow’s Motivational Pyramid.

In this context, Diversity acceptance, Multi-cultural Adaptability and Acceptance, certain Personality Traits and being high on Emotional Intelligence are essential competency areas for Leadership Development.

Contrary to Production Orientation, the focus of the design of the Transformational Leadership Development Intervention must focus on developing the People Orientation of the incumbents. The interventions to develop Transformational Leadership must also focus on and be inclusive of such components that go to develop the individual’s ‘Consideration and Participative’ approach rather than ‘Production and Directive’ approach.

In a way, while Situational Leadership concerns more with the competence of effectively maintaining the day-to-day business operations and “keeping the ship up-float”, Transformational Leadership transcends beyond the daily operational activities and formulates strategies for the organization to move to the higher orders of performance and achievements.

Thus, when designing modules of Transformative Leadership Development – Modules on People Development and Team Building, understanding Motivational Aspects and Orientation of Human Behavior, Collaborative Influencing, System Thinking, Change Management and Constructive Conflict Management are key ingredients.

A psychometric at the beginning of the intervention or program, capturing raw data of original state and extent of “As Is” orientation of the incumbent, always helps the OD Professional to design the intervention in such a way, that best helps to achieve the desired state and extent of orientation in the “To Be” state.

Are Organizations also in a way “Beings”?

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Organizations are also in a way ‘Beings’.  The elements of Individuals, Groups and their Commonness of Purpose at the core of the organization go to indicate that Experiences, Feelings, Needs, Beliefs and Desires are very integral to an organization.  Almost every organization is a harbor where feelings, experiences, needs beliefs and desires are generated and exchanged.  These co-exist along with the central philosophy of dispassionate objectivity with which these organizations are governed.Practitioners involved with organizations and their development would agree that behind every objective process, there is a human process that has considerable influence mutually.  The technical processes are often measured and audited.  However, not many organizations pay enough attention or take notice of the unseen under-currents of human processes that impact the organization.

In a way an organization though is not analyzable as a single entity having its independent psyche; it has a unified psyche as a resultant of the collective exchange of human processes and patterns of perceptions of the several members in several roles.

It is the presence of this objectivity and the features of unseen but covertly present human processes – an organization entitles to be recognized as a Being.

Effective organizations are ones where operational leaders are not a bunch of numerous bewildered seekers, erroneously seeking organizational excellence only through objective processes but are the ones where the Leaders and the Managers pay heed to the unseen dynamics and parallel processes that are present in their organization but are not available to them for a ready surface level introspection.

Often, they are trained themselves or are aided by hired OD consultants to unearth these processes.  Unearthed because, the primary characteristic of these dynamic and parallel processes is that it is not Conscious and therefore, lies outside the purview of conscious awareness.  Organizations become effective when such Leaders and Managers heed to the Unconscious Processes as warning signals.  That they should work upon or as motivators that they should drive upon.

© Satyakki Bhattacharjee 2014