Month: November 2017

Get The Basics Right – A Guide To The Cornerstones Of English Language Skills

Proficiency in the English language is considered by many to be one of the critical aspects of professional success. This observation is correct. There are a few reasons behind this, first organizations rely upon effective communication for achieving their goals, most organizations being multicultural and multilingual rely on the English language for this communication and people with good command over the English language tend to create a better first impression and many times gain professional success.

So what are the basics of the English language?

  • Grammar – The first important skill for the English language is Grammar. We cannot be too fussy about grammatical accuracy in business communication, but basic errors in grammar reflects on your level of professionalism. More importantly sometimes these errors can lead to miscommunication. The components of grammar that require special attention are usage of tenses, prepositions, subject-verb agreement and articles. We tend to restrict these skills to classroom learning, however their application should be a key skill to acquire.
  • Vocabulary – The second critical aspect of language proficiency is Vocabulary. This refers to knowledge of words used. Again, gaining complete knowledge of the English vocabulary is almost impossible, you will always encounter a word that you don’t know. However, having a good vocabulary will help you gaining effective speaking and writing skills. Vocabulary also enhances your comprehension power. The most effective strategy to build vocabulary is to Read! The more you read you will come across a variety of different words, learning their usage and meaning will enhance your vocabulary. However using these words after learning is even more important, otherwise they will be lost.
  • Diction – The third aspect of the language skill is Diction. This deals with how a person speaks in terms of articulation, pronunciation and accent. These skills are acquired with a great deal of practice. They are the most underrated out of the three skills but are very important in creating impactful oral communication. Articulation comprises of rate of speech, tone, volume, stress and pause. Most of these are influenced by our culture and therefore difficult to change, but with practice and exposure to a variety of diction, we can learn universally acceptable diction skills. The idea of right diction is not to follow a certain accent, but to be understood by all.

Learning these skills requires a great deal of effort and commitment. These skills cannot be acquired overnight, they require learning and practice over a long period of time. However, considering the importance of these skills it should be our aim to master them.

The BizComm Model of Strengthcape deals with Language Proficiency and other relevant topics.

Filed under: Language Skills

What’s Cooking : A Guide To Using Grapevine In Business Communication

“Grapevine” or gossip if the informal network of communication utilized in a business environment. Generally, it has a negative connotation for most professionals. However, one must admit that grapevine exists in all organizations and can be used profitably if handled carefully.

First we must talk about why grapevine exists in organizations. Grapevine is the direct result of personal human connection that people form within their workplace, by the virtue of mutual interaction. One of the strongest human needs, is the need for affiliation. Therefore, it is safe to say that people from personal relationships even in a formal business environment. Once we foster these personal relationships, informal communication becomes inevitable. Thus it is safe to say that grapevine exists in all organizations.

Though we have established that grapevine exists in all organizations, we are also aware that it carries a negative connotation. We need to understand why this integral part of business communication is frowned upon by most. The reason is that grapevine generally has no credibility or less credibility and one can never identify the source of gossip. Negative information circulating in the grapevine can wreak havoc as it may result in panic and loss of employee morale. Grapevine is generally word of mouth and therefore an unstable form of communication. We see all around us that sensational and negative gossip tend to spread much faster than positive messages.

But this negative attitude towards grapevine does not mean that we can or should try to root it out. Expecting employees not to form informal relationships is unrealistic and draconian. If you try to stamp out informal communication networks you incur the dissatisfaction and anger of the employees, as you will be hindering their need for affiliation.

Then how can we handle this potentially dangerous but integral aspect of business communication?  The most important thing to keep in mind is that if handled well, grapevine can actually benefit the organization. There are certain advantages to grapevine, like:

  •  It is one of the quickest networks of communication. Gossip spreads much faster than any formal communication.
  • Grapevine is also a cheap form of communication, since it is mostly word of mouth and doesn’t use the formal networks.
  • Grapevine also mostly does contain a shred of truth.
  • It fosters personal relationships between the employees and therefore may help in creating a congenial work environment.
  • It is a flexible means of communication, since there is no control over it.
  • Employees tend to express their true attitude and feeling through grapevine and therefore it is a valuable source of information.

However, the biggest drawback of grapevine, is that we cannot exercise any control over it and therefore negative gossip may sometimes blow out of proportion and cause irreparable damage. The management should use grapevine to gauge the climate in the organization and also keep a watchful eye on how grapevine is moving and correct any potentially dangerous misinformation passing through the network.

For more insights into various aspects of business communication go through the BizComm Model of Strengthscape.

Filed under: Communication Skills

A Guide To Nuances Of Nonverbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is communication that takes place without the words, either oral or written. It is deals with body movements, space and voice used for communication. It can be intentional and unintentional. Non-verbal communication is critical because it is difficult to hide or fake non-verbal cues.

The various components of nonverbal communication include body language, gestures, spatial arrangement and paralanguage. They influence the way in which messages are perceived and understood.

Body language is the movement of body used to communicate with people and it depends on a person’s attitude or feelings. Body language includes expressions, eye contact, posture and gestures. For example, a person may sad when he droops his head and walks slowly. Humans don’t have to say anything to show how they are feeling. Even the color of a person’s skin may show how he feels, when his face becomes red with embarrassment or anger. Body language can be voluntary or involuntary. However, for the most part people have limited control over their body language. Gestures are used widely in our day to day communication, whether it is shaking hands to say hello, waving goodbye or pointing to indicate direction. Gestures are also developed to aid the differently abled to communicate better.

Another element of nonverbal communication is spatial arrangement, it is not only used to communicate, but also has a great influence over the communication. The interior design of a room can exude comfort or can be very formal and will be used depending on the type of communication. Whether your boss asks you to occupy the comfortable sofa or the chair across his table will depend on what he wants to communicate.

Voice or paralanguage also has an impact on the communication. The tone, pitch and rate of speech may indicate the level or urgency of the message or the emotions that the sender is going through.

Of these, body language and paralanguage are considered to be of greater significance. The reason for the importance of body language and paralanguage in communication are that they define the underlying meaning of a message. Since we have limited control over them it is important to analyze it to understand the true meaning of a message. However, understanding body language poses certain challenges, since expressions and gestures are greatly influenced by culture and are not same everywhere in the world. Like the “thumbs up,” which is a positive gesture in some cultures, may mean something very different in other cultures. In Nigeria, the thumbs up gesture is a rude insult. This means that understanding cultures is critical to understanding true meaning of nonverbal communication. Even the tone of voice and rate of speech are influenced by culture.

Learn more about Body Language and nonverbal communication through Strengthscape.

Filed under: Communication Skills

SMART Goals For Business

By smart goals, we mean setting goals and targets which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely as well as tangible. Jotting down your goals on a piece of paper and evaluating them regularly can bring you closer to them at a much faster pace than you would have ever expected or imagined.

Now let’s study the basic criteria required for setting down a SMART goal.

A goal should be specified in clear cut terms, should be straightforward and should emphasize on what you want from them. It should be able to answer three basic questions which might be lingering in your mind- what exactly do you want to accomplish, why do you want to achieve it, and how would you do the needful? If your set goal can provide answers to these three basic queries in an easy and understandable language, be rest assured that you have laid down the right foundation towards achieving your goal successfully.

A goal should be measurable in terms of achievement and success, over time and with consistent effort. A measurable goal would provide you with an easy analysis of how much have you managed to acquire in a specified time period. Weighing and measuring your progress from time to time will enable you to be focused on your target and stuck to the track, thereby adding on to your excitement and enthusiasm when you find yourself nearing your ultimate goal.

Opportunities give way to attainment of future goals. Developing and evaluating the right attitudes, skills, abilities and financial capacities to attain that goal takes you a step ahead towards achieving that goal. However, to experience that joy of success and achievement, it is very important to lay down goals which are practically attainable. Your commitment should stand erect for something which is humanly reachable and not for something which is out of reach, so as to keep you motivated on your path towards success.

When you set a goal, you have to weigh and analyze it from different perspectives like the skills that it would demand, whether the project would be congenial with the overall strategy of the organization and does it gel with the ultimate goal of the enterprise as a whole and so on. To be more precise, a goal should be realistic and achievable with some consistent effort put into its fulfillment, as against being illogical and unrealistic.

A time limit, set for the successful attainment of a goal, provides you with a zeal and purpose to work more effectively and efficiently so as to complete your targets well within the specified time period. Timely completion of goals is very crucial to maintain continuity in your plan of action, or else it would not take much time for a goal to become vague by losing its authenticity and urgency. Also, a tangible goal, which can be felt and experienced with any one of the sense organs, is more specific, measurable and attainable, as compared to an intangible goal.

Filed under: Leadership

Mind Your Body Language

Have you ever looked at someone slouching and thought he looked lazy or bored? It is amazing that just by looking at someone standing we can gauge a number of things about his personality or state of mind. It is a well-established fact that “first impressions are generally the last impressions” or at least they are lasting ones. And it is for these first impressions that we need to mind our body language. It is said that “actions speak louder than words” and this case it is true.

So here are some pointers for positive body language:

First maintain a smart posture. Do not slouch or stand in an unnaturally attentive position, be casual and smart. Slouching shows lack of interest or confidence.

Do not use too many gestures, it drives attention away from what you are saying to how you are saying it. People tend to use involuntary gestures when nervous or under pressure.

Remember that gestures are culture specific and can mean different things depending on which part of the world you are. So be sensitive and aware while using gestures.

Maintain positive eye contact. However, differentiate between eye contact and staring. Maintaining positive eye contact shows high level of interest and confidence.

Expressions are hard to control, but keeping them unexaggerated can help. Exaggerated expressions again take focus away from what you say to how you say it.

Even a handshake goes a long way in creating a good impression. Keep it short and crisp.

Physical Appearance, though not strictly body language also helps in creating a positive first impression. Make sure you are dressed smartly and professionally. Appropriate dressing is the key – being too formal or too informal will put you in an uncomfortable spot.

Keeping these simple guidelines in mind go a long way in creating positive and lasting first impressions. In today’s fast paced business environment where interactions are short and many times second opportunities are not available, using body language to create a positive impression can be the key.

BizComm by Strengthscape deals with Body Language and many more nuances of Effective Communication.

Filed under: Soft Skills

Delivery Skills: A Key To Effective Presentations

Going up on stage and delivering an effective and impactful presentation or speech can give nightmares to many people. Stage fright is categorized by many as one of their worst fears. However, it is difficult for anyone to escape public speaking in today’s business environment.

The moment we think about giving a presentation we think about the delivery of the presentation. However, out of the time spent in preparing for the presentation, a significant amount of time goes in preparing the presentation itself – collecting the data and putting it up in a coherent form using various tools like PowerPoint. By the time we are done with this preparation the time for delivery is at hand we realize we have done no preparation for that! For the client or audience, all that preparation has no meaning if the delivery is ineffective.
Therefore it is safe to say that delivery of a presentation requires as much, if not preparation, than developing it. Without preparation we might find ourselves at a loss for words to explain our brilliant ideas, or still worse be caught off guard due to stage fright!

Since we understand the importance of delivering an effective presentation, there are some simple guidelines for ensuring effective delivery

  • Create strong presence – The first 30 seconds of any encounter are the most crucial. The same rule applies to presentations as well. Make the first impression count. Create a strong presence on the stage or the room. This can be achieved effectively by a string greeting, being appropriately dressed and having a positive body language.
  • Engage the audience – The next challenge is engaging the audience. The effectiveness of a presentation is assessed by audience engagement and this is not always easy to achieve. Some strategies for engaging the audience are – give them what they want, grab their attention by telling them how your presentation can help them and create a mental trigger for them. Creating a strong visual or a context for them to associate will ensure that your audience is hooked to what you have to say.
  • Establish Credibility – Coming across as a credible and dependable person can do wonders for your delivery skills. Interacting with confidence, providing correct information and facts and being well prepared will establish your credibility as a presenter.
  • Create an Impact – An impactful delivery creates a strong impression on the audience and ensures that your message is conveyed well. Impactful delivery can be ensured by connecting with the audience, empathizing with their needs and ensuring a high recall of your interaction.  Pause at the right moment, ask imperative and thought provoking questions and highlight the key features and benefits.

The PresentSmart Model of Strengthscape delves in-depth into the nuances of effective delivery.

Filed under: Presentation Skills

Managerial Effectiveness

Managerial effectiveness determines the proactive approach of a manager to handle complex situations and conquer collective challenges within the team. To ensure long term success in business a manager has to focus intently on employee development and performance by meeting their diverse needs through well-formulated communication techniques.

Aligning motivation with work and personal goals and anticipating and resolving conflict situations also come under the jurisdiction of managerial effectiveness. A person appointed on a managerial level has to instill a culture and tradition based on partnership, respect and most importantly, trust. Encouraging and increasing dialogue and initializing constructive feedback from co-employees is a crucial element of managerial skills.

Moreover, to further ensure long term productivity, managers have to master the skill of partnering with their team and delegating work so as to increase performance and individual growth.

Here are some tips to fulfill the objectives of managerial effectiveness with efficiency and smoothness.

Managing a large group of people, with diversified ideas and beliefs, and compelling them to work in co-relation with each other towards a common goal, is quite a taxing job for a manager. However, to perform his duties soundly and perfectly, he has to be courteous and respectful towards his employees who are placed under him. Never make a mistake of differentiating among them on the basis of the status that they hold, their intelligence level, financial responsibilities assigned or other criterion relating to their rank or position in office.

A leader has to radiate and reflect a strong confidence so as to comply with enthusiasm with the staff, especially during times of emergencies for meeting deadlines and adverse situations.

Communicating in a simple and an easily comprehendible language can definitely make things easier for the employees as well as the manager. Using excessively technical terminology to demonstrate one’s power and position may confuse and restrict the working capacity of the employees within the team. So, the best is to keep it simple when communicating and interacting with employees.

As a manager, one should provide rationale reasoning for requests and demands made, which in turn would assist drastically in reducing the manager-employee gap, bridging it up and even breaking the ice between them. This leads to better understanding and adaptability of the present scenario, thereby increasing the productivity of the manager as well as the employees.

A manager should always adopt and use established lines of communication to avoid any kind of future confusions which might erupt due to message distortion or otherwise. The best resort, therefore, is to make every small or big request in writing and forward it to all the concerned departments at the same time.

A person appointed on a managerial post should be open minded in his approach. He should patiently listen to the ideas and feelings of his employees, thereby showing concern and care for them. This would lead to gaining trust and respect of the co-workers who would then respond in a better and more enthusiastic manner to their manager’s requests.

Filed under: Managerial Skills

Facets of Leadership

Leadership has many different faces. The need of the hour is to recognize it and work upon its betterment. No one becomes a leader overnight. One has to learn, practice and work over time to excel in this art.

Let’s consider some key skills which are essential to sharpen one’s leadership qualities.

  1. Lead by example– A leader cannot remain aloof from his responsibilities. His job is to lead others by setting an example in front of them. This can be possible only if he stands ready to pitch in when and where required, lend a support at every juncture and make sure that he is clearly understood by his teammates in every aspect of work or decision making.
  2. Passion- A leader has to be a passionate worker. Passion and enthusiasm are the driving forces which tend to inspire and attract every co-worker related to the department or company directly or indirectly. Believing in himself and the objectives of his organization can lead to the better functioning of an individual as a leader.
  3. Be organized– Better organization means better productivity and performance both from the individual as well as the team’s point of view. A disorganized leader can only give way to a non-purposeful endeavor, carried out in the most haphazard manner which would land him, and his followers, in a no-where situation.
  4. Delegate– No leader can be ambidextrous in every department. He has to delegate, assign and distribute work to subordinates and supervise its proper fulfillment by demanding accountability for the same. As a leader, he also has to make sure that he authorizes them with flexibility and responsibility to operate and carry out the work in the most effective manner.
  5. Communicate effectively– Communication is a key to proving yourself as a good leader. A leader has to communicate precisely, specifically, effectively and efficiently not only about the work allotted to employees and how it their contribution would make a difference on the bigger picture, but also updating them and giving feedback regarding their performance, thereby affirming success of the company or the department concerned.

Remember, a leader leads by respect, dedication and clear vision, and not by dictatorship or authoritativeness. To sum up, here’s a quote by a very eminent writer:

“Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” – Robert Half

Filed under: Leadership

Listen Like A Coach

Listening is one of the most complex skills to master and excel in. A good listener can knowingly and unknowingly solve a lot of issues that might be building within an individual, which he might be contemplating on for a long time. When considering a life coach as a good listener, he has to master this art so as to benefit his client by inspiring, motivating, supporting and guiding him on his journey towards a successful life.

Only when his client pours his heart out to him will he, as a life coach, be able to justify, fulfill and satisfy his beliefs by observing, guiding and finding solutions for all his complex decisions in life. Just by patiently hearing you out, a coach can clarify your doubts and help you achieve the outcomes that you might be focusing on.

Some key points to master the skill of listening

A good listener does not surpass his role as a listener to be just a passive or neutral activity. Instead, he puts his heart and soul in analyzing the kind of person you are, your basic character, ascertaining your weaknesses and strengths, the goals and aspirations which you have aimed at in life and so on by the style and way you put across your thoughts and emotions into words. Only if your life coach pays attention to your words can he understand and comprehend your true nature and your expectations out of life
A good listener requires great wisdom to understand the feelings and emotions of human beings. Being a coach, for life coaching, demands you to keep on expanding your horizons in getting a better understanding of human beings and human nature, very closely and explicitly. Analyzing life as a whole and getting closer and closer to comprehending it better, with newer experiences, will only make you sharper and smarter as a good listener.
As a life coach, it is very important to listen optimistically and with positive human regard.
Show compassion in conveying your views as a life coach, even after listening to the gravest of tragedies that might have hit your client. If you show positivism and optimism while hearing out your client and instigate him to keep a brave front even during times of extreme emergencies, you would be teaching him to concentrate on his positive traits and strengths rather than lamenting on his losses and brooding over the past. Besides this, when you stand for the positive potentials of individuals, you help them reinforce their own inner strengths and capabilities which assist them in coming out with flying colors and reach to the top of the ladder of success in life.
So, train yourself to become a patient listener if you want to become a good life coach, and to become a good life coach undergo an executive coaching training program which would help you at every step of life.
Filed under: Coaching

Innovation is The Key

Innovation is the spice of life. Any business which fails to come up with original and innovative ideas soon falls in the eyes of its beholders and fades away into the darkness of failure. To remain in business one has to reboot and restart with fresh and unique ideas which would readily grab the attention and appraisal of the masses. This immediate urge to reinvent and grow oneself gives birth to what we call is the idea of ‘innovation.’ Innovation is regarded as the hottest and most wanted buzzword among business enterprises in modern times. It undoubtedly is the ‘mother of all inventions and a lifeline for all businesses. In this competitive world, innovation not is the key to success, but is also the last resort for survival.

Innovation can thus be defined as the method of utilizing one’s intellectual capital and skills to encourage generation of positive business results by creating and inventing newer, better products and services which would ultimately reflect in its financial reports and balance sheet. When a high rate of return on investment results as an outcome of introducing newer varieties of products and services, we can claim innovation to be successful and in favor of the company’s growth, success and progress. Hence, value creation, by adding a perceived value to a product or service, is the main driving force which supports returns on investment. It is the parameter which judges whether an innovation has been successfully and universally accepted and acknowledged or not.

Value Creation, on the other hand, is synonymous to customer input, satisfaction and feedback. Understanding customer needs and requirements and providing them with what they desire the most would automatically create value for a particular product or service. Ford Motor Company, for example launched the ‘Your Ideas’ campaign in which customers and the general public were asked to give in their feedback and suggestions for improvement in all spheres as to what they expected out of a newly formulated car, from the point of connectivity, convenience, comfort, safety and performance. On public request, Ford came up with its latest range of cars which had value added services like touch screens, USB connectivity, iPod, push start buttons, MP3 player, navigation keys, voice activated communication systems and so on. The result, just by adding a few innovative keys, Ford soon hit the top of the list with soaring sales figures and having achieved the highest percentage of customer satisfaction in the field of automakers.

To sum up, innovation is a balanced mixture of customer perceived value, cost and manufacturability which ultimately leads to higher returns, greater margins, improved loyalty and increased shareholder value.

Filed under: Innovation