Category: Training & Development

Coping with Workplace Stress

Coping with Workplace Stress

Stress, which is essentially a physiological response to a disturbance in our equilibrium or homeostasis could be viewed as essential and good (eustress) when in occurs in levels that we can cope with easily and harmful when it occurs in excess (distress).

In this context, our engagement at workplace is a mixed bag and therefore, the understanding of workplace stress may vary. There are some aspects of work that could help us put in our best, provide us a cognitive and emotional treat while there could be other aspects which could be the source of distress or bad stress.

Stress doesn’t exist in the environment or in the individual. Instead, it exists in the interaction of the two, led by the cognitive appraisal of the events by the individual. When commuting through traffic, the noise doesn’t consist of stress. Traffic noise could be stressful for the individual who may either not be used to it or is overly aware of the traffic. It may be less stressful for someone who may be either habitual of the noise or is less concerned of the same.

Impact of an event or environment on a person varies based on the subjective interpretation of the event by the individual (cognitive appraisal) and the coping ability that they may have.

When we face a stressful situation at workplace, like say meeting scheduling a mid-year review with an unfriendly manager, the effect of the event will depend on our cognitive appraisal of the situation. In this case, there is a primary appraisal, which is our perception of the event. This may be positive (oh it’s time to get an extra bonus!) or negative (oh! I would have to justify all the errors and delays in my work) or may just be neutral. Our perception of the consequences of an event is what psychologists define as primary appraisal.

Secondary appraisal, on the other hand, is our perception of how well we can cope with the event. It refers to our confidence in our own abilities and coping strategies. These two forms of appraisal determine our emotional, cognitive and physiological response to an event. They together make an event eustress or distress! A person who is confident of the work they have put in and their ability to deal with different personalities, may not feel distressed by the same event – say, of having to get into a mid-year performance review conversation. Everyone has a different level of threshold stress that they can cope with confidently and predictably. Stress response is an individual characteristic.

Here are the top two contributors of workplace stress:

  1. Time stress – Workplaces are ridden with deadlines and schedules that invariably are the most common reason for stress. Because time is seen as money, and when multiple people work together, time commitments directly influence relationships, mastering one’s time is one of the most important skills to learn. By proactively planning, organizing and prioritizing work, one may remove the sense of urgency from their daily tasks. The key to reducing time related stress is in prioritizing and proactiveness.
  2. Relationship Stress – Because workplace is an outcome of people working together, the quality and richness of relationships is an important factor for success. Our relationships with various stakeholders – managers, leaders, sub ordinates, peers and partners may lead to stress. People are driven differently, have different emotional needs and behavioural preferences. By learning to deal with different personalities and accepting that not every relationship needs to be a close relationship, we can reduce relationship related workplace stress.

Finally, stress is our response to a situation and not the situation itself. By developing habits, skills and coping strategies for common sources of stress at workplace, we can experience a less stressful and healthy workplace!

Filed under: Training & Development

Sales and Business Development Training – The Difference and Similarities

The two terms “sales” and “business development” are often used synonymously or together by a large group of people. This may be because often people in the sales function are shifted to a business development role. That the term “sales” has a negative connotation attached to it, is obvious. Business Development Manager always sounds better than a Sales Manager. However, one must realize the difference between these two terms and use it when appropriate rather than interchangeably.

Business Development is a more Marketing function role than Sales. The idea of business development is to find the right market segment and match opportunities emerging from it to the products and services that the organization offers. Business development is about developing and expanding the business, in the literal sense of the term. The sales function of this role is majorly limited to opportunity qualification and negotiation. It includes more of brand placement, acquisitions and partnerships and market expansion.

Sales, on the other hand, includes revenue generation by selling the products and services directly to the customer. The link is that the business development function would generate the opportunities and create a channel to sell. While, the sales team would work on those opportunities to close them for revenue generation.

Now that this difference is clear, it also clarifies that the training for sales and business development is different.

Competencies to Focus on

Sales training is given with the purpose of maximizing sales success. The focus is on developing selling skills and understanding seller – buyer behavior. Competencies like negotiation skills, understanding needs, pitching, sales acumen, customer focus, strategic selling, prospecting, client relationship management, rapport building etc. needs to be developed along with adequate knowledge of products and services.

Business development training, on the other hand, is not restricted to the Sales professional only. It can be given to all leaders with the purpose of expanding the business and optimizing the potential of the market. Focus is on developing competencies like strategic thinking, conducting market analysis, customer focus, negotiation skills, networking, business acumen along with knowledge of organization’s products and services.

Now that the competencies have been differentiated for sales and business development training, let’s describe what approach can be taken for both the trainings to be effective.

The Methodology

We remember only 21% of information at the end of 31 days (as per Heman Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve) and surveys have proved that a lot of what is provided through training is lost. Earlier, training was restricted to one to two days only. Sales and business development professionals are left to retain and apply what they have learnt on their own. This is not an effective method. Now, with the growing needs of the learner, the demand is to use blended learning methodology. This methodology helps to reinforce what is learned through training.

Both sales and business development training must promote and focus on behavior change rather than just superficial change in knowledge. Training methodology should be clubbed with one-to-one coaching that focuses on individual strengths and challenges, personalized feedback to calibrate behaviors and specific action plans for application on the job.

Along with coaching, leader connect sessions are imperative. These sessions help to sustain the culture of sales and business development and helps the learners to learn from leaders who have “been there, done that”. Leader connect sessions use the technique of storytelling to convey learning around selling and business development skills. For instance, a lot of challenging situations that sales and business development professionals go through cannot be covered through classroom training and eLearning. Also, a coach cannot help in resolving those problems and advice on how to confront those challenging situations. That is when leader connect sessions help to learn the ropes.

Apart from a holistic approach combining different methodologies, motivation plays an important factor in sales performance and business development initiatives. Motivation is not just from compensation and incentives but also by rewarding various small behavioral changes observed in the professionals. A simple feedback that a seller was able to make a difference for the customer or that certain initiative helped the business to reach new heights or resolve certain business problems is sometimes, enough to motivate these professionals to keep applying what they have learnt.

To sum, when there is a requirement for sales and business development training, do not treat the two the same way. Although the larger methodology remains the same, the focus on competencies are different and that should drive the major learning experience.

Filed under: Training & DevelopmentTagged with: , ,

Executive Business Development Training

Who is a Business Development Executive?

A business development executive is someone who looks at business development from a strategic perspective. A business development executive is responsible for acquiring new customers, maintaining relationships with existing customers, build sales pipeline, leverage marketing for acquiring new clients, pitch new products/services, plan sales strategy in existing and new markets. Business development executives are crucial for organizations that want to venture into new markets and offerings.

Why do business development executive need training?

Being critical to the business growth and success of the organization, we must ensure that business development executives have the right set of skills, talent and knowledge. While certain traits are inherent to an individual, others can be developed and honed through training. Business development executives also need to continuously update their market knowledge and understand business trends with the help of training interventions.

What are the critical skills for a business development executive?

Some of the critical skills that you need and that a Business Development Executive Training must cover:

  1. Business Acumen:- The foremost skill that any business development executive must have is Business Acumen. Business acumen is the ability to understand the market and business environment, react to the changing market with agility, anticipate and plan for risks and respond to business situations in a swift and effective manner. A key element of business acumen is the ability to anticipate future trends and risks and respond to them in a planned manner.
  2. Strategic Thinking:-  Strategic Thinking is a set of different competencies that enable a business development executive to plan the sales strategy of an organization using innovation, strategic planning, anticipating future trends, risk taking and operational planning. Effective strategic thinking will result in an overall business strategy that has a greater chance of success.
  3. Communication Skills:- While communication sounds very basic, but at the core of every successful business development executive is their ability to communicate effectively. While basic communication skills like written and oral communication and presentation skills, are a hygiene factor at this stage, what business development executives need are tactical communication skills that will help them in building and maintaining relationships. This would involve learning communication strategies that deal with rapport building, advocacy and inquiry skills, objection handling and managing critical conversations.
  4. Negotiation Skills:- This is perhaps the most important skill a business development executive need. The ability to convince others, listen to their opinions, understand various negotiation strategies that result in long-term gains for the organization are critical skills that a business development executive need.
  5. Project Management:-  We generally associate project management with operations managers, however every client relationship and sales deal are a project and to do this successfully a business development manager should have project management skills. This includes managing the sales team by effective goal setting, time management and risk management. In the long run a business development manager should also look for process improvements in the sales process and this requires project management skills like six sigma, CIP (continual improvement process) etc.

For any business development executive to be successful, they need to acquire these skills through training. But just acquiring these skills is not enough, one must continuously update these skills since the changing market trends bring new perspectives to these skills.

Filed under: Training & DevelopmentTagged with: , ,

Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle

Training programs are meant to help people learn new things and yet, we often find that not everyone changes their way of functioning following the training. The answer to this can be found in Kolb’s learning theory that stresses that people learn in four unique ways. So, unless you have a program that appeals to every individual’s learning style, you are unlikely to see an improvement in performance. Although too much customization may be difficult with large groups, it is certainly possible to use different techniques of delivery to drive home the moot points of your training.

The Four Learning Styles Described By Kolb Include:

  1. Diverging learning style: People with this style seek an answer to the question “Why” They prefer to collect information, look at a given situation from different angles and generate new ideas to tackle it. Such persons benefit best from training in which the trainer acts a motivator and encourages brainstorming and an exchange of views.
  2. Assimilating learning style: People with this learning style thrive on logic and precision and seek answers to the question “What” They learn best when exposed to a lot of information delivered by a subject expert in a systematic way as in a lecture session, with time to think about what they have learned.
  3. Converging learning style: Persons with a converging style are more concerned with the question of “How” and like finding practical solutions to problems. Training programs in which the facilitator allows them to experiment hands-on with a technical problem and then gives them feedback work best with such people.
  4. Accommodating learning style: Those who have an accommodating style seem to be asking “What if” and listen to their intuition rather than logic to solve problems. Such people rely only on their gut feeling when it comes to taking decisions and learn best when left alone to find things out for themselves.

Consider this as a blueprint for a successful training program that caters to the learning styles of different people. Explain “why” the topic is relevant, present ideas on “what” are the important points, allow practice on “how” to do things and encourage thinking on “what if.”

With such a customized approach using the Kolb model of learning styles, you are sure to find people respond better when it comes to putting what they learn into practice.

Filed under: Training & DevelopmentTagged with: , ,

Handy Tips of Keeping the Brain Healthy

What importance does the brain hold amongst the organs of the human body is never a topic of debate. However what is overlooked more often than not is the health of the brain. Like every other biological being, human’s body parts lose their agility and ability with age. But nowadays most of the focus of well being is directed towards weight loss, managing cardiac and cancer risks etc, seldom do we see any mention of how to manage and maintain the health of the prime organ between the ears.

Here are a few handy tips of keeping the brain healthy:

  1. Exercise using puzzles– the brain always responds to exercises and challenges that aid in keeping it nimble and sound.
  2. Learn a new language– as in the case of the puzzles learning a new or a foreign language triggers similar kind of reactions in the brain that help improve memory and overall functions. Other similar activities like indulging in reading or teaching something also has similar results.
  3. Sleep– the importance of giving rest to the brain cannot be overstated. Like every other body part it does tire out. Depriving it of rest and sleep adversely effects especially in terms of memory and judgment.
  4. Healthy eating– like the heart, there are also food elements that are harmful to the brain. In fact anything that harms the heart also harms the brain, so one should avoid the intake of cholesterol building food and try to keep the blood pressure in check.
  5. Physical exercise– any physical exercise that is performed to maintain a healthy body, like cycling, jogging, or simply brisk walking etc helps in maintaining the health of the mental muscles as well. Research has indicated that such activities regulate a sufficient blood flow to the brain and keeps it fitter.
  6. Dance & Socialize– might seem quite strange but it is true. Researchers have concluded that learning and following the intricate dance steps in forms like tango help in increasing the agility of the mind and also the socializing that a person does during and after these sessions provides a positive environment and are helpful in making new connections of the neurons. Virtual socializing and making contacts with old friends and batch mates is an indication of the grey substance a person has.
  7. Write short experiences– even though it is not a habit of many but it does wonders for the mental health. It is not necessary to be very lucid, all one needs is to jot down the outline of the last activity that one has done even if it’s talking a walk.
  8. Lower the volume– keeping the volume of the radio or TV set at conversational level and trying to hear it or interpret the sound, this helps as well.
  9. Opt for brain food– one should try and eat more of the food that aids the brain health like dark chocolate and fatty fish like Salmon.
  10. Challenge yourself physically– like using your non-dominant hand at various safe activities like brushing or using the computer mouse. Similarly one can walk on a marked thin path on a flat ground etc.

All these activities help in maintaining the health of the brain and makes sure that it does not age along with your body. A sharp mind is of more help in the aging years than what one can ever imagine.

Filed under: Training & DevelopmentTagged with: , ,

Ideas for Employee Engagement

Filed under: Training & DevelopmentTagged with: ,