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Taking Pride in Using the “S” Word

April 14th, 2015 by Ainsley McLeod
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04.14.15 - Using the S word.jpgSales in the English language is defined as “the exchange of a commodity for money”

Unfortunately it is often perceived as buyer manipulation. Hence the reason many sales professionals can sometimes feel hesitant to talk about their roles in anticipation that they will be perceived negatively.  However, quite the opposite is true. Selling represents the foundation and life blood of every private business and the discipline requires a complex set of consulting skills, including the classic skills of asking questions and listening to address the buyer’s needs and expectations. Sales is a fundamental part of any client facing role, whether we are aware or not and therefore we should all take pride in using the “S Word”.

Businesses with the aim of growing and increasing revenue are the engine that drives the global economy. All departments in private organisations whether you’re in HR, IT or Operations are there to support the sales and revenue generating activity. This directly impacts the quality of life in general and supports ongoing innovation in all directions; which would not be possible without the sales functions and the ability of businesses to find, win and keep customers. The difference between selling to consumers and businesses is gradually eliminating, as it purely comes down to selling between humans.

It’s not companies or brands who sell – it’s the people behind them. Customers expect consistent value and beneficial relationships from suppliers based on trust and interdependence, which goes way beyond transactional sales. In fact, the initial approach and first purchase are only the first steps in building customer relationships. It’s customer loyalty that truly drives sales. Selling is no longer a matter of communicating the features and benefits of products and services – to stand out its necessary to communicate the unique value proposition linked directly to the buyer’s perspective.

In a highly competitive market where there are a number of organisations that offer identical products and services, at times it can be the buying experience that differentiates businesses. Buyers form their opinions on the initial experience which then impacts their choices. The sales executive’s challenge is to influence the decision making and make steps to eliminate the competition.

Knowingly or unknowingly we are all sales people. Every interaction creates a perception of the individual and the brand they represent which directly or indirectly impacts buying behaviours. People buy from people and they prefer to buy from people they like. Therefore the importance of personal approach that treats all clients as individuals is the one that creates long term value on both sides. It’s not companies or brands who sell – it’s the people behind them.

To be able to guide prospects and customers through the buying journey, sales executives are required to master their interpersonal skills, product knowledge, questioning and listening skills – all of this whilst managing their stakeholders expectations and handling their objections. Yet, sales executives are not formally educated and need to adapt to the changing requirements of the role on individual basis.

The complexity and the requirements of sales roles are extensive and varied, but it takes specific skillset and attitude to succeed. Everyone utilising these skills on a daily basis should speak proudly of what they do.

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Leadership Lessons from the Rugby Pitch

April 9th, 2015 by Martin Slattery
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The recent Six Nations Rugby Championship was a demonstration of high team performance and great leadership across the board….well at least from Wales, Ireland and England!

This was best demonstrated on the last day of the championship or “Super Saturday” as it was called, with one game after another. It saw extraordinary pace maintained from beginning to end with the three teams (Wales, Ireland and England) all in the frame to be crowned 6 Nations Champions. Each result had a direct impact on how the next game had to be played out and the pressure built with each point scored.

The need for the respective coaches and captains to demonstrate calmness and a sense of clarity, unity and agility in the lead up to their games would prove paramount to their success. And they did just that! However, their ability to lead effectively and bring out their “A” game when it mattered didn’t just happen in those moments on that incredible Saturday. These skills were forged from many hours and years honing their skills on the pitch from a young age. But what can we learn from this? The challenges and drivers demonstrated during these games are indifferent to those faced in the business environment and can serve as a learning exercise when put into perspective.


No one will master any trade or sport until they excel at the basics. Rugby players can’t move ahead without conquering the basic; passing, catching, tackling and supporting the ball carrier. No training, irrespective of the age or experience of the players, will start without practising and incorporating those basic concepts to eliminate mistakes during a game. From mini rugby to international rugby it’s the same…do the basics and do them well.

In business, getting your basic skills right, putting them into practice and building on them are the essential steps to drive success through people. The ongoing learning and putting the lessons into practice on daily basis also gives you the right mindset and confidence needed to achieve your goals and progress. So what’s the excuse? There isn’t one….do the basics and do them well.   


Even the best players in the world don’t stop training because they’ve already achieved success. Quite the opposite. They strive for excellence by practicing harder, playing harder and doing everything they can to be even better. Similarly, successful leaders make learning an integral part of their everyday work – through sharing knowledge with peers and colleagues, enhancing skills and talents through assignments and taking initiative in their own developments.

Companies that encourage continuous learning through coaching, developmental assignments and sharing the lessons of experience enjoy competitive advantage as these learning approaches support employee retention and help to expand both individual and organisational capacity.


This is the key element to any success, on the pitch or in the work environment. For instance, do you think the Rugby Football Union would have turned to Stuart Lancaster (England Head Coach) and his coaching staff prior to Super Saturday and tell them not to coach the team? They don’t need to be helped; the players know what they need to do as they are professionals at the top of their game! Coaching is purely a distraction….especially with a championship on the line and the World Cup just around the corner. Let the players get on with it themselves. Right??

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Yet it is surprising that for many organisations this is the resounding view, and they wonder why performance is never quite as strong as it should be. Delivering a strong performance in that type of environment is un-sustainable and un-scalable. That’s the point.  Coaching is the essential element behind any team success – be it sport or business – focusing on individual and team improvements as well as providing opportunities for those to re-inforce the right behaviours, to better themselves and motivate others to achieve their highest potential. Increasingly, organisations see coaching as a means of building organisational capacity, helping them achieve critical business results, enabling competitive advantage and increasing the likelihood of winning. These are the businesses that are seeing the real impact. I therefore ask, why wouldn’t you coach?


Strategies are created and actions are planned based on assumptions made prior to the game. Naturally, these strategies are impacted by the other team’s behaviours and overall chemistry on the pitch. You have to play what is in front of you and adapt accordingly.

Being able to adapt to changing circumstances is a critically important leadership capability in both sport and business environments. In business, around 70% of change initiatives fail – the top 30% of success is linked to leaders being adaptable, knowing how to drive change to accelerate the impact of new strategies and understanding the human side of change.


Purpose-driven motivation creates focus that results in higher levels of sustained energy, increased interest and confidence. An inevitable part of this is physical well-being – it is impossible to sustain high performance without it.

Physical fitness reduces absence rates, mistakes, accidents and improves complex decision making, alertness, team interactions, concentration, and productivity. To maintain a healthy energy balance it is essential to be purposeful about time and ways to recover….ice baths optional!

To conclude – in rugby (like in business) to win, you must review each performance, identify and work on areas of the game that need improving and strive for excellence. The journey to excellence starts with the basics. Do them and do them well, every time.

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Celebrating Women in Business – Part 2

April 2nd, 2015 by Janine Carlson
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Launched last month to mark the International Women’s Day, we continue our series to inspire aspiring female leaders – this month with Janine Carlson, our APAC Marketing Director, who looks at her own aspirations, challenges and experiences that lead her to where she is today.

Janine Carlson, Marketing Director, Forum APAC

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

When I was a child I was intrigued by a pretty broad range of things I could be when I grew up. Tops on the list were pilot, electrician, archaeologist, actress and Olympic gymnast. So naturally I became a marketing director.

What, if any personal challenges did you face to get into business and a leadership role and how did you overcome these?

I feel fortunate to have started in a very humble place, as overcoming challenges did shape who I am—and how I lead—today. I lived at times in fairly rough neighbourhoods, started working when I was 15 and paid my own way through university–in fact, was the first person on my Dad’s side of the family to ever graduate from university. While having role models of professional careers early on could have made things easier, my early experiences instead allowed me to use hard work, curiosity, tenacity and resilience to find my own path.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your career to date?04.02.15_Women in Business_Part 2.jpg

Early on I would have found a mentor outside of my company to help me look at my career and options more broadly.

Have you had a bad boss along the way and why was this person a poor leader?

I like to think I learned more about what NOT to do as a leader from my first boss in advertising, than what to do. While we worked hard, she took long lunches or left early to go shopping. She defaulted to what was easy versus pushing for the best ideas to serve our clients. When the work I had done earned an incentive trip from a media partner she immediately told me she and her husband would be taking it instead of me…then asked me to take care of her house and cats while she was traveling! Seeing this first hand inspired me to put the best interests of my teams, clients and organisations at the centre of my thinking AND actions.

What’s the hardest business conversation you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was a partner in a design agency and we had to release several of the staff because the business was struggling. While I had previously had tough developmental discussions and even fired people, this gutted me. The most important takeaways were that as a leader I needed to set aside how I was feeling and totally focus on the other person; also it reinforced the massive responsibility that comes with leadership—our decisions impact people’s lives, not just their work.

What lessons have you learnt in your personal life which have helped in business?

  • When something goes wrong, own it—apologise, fix it, learn from it and move forward.
  • It is better to over communicate than under communicate.
  • Trust your instincts—about people, ideas, opportunities, etc.
  • A positive attitude sets you on the path to success and makes it a more enjoyable journey—for you and those around you.

Who is your most admired female leader and why?

I’ve always found Grace Murray Hopper very interesting – as a scientific innovator and US Navy rear admiral she succeeded in male dominated fields, worked incredibly hard for her accomplishments and was keenly focused on the training and development of younger talent. She was quoted as saying “it is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” and also “You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership.”– so true!

Do you think women make better leaders than men and what’s the reason for your answer?

I have had the pleasure of working with wonderful male and female leaders, and both can create a compelling vision and drive its achievement—so neither is inherently better or worse at leadership. Although there might be some things that come more naturally to some than others. My direct experience is that developing employees, creating cohesive teams, building engagement and addressing the emotional side of leadership can at times be easier for female leaders, who may be more perceptive to emotional cues.

What are the strengths of women in business and how can women maximise these and build on them to get ahead?

The most successful women I know are confident in voicing their opinions, are truly concerned with the development and success of the people on their team, give praise generously and criticism thoughtfully, advocate for what is right for themselves/their teams/their businesses, stay curious and look for ways to improve things, and are amazing storytellers able to paint a vision and inspire people to follow them. At any career stage, building these strengths with training, coaching, self-reflection, practice, etc. will help women progress in leadership.

What are the weaknesses and how can they overcome them?

One of the traps into which women in leadership can fall is too much focus on consensus. Giving people opportunities to contribute, encouraging alternative ideas and ensuring people are heard are all important in making the best decisions…just remember the goal is to make the “best” decision, not the “least objectionable” one, as great ideas nearly always will have some detractors.

What is the one piece of advice you would give other women in business who are aiming to be senior leaders?

Don’t be afraid to fail, just make sure you fail forward. To have “big wins” you need to take risks, try new strategies, voice your ideas, trust your instincts and look for uncharted territory. Of course, when you do this you won’t always succeed…which is why failing forward is so important. Embrace these lessons and apply them: understand the root cause or systemic components so they are not repeated, help others to not make the same mistakes, don’t get mired in doubt or negativity, and finally, just get up try again.

How do you think leadership in the workplace will look different in 5 to 10 years’ time and how will this affect women? How is globalisation affecting this change?

Women’s role in leadership will continue to grow and this will open doors at all levels within organisations, but there is a long way to go before there is true equality in the workplace. According to a recent International Labour Organisation study, there are currently only 3 countries where women make up the majority of managers/leaders: Jamaica, Colombia, and Saint Lucia. For those of us living in other countries, female leaders continue to be the exception versus the norm, despite statistics that companies with women on boards and in leadership have higher performance. In Asia, there is a strong bias in some countries towards male leaders—but as women’s education levels continue to increase, global mobility provides more opportunities for female leaders coming into and out of these markets, and the demands for well qualified leaders continues to increase, changes will have to happen.

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Forum Named a Top 20 Sales Training Company by for Fifth Consecutive Year

March 24th, 2015 by Brian Hawthorne
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The Forum Corporation is once again pleased to announce that we have been named a Top 20 Sales Training Company by for a fifth consecutive year! This award would not be possible without the continued relationships of our exceptional clients and partners who work with us to help salespeople develop strategy-specific skills and improve their overall performance. compiles its annual Top 20 Sales Training Companies list to continually monitor the training marketplace for the best providers of outstanding service, and a proven track record for delivering superior sales training and improving the impact of the sales organization.

2015 - selected us based on the following criteria:

  • Industry recognition and impact on the sales training industry
  • Innovation in the sales training market
  • Company size and growth potential
  • Breadth of service offering
  • Strength of clients served
  • Geographic reach

In addition to our clients, we would also like to thank for this award.

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Old Goat Singapore – 3 Ways Business can Lead the Flock in the Year of ‘Yang’

March 22nd, 2015 by Cindy Stuckey
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February 19 was the start of a new year in the Chinese zodiac. The year of the horse galloped on by, making way for the year of ‘Yang’ the sheep, goat or gazelle depending on which prophet you follow.

For some, Singapore may be seen as an old goat in Southeast Asia; an established economy fighting to remain relevant against a number of competitive newcomers in the region, with the year of ‘Yang’ possibly offering more head-butts and side-kicks to productivity rather than a lucrative golden fleece.

But if anything, Singapore is persistent and is no stranger to tribulation. The ways in which organisations and their leaders handle key challenges in learning and development will be key to their success and determine how they maximise value from their investments in the year of ‘Yang’.

Employee engagement and the role of middle-managers
Business leaders and HR managers in Singapore are becoming increasingly aware of the positive impact employee engagement has on staff retention, performance and profitability. Thus, greater emphasis is being placed on employee engagement as a key strategy to improve staff retention and increase productivity across business levels.

To truly embrace employee engagement and ensure it functions most effectively, it first has to become a business imperative driven by leaders throughout all levels of the organisation. For this to occur, HR must secure its seat at the 2015 board table to enable the successful integration of employee engagement, and other core HR strategies, into all business plans.

In Asia, engagement is a significant challenge as people leadership skills are weaker compared to strong technical capabilities and requires conscious development. To effectively engage employees, middle-managers are key and must also be engaged and accountable for their actions and responsibilities.

Successful implementation of strategic initiatives requires an engaged and accountable cadre of mid-level leaders who do the indispensible work of making the CEO’s vision a reality. To cope with the great recession, many organisations curtailed their investments in middle management development, leaving many with skill gaps in mid-level leadership. In the year of ‘Yang’, with emerging markets increasing competition in Southeast Asia and the focus on keeping pace intensifying, it’s the companies that focus on equipping their middle-managers that will lead the flock.

To successfully manage these challenges focused training of mid-level leaders is required so that they are able to become more involved in engaging employees on an individual level, while also working together with upper management to transform employee engagement into a company-wide commitment instead of a task purely delegated to HR.
Demand for leaders who inspire trust
Forum has produced global research to show a direct link between trust and engagement, which indicated that the more leaders inspire trust in their team the more energised and motivated they will be.  Based on our research, the way leaders build trust is through the way they communicate and behave. To remain competitive and high performing, businesses in Southeast Asia will need leaders that know how to build and maintain a climate of trust within their teams, something that is traditionally and culturally foreign to the region.

The four most effective tactics for inspiring trust are:

  1. Listening to employees and understanding their concerns
  2. Walking the talk – managers doing as they say and modelling positive behaviour
  3. Following through on commitments
  4. Encouraging employees to offer ideas and suggestions.

When trust is low, clarity is reduced and less focus put on accelerating strategic initiatives and promoting success. At the same time, navigating the complex inter-connectedness of today’s global business environment requires that we also work with ambiguity.  Organisations that figure out how to balance clarity and ambiguity will have a winning formula that leaders can use to drive results.

Skill gaps are widening
While the Southeast Asian market is experiencing high growth, Singapore is struggling to keep up with productivity. In the year of ‘Yang’, businesses will require a diverse set of skills to respond to fast changing market conditions and remain competitive. Companies will need to constantly modify and develop their leaders at all levels to ensure they close skill gaps to enable the workforce to increase productivity, while also balancing the needs of new talent entering the workforce.

Many companies have limited resources to work with due to a shortage of talent in Asia. To safeguard against this issue, businesses must establish clear career paths for all staff to retain and develop skills in line with the needs of the local market and business. This also means focusing on the careers of existing and older employees to ensure they are continually learning, growing and adding value, as well as mapping out attractive career pathways for newcomers.

Focus on talent development
Most learning and development occur at work, which highlights the need to sustain and embed learning into everyday work life. Not only training, but ongoing coaching will be essential in maintaining a highly engaged, intellectually stimulated and productive workforce.

Toward the end of 2014, the Singapore Government released the Continuing Education and Training (CET) 2020 Masterplan that supports efforts to restructure the economy, develop a career-resilient workforce and build deeper expertise in Singapore’s personnel, with increased involvement by employers in enhancing and valuing skills.

While initiatives like this offer positive support, the bottom line is that organisations have to be more proactive and structured in how they develop their people. Successful businesses devote time, energy and resources to advancing people and the organisations in which they perform. It is companies that implement leadership development that tightly aligns with the organisation’s growth that will not only endure but also get the greatest value from their investment in the year of ‘Yang’.

About the author:
Cynthia Stuckey is the Asia Pacific Managing Director of The Forum Corporation. Forum is a recognised global leader in linking leadership development and sales effectiveness training to strategic business objectives. For more information, visit:

This article was originally published in HRD Singapore on 17 March 2015 and is reprinted with permission from the publication.

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How to Retain the Best People and Develop a Healthy Pipeline of Talent

March 17th, 2015 by David Robertson
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People have a fundamental need to feel they are progressing, or they will leave. So a successful learning strategy is one where there’s visible commitment throughout the organisation to developing talent that is owned on three levels; by the company, manager and employee.

To address these three levels of ownership organisations can:

1. Create a ‘nurturing talent’ programme for all levels of leadership

This programme should help leaders understand their role in coaching and nurturing talent development and developing the leadership pipeline, and how this drives the business strategy. Leaders will learn to be learning partners for career development discussions and develop their coaching and feedback skills. This approach also identifies high potential talent where you may need to take an accelerated approach. This approach shows the organisation is willing to invest in developing talent and highlights the critical role of leaders in coaching and development.

03.17.15 - How to retain your best people.jpg

2. Show commitment to learning on an individual level

The organisation also needs to show its commitment to learning on an individual level by developing a ‘Developing my Career’ programme that encourages individuals to own their development pathway and clarifies the range of opportunities and support available. The programme should focus on the individual, help them clarify their needs and preferences and even include some detail of the leadership pipeline in the organisation.  In this session they would map opportunities to develop up, across and outside of the business with a clear line of sight to the company and personal goals.  They would plan career development discussions they want to have with their line leader.

3. Embed talent management into your culture

Include linkage to these talent programmes in the induction process and create a Talent Forum, a careers development intranet with access to learning tools and advice to reinforce the learning culture and enable learners to own and share experiences and skills.

You need to ensure that ‘talent management’ is a hard wired to your business. Embed it into the culture at every layer and the company’s commitment to development will shine through and your pipeline of talent will flow freely.

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Forum Named Top 20 Leadership Training Companies for the Sixth Year in a Row!

March 12th, 2015 by Brian Hawthorne
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We are once again thrilled to announce that for the sixth straight year, Forum has been named a Top 20 Leadership Training Company. As with any award, this honor would not be possible without the continued collaboration with our clients and the hard work of all Forum employees, facilitators and valued partners. compiles this annual list to monitor the training marketplace for the best providers of training services and technologies. Selection of the Top 20 Leadership Training Companies was based on the following criteria:

  • Thought leadership and influence within the leadership training industry
  • Industry recognition and innovation2015 - Seal_Content_Leadership_Small
  • Breadth of programs and range of audiences served
  • Delivery methods offered
  • Company size and growth potential
  • Strength of clients
  • Geographic reach
  • Experience serving the market

In addition to our clients, partners and employees, we would also like to thank for this award.

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Celebrating Women in Business – Part 1

March 6th, 2015 by Nithya Ramaswamy
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As we mark the International Women`s Day this Sunday we at Forum celebrate all women in business for their achievements. Often challenging, female leadership is on the rise and we would like to inspire and encourage all aspiring women by sharing insights from our very own senior female executives.

Launching today, we are starting our “Celebrating Women in Business” monthly series, where Forum’s female leaders will share their challenges and advice on succeeding in business.

Starting the series, Nithya Ramaswamy, Design and Development Consultant shares her personal and professional experience and lessons learned that shaped her career.

Nithya Ramaswamy, Design & Development Consultant, APAC

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

03.06.15 - Celebrating Women in Business.jpgI wanted to be many things. A doctor, a vet, a teacher, an actor, a lawyer, a pilot and the list goes on. I suppose I didn’t have a specific idea of what I wanted to be, but I knew that it had to be in the field of working with different people and helping them solve daily problems.

What, if any personal challenges did you face to get into business and a leadership role and how did you overcome these? What lessons have you learnt in your personal life which helped in business?

While I was born and brought up in Singapore, I come from a very traditional, orthodox Indian family where boys are seen as the pride of the family.  My parents, akin to many other traditional Indian families, always believed in raising girls to be pretty, well-mannered and educated to a point where they are able to fulfil their roles as supportive wives and mothers. Having a great job, furthering my education or being a business leader was never really expected of me.

This kind of narrow-minded thinking in a strange, unintentional way stirred up a burning desire within me to want to prove them wrong, and show them that I could do anything a boy is capable of. It was personally challenging as it meant being self-driven and achievement-oriented to get where I wanted. Watching my mum work extremely hard as a homemaker and not having the empowerment to make her own choices motivated me to work hard, have a sense of independence, and strive for recognition outside of home.

The biggest lesson in life for me is that you can do or achieve anything, only if you want to. Sheer determination to succeed and achieve your goals comes from within. Opportunities do present themselves if you work hard and plan ahead. Obstacles, setbacks, whatever discourages you – take that as a challenge, learn from it and bounce back up.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your career to date?

I can say that I have made the most out of the opportunities presented to me, and am quite happy with the outcome. There are always times where I wonder if I should have made a quicker decision or should have done things differently, but I think it is all part and parcel of evaluating your options and choosing what you think is best at that point in time. What is important is to make the most of what you have at any given time, without compromising your values, and back yourself up.

Have you had a bad boss along the way and why was this person a poor leader?

Yes, I think no one is perfect, every boss has their strengths and weaknesses. But the ones who are poor leaders are those who acknowledge their weaknesses but don’t act to improve or overcome them. I had a boss in my earlier organisation who was a great motivator and extremely supportive of my projects and decisions. However, he struggled to give direct feedback about areas I need to improve on, and focus on my development needs. I am critical of the work I do, and therefore appreciate candid feedback on what needs to be better. Not having that kind of direct feedback made me lose interest in what I was doing after some time, and I decided to leave the organisation for a more challenging environment.

What’s the hardest business conversation you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

In my previous role as a Talent Development Manager in logistics organisation, which was male-dominated and where training and development was perceived to be a waste of time, trying to get the buy-in and managing up through impactful business conversations was a huge challenge. One of those hard conversations happened when I mustered enough courage to barge in to the HR VP’s office and present a business case to him on looking at training and development as an asset instead of a cost, and re-framing the role of our talent development and management function in the region.

It was a great experience as no one had attempted to have these conversations in the past as they had all assumed leaders who are engineering professionals will view these efforts with scepticism and had continued with the status quo. That one conversation spiralled into a series of conversations between our regional talent team and the senior leadership to take our ideas forward. The end result of these conversations was a keenness on the leadership team’s part to have my department engage in more strategic work and engage more frequently with the line. They tagged us as “Super Heroes” encouraging us to travel the region, explore where the talent development and management gaps are and to come back and make recommendations. What I have learnt from that is having courage to change the status quo and taking things in your stride, being willing to take baby steps to be the change you are seeking.

Who is your most admired female leader and why?

I think there are many women leaders I admire. Whether it is well-known leaders like Angela Merkel and Indra Nooyi or fellow women leaders whom I know personally as my family members, friends and colleagues that I work with, they are all extraordinary women leaders who stand by their values, communicate openly, and aren’t afraid to think innovatively or adapt their leadership style.

Do you think women make better leaders than men and what’s the reason for your answer? Are there some things that certain genders are just better at in business?

I don’t think that the effectiveness of one’s leadership can be accorded to one’s gender. We are all so diverse, and our personalities, upbringing, systemic and environmental factors, daily interactions mould us to who we are and what we are good at/not so good at. For example, we often hear that women are better at multi-tasking and men aren’t. Again, I have seen plenty of male leaders who are great at multi-tasking and I certainly find it hard to multi-task to be honest! Another perception is that women leaders are more micro-managing in their style whereas male leaders empower their staff more. Again from my experience, I have seen this can go either way. The key here is balance, whether one is a male or female leader. Getting the right balance by adapting and communicating according to the situation is the way to go, in order to be a better leader.

What are the strengths of women in business and how can women maximise these and build on them to get ahead? What are the weaknesses and how can they overcome them?

For a woman to become a leader, she has to fight harder against the status quo and stereotypes, and therefore has to be a lot more focused and determined. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s sums this up by saying, “Stop whingeing, get on with it, and prove them all wrong.”

By virtue of this, strong women leaders recognise these challenges and set a new standard by being more assertive and persuasive when they need to, and take a keen effort to build relationships and promote collaborative workplaces. Conversely, weak women leaders succumb to the status quo and stereotypes, and it is a downward spiral from there.

What is the one piece of advice you would give other women in business who are aiming to be senior leaders?

The advice I would give all women who aspire to be senior leaders is that success and balance go hand in hand. Don’t be afraid to make decisions and back yourself out, while reaching out to others for counsel and support, taking care in surrounding yourself with people whom you can count on. Balance is also about being authentic yet adaptable in a variety of situations, and having an unending curiosity to know more, acknowledge what you don’t know and keep at it.

How do you think leadership in the workplace will look different in 5 to 10 years’ time and how will these affect women? How is globalisation affecting this change?

Leaders, both men and women need to be a lot more adaptive to changes and be able to deal with ambiguity and various complex situations. Globalisation causes the workforce to work in flexible and untethered formats, keep learning on the job and collaborate across boundaries. Leaders more than ever need to recognise the changing landscape, think creatively with limited amounts of information and manage business dilemmas by engaging their employees regularly.

There is a long way to go for organisations world-wide in promoting diversity in leadership and enabling women to realise their leadership potential by providing development scaffolds through their leadership journey such as mentorship schemes and impactful leadership development programmes. There are many organisations that are starting to promote workplace flexibility and encourage the growth of women leaders in their leadership pipeline. Women leaders should take advantage of these efforts and continue to lead with a great degree of self-awareness and courage. Women leaders should also be mindful of the common stereotypes that exist around women leaders and avoid falling into potential role traps by casting themselves as victims.

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Time to move jobs?

February 25th, 2015 by Graham Scrivener
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The recent findings by the Institute of Leadership and Management survey revealed that over a third of workers in the UK will move jobs, which is a dramatic increase to 2014. This increase is certainly being driven by a more competitive jobs market but it’s equally being fueled by bad management, lack of training and development and poor career progression which is leaving staff de-motivated in their jobs.  As we know, people that are not engaged in their work are less productive and likely to move on. But often changing jobs is the last resort for a lot of people, forced upon them because there’s no other way to progress their career with their existing employer.
In today’s jobs market it’s ever more important for employers to spot when staff are stagnant and de-motivated. They need to know how to re-energise and retain them from the claws of the competition. It’s no good waiting for them to come to you, as by then they’re probably half way out the door. So what can you do to resolve any potential motivational issues before it becomes a problem?

1. Identification
When staff lacks enthusiasm there are certain signs to watch for – such as low levels of energy, missed deadlines, poor efficiency and feedback, and poor performance. But, by the time these signs are showing, staff may already be switching jobs.  Great managers understand what engages individual members and this knowledge allows them to spot any potential changes to climate that could affect motivation and resolve any possible issues before it threatens staff retention levels.

2. Engagementbusinessman over stretched
Being aware and responsive should also be followed up with regular engagement with members to learn about their drivers, goals and to clarify how the company will help them reach these. It goes beyond just telling people what to do or creating once-a-year performance plans. It requires ongoing communications to clarify expectations, to identify results for which the employee is responsible for, engage in joint expectation-setting discussions, and to keep the employee focused on the right outcomes. Clarify the link between the organisation’s strategy and the employee’s contribution and ensure that they know that they have the support they need to be successful. Do all this and the person will feel valued and will increase their sense of commitment and engagement in their work.

3. Action planning
There may be occasions when a manager realises that an employee is losing focus and they need to step in. On other occasions, an employee may come to them for help and clarification.  Regardless of who initiates a conversation, it’s important to identify the cause of the issue by sharing observations on what the issue could be or asking the employee to describe the specifics of what is going on. Typical examples of issues or challenges include work overload, conflicting priorities of stakeholders, and difficulty managing the requests of internal or external customers. Then work out ways to overcome the issue so enthusiasm for the job is restored. Some employees may be very clear about what needs to be done to refocus on the right outcomes; they simply need their manager`s concurrence and help. Whilst others need their manager to be fairly prescriptive about what they believe are the right outcomes and actions to focus on.

4. Sustainment
Regular performance reviews, informal conversations, coaching and mentoring are all key to sustaining a happy, motivated and productive workforce that wants to remain in the business.
It’s only natural that there will be times when staff are not as enthused about their job as normal but if you communicate and coach regularly, you will be able to rectify any underlying issue or challenge before it’s too late.

This is a summary of the Four steps to energising and retaining talent article originally published in Training Zone on 23rd February.

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Are Your Online Offerings Merely Engaging?

February 18th, 2015 by Nanette Miner, Ed.D
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In a course I teach on behalf of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) on adult learning theory, there is always a robust discussion regarding the difference between education, training, and learning – are they different? And if so – what is the difference?

Recently it occurred to me that the same type of precise definition is necessary when it comes to online learning, between the terms engagement, interaction, and collaboration.

Engagement might be considered the “level one” of online behavior.  Engagement includes things like highlighting phrases on the whiteboard, or having the bullets on your slides build one at a time.  Engagement captures people’s attention, keeps their interest, and keeps them from walking down the hall to fetch a cup of coffee. As a facilitator and it doesn’t matter if I have an audience of one or an audience of 100-my engagement techniques will probably not change.

Interaction would then be “level two” of online behavior.  Interaction requires a response of some type from the participants in the online event.  Perhaps they will raise their hand to offer a story, or give a green check to indicate that they have finished reading a case study and are ready to move on.  In the same course referenced in the introduction, there is a slide with the following statement:

7-10 days after training, we remember ______ of what was taught in a training class:

- 10 – 20%

- 20 – 30%

- 30 – 40%

Participants are asked to make a mark on the whiteboard to indicate what they believe the answer is, and then the correct answer appears via animation in the blank space of the statement.  In this case, again, the size of the audience really doesn’t matter as I’m simply asking for a response of some type.  It also doesn’t matter whether their answer is correct or not because the content is designed to “move on” regardless of how they answer, or how many people answer.

Collaboration is the pinnacle of online interaction (“level three”).  The size of the audience matters and the quality of their participation is crucial.  With collaboration you are expecting the participants to create the content in some way. For instance, you might provide five common objections that a salesperson encounters and ask the participants to work together to craft the five best responses to those objections.  Your five responses will certainly be better as a result of multiple people offering their input as opposed to asking each individual to craft their own response.  You might break your large group into smaller groups and, through the use of breakout rooms, task each group with brainstorming best practices for different aspects of the giving a presentation: opening a presentation, anticipating questions from the audience, using multimedia or technology in the presentation, and closing the presentation.

In addition to higher quality responses as a result of collaboration, the “next steps” are often dependent on the outcome of the collaborative work.  Until participants brainstorm best practices for giving a presentation they can’t go ahead and practice giving presentations.  Until the salespeople brainstorm the best responses to an objection they shouldn’t be making sales calls in which they might encounter an objection.

For online learning, it is crucial that the design and delivery of your offerings include collaboration. If a presentation is merely engaging or interactive, in all likelihood it simply could have been recorded and sent to the participants. Collaboration is the “realization” of the value of having participants come together simultaneously.

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