Sunday, April 25, 2010

Talk, Walk, Rock

Who doesn't like being successful! We all dream of it, at each stage of our lives. Success, with all its accompanying accoutrements. Aha, the very thought!

So let me share this most important secret I have discovered - and rediscovered over the years - about successful people - "The biggest asset of successful people is excellent communication skills."

If I can generalise this rule of success, it will read - "Talk, Walk and Rock!" This means that you talk well (i.e. communicate effectively), walk the talk (carry out the promises made), and well, Rock!

In this post, let me focus on the first part of this rule. The "Talk" part. What are we referring to? Well, the very basic human need to connect with adequate warmth, and to understand each other well, and effect meaningful action. That's "communication" for you. So can we define communication? Let me try.
  • It is the art of connecting with other human beings (or animals*).
  • It is the art and science of getting your point across in the least obtrusive and most likeable manner.
  • It is the fundamental human action of getting things done through association, cooperation and team-work.
  • It is an intentional activity designed to have a certain output.
* The reason I wrote "animals" in the first definition was because I have seen people communicate amazingly well with certain animals. For more insights, read the book "What the dog saw" by Malcolm Gladwell.

And here is a typical management textbook definition of communication (and hence a useless one !) -
"Communication is an exercise in connection, defined by a speaker and a receiver (one or more), and the presence of a medium, through which the intended message crosses over, and is received and retransmitted over a period of time, with a certain intended objective in mind, and a certain output desired at the end of the expense of energy involved."

Managers, leaders, entrepreneurs and anyone else who has achieved any measurable success in their lives have a solid bank balance of this amazing skill. They really connect well. And as I have progressed through my 17 years journey of entrepreneurship, I have become very good at listening to good speakers carefully. I observe very patiently and try to see what truly defines excellence in communication.

My learnings are
  1. Excellent communicators are very aggressive listeners. They listen patiently to what others have to say. And while doing that, they generate interest in the mind of the person who is speaking. Example - I remember a student who was rather smart but would never let me complete my point and would be ready with his reply to any point I would make. It was horribly irritating. I never liked it. Slowly, I stopped making points to him. In his corporate career, he's likely to pay a very big price for his eternal impatience.
  2. Excellent communicators use their entire body to communicate. Words, physical looks, clothes they wear, perfumes they use, body language that excellent communicators use - it all adds up to a powerful package. There is no point in knowing good English, for example, when you dress up shabbily, are unshaven and haggard in looks, have a sad and despondent face to display in meetings and wear shoes that are not polished. Who'll believe you? No one. At least, not me! I am not recommending expensive clothing or footwear. I am advocating clean stuff. It may be inexpensive, no problems at all. Example - We had this very young and physically good looking marketing executive who would never shave regularly, and would wear clothes that were never clean or well-ironed (even informal clothes should be well-ironed and clean). While these may be an asset in some situations, generally it's not a good idea. It affected his chances with us.
  3. Communication is a package deal. You cannot communicate in isolation. All elements mentioned above are essential. They mutually reinforce each other. So you should start cautiously working from now (if you are a young one reading this) on this very crucial aspect of your professional and personal life. It will not happen automatically. You have to get reasonably good set of clothes, develop a habit of personal grooming (even if you are casually dressed) and so on. Sadly, many young people think this is a joke. They keep paying a price, without even realising it. Example - For an important students group, we had a Head (a student himself) who would simply degenerate when not supervised. Would get up late, come to work without taking a bath or shaving well, would stink literally, and would make it visibly clear as to what his lasting values were (since many years). This poor fellow is likely to get kicked big time by his employers again and again, till he realises what mistake needs rectification. At the same time, I have come across individuals who pick up the smallest of cues offered to them, and then make behavioural adjustments accordingly.
  4. Emotional intelligence is very crucial. Depending on the circumstances and people you are interacting with, your entire package must get redefined. Example - You cannot interact with senior citizens in the same manner in which you will interact with young professionals. Your tone of voice, your pitch, your smile - everything will have to be moulded to suit the specific instant(s). How many even understand this? Their monotonous approach remains as it is throughout. Painful. Another example - When we take classes, depending on the strength of the class, and also the overall calibre of the students in the class, we have to completely remould ourselves to offer stuff that's challenging to that particular set of students. You cannot remain the same always. Your offering must evolve. Your examples must evolve too.
  5. Respect the other person's perspective. While listening carefully, do not just pretend. Actually try to understand what the other person is trying to say. If you do not respect the other person's perspective, it is unlikely that you will be able to use your communication skills to the fullest extent. You may disagree with the other person, but you have to give a patient hearing and then put forward your perspective clearly. Example - You have certain expectations from your boss. But you may not know the full picture. So before you arrive at the final conclusion, you better take into account your entire 360 degrees facts-check carefully.
  6. Use passion to the fullest. Very rarely have I seen a successful person who communicated without passion. Do this self-check - do you have passion inside you about anything? Anything? Is it natural and genuine, or simply affected? Passion must ooze from your work, your actions, your decisions and your overall persona. It truly adds up. Example - I distinctly remember a student of mine, who would always "artificially" pump up his volume and facial happiness while meeting me, to impress upon me his positive spirit. But it was so obviously a fake! Pathetic. At the same time, I have come across genuinely passionate people - they are genuine simply because they are seriously doing the stuff they are talking about.
  7. Be very honest in your communication offerings. I observe people's postings in Social Media (OSN) carefully. People keep posting their views and ideas on Facebook and Orkut. Some actually think that while they are smart, the world reading their posting is foolish. Since I know some of these 'friends' personally, I am always amazed to see the H-U-G-E gap in what they make themselves out to be in their postings, and what they actually are in real life. You can fool those who don't know you, but those who do know you, will brand you forever. I don't think I wish to declare what branding I am referring to here. Warning - Young people, be warned! Recruiters and employers today have access to everything you post online. Anyone's page can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. Your postings will ultimately get assessed by a recruiter or employer some day. God help you when that happens. Just another day, I read the statement "F*** Off" in one of my student's Facebook wall posting. What image you think that creates? The poor soul is so blissfully unaware of the fact that other than his frivolous set of friends, others may see this too. So I realise that as much as social media is a boon for many, for the idiots, it'll be their undoing, their nemesis, their road to hell. Their entire glittering record of stupidities is writ large over their Facebook Walls, proudly displayed with sickening language, wrong grammar, hard to decipher punctuations (ex. ????????????, or !!!!!!!!!!!????, or .....,,,,,....!!!?????, etc.) and impossible attitude. Tut, tut.
I hope these points help you understand the road to effective communication better. Recently, we launched the STRINGS club (PT universe's Activities Club) and organised a series of talks by startup entrepreneurs. One thing common to all of them - AMAZING sense of passion, commitment and excellent communication skills! My learnings were validated.

(Pictures of all these are displayed in this blog-posting.)

There really is no other way. It's a tough road out there, and the sensible will read the signals and transform their attitude, approach and skills to make success come all that close(r). Else, the other option is equally clear! Remember, if you are getting repeatedly rejected in job interviews, or college-admission interviews, the problem lies "inside you" and not outside. So, work on removing the roadblocks that are stopping you everytime instead of cursing the world. By choosing do indulge in the latter, you are choosing to remain stuck in a groove as the world moves on. Don't do that!

Wishing my readers all success in their lives! Talk, Walk, Rock.



Really...very useful insights for professional as well as personal life.

Unknown said...

Hi Sandeep,

This is a great blog post. You rock, also I would like to know your opinion of the book "Games Indians Play" by V Raghunathan. It will be great to see it reviewed by someone as insightful as you


Supriya Jain said...

Hi Sir,

Great insights on minutes of communication skill.
I enjoyed reading it and would definitely walk on this path. Thanks for your knowledge sharing!


Abhishek Verma said...

dear sandeep,
you have been my source of inspiration for long. and believe me u r always brilliantly amazing.
and i really pledge to follow the footprints u have left on the sands of time.
kindly send your precious feedback on the blog
abhishek verma HRM
UIT Dehradun

Abhishek Verma said...

dear sir,
you have always been my source of inspiration. your insight is really amazingly brilliant.
kindly send ur feedbak on

abhishek verma
Uit dehradun

Test said...

Thanks everyone! I hope young people actually use the tips I have shared. It distresses me immensely to see how casually a lot of them take the most important aspect of their professional life - communication skills. Without putting in any major effort, miracles are expected. They do not happen. Then a cycle of frustration occurs, and everyone around them gets blamed, except themselves :-))

Let's hope things change. Let's hope the sensible get the message. Best wishes to all teachers and mentors :-)

Satyawan Malhan said...

Respected sir,
Very nice blog sir because communication skill is vital for an employment in the corporate world.This would be the differentiators in the growth path of life for an employ also.I am practicing a lot to improve my communication.
Thank you sir for this insightful blog.
Satyawan Malhan

Shoaib Qureshi said...

Dear Sir,

The way you have connected the blog with the recent event of Strings Club was amazing. Anyone who attended the event can relate the points with the speakers. I also feel in order to follow all the points mentioned above one needs alot of practice or 'tapasya' (as you like to call it). So one should always try to put these points into effect wherever possible.

Shoaib Qureshi

Unknown said...

Respected sir,
It is really a nice blog.As we have got lot of valuable stuff on communication in global vision session.I am working hard to improve my communication skill.This blog is reminder for all of us.

Unknown said...

Hello Sir
I just started to read your blogs & found it very interesting.
This blogs really best inspiration particularly those who are a future managers because this can become path.
Thank you Sir

Unknown said...

Communication is a road to success . being in the initial stages of learning my father's business I lacked in making people or rather customers understand the few basic qualities of products which were good and due to my inefficiency in this the customers either took the product they without knowing the real difference , or they ll simply leave the seat . One day the same customer , who just went away without saying anything when I was sitting at the counter and explained him , came again when I was sitting with my father at the counter , my father being in this business from past twenty five years knew each and every do's and don't ´s explained him with such elegance and dedication that he was convinced in single attempt at that point of time I realized the importance of communication and profound knowledge in every single thing we do and since that day I am still learning communication skills from him