Reflections on the Uniqueness of our Training

Six month ago, before the TFT (Training for Trainers) training, I had to do a PDP (Personal Development Plan), in which I was asked a question, “Imagine the sky is the limit: What would be your ideal situation after 6 months?” Now after the final two weeks’ very intensive training in Zaltbommel, Holland, I’m about to welcome the closure of the TFT program and I have to say, the benefits and the results of it was beyond my imagination before taking it. I not only truly experienced my own professional development, but also found myself to be deeply in love with the Schouten & Nelissen way of training and its training programs.

Let me use a metaphor to describe my experiences within the last two weeks’ TFT training in Holland. For me, the entire learning experience was almost like solving a puzzle. I was given a number of pieces of the puzzle during the early months and all of a sudden, during the final two weeks, I found these pieces to come together in a very coherent way and as a result, I saw a whole picture with consistent themes cutting through all pieces. That was exactly what I experienced during my stay in Holland. I clearly experienced and identified the uniqueness of the S & N way of training and I was able to tell common threads in terms of philosophies, themes, and skill sets that are stressed in all training programs at S & N. It was also deeply felt that our professional trainers have to truly believe in what they do and more importantly, practice soft skills and assertiveness in the entire process of training, from the intake interviews to the delivery of the training programs.

I also witnessed dramatic changes in the thinking of my Chinese colleagues, including myself, during these two weeks. Right before taking off for Holland, we were quite occupied with commercializing our products. That is, we attempted to come up with a program book in which we detail (to every quarter of a hour) topics we cover and exercises we do in a given training program so that an experienced trainer can carry out the training simply by reading the manual instructions. After the two weeks’ training, we gave up that idea, as we realized that it was simply not our way of training. In effect, my greatest gain from the training in Holland was to figure out that our training is always about here and now, that is, what is happening at every minute in the training site and with the participants. It was such a significant learning point to me was that when Janneke, the communication program trainer, asked what two words I want to take with me back to Beijing, I said, “Here and now.” For me, the flexibility and adaptability of the trainer to the ongoing situations during the training was the key to the uniqueness of the S & N way of training.

In terms of the uniqueness of our training, another deeply felt aspect was the focus on behavior and the use of simple exercises in our training. That can be best illustrated by our leadership program. A lot of leadership trainings in the existing Chinese market tend to stress popular theories, stories of celebrity leaders such as Peter Druck, Ma Yun, and Liu Chuanzhi, and thought provoking case studies borrowed from others. In contrast, our leadership program is designed to allow leaders at all levels to demonstrate their people skills by doing simple things, such as moving chairs, rearranging cups, and decorating rooms. It doesn’t matter what they do. What matters is that the minute we ask people to organize others to do something, we are allowed to observe their leadership skills and identify their weaknesses so that we help them to work on the improvement of their leadership behaviors. We believe, the simpler the exercises are, the more difficult for the participants to find excuses not to fulfill the task in a satisfactory way. The same philosophy applies to our other training programs, including assertiveness. When the tasks and settings get complex, surrounding factors start to intervene so that it becomes difficult for the trainers and participants to focus on related behaviors that we really need to focus on and to improve. Our experiential way of training also suggest that instead of using others’ cases, oftentimes, hypothesized ones, we prefer to elicit real difficult situations from the participants everyday work and life settings. Through conducting systematic functional analysis of their behaviors and through rebuilding the situations and trying out alternative behaviors, we help the participants to increase the awareness of the impact of their behaviors so that they learn to make conscious choices later.

Last but not least, the trip to Holland allows me to identify a good match between my personality and the organization’s culture at S & N. It is a human organization with a lot of warmth in interpersonal relationship among colleagues at all levels. I also have to say that I was deeply touched by the professionalism of the organization, as it was demonstrated by all the Dutch trainers that I encountered during the entire TFT training. The organization also impressed with the quality of its professionals who absolutely have passion for what they do. In effect, the impact of our trainings oftentimes affects who we are as a human being and how we interact in our personal lives. In that sense, the nature of our job decides that it blurs the boundary between work and life in a positive sense. That is, through our professional development, we better ourselves as human beings. I saw that happening to our Dutch colleagues and to me and my Chinese colleagues as well.

Now with the closure of the TfT training, I will be equipped with the wings to fly. And if the sky is the limit, I would enjoy the freedom as much as possible…Of course, I will always need nutrition and guidance from the mother bird.

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Leadership Is All About Influence

joanne vt

Leadership is a very broad term that has been defined in numerous ways. Accordingly, leadership studies shed lights on various aspects of leadership, for instance, leadership traits, situational leadership, charismatic and transformation leadership, etc. Nevertheless, influence is a core element that is included in most popular definitions of leadership. Consequently, in this article, we focus on the influencing aspect of leadership. We argue that leadership is all about influence. In addition, we discuss various styles of influencing.

In this perspective, we argue that the effectiveness of leadership depends on the types of relationship that leaders establish with their followers. Leaders are servants of their followers, that is, they create conditions for others to be successful. Leaders without followers can hardly influence anyone, and therefore, do not have leadership. Followers’ willingness to be influenced by their leaders gives them their power base. Leaders could earn power or influence through their legitimate position, however, their influence could be far more powerful and far reaching if it is based on other sources, such as being role models and experts for their followers. There types of influence are based on reusable resources and are located within individuals and their behaviors.

Subsequently, we view leadership not as something that is given or static, instead, but in terms of how leaders act and interact with their followers. For instance, in our training, we normally discuss a very powerful and widely used interaction model, i.e., Rose of Leary, which examines behavior patterns in interaction in terms of influencing and being influenced, and in terms of orientation for people/relation and task/results. Therefore, in our view of leadership, it is always enacted in interaction and it is dynamic, i.e., it changes with changes in behaviors.

Influencing is an important skill for managers. Leaders need to ensure that people move in certain directions and work toward certain goals. Therefore, influencing skills are important for leaders when they motivate their employees. What are some of the interactions styles that leaders could use to influence their followers? In our training, we normally discuss five styles of influence, namely, urging, convincing, investigating, inspiring, and avoiding. Urging style is about dictating, complementing, and judging. When a leader uses urging style, he/she focuses on what he/she wants and tasks that need to be done. Convincing is to propose and to influence with logical arguments. Therefore, when a leader uses convincing style, he/she tends to give reasons for taking actions first. Investigating leaders focus on active listening skills and they invite their followers in decision making. They ask questions such as, “How do you see that problem?” “What would you do about it?” “How can I help you?” In contrast to all of the approaches discussed above, inspiring leaders focus on building a vision for their followers and work on making them become passionate and enthusiastic about something. They start a conversation with expressions like, “Would it be fantastic if…” “Can you imagine if …” None of the above influencing styles is necessarily better than others. Instead, just like different situations demand different leadership styles, they also call for different influencing styles.

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What is your dominant management style?

Managers will always set different accents, when it concerns their contributions to the organisation. They apply different management styles. Below we describe three styles, on the basis of the ‘input-processing-output model’.

Management by exception (MBE)
MBE is an input and resource-oriented style of management. The manager sees to the required resources. The manager, who applies this style, will usually only intervene in the execution when calamities occur. This means that he gives his employees much leeway: ‘Let them do it their way.’ The question is, whether the desired results are reached in this way.

It is of course unthinkable that a manager does not concern himself with the question of what resources are required for achieving results. You negotiate with suppliers of materials and accessories of (equipment), you make the required resources and information available, you determine when an order can be accepted and processed without any insurmountable problems, you think about the qualities of your (new) personnel and you determine which information is usable for the organisation. All of these are examples of the areas of focal attention on the input side.

Managers adopting MBE style of management tend to delegate and give directions or coaching only in case of problems. They tend not to monitor the progress of their employees work, instead, give solutions when the employees ask in case of calamity. In terms of motivation, the MBE managers expect their employees to motivate themselves.

Management by prescription (MBP)
This is a management style that is oriented on the process and the execution. The manager regulates the working activities and primarily asks himself the question how the work will be done. This is due to insecurity: ‘If they only do it well.’ Management is primarily a matter of determining what has to be done, which is carried out by means of rules, regulations, procedures, handbooks and the like. This manager sees monitoring the observance of rules and processes as his most important task.

He busied himself primarily with the development of working processes and procedures, with safety regulations, with quality-oriented directions and with questions such as: ‘How do I get the right person in the right place?’, ‘What is the maximum capacity of my machines?’, ‘What is the processing time?’, ‘What is the optimum of information that is required?’, ‘Which technology is that we have to develop, so that we can do our work as efficiently as possible?’ He also takes the requirements of workplace legislation into account and, within governmental organisations, such questions as: ‘How do we assure that legal security, equality before the law and justice are maintained?’
Under MBP style of management, power and influence is primarily located with managers and expert staff. Employees report regularly and the manager control. MBP
managers stress precise observation of rules and procedures. They motivate employees by pressuring them.

Results-oriented management (ROM)
ROM is a management style that focuses on the output or the final result. This manager gives a lot of attention to defining the desired end-result. He describes the requirements that the result must fulfil: ‘They have to know what I expect of them.’ The employee determines himself how he achieves this result. The manager focuses his attention on monitoring and possibly adjusting the achieved results.

He examines, whether the desired results are in agreement with reality. And he checks the degree of satisfaction of his consumer, and whether the products and services are qualitatively and quantitatively sufficient. If the results and its consequences (or effects on society) are not taken as a central point of departure, then one runs the risk of becoming bogged down in bureaucratic transactions, in fighting flash fires, in taking ad hoc decisions etc.

ROM Managers emphasize on delegation and expect employees to regularly inform them on work progress and achievement of results. They motivate by means of encouraging.

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