7 Tips for Trainer to become Performance Consultant

A Partnership to Achieve Business Results

  1. Don’t be an order-taker
  2. Take training in being a credible consultant
  3. Build your confidence – learn your client business
  4. Learn the art of asking “sequential questions”
  5. Help client discover solution to achieve business results
  6. If training is a solution, make sure training is aligned to goals
  7. Don’t forget performance metrics

 Finally, know the secret to your success as performance consultant.

What is Performance Consulting? I see it as a partnership between client [internal or external] and training partner to enhance workplace performance to achieve business goals. It is a proactive role vs. the reactive role assumed by most trainers. This has to happen at the strategic and tactical level.

DETAILS ON THE 7 TIPS TO BECOME PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT

TIP 1. Don’t Be Order-Takers: Trainers teach others how to be good consultants. However, the same trainers fail to practice what they preach and settle comfortably into order taking. If they receive a call from a client requesting training, they are ready to schedule the dates. They don’t see it as a golden opportunity to put consulting into practice and partner with client to achieve business goals. Most often training is considered ineffective, because business goals are not met.

TIP 2. Take Training in Being a Credible Consultant: Most training in Performance Consulting falls short – does not prepare trainers to be consultants. It is not reasonable to expect trainers to become consultants overnight, since most often they lack hands-on business experience. They have not led Marketing, Finance, Operations, Sales and other corporate disciplines to speak the language of their clients and earn their trust.

TIP 3. Learn Your Client Business: Trainers themselves need training in understanding client business [market insights], and also in consulting before they try to engage with business leaders. My fifteen years in market intelligence and strategic planning convinces me of the importance of knowing your client business before partnering with them.

TIP 4. Sequential Questions: Don’t tell clients what to do. By your questioning technique, help client discover IF, and WHAT training would help them achieve their business goals.

Here is a personal example of being a Consultant vs. Trainer: A sample CLIENT SCENARIO to demonstrate the remaining TIPS

My client’s training coordinator called me with a request for a class in Negotiation for a client facing team of 50 people in their Insurance Practice. She said the VP of the Practice had made the urgent request. I expressed my gratitude for the request and asked her what prompted the VP to ask for Negotiation class. She said he did not give any reasons. I did not argue, instead asked her for a meeting with VP to customize the class.

My meeting with the VP 

I prepared for the meeting by checking out VP’s LinkedIn profile, researched his business, problems he confronts and his leadership style.

I started the meeting by explaining to the VP: My programs are designed to help you achieve your business goals. I know the insurance business is going through turmoil now. But, you are the expert in your business. It will help me immensely if I know your top two business Goals for 201X.

The VP responded: The 2 goals are – Increase business with existing clients by X% and Achieve on time delivery of products, at least 90% of the time. I asked him what his expectations were of achieving the goals and what were the barriers to achieving the goals?

The VP was not sure of achieving the second goal. Probing further, I uncovered that resource allocation and lack of critical software tool were problems. The other two barriers were of relevance to me: [1] VP’s team was not assertive, they don’t push back when clients keep changing requirements and scope; and [2] the client perceives them as order-takers, so I have to do all the negotiation.

[I am thinking: OK, VP, how is my Negotiation class going to make your team assertive and consultative? If the team is afraid to say NO to clients, how can they negotiate? The team needs both business knowledge and confidence to lead win-win negotiations, where they offer alternatives rather than saying, NO or YES].

TIP 5. Discovering the real problems: By the sequence of questioning, the VP was directed to discover the problem.

TIP 6. Align Training to Goals: Now we know the problem, it is time to identify the solution to the problem. The solution to achieve the goals. Now, going back to the meeting with the VP.

I wrap up the conversation with the VP as follows: From your input, is it safe to conclude that we need to focus on Behavior – training in cultural communication and assertiveness and then, Knowledge and Skills – client relations / consulting? Then, go into negotiation? Are we in agreement? I don’t do Assertiveness training, but Cultural Awareness, Consultative Solutions for Clients© and Negotiation are within my scope.

What do I mean by Consultative Solutions for Clients©? I think this training is a must for all client-facing professionals – even trainers – it covers topics such as understanding of client business, market insights, client relations, art of asking questions and approach to consulting.

TIP 7. Metrics: Ask client what performance metrics would measure success of the training? [Of course, the other barriers to achieving VP’s goals, not directly relevant to this training, such as fixing the process and giving right tools have to be fixed too].

This approach is proven to gain credibility as a partner with clients. At a strategic level, training partners have to sit down with their clients to go through this process annually or semi-annually, before they are approached for training by clients. The case given above is at a tactical level after they are approached for specific training.

THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IN CONSULTING: By your sequential questioning skills, you as a performance consultant need to let the VP [i.e. your client] discover the solution to the problem to achieve business results. You cannot tell client what to do.

Executive coaching through a cultural lens

As a coach, it is not possible for me to ignore my client’s cultural background. It is possible that even seasoned coaches with limited exposure to other cultures, may engage in a coaching assignment without recognition of differences in cultures. Without realizing, they may come to conclusions about their clients based on some behaviors, and take an approach that would spell disaster. Let us remember that the coach is also influenced by his/her culture-driven mental models, and may use this as a litmus test to judge and “mis”guide the client.

I remember a conversation with a life coach about her young Asian client, who kept addressing her as, “madam.” She took offense because she perceived that as being aimed at her age and appearance. For him, it was a mark of respect to someone he perceived as a teacher. She came to the conclusion that some of his work-related problems stemmed from his “distorted” view of women, age, and related issues.

We live in a multicultural world. Each of us brings our perspectives to a situation or person, based on our background. It is importance to acknowledge that we are colored by our own culture, while the person across the table comes from a different culture. Otherwise, we will be doing our clients a major disservice.

So, there are 3 perspectives I take into consideration:

  1. My mental models based on my “mixed” culture – Indian upbringing blended with social and corporate influences of America.
  2. My client’s mental models – could be purely from a difference culture or a mixture like mine
  3. My client as the individual – unique patterns of behavior and values

Rule #1 – If you don’t know, don’t conclude. Ask questions!

Examination of their own assumptions, acceptance of the multiplicity of variables that constitute an individual’s identity, and development of a client centered, balanced coaching method will aid the coach in providing effective help.

 

7 Easy Tips to Get Your Resume Noticed

Adopt the New and Drop the Old practices in Your Resume

Write your own resume – Don’t let anyone else write your resume – it shows and it is a turn-off! It definitely is a giveaway in an interview.

  1. Know your strengths – prepare an Accomplishment Grid.
    a.    Include your top ten accomplishments in the past 5 years. It does not all have to be job related. Answer the questions: what did I accomplish, what was the outcome, who/how did it benefit, what did I do to accomplish it?
  2. Know what you want to do – your passion or interest and qualifications.
  3. Search the net for similar jobs – use phrases familiar to recruiters.
  4. Start with a positioning statement – Drop the “job objective” line and replace it with a bold title that summarizes what you want to do. Example: Competitive Intelligence Leader; Corporate Leadership Training Faculty. This becomes your brand.                   
  5. Build your resume that resonates with this brand – your experience, accomplishments, education and training. Relevant Experience only – do not exceed 10 years of experience. Rest is history to be captured in a concluding line. Do not add anything that you cannot support in an interview.
  6. Be clever about logistics in resume
  1. No need to give full mailing address
  2. Include phone #, email, URL if you have web address, and LinkedIn profile if it complements your resume
  3. Definitely not your personal information such as, passport, other IDs, or reference names

Free! Essential Special Reports titled: Get Your Resume Noticed. It is downloadable.

For more information about career or personal development, please contact Mala Subramaniam to schedule a strategy session where your individual needs and big picture goals can be discussed in detail.

 

Leader or Manager

Making the distinction between management and leadership is essential to success in any project or business endeavors. You lead people, but manage tools, budgets, machines, time and other related resources. Leadership comes from a sense of security and management from a place of insecurity. If you have the right persons for the positions, they can be led to stretch to unimaginable heights and accomplishments. People follow once the leader gives a clear vision and an understanding of how they fit into this vision.

Managing people implies goals, deadlines, reports and constant monitoring – a fine-tuning and maintenance fit only for machines. All these are time-consuming. You are creating the “I am paid to do what I am asked to do. I am a limited being,” persona.

Specific class exercises and team games can illustrate this distinction, and help make the transition, among training participants, from a people manager to a people leader.

What’s all the fuss about “Authentic Self?”

What is it? I recently got a question from someone: “You are a coach. Have you ever thought about the new phrase – Authentic Self?” It is something you have to discover for yourself with quiet contemplation, and not amidst the “noise” of everyday living!

There is nothing new about it! It is as ancient as Hindu philosophy. The phrase is just surfacing, considering the worries over one of the contributing factors to the financial meltdown – Greed!

Our focus in life: We are in a room surrounded by mirrors. We let the outside world tell us who we are. We assume we are the many roles we play – employee, mother, father, sibling, child, spouse, and friend. I believe what I am told – I am a success if I get a six-figure salary or if I get a top performance rating, and I am a failure if I lose my job. I basically let the world tell me if I am a success or a failure. Our imagined happiness is dictated by others. We lose ourselves in this externally focused world, further complicated by the ever present media!

Who are we? Has it ever occured to us to sit quietly for a few minutes to know our true nature? What is our purpose? What core values inspire us? Our unhappiness and sense of deficiency arise out of living “without this purpose” and being in an environment that conflicts with our value system and that constantly points out to us “how limited we are.” Do we even recognize how limitless our Mind can be? True happiness comes from a sense of being complete – not from a sense of lack, which inspires us to go after goals like money, cars, and houses.

Living your purpose is the yardstick for your success: I remember how complete I felt working for a small visiting nurse agency where the mission was to help home-bound patients. I woke up every morning wondering, “ how can I help the amazing nurses who did not hesitate to use personal time and money to put a smile on the patient’s face?” Finding and living your purpose does not mean that you live in poverty – it means that you enrich your life with purpose and passion, and money just follows. Such wealth is permanent and satisfying.

I decided to create a program, Personal Development Mastermind – Map your Career to your Purpose©, for people to evaluate who they think they are and who they truly are – bridging the gap is our purpose.

 

Management Consulting – Reaching the solution by asking the right questions

Three tips for getting to the optimal solution

  1. Focus on the objective, and not on the problem
  2. Ask the right questions
  3. Let the solution be a revelation, and not engineered by your own bias

A case in point: A company was concerned about increased customer complaints and loss of business. Ninety percent of the complaints were about how long it took customers to reach a live customer service representative. Based on customer feedback the hold time averaged 15 minutes. Of course, we have to realize that when we are on hold, seconds seems like hours!

  1. Here’s what happens when you focus on the problem?

The problem here was “hold time.” The objective a satisfied customer.

The company and consultants focused on hold time as the problem. Based on the recommendation of consultants, the company spent millions of dollars upgrading technology, training customer service representatives, and adding staff, all to no avail. Customer complaints continued although internal stats showed improved hold times. The managers lost faith in the satisfaction research and consultants.

  1. Ask the right questions with objective in mind – a satisfied customer.

Asking questions has three purposes:

  • Getting to the facts
  • Making you think differently about a situation
  • Letting the solution be discovered

I asked the managers: “How do you measure hold time and how is this different from how the customer measures it? Can we place a sample call to customer service? What number do I dial? I got several 1-800 numbers from the audience, one for every division and every product line.

  1. Let the solution be a revelation, and not engineered by your own bias

Revelation

  • Hold time measure needs to be customer-centric.
  • Current measure of hold time is internally focused.
  • Hold time has to start with customer dialing the number and end with the greeting of the right customer service rep.
  • Hold time has to take into account multiple transfers, dropped calls, and myriad detours that happen before a customer reaches his destination!
  • Customer has to be given a single 1-800 number. Streamline the process internally to make service seamless.

The operations managers had an “Aha” moment. They streamlined the numbers into a single call-in number, saving millions of dollars and, satisfying customer need.

Asking the right questions is a science and an art. It comes naturally for some people. For others, training helps. Culture plays a role – some cultures naturally are reticent about asking questions of superiors, clients and anyone in authority role. They tend to dive in to solve the problem. Culture-sensitive training helps.

Market Research Insights – Telling Your Story

Most market research goes unused because market research professionals are too busy doing the projects, analyzing, sometimes with advanced stats, and putting together a 75-page power point deck to present results. Market researchers need to learn how to tell their story. The audience is impressed, but overwhelmed, wondering, “So What? and What can I do about it?”

Sometimes, in a market research presentation, the audience feels like a patient in a doctor’s office. The doctor looks grim while reading out a bunch of medical reports and telling his patient, “Your BP is high, your cholesterol is well above normal, sugar is borderline, you failed the hi-tech stress test. your weight and eating habits leave much to be desired.” The patient is in panic wondering, “What does this mean? Am I dying?” How refreshing it would be, if the doctor started out as follows:

 

  • You are lucky, you now have an opportunity to get back to good health, and prevent heart problems. Here are test results that have raised some red flags
  • Do you have any ideas of how you can restore your good health? Shall we brainstorm some ideas?
  • Here’s some thoughts: a healthy diet including low salt and low sugar foods, exercise routine and some relaxation techniques.
  • Would you be interested in nutritional guidance? Hospital X offers some free programs – would you be interested?

The patient walks out with a key takeaway message and knows what to do about it. Similarly, if market research presenters translated data into intelligence, and brainstormed with clients/audience to arrive at the insights, then the recommendations will be a natural outcome. If audience is not involved from the very start of the study and if the researcher does not take an interest in the business, then the recommendations are done in a vacuum and of limited value to client. There are some very interesting techniques like, Decision Pyramid, Patterning, that facilitates the process.

Research without insights is like medical readings without a diagnosis and a collaborative treatment plan. Learning to tell their story is the most critical skill for any market researcher – this is what will influence decisions.

 

5 Tips to Being Consultative

Being consultative is crucial to adding value to your business relationships. It has become an imperative in IT consulting business, where outsourcing professionals tend to focus on the deliverable and logistics surrounding it, rather than understanding client goals and needs, and mapping their deliverable to the needs. Most of the misunderstandings and conflicts are caused by people working in a vacuum. Most professionals in IT, Market Research and similar technical areas perceive their jobs as providing data, intelligence or service, and not as providing solutions for business problems or needs. Hence, the need for companies to retain consultants, who wear the hat of problem-solvers, diminishing the role of the technical people.

 

There is a clear process to being consultative. Practiced diligently, it becomes second nature to us. I speak from experience – as a market research professional who advanced rapidly to the role of a Business Strategist. Here are 5 simple tips that start you on the road to being consultative.
Know…

  • Your client industry
  • Your client goals
  • Your work in the context of client goals, problems and needs
  • Your past success with the client
  • Your value-add

Please feel free to send your comments.

 

You are Not Unemployed. You are a Consultant.

Keep your business cards. Don’t discard them when you get a job!

I got a big blow for the first time from Mr. Layoff. I was given a glossy exit package from my management job and escorted to the doors of an Outplacement Specialist. These professionals help ease the pain of job loss and push you rapidly into your job search. My specialist gave me the best piece of advice, after glancing at my then sketchy resume:

  • Welcome to the world of consultants, Mala. You are not unemployed. You are a consultant in Strategies, Planning and Research. My first company was named SPR Associates!
  • Make your business cards and keep them forever – don’t dump them when you get your next job.

I see people scrambling to become a consultant after losing their jobs. They print business cards, get a website going and desperately search for clients for their consulting, while job-hunting – losing six months of valuable time. I am never in-between jobs, since I have a permanent business card as consultant, trainer and coach. When I was restructured out again in 2005, this strategy gave me the courage to ‘go for good’ in the direction of consulting/ training without much time wasted in learning to do it.

Here are 3 Tips to all those employed in corporate America:

TIP 1: Keep your consulting hat on and build network of positive relationships

This helps you look at work projects from a strategic angle and builds your confidence as an expert. You are what you project – it will make a difference with your peers and superiors at work, if you have to call on them in the future for consulting assignments.

TIP 2: Help people informally and gain references. Here are some stories to back up my advice:

People see me as a Presentation Expert

I help many technical friends to communicate their message without drowning audience in data. A friend from business school was at her wits end because she had been given a challenging assignment by a tough boss, who knew she did not have the qualifications.  Her job was at risk. She reached out to me and I put on my strategic thinking hat, sat with her for a few hours, looked at her project and helped her develop it into a dynamic presentation piece – convincing her to self-promote through this piece. I gained her trust in me as an adviser.

I am a Multicultural Communications Expert

My former colleague called me to ask, Hey, Mala, I am calling on physicians to market a service. Some are Indians. What gifts do I give them for Christmas? My advice: You don’t give them gifts for Christmas. You wait for their big holiday and surprise them with confection from an Indian store. It was a hit!

TIP 3: Follow up with the friends who benefited from your advice.

I am now teaching technical professionals how to deliver data without tranquilizing them with details, and educating outsourcing professionals and their clients to see business interactions through a cultural lens.

 

Why You?

The First Steps in Marketing Yourself to a prospective employer or a client are: Knowing your Skills and Knowing your Market. Any Marketing expert will tell you these are the critical questions:

  1. Define your product – i.e. who are you, what do you offer, what have you accomplished?
  2. Who will buy your product – what prospective employer or client needs you?
  3. Why do they need you – what need do you fill?
  4. What’s the catch – what is your value proposition?
  5. How will you find them?
  6. How will you approach them?

Finding answers for the first 4 questions is half the battle. It is like the dreaded job interview question: Tell Me about Yourself. Tell the employer or client who you are with confidence and be taken seriously. If you don’t know who you are, how can you expect others to know and hire you?

How I Defined Myself: I had to define myself when my last employer sent me home with a glossy exit package. I did not go looking for another corporate job. I wanted to share my knowledge with others – but who, what, where?

I considered myself a Marketing Guru – now I had to practice what I preached. Jumping into job search without the 6 Steps is like driving in a new country without a map. I am reminded of a meeting I scheduled with Kim, a former colleague, in the city.

Kim and I made an appointment for lunch on a Friday in the city. She emailed me her address and contact information. I entered it all in my cell phone. On Friday, I parked the car in the station, ran like an Olympic runner [untrained and panting, though] to catch the train and reached Penn Station at 11am. I reached into my pocket book for my cell phone. It was not there! I panicked.  I remembered her street address, but not Kim’s floor or telephone number. I am ashamed to say I did not know her employer’s name or her most recent last name. The doorman of this multi-story building restrained himself from dialing Security.

So, don’t go looking without knowing what you are looking for!

Some research and introspection led me to define myself. Here’s looking at ME:

  1. Who am I? – I am a trainer, an instructor, and a coach.
  2. What can I offer? – leadership, marketing, communications expertise
  3. Who will benefit?– anyone who needs skills to succeed in a business environment, particularly in the IT outsourcing market, where interactions between Americans and Asian Indians need help
  4. Why ME? Am I different?

Why Me? YES, I definitely can claim:

  • Experience in diverse industries, including IT – So can a Million others
  • Expertise in highly-specialized areas as research – So can a Million
  • Skills in writing, platform, research etc… So do a Ton of other MBAs
  • Training certification – Market is flooded
  • Passion for Teaching – Just look at Academia

BUT, where will you find an Asian Indian corporate executive, with all of the above, and the ability to establish a rapport with both Asian Indians and Americans?  I GOT IT!