Tag Archives: workshop

Corporate Initiatives

Workshops, games, and ice-breaker sessions are an inevitable part of corporate life. The goals and objectives that they seek to achieve are often defeated because of poor vision and faulty implementation, leading to a colossal wastage of precious resources.

But on the positive side, they do provide a welcome respite from the usual routine and offer interesting opportunities to everyone concerned. They are generally held away from work locations, so you get to visit new places, meet new people, make new friends, try out some new food, and sometimes do some shopping as well.

I have attended so many of these sessions during my last 3-decade-old career that I have lost count of them. But I do remember that they were always fun.

My most recent experience of a workshop I attended in Hotel Fairmont, Jaipur, in June 2019, was, however, completely different. It was organized by our Principals.

See these pics below.

Inside Pink City (Jaipur)

This time, I was tired at the beginning itself because of the previous day’s hectic schedule and road travel. My fatigue didn’t wear off despite a good night’s sleep in the hotel. The organizers too appeared to be equally frazzled.

At Fairmont, Jaipur (at entrance)

Our first group activity of the day began at around 11 AM with about 40 of us dealer sales staff. We were split into two groups. Each group included some senior managers too. As it was supposed to be a fun activity, our seniors had a laid-back attitude.

Each group was given 15 square-shaped cardboard pieces. We were to imagine that they were boats and we were given the task of using them to reach an imaginary island on the opposite side as a team. We were to be creative as a team and devise the best strategy to cross the flooded river in the shortest possible time.

At the end of his instructions, our organizer suddenly announced, “Each group will have a leader who will ensure that the task is perfectly executed.”

This was quite unexpected, because activities like these are meant to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration, not for training people in leadership skills.

I got another shock a minute later when I found myself the leader of the team.

Well, as soon as the game began, there was a big chaos while we planned our strategies.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, our organizer pointed his hubristic finger at me and exclaimed, “Your feet are not on the cardboard. That means you are in water and drowned already! How will you take care of your team?

He had a scolding, hectoring tone and he sounded as if all this was for real. I was embarassed because all eyes were turned on me.

I smiled sheepishly and diplomatically followed the remaining instructions. The session ended a few minutes later, to my utter relief. As I had expected, our organizer manipulated the activity to drive it to the conclusion that “We performed better in the second part because we all collaborated as a single team.”

Another speaker took over after we got back to our seats. He also had a task in store for us: “Four of you from each of the 4 tables will play the role of customer and call a salesperson located in a different city from yours. Once you are through with this, you will give your feedback in an open discussion in post lunch session. Remember to start with positives and mention negatives later.” It was meant to check and demonstrate our dealerships’ overall responsiveness to customers’ enquiries.

Well, four best salespersons were chosen from each table and called.

From our table, the first salesperson was on his weekly off, so his response lacked enthusiasm. The second one was excellent while the other two had a few deficiencies. Similar performance was observed on the other 3 tables too.

This was sufficient fodder for the post lunch session.

As per his promise, the same speaker carried on the baton after lunch. He began by dividing us into two groups, those who did the mock calls and those who didn’t. I was in the second one.

He asked, “Why didn’t you guys call?”

“You said only 4 should call. We followed your instructions.”

He frowned and said, “Okay, you people stand in that corner and those who called will stand here. They will discuss their feedback on the mike, positives first, negatives next.”

For next one hour, the feedback session dragged on. I felt drowsier than before and my legs threatened to buckle under me. I wondered why we were made to stand like school children in a group punishment. We could have listened in a sitting position too.

I don’t know what the others thought, but I felt this kind of treatment was unjustified in a professional environment.

Well, sometimes, you just have to put up with certain things and remind yourself that this too will pass.

Around 5:30 PM, the workshop ended and we found pakoras and tea ready for us on the table when we came out of the conference room. They were tasty and unlike the just concluded workshop, left a good aftertaste in the mouth.

Here are a few more pics clicked on our way back home…

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Leading And Preaching

What’s wrong with this pic? Nothing. I can already imagine you rolling your eyes upwards and saying this. But through an insider’s eyes, a lot.

Here are your clues. This photo is of a car workshop’s routine morning meeting with technicians, managers, and various support staff. The meeting is at the last stage where the technical staff routinely participate in a physical fitness exercise; which is a very good thing indeed.

The guy in the center, however, the one in jeans and sports shoes, contrary to what you might think, is not a physical fitness instructor but the Workshop’s General Manager.

Just before the exercises began, he gave a long speech on customer delight, proper grooming, and importance of coming to work in formal, clean uniform.

While customers glared, puffed and fumed angrily at the vacant reception, as everyone was stuck in this meeting, this man refused to let go and rambled on for a precious half an hour, talking about things that could have been discussed later in some other forum.

Well, now you get it, I am sure.

Leaders often forget that it is not enough to point fingers at your errant subordinates. You need to lead through personal example; follow what you preach…Which is easier said than done.

Unfortunate, but true.

A Poet’s Day Out as a Corporate Professional

Here in India, automobile industry is like a constantly changing kaleidoscope. It is evolving very fast and with improving living standards, customers’ expectations are also changing very rapidly.  These days, irrespective of the segment type, it is hard to imagine an authorized car dealer’s front office in Delhi without an AC. In showrooms too, customers now have a better say because of strong competition. In all Honda cars showrooms, the concept of process time chart for all sales processes is constantly drummed into all sales staff, e.g., every complaint must be closed within 48 hours after generation, a new car must be delivered within 90 minutes of customer’s arrival, so on and so forth.

A few years ago, when there were just a handful of players, dealer staff and dealer principals generally had a laid-back attitude and had a habit of sweeping minor issues under the carpet till they became major problems; the scenario has changed completely now. The manufacturers themselves are under great pressure from competing brands. The customers too are more aware in general about their rights and often resort to social networking sites for redressal of their grievances. As they say in automobile parlance, “Delight factors of yesterday have become hygiene factors of today.”

So when your job profile out here in the automobile industry involves dealing with people, you need to be on your toes all the time and you need to keep innovating. You just can’t afford to rest on your laurels.

Last week, when I was nominated by my company for a training program for the front-line staff, I felt excited. It wasn’t really because of the training program itself. Training programs are, in fact, generally very boring  and it takes an exceptionally good trainer to keep everyone interested. In any case, I am now a senior manager and I have already attended and conducted lots of training programs of this kind in the past myself. I was thrilled because after a long time, I was getting a chance to let in some fresh air into my life, a chance to see new places and meet new people, a welcome change from the daily routine.

On the D-day, 5 May 2015, I started from home much earlier than my usual routine, around 7:30 AM as I had to go far. I did not want to reach late and create a bad impression.. I walked to the Uttam Nagar East Metro Station and took the Blue line metro train to Mandi House. The office rush had still not begun yet and I got a seat easily. Good start, I thought. As soon as I sat down, I took out Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things.’ I had read this book way back in 1999 and now when I began reading it again, it felt like I was reading it for the first time.

After reaching Mandi House, I changed over to the Violet Line metro which goes to Badarpur. I finally reached Tughlakabad station. at around 9:15 AM, well in time. I took a rickshaw from there. As we trundled across the dusty road and reached the final crossing, I was struck by the majestic beauty of the different flowers and trees that I came across. They seemed to glow and sparkle under the strong, glaring sunlight of the summer sun. I made a mental note of remembering to take their pics on my way back.  These are given below. You may not find them clear enough. If yes, I can only say in my defense that I caught the photography bug about 2 months ago and I am still learning.

Way to the training Venue

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Flowers & Trees of ICC…

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We had to wait for more than 1 hour since a few of the participants were coming from places as far as Jammu. While we waited, I decided to pass my time doodling on my note pad. I was pleasantly surprised to see what I came up with. I always thought I was very bad at drawing. Here is the pic.

Doodle pic…

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At the beginning itself, our Trainer Dhirendra, DS for short, clarified quite candidly that this training was related to basics and we would most probably find it boring. But he would try his best to make it lively and we also need to participate actively as it would help us in ensuring that our dealership service levels improve in future.

Here are some more pics from the training room…

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Trainer Dhirendra, D.S. for short, at the end of training

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The program ended on time as per schedule.

On my way back, one more thing I found striking was the constantly rotating Mercedes Benz Logo on the T&T Motors showroom. The orange and red of the Gul Mohur flowers seemed to add a special touch of glamour to the showroom. Why hadn’t I noticed all this when I had come to this showroom last year for an interview? I asked myself this question as I gazed admiringly at the rotating star in front of me.  The setting sun seemed to cast a beautiful halo around the showroom. Is it a sign of things to come? I really don’t know. Their competitors Audi & BMW are already forging ahead.  See these pics below.

Merc. Logo on T&T Motors Showroom, Mathura Road..

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Finally, when I was on my way home, I felt good. “Customer Connect” seemed to be worth it. Its most memorable message, I think, was at the end of one of the videos showed to us during the session: Words are like dams. They have huge power. If you use them properly, you would be amazed to see the results.

That’s what we poets do. Play with words…

Well, as the cliche’ goes, all is well that ends well.