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Winning through the Art of Communication

 

‘Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.’  – Rudyard Kipling

 Communication is central to the very existence of humans. Man has been communicating since time immemorial. Communication is the lifeblood of our whole being. In every age of man’s existence on earth, communication has acted as an agent of facilitation, social life, and development. Cavemen developed their own lingua franca to make meanings out of things and send meaningful messages. They also communicated through art. As the importance of communication is second only to oxygen for humans, the importance never lost its sheen throughout homo sapiens journey in the historical chapters of planet earth. In the modern ages or in other words, the competitive world, which is, even more, a world of survival of the fittest, every day demands constant steadfastness in the face of challenges and opportunities, both in personal and professional arenas. Nobody wants to lose the opportunity to fair well or make better of it. 

Present times are fraught with people battling stress. Resultant of the busy competitive world we live in, stress eats away on our happiness and well-being like a termite which is evident in high divorce rates, dysfunctional parenting, on-job burnout, boss-conflicts at the workplace, joblessness, violence, depression, increasing suicide rates, etc.  There is a continuous nag that ‘nothing is ever going to be enough’ constantly nudges at you. Communication helps to combat stress as we learn to express ourselves, thereby clearing doubts and confusion, and building valuable connections. But communication must be effective so as to be of any use in delivering the right message, to the right audience at the right time and make a fruitful impact. ‘Effective communication’, remains the no.1 skill to lead and manage a successful life.

The Communication Gap

Today the world is impatient, does not wait for anybody. Everyone wants to grab that chance to a better life, job, or income. This demands us to constantly up-skilling ourselves, and being in the right circles, aka, effective networking. But, even here, to be successful, we need an empathetic human to human connection. Communication gaps can hinder relationships between boss-employee, teacher-student, parent-child, siblings, and friends. Married couples ought to work on their marriage by constantly enhancing communication and listening.

Effective communication can act as a glue and heals discord, builds bridges, which is good both for business and personal life. While everyone starts their professional life equipped with in-demand degrees or skill certifications it is the skill of effective communication that decides who will sustain in the race and be the best or among the best, to succeed, to grow, and to enjoy the journey that life presents.

Tools for Effective Communication

Good communication is a crowd puller. Imagine a leader without the art of communication. As simple as it may seem, communication to be effective is still a challenge for many. The ways of what is good in oral communication differ from what makes an impression in written form. Also, styles and techniques of communication differ from person to person, situation to situation, and medium of communication.

Oral Communication: When it comes to improvement in oral communication to become good public speakers, orators or impress in meetings and interviews, skills can be honed by listening to good speakers, study their body language and use of vocabulary as much as possible. It is very important to understand aspects of the speech like tone, fluency, eye contact, pauses, use of space, gestures, etc. Using anecdotes, emotional stories, poetry, couplets, and humor enhances oral communication by helping build connections with the audience. The only thing to be kept in mind is to not over-do these tools and use them appropriately. Regular practice and proper planning help sharpening the oration skills immensely.

Written Communication: Written communication is very important from documentation and legality perspective. Academic teaching and learning, business transactions, print media, legal issues, emailing, etc. depend on written communication. It is very important for a writer to write and convey their thoughts clearly. The inability to write what one wants to express will be an impediment to one’s success. Tools like using the right approach, style, and words help in creating powerful, meaningful messages for the readers. practicing the use of correct grammar and spelling (Grammarly app is one such tool) and setting the right tone in the writing is very important. If not drafted well, written communication can fail or backfire due to misunderstanding, as it does not have the advantage of being face-to-face.

Visual Communication: Pictures, graphs, charts, and all kinds of imagery are part of visual communication. Pictures/images speak a thousand words, have the power to set the tone of communication, leave an impact, and project the intended message without hours of speech or pages and pages of writings. The presenter must have the skill to navigate the mind and eyes of the audience to create an impactful visual presentation with the right captions, slogans, etc. Learning visual arts professionally or with practice and guidance can tremendously help a communicator.

Overall, for effective communication, it is very important to know the mind of the audience and shape the message accordingly by appropriate use of communication tools.

Communication Skills in Education 

A good communication course or certification is an added advantage but not enough to become a real good communicator. Life experiences and good education teach us that indispensable skill. Not many organizations especially educational institutions, present an education rigor that makes one an effective communicator. But there are some which do.  World-class educational institutions like IILM in the Delhi NCR region, have a brilliant history of producing positive minded and competent professionals with excellent communication skills. Such institutions are known to lay stress on creating a learning ethos with communication skill development at its core. Students hone their oral and written communication through impactful and professionally designed study programs including active and participatory classwork, club activities, dissertation, outreach projects, competitions, events, etc. Every student comes out of their shell, gains the confidence to stand up in face of an audience, learns skills to lead, collaborate and connect through good verbal and non-verbal skills and shun negativity from their life.

For students, as college years are formative years of their personality and crucial years for building their career base, IILM is a great investment for those years and emerges confident and competent.

Business Case Studies – An Effective Teaching Tool

Tell me and I forget.

Teach me and I remember.

Involve me and I Learn.

These lines by Benjamin Franklin have rightly pointed out the gap in our education system. The traditional model of teaching i.e. lecturing would only help students to remember the concepts that have been discussed in class. The effectiveness of the learning process exists only when the students are fully engrossed in the subject. With the availability of electronic gadgets and the internet, the attention span of students has been reducing day by day. In such a scenario, an effective teaching tool that can be used for the business management students is Case-Based Teaching. The concept of case-based teaching is not only found in the management subjects but also found in courses like law, medicine, science, etc. The idea is to make the students understand a real-world problem that needs to be solved with the application of the concepts that the student has learned in the class.

Benefits of Case-based Teaching:

According to Professor Chris Ronald Christensen of Harvard Business School, the case-based teaching classes unfold without a detailed script. This is because the case is relatively unknown to the student, and the discussion that may take place in the class in the context of the case is unknown to the teacher. Many experienced faculty members say that the same case study brings out different learning for the students each time it is discussed with a batch of students. The classroom becomes an open platform for discussion that helps each student to come up with their idea and understanding of the case.

Efforts required in Case-based teaching:

Many faculty members have been using case-based teaching as a part of their teaching pedagogy. This is also practiced in many leading universities like Oxford, Stanford, and Cambridge, etc. The faculty in these institutes believe that the core concept of the case study as well as the course content has to be discussed simultaneously. This requires rigorous preparation on behalf of the faculty. The challenge lies in the ability of the faculty to make the students connect the theory with the practical case study and create ‘teachable moments’ in the process. These teachable moments arise from the classroom discussions and it is the responsibility of the faculty to guide the students through the discussion as well as give the discussion a desired direction. Thus, case-based teaching is a way of discovering the concept in a new manner. It requires the faculty to learn the art of balancing the discussion, planning the direction and also being versatile with strong and powerful storytelling skills.

Teaching cases online:

The current pandemic has created a new normal which includes online teaching. Teachers of all age groups, across the world, had to switch quickly to the online mode of teaching. This was not an easy task to do but then the change was quickly adapted to by faculty members so that the on-going semester could be completed successfully. In this context, the task of case-based teaching became more challenging. One of the major hurdles that the faculty faces while teaching through cases is that not all students read the whole case study and not all students read the case study before they attend the class. This became an even bigger issue to address when the classes shifted online.

To address this issue, the faculty of IILM had to be more proactive and plan the session in small segments. The cases that were taken up for discussion had to be smaller and crisper. Short case-lets are best suited for online case discussions. The questions had to be deep. Taking the advantage of technology, the students were made to discuss among themselves in small groups i.e. break-out groups where the faculty would visit just like it would be done in a physical classroom. The faculty also had to design more short exercises like polls and engage the students in a better manner. An effective way of doing this was by sharing reading material with the students before the class, beginning the class with a recent example, and sharing the faculty’s screen with students so that they can participate actively and share insights. This is followed by a quiz or a small test so that the students can assess their understanding. It can, therefore, be said that undoubtedly case-based teaching is one of the most effective ways of teaching but it will have to be modified with the change in times.

Importance of Case-based Teaching:

Case-based teaching and learning are important as pedagogy as it helps in developing the lifelong skills of critical thinking, collaboration i.e. working in groups, open inquiry, communicating ideas, and thoughts along with subject knowledge to arrive at a solution. Students also like this aspect and are engaged and interested in case discussions. It is a time-tested way of teaching that has been implemented successfully in various courses and institutions. It is an ideal win-win situation for both the faculty as well as the students. On one hand, the faculty can engage the students and also drive home the necessary concepts, the students can apply their knowledge and learn effectively. Thus, the time has come to implement the case-based teaching and learning pedagogy, with a little bit of revamping.

Do comment / write to me on how do you think Case-Based teaching will evolve in the blended learning format.

Relevance of IILM PGDM / MBA in the times of Covid-19

It is common understanding that a PGDM / MBA degree prepares you for Business Administration, so you study Management, Organizational Behavior, Human Resource Management, Finance, Marketing, Operations, International Business and a range of other subjects. However the 2 year programme at IILM also prepares you with certain other skills such as Effective Communication, Research and Analysis, Critical Thinking, Change Management, Ability to leverage technology, Dealing with pressure, People management, Teamwork, Decision making etc. which may be called soft skills but are actually life skills. Let me explain here how these are so relevant in the context of Covid – 19 which all of us are grappling with today.

Relevance-of-IILM-PGDM-MBA-in-the-times-of-Covid-19_2The current crisis is a situation that almost no one living today may have faced ever in his or her lifetime, hence there is absolutely no way that anyone could have been prepared for, in advance. When it struck, the reactions were quite similar among most, ranging from brushing it off to disbelief to despair, businesses were no different. However during these times of crisis, Effective Communication is of paramount interest. At IILM, students learn who to communicate with, what to say, how to say and when to say. Your stakeholders are the ones who need to hear from you to have that continued trust in you, how you are managing their interest is what you need to tell them and tell them early on. Any message that is delayed looks like an afterthought, so communicate early and communicate regularly. Keep it short but relevant and regular.

The times are different, the challenges are different, hence the solutions also have to be different. IILM teaches its students to read, research and analyze what is happening the world over and make sense of it and how it affects our businesses and organizations. It teaches them critical thinking skills and inculcates a sense of judgment and positive thinking to manage any crisis situation. As a manager / leader it is important to know that we must be able to adapt to change as per the situation. In the current situation when there is a complete stop to everything around us, it is imperative to follow what is required at this moment, which is staying safe and staying at home. If there is life, there will be a tomorrow and we can always plan and rebuild ourselves. There is just no point in being restless, take this time to spend with yourself, review what you have done so far, how you would do it differently, what you could have done better.

Relevance-of-IILM-PGDM-MBA-in-the-times-of-Covid-19_1Technology they say is a leveler, the digital march is going to make it even more uniform. As millions of people are homebound, their major source of information, inspiration, communication, distraction, entertainment is through technology. IILM encourages its students to be technology savvy and Leverage Technology to bring in effectiveness to their work and business. A case in point, in the times of Covid, technology has moved up a few notches, K-12, Higher education and a good number of businesses have gone online, organizations are rethinking the Work from Home concept, also as an effective cost saving tool. All classes at IILM have been conducted on zoom through paid licenses ensuring security and privacy of teachers and students online.

This is a situation which has put everyone under pressure, be it the government, the police, the doctors, the medical supply chain, the food suppliers, the transport for continuing the work assigned. All others are under pressure to stay at home, manage their job, remain balanced, remain strong, stay calm and help others in whatever way possible, big or small. The MBA / PGDM programmes at IILM by the very nature of its being fast paced with classes, tutorials, assignments, simulations, meeting industry experts in Round Tables or Guest sessions, Summer internships, Live Projects, Placements creates the right kind of pressure with tight deadlines and helps students manage time and manage themselves by dealing with pressure.

People are the most valuable resource that one can have. IILM students develop skills of working in teams and learn to respect one another, value their competence and contribution. People Management is what management is greatly about. Students learn through cases and role plays, how to take people along, how to keep them motivated and engaged with the organization when the chips are down. How to make people feel wanted and part of your team are skills that come with practice. As a manager, you are required to take decisions, most of the times with limited resources, limited information and in limited time. IILM teaches Decision making as a process, a step by step approach to make good decisions. With practice, one becomes adept at following the steps and can still be quick. But if you miss some part of the processes in order to be quick, you will be prone to making mistakes, costly ones!

Most importantly, IILM has an NGO club through which students learn to help and support the marginalized sections of the society. We believe empathy is something, which need not be understood and expected when you are in a spot, but the continued will to share and care for others whatever the situation be. IILM is proud of its 12000+ alumni who as Managers and Business leaders running their businesses responsibly and building the nation.

Prof.(Dr.) Kakoli Sen