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Of mentors and coaching

June 30, 2011

I haven’t had much experience in training people. Actually I conducted a spot of IT training while I was in between jobs back in 2006. It was definitely an enlightening experience. I got to do what I love i.e. speaking in front of a crowd. I already had a fair bit of experience in that having litigated many cases in court. But speaking in front of a crowd is a totally different experience. Sure the lines are standard and rehearsed, but to be honest nothing beats the experience of seeing the expression on people’s faces when they listen to you. I’ve always tried my best to make my presentations interesting and rather relaxed. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d jump at the opportunity if I was given one now.

Then there’s the other aspect of training. Which is coaching actually. The objective is to turn a bona fide greenhorn into somebody who is proficient in another field which he/she isn’t trained for in the first place. This is also another thing which I love to do. Provided of course the trainee possesses the right attitude and in the first place, has the desire to learn. I do believe that everybody has the capability of picking up new knowledge given the right attitude and the right type of trainer. It is all about using the right approach.

In the organisation I work for, there’s this programme where a select few are currently being trained as future leaders. It’s a programme where these individuals are trained in commercial thinking and at the end are supposed to come up with a project for the company. The project could take the form of a business model or in general something which would benefit the company. Each of them are assigned to a mentor. I am flattered to have been chosen as one of the mentors. You see, my mentee is a lady from the IT department of the company. She is a pleasant lady who confessed to me of her lack of communication skills when she joined the company about 4 years ago. For somebody who can’t really communicate, I see that she has progressed by leaps and bounds in 4 years. Good for her obviously.

I do try and coach those who are under my care to the best of my ability. I see that as my responsibility. When everybody’s standards improve, so will productivity and the level of competency. There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to delegate with your eyes closed. By that I mean delegation to staff who are well versed in their own area of work. I must say I have a good set of staff at the moment, but there is still room to improve everybody’s competency level, including mine. There has got to come a time when the department is respected as one which does its work properly, while at the same time not compromising quality. I honestly believe that the Legal Department is one of the pillars of the company and should always ensure that the organisation’s interests are protected from all angles.

I do hope we’ll be able to reach that standard. To do that requires bloody hard work. I know we’ll get there someday. For now, everybody’s attitude (including mine) would have to be tuned to look towards the same goal which is raising the standards of the department collectively, without leaving anybody behind.

On another point, in my view the way a superior manages his/her department or unit or whatever it is should never be underestimated. A superior can inspire staff members and motivate them to no end. Or on the other end of the scale, be the one who ultimately destroys morale and send the department/unit on a downward spiral. This must never be the case if one is to maintain a high degree of productivity coupled with a high level of morale. Although I admit it is never easy. There has to be an equilibrium. Some bosses are hard taskmasters. For these types it’s absolutely critical to have a subordinate who possesses the right kind of attitude. Someone who doesn’t lose his/her head when the said superior is being hard on them and at times being overly critical. If the subordinate gives up easily, a hard taskmaster would definitely make a bad boss. But with the right attitude, much could be learned.

Some other superiors (like me) prefer the diplomatic way of management and coaching. Again, attitude plays a huge part. A subordinate with the wrong attitude may not get to learn much and be relaxed due to the diplomatic nature of the superior. In any case, I firmly believe that harmony in the office is of utmost importance. I place a high degree of emphasis on a good work environment. In my view, nobody likes to come to work. Given the chance, most people (including me) would like to relax on a beach somewhere and watch the RM rolling in. I admit there are people who lived a charmed life like that. Unfortunately I don’t. As such, I don’t see the point in making the office environment hostile to the level that people dread coming to work.

With a conducive working environment and a unified workforce, I believe any organisation would go places. Sure you can’t please everybody, but there’s certainly no harm in improving the general condition and atmosphere at the office. Try it, you never know what you can achieve.

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