Archive for November, 2007
COLOURS OF LIFE Pictures of incredible India and (right) expatriates dance to Bollywood tunes Sunbathing squirrels and elephant’s toenails, road-crossing cows and dozing rickshawallas, inquisitive monkeys and sleeping babies, gopurams, sadhus and boat races. Those are just some of the snapshots of life in India captured through the lens of expatriates in Chennai for the tenth annual Global Adjustments Beautiful India photo competition.
Over 320 entries came in from expatriates of 17 different nationalities for this edition of the popular competition. “This is India, familiar yet fresh, seen through the eyes of our expatriates,” said Ranjini Manian, CEO of Global Adjustments, at the awards ceremony in Taj Coromandel recently.
The ceremony this year, featured a lively theatrical presentation titled ‘Navarasa’ by Event Art, exploring the emotional journey of those coming to live in India.
The emotions ranged from the initial excitement felt to the cultural clashes that occur, assimilation and peace to sadness at having to leave—and they were mostly expressed through enthusiastic gyrations to popular Bollywood tunes.
Regardless of whether they were from the U.S., Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Japan, China, Belgium or Turkey, 11 ladies dressed in pretty salwar kameezes danced gamely to ‘I love my India’, ‘Where’s the party tonight’ and ‘Kya mujhe pyaar hai’ (with a bit of help from professional dancers of the Raack Academy).
Even little kids got into the act, wearing ghagra cholis and kurta pajamas and waving shiny pompoms on stage to ‘Rock and roll soniye’ as the packed audience cheered them on.
Then it was time for the prize distribution. Dave McTavish of Canada walked away with the Overall Winner 2007 award for his sensitive picture of two little schoolboys in ‘Two Close’, and Darren Burnham of Britain won the Crowd’s Favourite award for his beautiful ‘Sunrise on Marina Beach’ photograph.
There were winners in a number of other categories as well—Faces of India (McTavish first and Alex Thompson second), Culture and Festivals (Nathalie Quadranti first and Danielle Barkhouse second), Into India (Basia Kruszewska first and Francois Mansuy second) and Places in India (Burnham first and Lucy Robson second). In addition there were best caption prizes, a humour award, the Global Adjustment favourite award and a number of special commendation prizes in each category.
“The photographs simply took my breath away,” said Mark Fry, consular section chief of the U.S. Consulate, one of the judges.
All three judges agreed that it was hard to pick the winners. In fact, Mike Eliseou, director of Texon India said jokingly that he might consider going back to being a participant in the contest next year—he’s taken part and won every year for the last six years.
Arindam Kumar, general manager of Taj Coromandel was just deeply impressed by the quality of the photographs: “I kept asking ‘are you sure they’re not professional photographers?’” he said, laughing.
At the end of the event, Rs. 1.1 lakh was handed over to Chitra Mahesh of the Mahesh Memorial Trust to help build the paediatric wing at the Cancer Institute.
The money came from the sale of ‘India Insights’, a handbook released by Global Adjustments a few years ago.
And then it was time for a sumptuous brunch for the hardworking photographers and their appreciative audience.
The awards ceremony might be done, but you can still have a look at the photos between November 21 and 24 at Lalit Kala Akademi.
Tips on how to expand that circle of ‘friends’.
First impressions are crucial.
There are no strangers in the world, only friends we haven’t yet met.
It was 8.15 am and I was at Frankfurt airport with a five-hour wait for my connection to Denver.
I walked up and down in the waiting lounge observing friends I hadn’t yet met, reading the papers, working on their laptops, drinking coffee, chatting on their cell phones or at least busy looking out of the window. Waiting is no luxury these days, and we all fill it with things to do.
As I did my people-watching, I noticed an Indian lady — the only other one in the room. She was elegantly dressed and seemed vaguely familiar. I walked by, but not before smiling and she acknowledged my greeting.
My mind was saying to me, “Naturally, she looks familiar, she is Indian… silly, but she is busy so don’t disturb her. She won’t like it.” But my sixth sense said, “Wait a minute. Why is she familiar?” So I walked right up to her with an extended hand and a sincere smile, “You look familiar, haven’t we met before?”
“Are you a doctor,” she asked after I gave her my name. “I told you so,” my mind said, “You don’t know her, now you look silly.” But I shushed it and went on to give her a 30-second elevator introduction of myself that I have learnt to deliver quickly.
“I am Ranjini Manian and I run Global Adjustments, an expatriate services company for people doing business in India.”
And then the Eureka moment arrived; over two years ago, she had attended one of our Global Indian seminars in Bangalore on international etiquette and cross-cultural communication strategy. “What a great memory you have,” Larisa Singh smiled.
The story ended with an opportunity for my company to interact with Larisa’s brilliant IT solutions business and to explore providing our services.
This potential business is the outcome of a proactive networking moment which I had seized despite my muttering mind.
What I want to share with new managers in today’s column are thoughts on how we all can seize opportunities as they present themselves to us.
Try these steps for networking the next time you are at a conference, a social occasion or any group situation. If I can do it, anyone can.
Fact 1: People won’t know who you are till you tell them.
Fact 2: People won’t know how good you are unless you tell them.
Fact 3: People are the same, mostly good; don’t let them scare you.
Steps to networking
Be proactive and use sincerity in your approach. Remember, in a previous column we had talked about how India was ranked 123rd among the nations of the world based on who smiles the most.
So we do need to consciously work on this area. Smile sincerely as you purposefully walk up to someone you want to meet, offer a firm handshake and use the moment to make a good first impression. The next two points tell you how to make a good impression.
Practice your elevator introduction piece. Here is where you need to have done your homework.
You need to write a two-line introduction about yourself and your company or your unique contribution to the world.
The introduction should be done naturally when you meet someone for the first time. For instance, “Good evening, I am Ajay Bindra and I am a systems analyst at XYZ Technologies which provides accounting solutions to firms in the US”; or “Nice to meet you, I am Shanta Raman and I am a HR professional at ABC Corporation which makes auto parts”; or “Hello, I am Suzy Fields, I am a freelance writer/ high school teacher/ homemaker supporting my entrepreneur husband.”
Take an interest in their interests. Once you have introduced yourself, then all you have to do is simply listen and absorb. Repeat information you hear, “Oh I see, how interesting. So does your job mean a lot of travel” or “Uh huh, (after she has mentioned being in New York) how was it when you were in New York last week?”
Learn when the moment is over. It may go well and the proof is when you end with an exchange of business cards. Don’t try to transact business here; keep that for later. Sometimes, the interaction may not go very well and you simply know it is time to move on.
People will tell you through body language if they want to end the interaction. Simply stay tuned to signs such as glancing at a watch, fidgeting with keys, shifting eyes or feet.
Simply leave with a polite phrase such as “nice to have met you,” but a closing comment is a must.
If there is an awkward moment, let it not bother you.
Brush-offs teach you to get even better at networking as soon as you handle your first one or two. You are simply free to go and try meeting the next friend.
Follow-up afterwards. A networking situation is not the place to try to push a business deal or get into a detailed conversation. Save that for a follow-up call or e-mail.
If the person doesn’t give you a card, it doesn’t matter; don’t insist that he does. You can always find them via the Internet or the phone book.
If the follow-up is soon enough, they will remember the recent pleasant interaction and a meeting can ensue.
Essential skills for multi-cultural workspaces.
Conversation skills reflect confidence, intelligence.
The art of engaging in a meaningful conversation is a skill that most successful people share. A good conversationalist achieves an objective that goes beyond communicating effectively or transmitting a message clearly. Think back to the time when you met a person for the first time and recall the experience of speaking with them. It would have been a moment of exchange where both information and personality left a strong and lasting impression.
A person’s ability to engage in conversation reflects his or her confidence and intelligence. When you add a seasoning of wittiness, it also imparts a sense of wholeness. People with conversational skills are able to lead the conversational dance by listening, directing and eliciting “topical pressure points”. They understand tempo, provide variety and make sure that YOU are always involved. A good conversation must always be a dialogue and an essentially two-way process instead of turning into a dreary monologue.
Conversation in global Business
Social etiquette and conversational skills are important elements of our cross-cultural training programmes. These skills are relevant to both employees who work virtually as well as for those who travel. In order to provide structure for our students, we approach the topic in the following way:
Conversation using information that you know (culture or otherwise).
Conversation based on themes you know nothing about (small talk).
Conversation that arises from giving or receiving a compliment (social graces).
Our experience has shown that making social conversation is a weak point with most of our students. I believe that the situation becomes especially acute when the interaction involves people from other cultures.
At the beginning of this article, I talked about what a good conversation promotes. Well, along the same lines, an employee who does international business and is a great conversationalist is, in effect, projecting an image of his company and the quality of the people it recruits.
Let us say, for example, that Pascal meets Sanjeev from India Inc in Paris. After a preliminary two-hour meeting in the morning, they break for an hour for lunch. During the course of the meal, the quality of their conversation is stimulating and engaging, and they cover a range of topics excepting work. The meal extends for another hour. At the end of the day when Sanjeev leaves, Pascal does not merely have a broader perspective of his Indian counterpart, but also of India Inc. He sees positive communication, an adaptable culture and quality in the human resources of the Indian company. In other words, Sanjeev’s conversational skills have made him a strong brand ambassador for his company. Based on my on-site training experiences, I have found that difficulties in social conversation are due to some of the following reasons:
Limited information about other cultures (or non-work related knowledge) and not enough information about India that we can share with other cultures.
Lack of listening skills and, therefore, an inability to respond to and adapt in a relevant way during a conversation or while making small talk.
Poor body language to convey sincerity of interest in the conversation and adoption of a “question-answer approach”.
The culture in conversation
Okay, so let’s say you address these issues and are building your conversational skills. You now feel more confident and you’re raring to go — you want to converse!
But before you get going, a note of caution on conversational taboos. Basically, these are things you just don’t mention, with or without a smile.
When I perform an activity on “giving and receiving a compliment”, I ask my students to imagine that they are at a barbecue hosted by their American client and his wife. Each student must then take elements from around this scenario and be able to provide a compliment to initiate a conversation.
A good compliment:
Sanjeev: “John, you have a nice collection of paintings.”
John: “Thank you, my wife loves art. She brings back a painting every time she visits a country.”
Sanjeev: “I see you don’t have anything from India; that’s a good reason for you to plan a trip.”
And the conversation continues…
A bad compliment/taboo:
Sanjeev: “John, what a beautiful painting. How much did you pay for it?”
John: (uncomfortable silence).
In the latter, the conversation is much briefer and ends where it started. These examples are actual choices made by students. Though the second example generally elicits laughter in class, in reality it would lead to embarrassment and awkwardness.
Here are some topics you would want to generally avoid in the West: Personal questions that invade privacy (such as asking women if they are married); religion (a private matter); ethnic or gender jokes; controversial and sensitive issues such as Nazism, the Vietnam War or any current political situation. Among the advisable topics are culture, sports, food, your positive observations and questions about current affairs/history.
The art of conversation is a learned skill and represents a key proficiency for the professional development of Indian executives working on the global stage.
With good conversation skills, the individual projects confidence about himself and the company he or she works with. Knowing what to say is your image to opportunities.