The Role Of Workshops In My Professional Development
I always thought that as long as I would continue to develop my hard skills to deliver top quality work, it would be sufficient for my career progression ambitions. It was only after attending the ‘Continuing Professional Development – CPD’ workshops that made me come to the realization that it was essential I gain some proficiency on certain intangible core skill sets and behaviors to gain an edge in the exceedingly competitive job search space, especially so in the present trying economic climate. I attended all the relevant workshops, and found that each offered a unique and practical perspective.
At the end of my last workshop, it seemed that they were linked to one another – a practical and sustainable series of tools to enhance my employability. With the exception of one, I found them all to be fairly beneficial for building my career strategy. I will run through each with a brief commentary of my key takeaways and how they have made an impact on my professional development so far.
Executive Presence: The first thing I can recall is that my curiosity was instantly spiked when the trainer mentioned right at the onset that many world-famous leaders in the political and corporate arenas have undergone similar orientations to develop and nurture their executive demeanor. I learnt that it starts with sincere self-reflection to firmly understand our unique personal characteristics, to build upon them, or taper if necessary. We practiced several verbal and nonverbal cues to project positive and compelling impressions such as storytelling techniques and coordinated hand gestures ‘within the box’, along with tactics to stay poised under pressure. With regular practice, we would be able to stand out and get heard, and leave a lasting impression, whether during one-on-one or group conversations. Without losing my authenticity, I would have to focus on my posture and facial expressions, use voice modulation during discourses, maintain confident eye contact, and listen attentively to show compassion, among other thoughtful signals to be more persuasive. I have conscientiously been applying these methods every day, in both social and commercial settings, to good effect. E. g.
My visits to leading Travel Management Companies (TMCs) in the UAE as part of my B2B PR efforts have become more effective. I am able to leave a more lasting impression with Heads of Departments (HODs) in these companies. Having managed to build a good rapport in a relatively short span of time, I am now well known in the local travel industry fraternity, and also able to divert good business to my managed airline accounts from our local trade partners. Advanced Presentation Skills: The trainer touched upon many aspects to deliver authentic and engaging presentations. Just like in the Executive Presence workshop, we learnt about exploring and leveraging upon our own unique styles, the power of storytelling to make presentations more compelling and engaging, the range of techniques to read and respond to different types of audiences with varying attention spans, the structure of side-design that can be altered in ways to make ideas stand out, and the need to make technical concepts comprehensible to people from non-technical backgrounds.
Whether the objective is to educate, inform, influence or persuade – every move we make has an impact. It is vital to add refine and impress to gain credibility, especially when under pressure from a difficult audience. Captivating them is a tactical combination of building instant rapport, presenting engaging content, and using vocal and non-verbal signals for maximal impact. The trainer conducted practical exercises where we were made to watch ourselves presenting on camera. By working on these techniques, I am sure that my confidence will continue to grow through regular practice, and help me deliver impressive presentations more comfortably. E. g. My sales pitches to Airlines’ HODs which look after strategic alliances and partnerships, to represent them as their exclusive General Sales Agents (GSAs) in the region, as part of my business development functions, have gained better traction and higher conversion rate. Most recently I won the acquisition of ‘Fly Baghdad’ and ‘Pobeda Airlines’ into our GSA portfolio.
Authentic Leadership: I have never harbored a desire be a leader. But strangely have found myself in inadvertent situations where l had to reluctantly take charge, either because the situation demanded some sort of direction and nobody was willing to step up, or because others thrust me into the role. And despite my hesitancy to take on such responsibilities willingly, I have met with a fair degree of success. I was told by the trainer that this is the most genuine form of Authentic Leadership. She went on to explain that companies need leaders who exhibit high standards of integrity, take responsibility for their actions, and are guided by enduring principles rather than short-term expedience. Authentic leaders are people whose inner compass guide their daily actions and enable them to earn the trust of their subordinates and peers. Each individual’s inner compass is different since it is built on personal life experiences – the successes and failures that shape one’s values, passions, and vision. Authentic leadership can be learned by developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
The workshop was very interesting since it was designed to provide a forum where participants could discuss the personal roots of their leadership journey, and what role their life stories and crucibles played in their development and in discovering the purpose of their leadership. We learnt that to be acknowledged as an authentic leader, it is imperative to lead with integrity through difficult and pressure-filled challenges, recognize and address one’s blind spots, develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence, learn from feedback and daily challenges we encounter, balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, adapt leadership style to different scenarios while remaining true to our values and purpose, and become an empowering leader that fosters effective teamwork. Though I am not actively pursuing to become a leader, I hope to be recognized as an individual who is trusted by colleagues, inspires others to do their best work, is sought out for advice, and creates exceptional value for the company. E. g. I am in-charge of orchestrating multiple cross-functional mini teams in pursuit of sales, business development, quality assurance, marketing, and analytics objectives for different business verticals in my company. I have been implementing the lessons learnt from the workshop to help improve productivity levels and top line targets for all my subordinates across the board. The company’s last bi-annual 360 degrees appraisal exercise in June 2018 yielded positive overall performance reviews for almost each member under me and myself.
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