Listening With a Willingness to Change

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Listening by Raju Mandhyan

It sounds like a mouthful compared to active listening, deeper listening or, even, empathetic listening and yes, it is.

After having had thousands of discussions and practice sessions in communications, coaching, sales and other leadership workshop I realize I can put this in a nutshell.

When wanting to listen and listen well, what do we do? We sit up. We shut off other thoughts. We pay attention to the lips that pour out the words. We turn up empathy and, yes, we smile-nod-twinkle and go uh, uh. Yeah!

Or, again, there are times when we are doing all that externally and internal parts of our self are going “what time is it, I wonder?” “is she wrapping by now?” “this is not what I came here to listen!” “he has no idea what he is talking about!” “I am so much better a thinker-communicator-what have you!”

Active listening is all bright-eyed, big smile and nodding approval kind of a listening. Deeper listening is reading between the lines and “feeling” things rather than just hearing the words. Compassionate listening is, really, getting ready to say “Oh dear, I know exactly what you are going through but let me tell you about the time… yadi-yadi-ya!”

Real listening is all of the above on the surface. Underneath, deep inside you the communicator, leader or a coach needs to be ready to give up all that is bright and beautiful inside you. You need to be ready to surrender all beliefs that you hold dear. You need to forego everything else that you have been planning to bring to the table.

  • You need to surrender your position of listener-leader and be a follower.
  • You need to give up the idea of wanting to offer wisdom, create value.
  • You need to accept, lovingly and respectfully, the thought that what is presented may be better and productive.
  • You need to become ready to let go of all that you think make up you.
  • You need to be listening with a readiness and a willingness to change. Yes, change!

Listening with a readiness and willingness to change from the depths of your thoughts and the bottom of your heart, you need to be ready and willing to change. That is listening.

Any movements towards change can only come about if the cornerstone of our interactions is an honest-to-goodness willingness to change. All this, mind you, happens in fractions of seconds. That fraction of a second will make you a leader that was ready to change.

On Higher Ground

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Years ago when my friend, Adrian Martinez, had shared this story with me it got stuck and has stayed until now. I know not the author but here it is the way I heard it and I hope you like it.

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.

“What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. They were all trouble-makers and lazy too. They were the most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Sometime later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. They were hard-working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

Today, every time I work with people in my coaching sessions, I refer it to as “the eye cannot see the eye,” and our job as leaders and change drivers, every one of us, is to constantly and consistently work at shedding our, conscious and unconscious, biases.  Not that we can totally do away with biases and not that we do not need many of them for survival, for navigating our lives into safety and then growth but to be able get closer and closer to the objective truth.

The objective truth as we must understand is an ideal to be achieved. And it can only be achieved when we look in, look out, look in again and look out again as frequently as possible and as rapidly as possible. It’s called being agile. It’s called being resilient and it gives us a handle on our views, on our knee-jerk reactions. It helps us make better, empathetic and, even, holistic decisions in life and at work.

Thus, when faced with a new environment, with diversity or with what you might think others are obstructing your progress, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much of my past experience is wrongly being projected on current reality?
  2. What if I was wrong about everything I perceive to be true?
  3. How open and flexible am I to new ideas, to diversity?
  4. How much of it is hard data which can be endorsed to be factual by a third party.
  5. After I speak up or act, will I be okay with what I have done and said? Will I have remorse?

There is never an end to this sort of reflection but yet, there can be always be a kinder, gentler and an all-around win-win way out.

When Adrian Martinez had shared this story with me he had begun by saying, “Wherever you go you carry your land with you Raju.”

I’d agreed as I agree today. And, I’d like to add is that you can place your land down and use it as a stepping stone to get to a higher ground.

[More on Appreciative Leadership]

Raju Mandhyan

Speaker, Coach & Learning Facilitator  
A World of Clear, Creative & Conscientious Leaders! 

My books also available on Amazon

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Designing a Talk

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Designing a Talk

Designing a Talk

No matter how much I know about the subject or how long I have been in the field…

Designing a talk, a facilitation or an intensive workshop is always much more Demanding than Delivering it.

You’ve got to know what your learners need,
You’ve got to know what they might want.
You’ve got to know what the managers/organizers want.
You’ve got to know almost everything about the subject.
You’ve got to know what the learners might know about the subject.
You’ve got to know what other consultants might have shared.
You’ve got to know a lot about parallel fields and subjects.

Then you’ve got to plan, sequence the flow of principles and practices in a novel way.

You’ve got to put in the heavy stuff. You’ve got to place in the applications and the relevancy.You need to consider inclusivity, interaction and the memorability of the program.

At the end of it you’ve got to Deliver a dish that is as filling as steak, light as a salad and yet be finger-licking fun to participate in.

And remember, thunder and lightning will strike you down if you make do as if you’ve worked hard for it and fish for compliments.


My upcoming public workshops:

Advanced Selling Skills in Vietnam:

Appreciative Leadership in Vietnam:

InSpire Like a CEO:

Appreciative Leadership:

Corporate Storytelling in Dubai:

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Choice Clips from the TV Show, ExPat InSights :


A Story: The Wrong House

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Everyone loves a good story but I have a penchant for stories. I look out for them like an addict yearns for a shot in the arm. And, when I do get that shot, life for a while becomes livable, love-giving.

On a flight from Bangkok to Manila, I happened to land a seat next to an old friend, Louie, and we began to catch up on each other with stories. Some we’d heard but, nevertheless, they were still good ones and then he hit me with a whopper of a story.

More than a decade ago, at a workshop on Appreciative Inquiry,  Loiue was sitting next to a repatriate from Saudi Arabia called Elmer. Part of the workshop proceeding require that participants ask each other questions that’ll bring up good memories, memories of success and memories of having had a change of heart.

“Can you share me a story or two about having lived and worked in Saudi Arabia?” asks Louie of Elmer. Elmer In Prayer

“At first it was tough. I hated every aspect of the Saudi culture. I hated the authorities. I hated the fact that they had so much wealth and power over all those that came to seek a living in Saudi Arabia. Most of all, I hated the fact that there were no churches in the vicinity for a Catholic like me to drop by and pray. Nevertheless, I continued working and suffering, hoping that one day I’d save up enough money to go home and look after my adolescent daughter and wife in the Philippines. You see I loved them both to death, and believed that they both brought meaning and purpose to my life,” shared Elmer.

“And?” urged on Louie.

“Life wasn’t easy. The work was demanding and I really wasn’t saving up much, as a construction worker in Saudi Arabia. Three years went by and I began to grow homesick when one day my wife calls up and claimed our daughter, Precious, was seriously ill and had to be brought to the hospital. Panic-stricken and helpless, I stayed by the phone for the next few days. Three days into the hospital, I get a call claiming that Precious needed to undergo immediate surgery or we would lose her. My heart screamed out in pain and I had no idea what to do, where to go? I had, then, not enough money to send to my wife and I had no one to run to. I had no place to borrow from in Saudi Arabia,” cried Elmer.

“Where’d you go?” asked Louie.

“I was desperate. I called a few, Filipino co-workers but we were all in the same boat – helpless and money-less. It was before sunrise on a Friday in Saudi Arabia and I couldn’t even approach my bosses at work. My heart still screaming, I stepped out onto the streets of Riyadh hoping to beg, borrow or let a miracle happen. My Christian heart yearned for an altar to kneel before and send out my plea into the skies but then again, this was Saudi Arabia, and I couldn’t find a church. A few blocks away from my place of stay I reached a mosque from within which, I could hear prayers being recited. Sozzled with pain and anguish, I walked in and in a corner fell upon my knees and let my head drop in prayer. I wanted my daughter to live. I wanted her to be there when I went home.”

“Gosh,” muttered Louie and placed his arm across Elmer’s shoulders, “what happened?”

“I didn’t know but an Imam had walked up to me and was standing in front of me, demanding to know if I were a Muslim. No, I replied, I am not, “replied Elmer.

“Then, in that case, I am sorry, but you will have to step out and take your prayers and plea somewhere else,” announced the Imam.

His face wet with tears, Elmer stumbled up and with shoulders drooping, and he began to walk out with the Imam right on his tracks. He was angry at himself for having walked into a wrong house. When outside, the Imam stopped him and asked what exactly was his problem. Elmer’s heart burst and he poured out his pain, sobbingly, to the Imam. With hardly a shift in his attitude, the Imam had Elmer follow him to his bank’s automated teller and punched out the amount of money that Elmer thought would get his Precious out of danger. “Pay me back when and if you can. If not then consider it as a response to your plea,” smiled the Imam and walked away.

My friend Louie, too, wiped away the tears from his own face and asked, “So, did you ever get to see that Imam again.”

“No, I haven’t” claimed Elmer, “but there is not a single day in my life that I do not think of him. Every time I enter a church here in the Philippines, I see his stoic, bearded face in the crowds and my heart smiles. I must confess that I do not want to go back to Saudi Arabia at my age now but the amazing thing is that in me there is no dislike or contempt people of a different belief. This, this way, I feel happy and big inside of me.”

“I tell you, brother, no story has touched and changed me the way that Elmer’s story did,” said Louie to me, as our plane skidded on the runway in the Philippines. Louie’s miracle question to Elmer had changed him and continues transforming people who hear of it.

Me? I got my story shot-in-the-arm and still have my head in clouds since that day.

Raju Mandhyan


My upcoming public workshops:

InSpire Like a CEO:

Appreciative Leadership:


My books also available on Amazon:

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Leadership: Trust and Space

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Long ago I heard a fable I heard a fable of a mother eagle laying two eggs. To help them hatch, one she barely pecks at all while the other she helps more than necessary. The baby from the first egg succumbs to the entrapment of her shell while the second loathes flying on his […]

Communicating and Leading Across Cultures

A few years ago on ExPat InSights, I was sitting across the CEO of the NCO Group in the Philippines, Keith Jones, and to one of my questions “What are your plans for your future?” He responded very confidently and calmly, “I am a global person, Raju, and I will take wherever I am needed and where I can add value.” For days and still until now the memory of his confidence and calmness has stayed on in my mind.

For years before that I had and also continue working with hundreds of such global executives coming in and, sometimes, going out of the Philippines. My interaction with them is called Cross Cultural Training but one of the executives referred it to as, “This was much more than just training but rather an in-depth coaching and immersion in the Filipino culture. The learning and insights were precious and I will apply them from day one and every day on.”

Going back to Keith Jones’ statement, today, I live with the conclusion and research proves it that global executives can move with calm, with confidence and create value across cultures when they learn to place themselves in the shoes of people of diverse cultures as they traverse across the globe. Of course, there is more than just stepping into the shoes of another but doing a lot more. It is compassion, it is vision, it is authentic value-creating action but the first step is stepping into the other person’s shoes.

In the Philippines, where I live, there is a word-a value called “Kapwa” and it is an all encompassing word that somehow gives cross cultural communications and leadership such credence and brilliance.  The dictionaries translate it as neighbor, reflection, one-of-a-pair, kindred etc., my “paramdam” is that it is all those translations and a lot more. It is also kindness, mercy, empathy, compassion and love all placed in one for all other human beings and for humankind itself.

Communicating Across Cultures

Communicating Across Cultures

Cross-cultural leaders like Keith Jones and Jeff Uthoff of Telus International know it intuitively, in their gut, in fact they “paramdam” it. Paramdam, by the way is to sense, too intuite, to know without being told.

Taking this first step of learning to place ourselves in the shoes of others starting with the assumption that in every human being, in every system and culture there is something that works, something that is beautiful and brilliant. Our job, our first objective is to seek and let this brilliance evolve, unleash itself.


My upcoming open to public events:

11/17/15 Communicating and Leading Across Cultures in Dubai :

12/14/15 Inspire Like a CEO in Mumbai:

12/21/15 Appreciative Leadership in Bangalore:

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Why Coaching Salespeople Creates Champions

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Though early on in my career I did not get any sales specific training I was fortunate to intern under several successful sales champions. My mentors had learned their skills through the school of hard knocks and over a long period of time. Mentoring me, though, was far from their minds and all they really cared was if I made enough sales and if my success at sales put money into their coffers.  Amazingly though, and such is life, I picked up a million little lessons from them which over time gave me an uncanny and an unfair advantage over many sales people and endeared me to my clientele and the market I played in. The learning was in-depth and the growth was exhilarating and long lasting. Years into the profession, when side by side with my mentors I had developed an uncanny and subtle set of playing rules which almost always helped me close deals and serve my clients consistently and to the benefit of both sides.

Over time, I realized that the art of selling was not just an art but an extremely refined science. The rules of this science, in the past, were learned through by getting into the pit again and again. Today, the culture of learning through long and strenuous interactions over a  l o n g period of time does not need to be continued. It still has its benefits but keeping in mind the principle of “Anything can be accomplished if the task is broken down into small enough steps,” from the school of Nuero Linguistics Programming, a sales leader can transfer these uncanny and subtle set of playing rules to almost anyone willing to learn and wanting to make a success out of his sales career.

Stretching Limits through Sales Coaching

Stretching Limits through Sales Coaching


Across the world trainers and sales consultants like me have now packaged these playing rules into principles and practices which can be mastered in a matter of months if not weeks.  Gone are the days when a successful sales person or a team leader would get on stage and boost the spirits of his teams through stories and admonitions towards sales success. Today, the name of the game is Sales Coaching—and, it is potent and powerful in real time and in measurable terms.

Sales Coaching brings about a multitude of benefits at the individual, the team and the organisational level.

At the individual level, sales coaching starts with the assumption that if you can dream it then you can achieve it. This becomes an extremely powerful a paradigm for the sales person because it starts with the belief in her potentiality, its helps unleash her latent strengths and it helps her leverage on her own past successes no matter what field or discipline she comes from. Sales coaching, at the individual level, instead of imposing the manager’s or the organizations belief systems on the salesperson helps her uncover her own driving values. It help her fine tune her skills in complete alignment with her own beliefs and potential.

At the team level, Sales Coaching, helps distribute work load and challenges based on personal preferences and competencies of each player. It helps teams eliminate links which may be weak and move from strength to strength to strength. Steven Covey highlights this synergy of strengths by creating a metaphor of loading a single wooden plank with a measured downward pressure, followed by laying another layer of a wooden plank on the first one. The downward pressure and weight thus carried by two wooden planks not just doubles in tandem to the number of planks but increases multi-fold. Such is the power of Sales Coaching for a team. It strengthens each player individually and then bonds them together with their strengths thus reducing team weaknesses. At the practical level, a manager-cum-coach can assess individual strengths and assign tasks and territories to build on strengths instead of just logistical and market demands.

At the organizational level, Sales Coaching helps in the following ways:

  • Essential knowledge and organization culture is retained and enhanced in the process.
  • Employee engagement and thus retention peaks up because of increased performance and satisfaction.
  • Alignment of personal, team and organizational goals are constantly aligned thereby boosting rapid and sustainable growth.

In summary, the business of old-fashioned sales training has taken on a new and a vibrant face. Instead of sweeping statements about successes and successful behaviour during sales it now is a fine-tuned, highly refined and custom made one on one learning. It is not just faster, better and cheaper but it is also creative, conscientious and constructive. A well-designed sales coaching program addresses the needs of individuals, teams and organization in the areas of culture, processes, characters, visions, and competencies.  A well designed sales coaching program also provides knowledge, skills and true wisdom for playing well in the pits, where the true action is.