I was assigned the very challenging task of training our future Tax Inspectors and Tax Assistants on the communication aspects of their job. As a visiting faculty to the NACIN at Bangalore, I had a master key to some strong and brilliant minds. It was one of my first on-site training after the COVID debacle.
I arrived early morning at the Yashwantpur Railway station. I was picked up and dropped off at the campus, where the Director roundly told me off for arriving a day late to the camp. Then he realized that I was the faculty, not a trainee. That broke the ice like nothing I could have come up with!
At sharp 10 am I walked into the room full of candidates who were silently assessing me. I realized I needed some intellectual standing before they would accept me as a mentor, and so I started off my introduction by telling them about my telecommunication patent. I could feel the respect temperature go up immediately. Throughout the session, I needed to keep in mind that these were people trained to work with facts and numbers, not abstract stuff. That kept me on my toes.
Even the story I like to start off with, I related directly into practical realities of our communication. Throughout the day, whenever any of their (or mine) responses could be tied into the way any of the characters of this story reacted, I stopped the class and asked them to find the correct match. They immensely enjoyed each time they bettered their responses.
I prefer to talk rather than present. I also like to explain concepts at their basic level and then involve the class in making up their own abstract models. Sometimes I cover the concept and then get one of them to come up and deliver my slides to the rest of the class. I got them all to come up one by one and showcase their skills in communication in various ways. The truth is, every individual has unique strengths and weaknesses that the rest of the class can learn from. If we, as facilitators, are able to create a trust environment where they do not mind being redirected or re-enforced, the class takes up a momentum of its own. All of this worked well that day.
What did not go down so well ? The practical non-verbals. I realized this part needs more build-up than the timelines allowed. A candidate did try and cross a few lines, where I had to cut them down ruthlessly. After all, the complexities of respecting authority is something our future authorities should know inside out.
Some picture perfect moments ?
When they loitered after a tea break and I had to call out, that I had no preference between stopping at 5 pm, 5.30 pm or 6 pm. The speed with which they all walked back into the classroom in a single file made me laugh out loud with them.
When one of them asked a question: What is the limit to our ambitions ? The concept being covered was confidence at various levels. As a question it had immeasurable merit. As an answer, I told them to examine the Whys. While initially they had trouble relating the two, the coin dropped after some explanation. Then there were those beatific infectious smiles going all around.
One goal I set for myself that day ? I decided to sharpen my skills at paraphrasing. Every time anyone in the room made a complex statement, I would paraphrase them till they agreed that yes, I had understood them well. I believe it was a sharp upward movement for my communication skills that day.
The organic campus, the extremely gracious officers there, and these budding candidates made the training a memorable one. And the feedback collected makes me trust it was a win-win situation on both sides!