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    Welcome to Authentic Journeys - ഓതെന്റിക് ജെർനീയ്സ് - US-India Cross-Cultural Training

February 14, 2021

Coaching (Consulting and Training) Startups: 3 Considerations

In January 2021, I attended a seminar on coaching startups hosted by WBECS. This seminar was a treasure trove of information. As I have been coaching (training and consulting) with startups (in India) since 2011, I was keen to know how the approaches discussed by the US based coach may overlap with my experience abroad. While boiling down all of the numerous takeaways was a challenge, I thought to focus on the three main lessons below.

 

Setting Down/Streamlining Processes

According to what I gathered from the discussion, there are two main reasons that startups need a lot of assistance in establishing process. In some cases, some startups are founded (and staffed) by young professionals with little to no corporate experience. In such cases, such founders and employees do not really know what corporate structures or corporate processes look like and how they may or may not influence their business objectives or client engagement strategies (in my approach we also look at how a lack of these processes may impact building and maintaining trust when working with US Americans). 


Another reason that some startups lack this structure is due to a mix of getting off the ground quickly (they work under highly agile, iterative processes) and, especially for some entrepreneurs and start up founders with some corporate experience, they may be rebelling “against the corporate system.” While this may work with startups with a small total company strength, once it surpasses 30 or 40, communication and processes should tend to become more formalized and structured to help the business function with some amount of predictability and professionalism (internally and externally).

 


Authentic Journeys’ Learnings

We have worked with startup founders and teams that came from both backgrounds noted above. In both cases, the one common thread was the fast pace of trying to get things moving and adapting to change. This causes a situation where the founders and team members may not find coaching practical, as in some cases, coaching takes “too much time” and doesn’t always appear to lead to quick, implementable solutions. So, an approach of coaching, consulting and training bode well. It’s also important for the “coach” to be agile in such situations to adjust to the need of the hour. So, in some cases, the coach will need to be educated in or have background knowledge in business processes and terminology. 

 

When we talk about building processes, we are not just referring to high level processes. We are also referring to the building blocks of the organizational communication and business process structure. A few areas Authentic Journeys has guided startups with to professionalize from within and with external partners is through:

  1. Standardizing and polishing communications: Professionalizing and standardizing email rendering and implementing style guides

  2. Aiding development teams in implementing a change request process (ideation to implementation and follow through)

  3. Identifying and managing processes for business trips abroad (especially for professionals in India)

 

Performance Improvement Planning

When a company is just starting out, with only a handful of members, long term career planning or business projections may not be the first thing on everyone’s minds, as the most pressing concerns revolve around client acquisition, client engagement, client retention and repeat business. However, as the company grows and remains viable for years, employees (and founders) would naturally want to understand their career trajectory and how they can build their skills as they grow with the company. Due to this, setting KPIs (Key Performance Indicators - employee goals) and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results – business drivers) becomes important, not only for long term business growth, but employee retention. While this was generally done behind the scenes, recently Authentic Journeys has really tried to take a key role in aiding business growth through the programs through the training needs analysis (TNA). In addition to working with you to identify the intended goals or outcomes for the program (What would you like to see different from the team members who attend after three months?), we strive to help you identify how to tie those training outcomes to the individual participant’s KPIs (performance review goals), and ultimately to the OKRs (or your business drivers). We do this through goal trackers. When we start any program through Authentic Journeys, we create a goal tracker for each individual participant. On the tracker, the participant will self-rate themselves against the training outcomes AND their personalized KPIs. The manager will also rate each participant as well. This rating is done at the beginning, mid point and the end of the program. These goal tracking sheets and KPI trackers can also be enhanced to use in your organization, as some startups we have worked with have done (we welcome that with open arms). 

Example Goal Tracking Sheet

Click on the image to view a bigger size.

Taken from our program: Managing Client Expectations

 

In addition to tracking the individual’s performance, we also have conversations with mid-level managers, human resources personnel or/and the founders to identify the business drivers and how the KPIs are tied to those business drivers to help see tangible process. Some examples of this may include:

  • KPI: Client facing developers must communication business need in their status updates, push back and relevant communication to showcase our consultative skills.

  • OKR: An improvement of client engagement will be shown through increased client retention (from 70-80% in Q3), and more client testimonials (collect and share 3-4 testimonials in Q3 as compared to 1-2 in Q1).


  • KPI for Business Analysts (BA): Through tailoring our sales conversations and product demos for each specific client and using more questions to direct conversations (percentage of client talk time to BA talk time will shift from 40%/60% to 70%/30%)

  • OKR: When we engage with and understand our clients better, we will be able to provide them a more customized solution, increasing our onboarding rate from 30%-40% in Q4.

 

A One Person Show or Team Effort

Because startups may have a fluid organizational structure, we may see that the founder handles all of the business administrative functions on their own. Or, in some cases, a small group of founders share the responsibility and may jump in and handle situations as they arise, not based on a role, but based on whoever is available to handle the situation at the moment. I have seen this in startups in a number of ways. For example, as I am an outside contractor, there will be times I would get to meet directly with the founder in a one to one meeting for the needs analysis. In other cases, I may meet with the co-founder. In other cases, I may meet with an entire team of individuals, any of which could be my contact person at any given point of time. Even as the startup grows and evolves more of a fixed organizational structure, it is possible roles remain fluids (from my point of view). Or, depending on the situation when there is a dedicated contact person, there may be certain situations where the founder has to get involved in the decision making process. The one advantage I have truly seen from a coaching and training perspective is when a founder helps to kick off a learning program or is involved in the “graduation” or completion of the program. It is truly a motivational moment for everyone involved to see and feel the founder’s motivation for the reason behind implementing and seeing such programs to completion in the startup environment, especially as day to day workloads can be chaotic at times.

 

One of the management teams I have worked with for almost a decade.


Do we Coach, Consult or Train?

As we close this timely discussion, one of the themes you may have noticed throughout this piece revolves around the question, “Do we really provide pure coaching to startups? Or, do we provide a mix of coaching, consulting or training?” 


See the video with transcript.

 

While this question warrants a discussion in itself, it is safe to say that in a majority (90%) of the needs assessments we have conducted, teams want training. This can be for a variety of reasons. The problem or business reason has not yet been clearly identified at the time of the call. So, rather than jump to a conclusion, we always prefer to take a step back to provide some consulting in the needs assessment, have a discussion around their KPIs, OKRs, and best hopes and outcomes for the program. Through this process, we often adjust it to a mix of training and coaching (the most popular) or coaching, training and consulting. In some cases, training may not be the answer at all, and, as we notice this, we are moving more and more towards coaching and consulting (with a structured outline to keep us on track). 

 

It goes without being said that due to the fluid and somewhat chaotic nature of startups, it’s important for coaches to be flexible. I have had to “wear all three hats” in some engagements I have conducted. In fact, I’d say, it’s quite normal to have to switch between roles. For example, when someone wants advice, I may start with a coaching approach to understand their best hopes or outcomes, then facilitate their brainstorming and knowledge around that area. However, based on my expertise, I may ask to offer a few ideas to add to the mix. However, I would never say my ideas (even in consulting roles) are implemented as initially suggested (and I endorse they never should be). Why is that? Well as we brainstorm ideas, we add mine to their list of already prospected ideas, then they will discuss how they see each idea implemented, then prioritize them. Based on their priority we move forward with trying to see how it may be implemented. Even if the idea I suggested is the one they ultimately decide is best, we then talk at length around how that idea would really fit into the culture of their team/company and other factors to really customize that idea to their situation. Only if these conversations take place, then the ideas, once implemented have a better success rate. 


To sum up this timely topic, coaching startups is an amazingly fulfilling journey. If you enjoy the thrill of changing your trajectory on a dime, being agile and managing ambiguity, coaching startups may just be the path for you! If you have questions around this or are a startup looking for coaching, training or consulting, do get in touch with us


Author and founder of Authentic Journeys, Jennifer Kumar has lived between the US and India since 1998. She has worked with over 60 companies (a majority of these being startups) in India providing training, coaching and consulting. She is looking forward to speaking with you! Drop a line on WhatsApp at. +91 95 393-47529. Do let us know how you found us!


Related Posts:

How we build trust and safety in coaching engagements as per the ICF professional guidelines 


February 12, 2021

Cultivates Trust and Safety: ICF Core Competency 4 Part 1

ICF Core Competency 4: Cultivates Trust and Safety

[00:00:00] Let's take a deep dive into Core Competency number four, cultivating trust and safety. I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys, as I have coined myself a cross-cultural coach for over a decade, close to 15 [years] now. This series will focus on dissecting these competencies also from a cultural perspective or a cross-cultural perspective, which I feel is pertinent to the new competencies, because I believe when these were created, they were really looking at updating them with more of an eye toward cultural competency. So it might fit in quite well with this discussion. In core competency number four, cultivating trust and safety, there are three areas I want to predominantly focus on:  

  1. How easy is it to earn trust?  
  2. How do we adapt to the style of our client?  
  3. And how do we avoid saying assigning meaning? 

Listen to/read part 2 here.

 

[00:01:10] Before getting into that, I want to talk about something that's a little esoteric.

 

[00:01:15] How do we as coaches focus on the journey and not the destination?

 

[00:01:20] Because although this can relate to the entire coaching-- arc of coaching, so to speak, and all of the competencies, it's really kind of calling to me in this competency because of the discussions I've had in the mastermind groups and other videos I've actually seen on YouTube and online about this competency.


ICF Core Competency 4: Cultivating Trust & Safety


 

[00:01:46] Sometimes when we're trying to rush through to help a client to achieve a goal or a perceived goal, it actually becomes more about us and a destination than what the client may really want. So checking in with the client periodically does also build that trust and help the conversation to go in the direction that the client really wants it to go in rather than where we think it might go. So we are not assigning meaning to the conversation, but we continue to check in to have the client assign meaning to everything they are discussing, as well as the conversation itself. 
 
So let the process do the talking. 
 
All right. So let's jump in to the section number one.  
 
How easy is it to earn trust?  
 
As some coaches out there say, and I totally agree, that trust is the foundation for any relationship, be it professional or personal, be coaching or non- coaching. So if we don't have trust, we basically have nothing. I think you would agree with that. If you if we look at any aspect of our life once there is no trust, really, there is nothing.

 

[00:03:09] But does that trust come by default? Can it be fast or does it have to be slow? So there's a lot of variables here. But when we're talking about it from a cross-cultural perspective, of course, we don't want to assign stereotypes because there are a wide variety of personalities in any culture. However, some.. some areas we can look at as far as how we gain trust in coaching.

 

[00:03:39] By reference. What does that mean? Another client has referred a new client to us by word of mouth. The best kind of reference us small business owners love and hope that our business actually lives on that right.

 

[00:03:57] So that's actually a perfect reference point is to get that word of mouth, people talking about the good work that we do and they're assigning that meaning to that work we're doing and sharing that to their friends and family and with anyone that they meet who might benefit from working with us.

 

[00:04:19] But it also comes based on our culture.

 

[00:04:23] How do we how do we approach people [with] and build trust? It is culturally dependent, too. In the U.S., I think we have a phrase that we use something like "innocent until proven guilty," which ideally we should follow that, but maybe we don't. So a lot of cultural ideals are ideals, but in practice, they might not actually happen that way or they happen in unexpected ways. So my... the meaning I assigned to "innocent until proven guilty" is that... we will trust someone automatically by default unless and until they give us other.. another reason not to.. So because of this ideal, maybe as Americans we think we are trusting or maybe others from other cultures think we are trusting. And maybe this can be seen in certain aspects like in the U.S. and especially small towns. When people walk by each other, they actually make eye contact and smile. And in other cultures, not only could this be considered something that would put the other person on the defensive, but would feel too....too familiar, like how can you look at me like that?

 

[00:05:47] You're looking at me like you really know me, like you're really friends with me. Like you really are in intimate, intimate friend or someone who knows me really well. This was the experience I had in India when I made eye contact on the street with people in the same way that I did in the U.S. and the response was unexpected.

 

[00:06:11] So when I worked in India for seven years and lived there full time, it struck me as..... it took me by surprise that one of the ways that people built trust, what as an adult was that that when they wanted to do one on one coaching with me in the intake session, which all happened face to face in person at that time, they would bring a trusted person with them to the intake session and it was expected that that person would attend the intake session with them. So this trusted person could be a spouse, it could be a colleague, it could be a best friend. It could be somebody who sat in a corporate training program that I delivered. So they already knew me from that perspective. And all of this took me by surprise because these were all adults. Yes, there were occasions I did coaching with with high school students or with college students. And in that case, it's completely...to me, it felt completely natural that a parent would be involved in that case. But for the adult scenario, what really took me by surprise and I would get so confused thinking, "OK, is it that two people want coaching or is it that they're... initially took it like skeptical, like they don't trust me?" But then I realized maybe that's how it is and I should expect that to happen maybe and I should actually take it as a sign of respect that they're bringing another person to kind of analyze me and the person who wants coaching is actually taking the advice of their trusted friend or family member in order to say, "Yes, you can trust Jennifer," which is somewhat very strange coming from an American culture perspective, because we tend to be very individualistic and we want to we want to base all of our own decisions on ourself as an individual in the U.S. in most cases, and not from other people in our group, whether that be our family group or our friends group or our work group or our spiritual group or whatever group. I'm used to it now, and sometimes I get struck by surprise when.... when it doesn't happen, especially in one on one intake sessions, even though now they're all virtual. I actually take it as a sign of respect now. And I expect one on one that most of the time people will bring a trusted person with them into that one on one intake session. And I'm comfortable with it.  I understand the perspective of why it's happening and I go with the flow. So that's adapting to the style of the client. That's a perfect segueway into number two.

 

[00:09:19] So we definitely want to learn how to adapt to the style of our client, whether that's a cultural style, something like that. And believe me, I had no cross-cultural training on that whatsoever. I didn't know that was part of the culture. I didn't even know that was a culture because I never experienced that until I moved to India and lived there full time for the second time in my life. I never learned that the first time I lived in India, it may have happened. I didn't recognize it at that point in time. So that was one way I... I personally adapted to the culture, I mean, style of the client, but also as part of the competencies. They're talking about learning styles of the client. So here we can even broaden that to the three basic learning styles, kinesthetic, where people like to move around and actually be active in their learning; audio, where they just want to listen; or visual where they need to see. So like, this is a pretty visual medium. So nowadays that everything is happening, you know, online, since we're working from home, some people, most people prefer to have the zoom video calls, but there are a section of coaches who really prefer just audio only even if there's a video option available and maybe to make it easier for them, they just move over to a telephone or a mobile phone rather than a platform where you can easily turn on the video.


Our agile coaching process


 

[00:10:50] So how can you adapt to the learning style of your client? And this helps us to be agile. I work with agile teams. We we are pretty familiar with the concept of being agile and working through an iterative process, which means that one day, you know, one day you might sit with the client and come up with an entire arc of coaching for that particular client. But then as you actually get into session by session, it might..you might realize that we have to go in another direction and we should be flexible to that. We should welcome that with open arms, not only for the entire arc of a coaching session or program, sorry, not for a coaching program the entire duration, but also for a coaching session every session we should be agile and adjust in an iterative way to what the client wants to learn or how the client wants to learn, what they want to learn and what they want to achieve. Easier said than done, right? But with time and practice, all things are possible.

 

[00:12:29] The other thing under adapting to the styles of the client is their communication style. Regardless of the language that we use, our language differs from area to area in the same country or country to country. So Spanish is different within Spain. Hindi is different within different parts of India. Malayalam in the state of Kerala or though it's a small state. It varies from area to area.

 

[00:12:59] How can we adjust our language to fit our client or resonate with our client most..most appropriately? Let's take English, especially for native speakers in Western countries. Some of us tend to think that others will understand our English immediately. Even if I'm coached by someone from the UK or Australia, I guarantee they I would not risk right off the bat to use an idiom. I would not resonate immediately with that way of using English, there would be not just an accent difference, a sound difference, there would be idioms that are different, there would be different ways of engaging, different ways of starting a conversation. So, yes, I've found different ways to start conversations with those I coached in India, for instance, in the U.S. When we start our conversations, we would not ask, "Have you had your lunch?" "Have you had tea?" We talk about these things when we start coaching conversations with people in India. And this is this is just trying to get to resonate with people on their level so they feel like, you know, we're one in the same way. Yeah, I understand where you're coming from to the best of our ability. We can't be perfect and there's always individual differences.

 

[00:14:23] Now, let's look at the last part. Assigning individual meaning or assigning meaning. We should not assign meaning as coaches to conversations. And of course, this conversation, which is really not a conversation, but a lecture or a discussion, is really going long. But I think if you're getting this far, you're finding some value. And I appreciate that. Actually, before we get into the last part, I've decided to break up this core competency deep dive into two parts because it is quite long. So I will link up the second part to this video for your reference. Thank you so much for listening up until this point. For more information, please come to authentic journeys dot info.

 

[00:15:07] Thank you so much. And see you in part two of core competency number four, cultivating trust and safety.

 

February 11, 2021

Cultivates Trust and Safety: ICF Core Competency 4 Part 2

ICF Core Competency 4: Cultivates Trust and Safety part 2

See/read part 1.


[00:00:01] And welcome. I'm Jennifer Kumar. I'm actually here for part two of the core competency number for deep dive, which is revolving around the topic, cultivating trust and safety. So let me edit in that conversation. Hold tight.



 

[00:00:25] All right. So when we are looking at the third section where we are trying to avoid assigning meaning, I actually I'm trying this through discussing the PCC markers here, because although we are assigning some meaning to the PCC markers, we're going to see if we can use these markers to help us avoid assigning meaning when we're coaching, especially when we're looking at this competency. So I want to take a little time to go through each of these points. So when we look at  
 
4.1 "Coach acknowledges and respects the client's unique talents, insights and work in the coaching process."  
 
Now, some of this obviously might take time for us to understand our clients personalities because they're going to be different. Even if someone grew up right next door to us, they're going to be different than us. So we also want to remember that their culture is going to be different. Their family culture is going to be different. Some things about their way of living are definitely going to be different than ours. It's like a fingerprint. Our culture is a fingerprint compared to another person's fingerprint. Even within the same household, there's going to be different viewpoints. We all probably know that all too well. So we can only imagine that even within the same community, there's going to be so many different viewpoints and approaches to how we think, learn and dissect our world and want to make sense out of it. So when we expand that out to our states, our country, a different country, we're going to obviously see and hear about a lot of different things and learn about a lot of different things that we never experience. I'll give you an example here.

 

[00:02:16] So I was coaching a professional in India about being agile.

 

[00:02:23] All right. So as we were discussing this, he shared a very interesting story with me about his first experience about being agile. But he could remember there's probably ones that were much earlier in his life than this one since this one took place when he was around, I think, 18 years old when he was learning to drive. It's very common in that part of India to just stop in the middle of the road and kind of take a U-turn wherever you want, almost like what I've seen and I call the Utah U-turn. But he was saying that when his father taught him how to drive, he said, one way I'm going to teach you to be flexible and learn how to handle stress under any circumstance is stop in the middle of the road and take a U-turn. So you're going to stop in the middle where there is no stop sign or there's no traffic light or signal and you're just going to stop there. You're going to wait until there's a gap big enough for you to make a U-turn. And these roads are very narrow in India. They're not wide like the Utah roads or streets. They're very narrow. And sometimes you have to make a K-point turn when you're actually trying to make a U-turn. And his dad made him do this over and over again. So he said this really helped me to learn how to handle stress under pressure and not worry about other people because it would be honking at me and people probably even swearing at me because I'm getting in their way.


A wide residential road in Salt Lake City looking toward the Oquirrh Mountains. 
The wide residential roads in Salt Lake City, Utah



A narrow street in Kochi, India (riding into Mattancherry).



 

[00:03:59] I found that a very interesting approach because definitely growing up in the U.S., that would not have been something in my world experience at all. In fact, doing something like that where I grew up in New York State would be considered illegal. So so it was definitely a way...he gave me a perspective that I hadn't thought of before and that helped me adapt to communicating with him on a different level.

 

[00:04:28] And I've always remembered that although that happened probably a decade ago.... that... That interaction.  
 
Let's look at...

 

[00:04:36] 4.2 Supporting, showing support, empathy or concern for the client.

 

[00:04:44] So interestingly enough, how we show empathy, support or concern differs from culture to culture. I actually wrote a blog quite a while ago about how motivation differs from culture to culture. Because of that, it's natural that support, empathy and concern would naturally vary from culture to culture. We might think it's global, but actually it's not. And even even if a smile kind of means the same thing, how it can be interpreted in different situations, sometimes is different. In some cultures, that smile would mean that you're happy and you really are there to help a person. But in certain situations, that same smile and a different culture could mean you're being sarcastic or condescending. So maybe this is why in some cases people prefer to turn the video off when they're coaching across cultures.

 

[00:05:41] And I've been guilty of, you know, using the wrong expression at times.

 

[00:05:47] So I was I was in a training program as an example. I was doing training not coaching. And it's common in the American culture for teachers to show support to the students by sitting on the side of the desk. And as soon as I did this in India, I sat on the side of a table because it wasn't really a classroom, it was a corporate  boardroom. I sat in the side of a table and suddenly I noticed that the participants in the training program were looking at me suspiciously and some of them looked almost like they were offended. And then immediately it came to my mind. I've been in India. I studied my master's degree in India. I had never seen a teacher sit on the side of a table or a desk, never, not once. And then I realized, oh, my gosh, this must not be the proper etiquette here in this country, even though it's considered completely natural, a way to build trust and rapport in the U.S., at least in my experience. So suddenly I got down from the desk and actually it was a perfect example. I use it as a perfect cross-cultural example since it was a cross-cultural training program and that opened a lot of conversation in the classroom.


Read: A Cross-Cultural Approach to Learning and Teaching: US & India Comparative Study

 

[00:06:57] And and I obviously adapted my behavior after that and did not sit on the corner of a desk in a training program in India. 
 
4.3 Coach acknowledges and supports the client's expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs or suggestions.

 

[00:07:17] I don't think I really need to go into that. I've already mentioned that. So I'm going to go on to number four. 
 
4.4 Coach partners with the client by inviting the client to respond in any way to the coach's contributions and accepts the client's response.

 

[00:07:34] So here's what I'm I'm considering, is that when we are coaching our clients who are from a different culture than us, especially if we are very aware they're from a different culture than us it might be..it might be wise to remember, we should not jump to conclusions because how they how that situation unfolded and how they assign meaning to that will be completely different than us, especially if we have never grown up in that country, never been to their country, never been to their culture, never been to their town, never been to their house, never been close to that environment. It's offensive to assign meaning to anyone's life, regardless of the culture and regardless of how close they are perceived to be to us, even if they are our own family members, our own spouses, or children. So we want to really avoid doing that. So instead, we might approach the situation by mentioning I've noticed that. Or is it is it OK with you if I share an observation of what I...I'm hearing? Mentioned that if the client says yes and then ask them to assign  meaning. So I noticed this. What how would you define this or what does this mean to you or how would what's a word you would use to describe this particular experience or situation? We learn a lot that way and then we can actually take that information, that word, that phrase, that explanation and we can remember that every time we interact with that particular client and we can use their vocabulary and how we speak to them. One of the most important lessons I learned while working in India, there's too many to count, really, but when I first started working for one of the largest clients I've worked with, the H.R. manager came to me and said, the best advice I can give to you right now is learn the language of the teams that you're working with. This will help you to get hired by them quicker. And we all know that in a corporate sense, the more you know their wordings, their jargon, their language, you put it into your resume, you put it into your interview, you put it into everyday corporate speak, you're going to rise up in the organization. So if you are a senior software developer and you want to be a manager, you start speaking like your manager and over time you will evolve into that position. So just like that, the more we learn to speak the language of our client, we relate to them quicker and easier. So they will resonate with us easier and build that trust quicker. Have you experienced something like this in your life? There are so many other aspects of this competency I can discuss, but all the competencies somewhat overlap, so I'll definitely be able to share more in more videos coming up. And I know between all this conversation, it's almost 20 minutes. So I appreciate you listening throughout this. I hope you found it useful and you found it something that you can actually practically think about when you're going to go into coaching.

 

[00:11:16] Let me turn off the screen here.

 

[00:11:20] So, again, I just want to end this by reminding you that, I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys. I do cross-cultural training and coaching. I do specialize in working with software development teams that work in India, that work with the U.S. clients.

 

[00:11:36] I do individual coaching, team coaching and training and consulting. In addition, I'm also running mastermind for a coaching competencies under the ICF and I'm happy to coach you or mentor coach you. 

 

January 24, 2021

CEFR: Self-Analyze Your English Language Skills

One of the ways we track your progress through our coaching and training programs is through the use of the CEFR self-assessment tool.

Take a look at the video below to help you understand how to use this tool to assess your language skills. 


How can I use the CEFR to to analyze my English level?


[00:00:01] This is Jennifer, I would like to walk you through and help you understand how to use the CEFR self-assessment language tool for training programs at Authentic Journeys. You will need to go through this document to self assess yourself as we start a program and as we go throughout the program and maybe at the end of the program, definitely at the beginning and the end. So let's take a deeper look at just the grid itself.


[00:00:30] What we have here are our language skills here along the left side, and we have our scores on the other top part here. Our levels, we could say levels or scores...


[00:00:44] Now, actually, before I get into this, you might be wondering what is CEFR? So, it stands for Central European Framework of Reference for language. And it was created specifically for professionals like you who are using English as a second, third or other language in a business environment.


[00:01:03] So let's take a look at these communication skills ... English language, communication skills, listening and reading, that's under understanding. That's pretty self-explanatory. Your listening comprehension and reading comprehension, then spoken interaction.


[00:01:22] Spoken interaction refers to the ability to actually hold, maintain and continue a conversation. Spoken production refers to just being able to speak in English. You can form sentences, you can say something in English. You might be able to give a presentation or deliver a status update.


[00:01:42] It's a situation where you're not having a conversation, but you're able to actually talk in English and writing is pretty self-explanatory as well. So the scores along the top A1 and A2 are are beginners.


[00:01:59] A1 is low beginner, A2 is high beginner. B1 low intermediate, B2 high intermediate, C1 low advanced and C2 is high advanced.


[00:02:15] And believe it or not, not all native speakers are C2 it can also depend on the topic that we're trying to listen to, read, talk about or write about.


[00:02:25] So what I want you to do is kind of you look at your skill on the left side. You read across until you feel ok... this this is where I'm at. So you just read across. You keep reaching across until you think, OK, that one's too hard for me. Like, let's say you get to B2 and you realize, oh, that B2 is too hard for me under listening, B1 one is good.


[00:02:46] So then what you have to do is you have to come to the Excel tracking sheet and you would put in your score at the start of the program. You can see where you would do that here under the yellow part. So you would if you were listening and your B1, you would put your score here at the start of the program. At the beginning of the program, you have to fill out these two columns. So you would put in B1 if you think listening is B1 for you and then you put in your desired score. Usually it would only go up by one or two points.


[00:03:26] So if we go back to this, the CFR grid, for example, what you can see here is that like if you pick a B1,  it's realistic that you could make it up to B2 in in two or three months.


[00:03:45] I've seen people progress to be able to do that, but going from B1 to C1 might be a bit of a challenge.


[00:03:52] But then some people look at it like, oh, if I put C1, then I'll definitely get to B2. So you can you can justify it in that direction as well. So I want you to actually analyze yourself on each of these and they they might not all be one. Like maybe listening is B1, but reading could be C1 for some people because you're really good at reading and then for spoken interaction, that might be a little lower because maybe having a conversation is a little more challenging than just producing English, maybe producing English some people might B2 and C1 and then writing skills for many people I train at or either had A2 or B1.


[00:04:34] So that actually goes to the question of what are the lowest scores or minimum scores, I should say, for... for you to have to be able to be successful in this program. So let me show you this. We go back to the goal tracker here. And if we go to the CEFR on your Goal Tracker Excel sheet, some of these are highlighted in red. So the ones that are highlighted in red are highlighted in red because of the fact that let me come back in here.


[00:05:12] The one highlighted in red refer to the the levels, the lowest level that you should be at at the start of the program for you to grasp what we are teaching in the program. But in some cases, I mean, even when we're looking at listening, if you're not a B1 one, if you're an A2, you're still... you still can be successful in the program if your other scores are kind of at or above the the red highlighted ones.


[00:05:46] So I hope this kind of helps you to understand how to use the CEFR,  self assessment tool.


[00:05:54] And let me actually come in here completely.


[00:05:57] If you have any questions, obviously you can reach out to me.


[00:06:00] I had hoped to create this video in less than two or three minutes, but there's a lot of details there. So do try to take some time to go through it. If... if you would like to do that, it's a really helpful tool. I've definitely seen people use this tool to their advantage to improve their language skills. And as you go through it and as we go through the programs that you are in with Authentic Journeys, if you have any questions about activities you can do to improve your language skills in listening, reading, writing, speaking, spoken production or spoken interaction, you can definitely ask me which of the activities in the training program map to those skills, or I can give you some activities to do outside of the scope of the program. You can do those on your own as well. So yeah, definitely go through that and let me know if you have any questions. So thanks for listening and looking forward to seeing the session. Bye.


Want to know how we can help your teams in India to propel your business with US Americans? We have worked with over 4,000 professionals from 50 companies in the subcontinent. See our completed projects lists and then get in touch with us for more information.

January 7, 2021

3 Tips to Speak Confidently in English in Virtual Meetings

Most likely, you're a non-native English speaker looking for strategies that you can apply to communicate more effectively with confidence in a virtual business environment, is that correct?

Well, I hope so, because you have come to the right place. I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys, and I'd like to share three strategies with you that you can apply today to communicate with more confidence and clarity in virtual business environments with native English speakers from any country. Although, I specialize in helping you work with your counterparts in the U.S. In this video, I'm going to talk about those three points. I'm going to list the points first, then I'm going to elaborate on each of the points, and then I'm going to summarize this video.


3 Tips to Speak Confidently in English in Virtual Meetings

  1. Prepare in advance
  2. Speak clearly and articulately 
  3. Breathe and listen
Watch and listen below. Follow the script underneath if you are getting used to the American Accent.



[00:00:58] Are you a service provider providing a service to a U.S. client? Well, this puts you in a very unique position because you can prepare more things in advance.

Strategy 1: Prepare in Advance
[00:01:14] You should be driving the engagement.

[00:01:16] You should be the one scheduling the meetings, sending the meeting invite, setting the agenda and coordinating and facilitating the discussion in the meetings. If you're not doing this as a service provider to a U.S. client, we can help you change that around because that will allow your team to set a better, more trusting relationship with your U.S. client. Now, let's say you're not a service provider or you're not coordinating a meeting, but you're just coming in to a meeting and you need to discuss points. You need to discuss your status update or some other information during that meeting. Well, regardless if you're the meeting facilitator or not, you can do a few other things to help you to prepare in advance.

[00:02:09] One is you do know some of the things you need to discuss. Take a few notes, write it down. In a virtual meeting, the good thing is nobody sees that you have any notes. See, I have some Post-it notes here. You can have your Post-it notes on the side. Nobody will even know. Also, beforehand you can practice by talking into your voice recorder and then listening back for your pacing. And- are you talking too fast or are you talking too slow? You can listen to yourself so you can be prepared. Now, when you have your Post-it notes or your notes around your laptop, on one hand, one side, you can put your... your outline like I have my three points today, prepare in advance, speak clearly and articulately and breathe and listen. I have it right here. Right. It's easy. I can't... I don't really have to memorize anything and nobody knows because we're in a virtual environment. So, hey, why not right? And then on the other side of your screen, you can list some words that you would like to try to insert into your conversation or into your talking points. You can also have another notepad ready to write down some phrases and words that are said by your native English speaking counterparts that you want to look up later.

[00:03:29] If you don't understand a word or phrase, the best thing to do is ...when it's your turn to speak, you can summarize what you have understood and then ask for clarity around what you missed. So you're not asking them to repeat anything nobody likes to be asked to repeat. So this is point number one to prepare in advance.

Strategy 2: Speak clearly and articulately 
[00:03:52] Number two is to speak clearly and articulately, like what I'm trying to do. We don't want to speak too fast and we don't want to speak too slow. Again, your recording device, what can you do? Write down a couple sentences and then try to see them at various speeds. 

For example, in my spare time, I like to go on hikes, walks and go swimming. That's pretty slow. We don't want to talk this slow. 

So then we take it that same sentence or a similar sentence and say a little bit faster. In my spare time, I like to go hiking, ride bikes and go for walks. Then we try to say it really fast. In my spare time, I like to go for walks, ride bikes and go swimming. I don't really like to talk that fast. That's really fast for me, although some people talk much faster.

[00:04:42] So then when you listen back, you can start kind of hearing your pacing, your speed and then you can try to slow yourself down. There are strategies to do that, which I can't really go into in depth in this video (check here). But, this strategy alone has helped some people by just recording and listening back or you can even just record your normal meetings, your voice, only because of confidentiality, obviously, and you can listen back to your own presentation voice, how does that sound? Then you can analyze it and try to tweak it and improve it for your next meeting.

[00:05:21] The basic thing is we're not telling you or suggesting that you have to get rid of an accent necessarily because everyone has one. I have an accent. You have an accent, right? Everyone has an accent. The the thing that we need to do is be able to communicate effectively. So we need to articulate clearly and we have to use the right vocabulary and we have to use our industry specific vocabulary to be taking... taken more seriously and with more authority. So that's the second point. To speak clearly and articulately.

Strategy 3: Breathe and Listen
[00:05:57] And, the last point is to breathe and listen, breathe and listen. What do I mean by that? Well, I'm breathing while I'm talking here.

[00:06:07] I'm not speaking too fast. We want to say only a certain amount of words in each breath. And we want to ensure that we're pacing based on the punctuation, as if we were writing out what we were saying. So where we have commas, where we have full stops or periods or exclamation marks or question marks, we're pausing at different lengths of time for each of these... these punctuation marks. Of course, I don't have to do any listening here because I'm the only one here in this particular video.

[00:06:39] But you want to listen. When I say breathe and listen, it's not just breathe before you talk or breathe while you talk. Breathe from your abdomen so you get that dampness of English when you speak the resonance in your voice, you don't want to speak from here because if you speak from here, you can then talk really fast is another way to try to speak fast that's why you really can't speak fast when I'm speaking from my abdomen, for example. But we want to really listen with intention when we.... when the others are speaking, when the native speakers of English, our colleagues are speaking, try not to worry about what we're going to say next or that we won't understand their accent. All of those thoughts actually get in the way of true listening. So I always suggest to stop talking and stop thinking, to listen better. And there's a lot of other awareness strategies we can envelope or wrap around that, but I don't have enough time to go into all of those during this video. Breathe and listen. Very important. You want to have your awareness up so that you can be ready to respond appropriately to what is actually being discussed. Because sometimes if we're thinking about other things, then what the person we are talking with is saying when it's our turn to talk, we suddenly, as we say in American English, are like a deer in headlights.. we are just stunned. We stop.

[00:08:09] It's OK to pause. A lot of people I coach say, hey, Jennifer, when I pause, does it sound like it's too long of a pause? Because... because native speakers just speak real fast. Native speakers have to take a pause sometimes, too, before they speak or while they're speaking to gather their thoughts. And most of the individuals I coach are intermediate to high level English learners. And most of the time their pauses are not too.....  they don't feel very out of place. It depends on how you're pacing yourself again. One way you can improve this is by listening to a lot of American English or North American English programs. I suggest radio. You can stream radio, especially U.S. morning time, morning radio programs. Why? Why this specific thing? Because it's unscripted. Most other things are scripted. TV shows are scripted, movies are scripted. Radio morning shows are not scripted. Yes, they will speak fast.

[00:09:18] But I suggested this to several professionals in Bangalore to do. Now,  anyone who knows about Bangalore, especially before the lockdowns, the traffic was horrendous. People would be stuck in traffic at a minimum of one hour to get to any place for going to work. So they would passively listen to these radio shows. Passive means just you're not really active. You're not really putting all your effort into listening to every single word. And that passive listening just two hours a day improved so many professionals' ability to listen to their Native American English speaking counterparts, sometimes by one hundred and fifty percent. I would I would be so impressed, not just in the understanding of what was being said, but other types of conversational interaction behaviors like when is it OK to interrupt or how do I know when it's my turn to talk? All of that was answered by passively listening to these radio shows.

[00:10:20] I know this video has become very long. So now I'm going to go into the summary in this session or this video. We've talked about the three points that you can apply to comfort more confidently communicate with your native English speaking counterparts, prepare in advance, speak clearly and articulately and breathe and listen. As I'm summarizing this, one more point I need to add that's really important is did you notice how I structured my presentation? I had an opening like an introduction where I told you about what I was going to talk about. And then I summarized the three points I was going to talk about and then I went into each point one by one.

[00:11:08] And then I went into the conclusion, this is how you should organize your presentations when working with North Americans. Every culture has their own approach to understanding how a message is delivered. With North Americans it has to be very linear where you have an introduction, you have your three main supporting points. If you have more than three, then you have to coordinate those under three main headers, just like what I did. If you were to actually write out the outline of what I had said, you would know that there are three main points, along with several supporting points under each of the three main headers. And then you have to wrap up your presentation with a conclusion.

[00:11:51] I hope this was helpful. If you'd like more information, you can get in touch with me through authenticjourneys.info. You can WhatsApp me. I have an India WhatsApp number plus nine one nine five three nine three four seven five two nine. And a U.S. phone number. You can call me on country code plus one three eight five two one eight zero nine four seven.

[00:12:20] Thank you so much for listening, especially if you've got all the way to the very end. I hope it can be in touch. See you later. Bye.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.