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Roger That!

The author talks about the importance of dialogue, understanding and the positivity surrounding it.

 A few months ago along my journey of corporate consultation, a German MNC in Pune approached me to orient their managers /team leaders on ‘How to conduct a flawless staff dialogue’. In other words, how to conduct an effective performance appraisal, such that it becomes more transformational than transactional. There was negativity harbouring and the CEO wanted to build an atmosphere of hope and optimism

     When I had a pre-workshop dialogue with the managers, there seemed to be a common theme of cynicism and irritation percolated in the air about this so called ‘staff dialogue’. As a beginning, I just looked around and took all of them for a round in their own company!

     As we trekked along the organizational setup, the finest landscaping and exotic water fountains greeted us in the gardens. It also had the best cafeteria, a state-of-the-art coffee bean vending machine, centrally air conditioned office, welfare centre, proactive administration, best pay packages etc. The list of facilities was exhaustive. Curiosity aroused, I inquired whether these managers had all these benefits in their previous organizations too and most of them answered in the negative. Yet, there was some sort of resentment which I found similar to what most of us do with our lives as well.

     Largely, we have practically most of the things to live a peaceful and happy life but instead of being grateful and enjoying to the fullest of what we have, we keep lamenting about and for what we don’t have, in the bargain we miss the moment of happiness. This leads me to speculate about our hope, optimism positive attitude? Are these on a downslide?

     After our tour of the organizational setup, we were back to the conference room. I experimented by charging the atmosphere with humour, sharing my own hilarious episodes of either receiving or conducting performance appraisals or the environment dramatically changed. I was acknowledging their issues but at the same time rephrasing it with positive words without altering the meanings and rephrasing it to them for approval and it seemed to work.

     Towards the closure, I asked them, What was ‘THE’ one thing that they liked during the interaction with me and it unanimously turned out to be the fact that, I was acknowledging their feelings and thoughts even though I may have disagreed with many of their opinions in principle.

     One of the managers said something which struck a chord deep within me. He was an ex-defence personnel and he stated that I was doing something similar to a sincere ‘Roger that’ and unknowingly it contributed in creating a atmosphere of hope and optimism which in turn diluted the resistance and thus made way for change, growth and development.

     Tracing back the word, ‘Roger’ was a ‘phonetic’ for the letter ‘R’ (and means received and understood). In radio communication, a ‘spelling alphabet’ (often mistakenly called a phonetic alphabet) is used to avoid confusion between similarly sounding letters. In the previously used US spelling alphabet, R was Roger, which in radio voice procedure means ‘received’.  Roger has remained the response meaning ‘received’ in radio voice procedure. In the US military, it is common to reply to another’s assertion with ‘Roger that’, meaning: ‘I agree’.

     Our meeting on ‘Staff Dialogue’ had now reached a level where spontaneity and creativity was flowing in abundance. The hesitation to share simply melted with the warmth of positivity and all of us closed the meeting on a very informative and positive note.

     On my way back, I started connecting dots of my past work experience to check for any co relation with the current one and Eureka! I could see come connect. In one of my previous assignments, the client wanted us to resolve the dropping customer satisfaction scores of their staff. I had met several end customers to sense the problem and enquired about “What is the one thing that they would like to hear when they visit the showrooms and their reply was they wanted to hear a genuine positive response ie ‘Roger that’. Indeed they all wanted to hear a ‘YES’ because whenever they visited the showroom with issues, problems which they had not heard emerged or the staff got into a hyper blame game, projecting the customer as the ultimate villain. We then spoke to the staff acknowledging their constraints and concerns which we jointly segregated.

     Looking back, we were unknowingly doing a ‘Roger that’ with them i.e. a timely nod to their concerns .We created a ‘YES team’ which would sincerely attempt to give ‘Swift, Superior and Smarter’ responses with a dash of energy and hope to the customers and the results were encouraging. Within 2 months, the scores on customer satisfaction survey scaled up and Customer service cost came down as the staff could resolve most of the problems within the available resources.

     I also recollected vividly how my wife used to get irritable about a hair dresser of a reputed beauty parlour in Panaji – one employee had a habit of saying instant ‘NO’ to most of things asked to him. We checked about this person with quite a few customers and they all disliked him even though technically he was good at the job. What bugged all of them was that he was not doing ‘Roger that’.

     Reflecting back on my personal life, I recollected several instances which endorsed the power of ‘Roger that’. My son Aumkar is obsessed with aeronautics. An avid collector of miniature aero models, he always has ‘Roger that’ in his lingo and uses it when he responds. Whenever I give him some advice, insight, he replies ‘Roger that’ and that moment would really make me feel happy and consequentially I could see things more clear and at several instances, I have deferred my decisions and advice. Soon I started mimicking him whenever he would share or ask me, I would also reply ‘Roger that’.

     Deep inside the word ‘Roger that’ lies the power of the word ‘YES’, look around and check out for yourself, ever one likes hearing it, when a Boss wants his subordinates to do something and he or she instantly say ‘Yes’ the mood changes drastically, the word ‘Roger that’ is indeed very  contagious and inspiring.

     I checked out on some researches and found there was a strong correlation between ‘Roger that’ and building a positive attitude or ‘hope’. Research states that 75% of job success is a function of the person’s happiness or optimism or positive approach to problem solving and 25% is a function of the person’s IQ. A person becomes happy when you hear him out, and acknowledge the feelings. Mind you, not necessarily you have to agree but the fear on the other side is that, if we hear or acknowledge, it would be presumed that we have agreed and hence we either avoid or negate and this builds resentment and negativity.

     The brain is significantly more efficient when it is happy and in this condition it increases and enhances ‘creativity’, ‘intelligence’, ‘energy levels’, ‘learning’ and the ‘ability to process information’.

     Indian culture conditions us to say ‘YES’ which we do more as a ritual or out of fear of consequences, hence it is important to understand the deeper meaning and timing of the word ‘Roger that’ which ultimately leads all of us to the state of happiness. Most of the time instead of a saying an affirmative ‘yes’ we end up saying a defensive ‘No’ and that disturbs others. ’Roger that’ is not an appeasement. It is an initial acknowledgment and empathy which eventually makes atmosphere for building a matured, cognitive state of mind thereby solving problems effectively alongside creating hope and optimism.

     To make it a lifelong habit of timely utterance of ‘Roger that’ needs conditioning of our brain, the laziest organ with infinite potential. Hence, it is important to understand ‘How our Brain works? (Refer to the diagram)

     The brain works more effectively and efficiently if it is supplied with 3 important factors – ‘Predisposition’ which means creating the right mood, then adding ‘Context’ which means a ‘Purpose’ and ‘Capacity’ which means regular application. ‘Roger that’ creates instantaneous hope, optimism and thereby lifts the mood i.e. ‘Predisposition’

     We hear tons of information on positive thinking but dismiss it too easily. It all seems like a brain wash or we are caught up in high decibel jargons through courtroom battles for demands like empowerment, decentralization, RTI and many more. I am in no way denying its importance, but why not look at simple, cost effective method which create instant hope, happiness and optimism which lead to more effective, efficient results?! Hence, without blinking your eyelid, take the first step in the direction of hope and say… ’Roger that’

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