Reshma Abdullah: cracking the code at PIA
In January 2006, I attended a three-day workshop Essential Skills for Managers with Wali Zahid. It was a life-changing event. As part of the workshop, I also got my Team Management Profile from Australia. It was a rare insight into myself and since then I have been dodging psychometric tests!
This was the time I was working with NCR Corporation’s premium flagship project, Pakistan International Airlines Contact Center, managing the operations.
An acute sense of distrust towards public sector
It was my first experience of working with a public-sector organization and I had zero clue about the culture, norms and getting things done in a purely government organization. I came from a corporate environment and had an acute sense of distrust towards public-sector organizations. My own organization was progressive, fast and demanded highest level of integrity.
I was very aggressive; had very low tolerance for bureaucracy and wanted everything now! On top of all, being a female wasn’t of much help!
The secret to knowing secrets
During the course of three days I learnt so much. Starting from the icebreaker Wali so cleverly designed that by its end I was talking to all course mates and probably knew all their secrets too. Till writing of this piece I am reaping the rewards.
I can now flawlessly start a conversation with seasoned bureaucrats, CEOs, top guys, everyone in my own team, customers and potential employees. Sometimes, I don’t even say a word but get what I want! Most of the times I have full picture whereas people in the target organization have only bits and pieces.
Art of pacing
They just don’t know I have been trained by Wali in the ‘art of pacing’ around people and situations. I am proud of connecting all those dots which are invisible to others.
I am now apt at reading what others are not saying but silently conveying. It amazes me how I get things done which seem uphill and impossible but the pacing has become my reflex and has served me well. It has made me very confident and in someone’s words, a Smooth Operator. I still use ‘reverse-thinking’ technique which I learnt in this course and, yes, it always produced results.
On numerous occasions I have shared my learning with different teams though not as good as Wali but it has always brought out the best in trainees. The most fun comes from the reverse-thinking projects.
Wali walks the talk
Wali has been one of the few who just don’t only design and deliver training courses, he practically shows people how to, and himself uses the approaches and techniques. After the course, I have turned many times to Wali and he has been always very supportive and encouraging, very generously sharing materials, advice, suggestions.
What I learnt in the course, Wali was actually using that on all the trainees because he read me correctly, paced himself, connected with me and is still teaching me. He helped me bring out my real self and gave me the solid foundation of the confidence I had needed then and will always need.
The story doesn’t stop
The story doesn’t stop here. Later, I sent two of my lieutenants to Wali’s famous Train The Trainer (TTT). One of them had very good product knowledge, was a very good employee in all the sense but was not good at people management. Due to his product expertise I desperately needed to use him as a trainer and we were rescued by Wali. My colleague came back a changed man after Wali’s Train The Trainer. He became not only an ace trainer but produced several ace trainers.
Wali, a big thank-you for transforming me and my teams. Remember, I still want to attend your TTT just so I can show off!
Reshma Abdullah currently manages Pakistan International Airlines Global Contact Center, a fully outsourced facility to Teradata Pakistan (formerly a division of NCR Corporation). Her core area has been Customer Services Operations. Previously, she worked with several local and multinational organizations.