What is it like to work as an international training and development guide? What are the biggest challenges of our time for companies – in Bulgaria and in general? Diliana Docheva talked with us about international leadership development and gave us insights into the development field in her home country Bulgaria.
About the interview partner
Diliana Docheva, Ph.D is working as a facilitator, consultant, speaker and development guide for 25 years already. She is passionate about the need for ideas-age leadership and all topics connected, like strategy execution, innovation, redesign, engagement and much more. She believes that life should be an adventure and inspiration. Her role as a development guide helps her to live that because you never stop exploring and learning to help others, learn and develop. Her personal motto? If there is a way, I will find it. If not, I will create it.
“The royal crown is heavy” – why managers have to let go their personal control and involvement in every decision
What are currently – according to your opinion – the biggest challenges for organizations in Bulgaria?
Diliana: The common challenge is the control paradigm that often holds managers and organizations back. We have this saying in Bulgaria that goes “the royal crown is heavy” which implies that the person on top is to bear the burden of all responsibility, decisions, fire fighting etc. That leads to micromanaging and loss of effectiveness. For example, many companies still control work hours, instead of work productivity and goals achievement. Big, especially international companies, must overcome bureaucracy and start empowering people. There is no other way to be fast, innovative, and utilize the talents.
Some other companies, managed by their founders, face the challenge to transform their management. It is natural that is contra-intuitive and difficult for such founders whose entrepreneurial spirit and personal qualities led their companies to success. Just what brought you there is not enough to hold you there. They need to let go of their personal control and involvement in every decision and operation and need to adopt another role.
Organizations whose managers rightly use and organizational culture as a control mechanism and lever for results, are far ahead of others in attracting and retaining talents, engaging people and build loyal customers.
“Nice to have” or a strategic factor of success: How do you experience that organizations in Bulgaria view (international) leadership development at the moment and how will that be in the future?
The companies I was privileged to work with for decades are aware that this is a crucial success factor, so they seriously invested in that development. I foresee that soon, those companies will focus on developing leaders on every level, not just managerial level. The role of a team as an organizational structure is getting even more important.
I wish to believe that more and more managers will give up on “I know it all” attitude and will be more open to learn together with their teams and associates.
You are a trainer for many years already. According to your experience: are there any differences between development measures in Bulgaria and other countries in Europe?
For 25 years in fact. Frankly speaking, I do not name my colleagues and myself trainer but facilitator, guide or consultant 10 years already. The role is different. Our role changes from trainers to guides and helping minds. I’d not say there are significant differences just one that for sure applies to companies I work with. They would not go for ready-made solutions. They want tailored, even unique programs to address their unique challenges and opportunities and development needs of their people. Also, we are not quick to trust everything that comes from abroad, especially from the other side of the Atlantic.
Speaking the same language is not enough – what you need when working as an international training and development guide
What is most important when working on an international level? What skills does it take to be an international training and development guide?
Most important is to truly love this job as every time there is a new challenge. It is important to love, to learn and do your homework before every project no matter how well you know your subject. You must be very attentive and flexible. As well, you must be very mature as a trainer. I believe trainers have two independency levels to reach. First is to be independent of the natural need to have people to like us. I’ve seen many trainers entertaining participants to receive a good evaluation after the training. But we are there to help and teach, which often means to challenge the participants, to provoke, to ask difficult questions or to give straight feedback. The second level is to be independent of a training design. This is the maturity and skill to change the original design to meet the needs of the group.
What are the typical challenges when working on an international level? Can you think of any challenging situations you’ve experienced? What are your tips?
My tip is the saying “expect nothing (you are used to), experience everything with an open mind. The main challenge is remembering that knowing the language doesn’t mean knowing the culture. The thing is to understand people.
One very challenging situation was when I conducted a seminar in Ukraine in the Russian language. The program was designed in Germany and – for me personally – was very logical and practical, and I’ve delivered it successfully in other countries already. Soon after I started I had a feeling that I am losing the participants. I decided to stop and make a short funny exercise to figure out what is wrong. What came out was that the main concept on which the whole process in the program was based is absolutely not acceptable, even unthinkable in Ukraine. No chance to follow the program as designed. So, I had to redesign the whole program ad hog to supply them with the skills the company needed but in Ukrainian way.
“Knowing the language is not knowing the culture – the thing is to understand the people”
International leadership development is a lot about intercultural awareness and empathy. For a training professional doing a module of a leadership program in Bulgaria: To what shall he/she pay attention and what are your tips of success in order that the training is really beneficial for everyone?
It is important to design a dynamic interactive seminar with lots of activities and discussions. A certain way to lose people is to show hundreds of slides. We also love to discuss which makes the timing tricky. Often it is truly difficult to stop the discussions, so if a trainer runs out of time, I’d suggest shortening the presentation, not to stop a discussion. Do not expect participants to be on time really. If the topic is not interesting people leave the training mentally and do their own stuff. In fact, a couple of times I’ve witnessed people leaving physically a seminar, led by a foreign trainer when they are not engaged. Also, you should expect that dinner lasts for hours.
Development measures in times of digitalization
In times of the unstoppable digitalization – do you think that classroom trainings will vanish completely at some point and how do companies in Bulgaria cope with these changes?
Training yes, classroom no. For a long time already, many programs in Bulgaria are blended or e-learning. At the same time, despite participating in such programs, people need to get together, develop ideas, create, discuss and synergize. Ideas is the key word here. Knowledge and information are everywhere and readily available. Even without e-learning or blended learning programs, people could learn. Businesses need ideas to progress. We already don’t live in a knowledge but ideas-age.
When I started training business in Bulgaria in 1993 I think I was the first, I had to explain to prospects what “training” is. Most of them were hesitant to consider such service because their employees have university diplomas. Then there was a training boom. Now, my clients need provocation, room for new ideas, help to reinvent or renovate their businesses or solutions to the challenges they face. There are no ready-made solutions. There is an ocean of information, models, and tools and a need to help navigate through them.
Certain skills, for sure, will be needed and such training will be provided by internal trainers. That applies to “must skills” for a company or job. Beyond that to put everybody in the same training program to get the same competence set is a management of failure. The management of success is to develop the individual talents of every team member.
Which role does the digitalization in general play in Bulgaria? Is the country/its organizations “ready” – what do you notice?
As everywhere,digitalization speeds up everything, makes everything very transparent, processes more efficient and it also redefines some jobs of course. I think Bulgaria is very much advanced in the digitalization shift. Many businesses are already digital. Thankfully, this might be because of the generations of brilliant IT specialists we have, and successful start-ups who led the way. Technology has always been playing an important role in Bulgaria. Although many organizations are yet to align their management systems with digital reality.
According to your opinion: What will be the biggest challenge for the training & development industry in the next 5 to 10 years?
It is to move from WHAT knowledge to deliver to HOW people are to apply it to their specific situation and to WHY to do so. We also clearly see two trends. One is the increasing need for individual consultancy, not coaching but consultancy. The second is the need for projects aiming to transform the whole organization. So, both the challenge and development of our industry will be to align one-to-one services with massive programs for hundreds or thousands of associates. This will require lots of collaboration and teamwork among consultants. As the need for deep expertise in certain fields is evident as well, I am confident that we consultants will work in partner networks where every partner contributes her expertise and we benefit the synergy of collaboration. The age of big franchise-based companies with rigid programs is over.
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