Interview with expert Sotiris Karagiannis
Sotiris Karagiannis is a trainer at MDI with more than 20 years training and consulting experience in Greece, wider Balkans, and the Czech Republic. We talked to him, amongst other things, about the current situation of leadership development in Greece, the differences to Austria and the typical challenges in international training.
According to your opinion: What is currently the biggest challenge for an organization in Greece?
Sotiris: Undoubtedly, the future gave the prolonged financial recession that has resulted in shrinking household incomes, ambiguity, and pessimism. Also, heavy taxation and the lack of external financing raises high barriers to any Greek company that wants to grow in this turbulent environment.
How do you experience that Greek organizations view (international) leadership development at the moment?
Currently, the emphasis is on training the front line staff, mainly salespeople. This is understood since companies are currently more concerned about getting sales than training other staff in soft skills.
What are the differences between development measures (e.g. digital learning and training) in Greece and, for example, in Austria or Germany?
The difference to Austria or Germany is that digital learning is lagging behind. One reason could be attributed to cultural differences between the South and the West. In the South, communication is preferred to be face-to-face –or in general terms physical – than digital. There are hybrid programs though but the demand is not as high as in Austria or Germany.
What is the most important skill and what does it take to be an international training and development guide and can you tell us something about typical challenges and give us some tips?
I think the typical challenge is how to deal with different cultures. Hence, preparing for a training and development program on an international level should include getting familiar with the culture you are about to meet. In any case, working internationally is a great experience since you expose yourself to different habits and traits and that widens your own perspectives. This is especially important for leadership training and development since each culture may have a different understanding of what leadership really is.
International leadership development is a lot about intercultural awareness and empathy. For a training professional doing a module of a leadership program in Greece: What would you as an expert recommend? To what shall he/she pay special attention and what is important? What are your tips for success in order that the training is really beneficial for everyone?
Greece is a culture with still a high level of power distance and intolerance of ambiguity. People tend to follow their superiors’ orders or advice and there is little emphasis on assuming personal responsibility and taking initiative. Especially today, most employees ‘play it on the safe side’ and don’t take risks since the possibility of failure may have a serious impact on their future.
However, this must not be taken as characteristic of every Greek employee or company. It is wrong to generalize, so for a trainer knowing the culture of the company they would offer their services is absolutely necessary even at the development stage of a program, not to mention the delivery. Also, for a leadership program to be really successful, those who will attend it should have a very high level of awareness of where they personally are as leaders, before they lead others.
What do you think of the following: In times of unstoppable digitalisation – Are classroom trainings – which means face-to-face – still up-to-date or will they vanish soon?
I don’t think that it is possible to train people in soft skills by means of a digital program. It may be that the younger generations process information in a different way from the older ones but I cannot see how a digital training and development program can provide a high level of interaction as a face-to-face. I would see digitalization more as a great supplement to a soft skills training.
According to your opinion: What will be the biggest challenge for the training and development industry in the next 5 to 10 years?
There seems to be a need to boost people’s engagement levels more and to provide a working environment that promotes well-being and happiness. Also, raising the levels of the challenge at work is another necessary enrichment to ensure that people do what really excites them and they do not get bored. We have been talking a lot about fighting burn-out but boredom is another serious symptom we need to fight against if we want people to feel engaged and see a purpose in what they are doing
MDI trainer Sotiris Karagiannis has more than 20 years of training and consulting experience in Greece, wider Balkans, and the Czech Republic. Among others, one of his core competencies is leadership and organizational behavior. His personal passion is leadership, change and the pursuit of happiness. Originally from Greece, he currently lives in Prague, where he works as a trainer.
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