Sunday, May 19, 2024
HomeCAREERSTalking with Raluca Paduraru, before SMART HR

Talking with Raluca Paduraru, before SMART HR

Raluca Paduraru, with a professional background spanning various industries, from financial services to telecommunications, stands out as an innovative leader and driving force behind transformative growth and change in the business world. Specializing in leadership, customer care, and business development, Raluca brings a unique and deeply effective approach to leading learning and development culture in organizations.

In times of uncertainty, Raluca emphasizes the necessity of mental agility, effective communication, and data-driven decision-making, essential skills for HR leaders. She focuses on cultivating these abilities within teams through training, experiential development, and mentoring, thus encouraging adaptability, transparency, and the ability to navigate changes with confidence and efficiency.

C&B: How do you approach personalizing the learning process within the organizations you advise, and what impact do you consider this to have on individual growth and organizational success?

Raluca Paduraru: Development or learning programs implemented without being personalized to the needs of people within the organization are doomed to fail. We live in a privileged era in terms of access to information, and anyone who wishes to learn about a certain subject can do so at any time, with minimal effort. That’s why I don’t deliver preconceived programs, but always tailor everything to the organizational culture, team experience, and expertise, but especially to the real issues they face in their daily activities.

Thus, it is very important for me to start with a needs analysis, from which concrete aspects that could be improved, the gaps that need to be addressed, and how the program’s success will be reflected in results. Usually, in this stage, I address many questions, learn about specific examples people encounter daily, and discover exactly those situations that make their work more difficult. Subsequently, I adapt the program accordingly and openly address all these issues during the training sessions to find concrete, immediately applicable solutions.

And in my experience, I’ve noticed that people respond very well to this approach and become much more engaged in the learning program as well as in their work.

C&B: What are your preferred methods and techniques for encouraging and fostering a growth mindset among teams?

Raluca Paduraru: A healthy growth mindset usually emerges in those organizations or teams where mistakes are not seen as failures but as learning opportunities. It is very important for people to feel that they can experiment, test, and pilot certain solutions without fearing that if they don’t achieve full success, they will suffer consequences such as a smaller bonus (or none), or other formal and informal repercussions.

At the same time, I encourage all managers to have open discussions with their team members and to use one-to-one sessions not only for classic feedback but also to encourage them to grow, develop, and co-create solutions. Unfortunately, when we are in an environment where we feel fear or uncertainty, we stop being creative and most of the time, we plateau and prefer to go the beaten path – a path that is easy and convenient, but is also a dead end for any non-standard initiative.

Another principle that has helped me a lot when I was a manager in organizations was “catch them doing something right.” Managers are used to always coming and correcting certain behaviors, but very few allocate time and space to discover what people are doing well and very well. Of course, corrective feedback is useful, but at least as important is to surprise people with this type of feedback, which shows them their internal resources, which are those activities they do at a master level, and especially how they can take that mastery into other activities or projects.

I believe it is very important for every people manager to understand that their success is measured by the success of the people in the team they lead. And if those people don’t develop, this is a reflection of their leadership style.

C&B: How would you ensure that learning and development initiatives are aligned with the company’s strategic objectives?

Raluca Paduraru: A learning or development initiative that is conceived outside of strategic objectives will always have a reduced impact on the organization. And it is absolutely normal to be so! It’s pointless for me to deliver the best customer communication course in Romania if that particular organization doesn’t consider the customer experience area a strategic pillar and doesn’t designate clear objectives in this regard. Because after delivering the course, people will return to their daily activities, perhaps even try to apply 1-2 of the discussed principles, and then realize that this doesn’t bring them any benefit, but may even slightly decrease their productivity initially, which draws attention from the leader. Similarly, if people don’t receive a set of objectives or KPIs against which their progress is measured, they won’t know if they’re doing well, applying the discussed techniques correctly, or if there’s room for improvement. So how can that organization tell if the implemented program was beneficial or not?

From my perspective, to avoid these situations, it is useful in the needs analysis stage to discuss this aspect in detail: what results does the organization expect from that program? What are the objectives they set for themselves? And if there are no clear (or similar, from one role to another) answers to these questions, I use coaching techniques to clarify and nuance the answers so that we can measure the program’s success, but especially the success of the people.

My favorite question in such an endeavor is: “What will become possible for you after delivering this program?” Once we clarify this answer, the objectives and KPIs are just a step away.

C&B: In what ways do you promote an environment that encourages experimentation and calculated risk-taking? How do you manage and recognize employees’ learning efforts?

Raluca Paduraru: In my leadership experience, I often discussed this with my teams. And I always told them that I prefer to try something new rather than execute perfectly something we’ve been doing daily for years.

We frequently held brainstorming sessions where we started with the premise that there are no bad ideas. Later, of course, the premise refined, and the ideas brought became more and more suited to our needs. However, what I believe always made the difference was that no one on the team issued value judgments, no one sought personal salvation; we were all simply one entity working towards solving a common problem.

At the same time, I know it’s very challenging for many managers to find time for monthly one-to-one sessions, but without this continuous communication where there’s freedom to provide feedback from both sides, it’s very difficult to convince someone that it’s okay to try any crazy idea they have, regardless of how well they can calculate potential return on investment. Most of us fear failure, judgments from others, and without this constant reinforcement, I don’t think we can truly experiment.

C&B: What strategies would you recommend for developing mental agility and effective communication skills among HR leaders and teams?

Raluca Paduraru: Like any skill we develop, mental agility and communication skills require a lot of practice. Constant and consistent practice, with a clear analysis of what’s going well and what could go even better.

Certainly, I encourage participation in courses and events discussing the targeted subject because they’re vital in the learning process and assimilating new knowledge. However, what makes the difference is exposure to new and complex situations that short-circuit this process and amplify it. There are many studies showing that the fastest learning method for the human brain is mentally replaying those key moments when we were exposed to using that skill and analyzing them in the smallest detail. That is, we look at what we did, see how it worked, and identify those levers that could have made our lives a little easier. And the next time we experience such exposure, test what we set out to do, then analyze again, and so on.

It’s an incremental improvement process that works excellently, with two conditions: first – allow yourself not to get it perfect the first time, or the second or the third; and the second condition – don’t give up the race just because it didn’t turn out as you planned. My mantra is: Perseverance beats resistance.

C&B: How do you encourage adaptability and transparency within the team, especially in times of uncertainty or major change?

Raluca Paduraru: I firmly believe that adaptability without transparency is quite difficult – how can a team adapt to an event they don’t know is going to happen?

You can’t expect performance from a team working without understanding where they’re heading – it’s like, in a marathon, not telling the participants the distance they have to cover or where the finish line is, and expecting them to run the 18th kilometer with the same aplomb as they did the first kilometer.

Part of the leadership role is to ensure constantly that people have all the information they need to perform and deliver success after success. And this is true for both happy situations, where we adapt to market growth or industry boom, and unhappy situations, where the company may undergo organizational restructuring.

These kinds of things are discussed, willingly or not, in breaks in a completely out-of-control format, where some rumors take on proportions and meanings amplified compared to reality due to the lack of leadership communication on that subject. There are dozens of examples just from the past year where exactly this happened, and even ended up with fatalistic articles in the press following employees’ testimonies on various social networks.

So I ask: would you prefer to have a disoriented team that doesn’t know its destination but speculates about it in the darkest scenarios? Or would you prefer a team motivated by the trust you give them, fighting to successfully complete the marathon?

C&B: You’ll be delivering a presentation at the SMART HR event. Can you tell us why you think people should attend this event?

Raluca Paduraru: I can’t wait to participate in Gabriela’s event; it will undoubtedly be an incredible experience for all participants!

I can think of dozens of reasons why attending the event is a must. First and foremost, the topics covered are extremely relevant, there will be many engaging workshops that will leave attendees with plenty of “aha” moments. The speakers are absolutely sensational, and both they and the interactive sessions will truly help participants find clear and concrete solutions to many of the daily challenges they face. And the energy of the event is impressive, bringing together the best HR specialists and focusing on sharing experiences. See you there!



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