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Life Competencies for Growth and Success.

Life Competencies for Growth and Success by Devendra Agochiya, Sage Publication India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2018, Pages 413, Price 695/-

Training and development has been one of the busiest and most fruitful terrain for practitioners in people management. As organizations are increasingly focused on keeping their workforce updated with the latest technological advancements, training in people skills have also gained ground. Managers are realizing the importance of being well adept in understanding their colleagues, customers, other stakeholders, and subordinates, in order to smoothen the functioning of the firm and the larger ecosystem of stakeholders. The founding stone of such an understanding is the understanding of one's own self, its strengths and weaknesses, and its tendencies to generate some consistent patterns of behaviours in different business situations. Life competencies have been one of the popular topics in this context, as employees are looking for building skills in self-management and interpersonal interactions, to maintain one's balance and efficacy in the context of increasingly stressful workplaces, demanding stakeholders, and rising life and career aspirations.

Devendra Agochiya's book puts the limelight primarily in this area, as the author leads the readers to an understanding of the major life competencies that helps in achieving life goals. Agochiya is a known name in the training circles of India, having been the former Regional Director for Asia at the Commonwealth Secretariat. In the book, he provides the understanding of the key concepts that would be crucial for life-skill trainers to impart training to professional and non-professionals--attempting to cover both the theoretical premises of the concepts as well as practical ways to assess and enhance them.

What the book supremely excels in is its comprehensiveness. Through nine modules, the author provides the readers a thorough understanding of concepts such as interpersonal communication skill, empathy, problem solving, critical thinking, conflict management, and positive thinking. The approach is more academic than practice-oriented, as the competencies, their incidences, nuances, and outcomes are discussed in meticulous detail. The second major attraction are the tools that follow each module--ready-to-use self-report scales and exercises for trainers, along with detailed guides for their administration and debriefing. These are of considerable value for one on a lookout for training session activities, as well as for individual readers who wish to have an insight into their own competencies and weaknesses. The tools and exercises enrich the reading experience, and could emerge valuable additions to the library of trainers venturing into the domain of training on life competencies. The last section is entirely dedicated to designing and planning a training programme--the do's and the don'ts, building a session plan, techniques to promote participation, and effective use of training methods. Agochiya succinctly builds the blueprint of a training session, giving the readers, particularly present and future trainers, an immediate resource to communicate knowledge and build competencies.

The book, however, has some serious drawbacks that, interestingly, emerge from the same factors that are its strengths. In the attempt to build comprehensiveness, the text is voluminous. The content mostly tends to be monotonous--definitions followed by lengthy descriptions, painful absence of examples and anecdotes to illustrate points, and generic advices on behaviour improvement (such as 'step out of the comfort zone', 'surround yourself with positive people', and 'learn to be assertive')--that read more like an introductory textbook for undergraduates than a handbook for professionals. Use it as a textbook then? Even here the options are limited, as there are very few citations of seminal works or research data, making academic readers wonder if a chapter-long sermon is based on actual evidence-based insights, or is just the opinion of the author on the subject. The tools have a significant demerit in that there is little information on their source, validity, and robustness--making them interesting classroom icebreakers but hardly dependable for making life decisions. Further, almost all the tools are of an introspective nature, designed to make participants contemplate on their behaviour and its consequences. While useful to an extent, they mostly lack in an interactive element that create wonderful learning opportunities in a session. If the reader is on the lookout for experiential exercises for individuals or groups, which lead to impressive insights, this book is definitely not for him/her.

The Trainer's Manual is a sincere, dedicated, and wholehearted attempt, but probably misses the mark when it comes to catering to the targeted audience for the book--the trainers in organizations. A content fitted with illustrations, anecdotes, experiential exercises, and supporting scientific evidence for content would give the book the much-needed edge. A reader would look forward to that in the later editions.

Bishakha Majumdar

Assistant Professor, FORE School of Management, New Delhi.
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Author:Majumdar, Bishakha
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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