I found this very helpful. It’s important to close the loop , firstly it kills the awkwardness between you and secondly allows you to still have a relationship with the other person.
What life has taught me.
In the process of thinking about my next topic I decided to rather tackle a life hack on what life has taught me. This title came to mind as I reflected on leadership and business lessons and how they appear to merge as ultimately they are human lessons and apply to us all whether we run businesses or are managing ourselves through them.
A few days ago I was on a Skype call with my mastermind group and it was our last call for the quarter. Each of us had grown considerably from where we were initially. The hurry we each once had had quietened down replaced by a deep focus and peace with the places we each found ourselves at.
The mastermind group had been started with the intention of helping us reach our individual dreams of success and it was by fortunate coincidence that we all desired to establish profitable business so from the onset our paths were aligned. Week in and week out we planned and fine-tuned our ideas celebrating the wins for each week. This process fuelled us even more awakening within each of us what felt like a sleeping giant. We became automated producing results in a very short space of time given that others in our positions took months even years to achieve a large part of those things.
Now looking back, we began sharing the lessons that we have learnt particularly those that we intend to apply going forward.
It appears that everyone has lessons that they have been taught by life (through the process of living), if we all took a moment to reflect on those lessons, we’d be better people, and perhaps the world might even be a slightly better place for it.
My top 5 of what life has taught me is inspired mostly by the books I’ve read or audio books I’ve listened to, the leaders I aspire to become like, those I model and most importantly my mastermind.
- Find yourself and understand who that is, you can’t be of value to anyone if you are not living your truth. It was in one of Oprah’s Master Class videos that Oprah said authentic power is when the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul. That is one lesson that has stayed with me. I understand now that everything will change yet in that turmoil let your soul guide you to who you are at that point and all will be well. Be true to who you are, always!
- Relationships are key:
The inner circle: One of the most important relationships you will build is one with members of your inner circle. These are people who you can trust to be honest with you at all times and not when it serves them. These people will also grow you emotionally and support your dreams. They are the people who will remain, choose them carefully as there needs to be commitment, reliability and perfect harmony in your relationship with them. To quote Napoleon Hill, “there are two characteristics of the Master Mind principle, one of which is economic in nature and the other psychic”. He goes on to say that “the economic advantages may be created by any person who surrounds himself with the advice, counsel, and personal cooperation of a group of people who are willing to lend him wholehearted aid, in a spirit of perfect harmony”.
The psychic phase of the Master Mind principle is much more abstract, Hill states that it is much more difficult to comprehend, because it has reference to the spiritual forces with which the human race, as a whole, is not well acquainted. “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.”
Communication: another key aspect of relationships is you cannot not have them and therefore you cannot not communicate. I learnt to always read the mood of the day with people because this will guide you how to approach them particularly if you need something from them. Added to this, providing feedback to others requires tact. And when you realise that you may have offended someone, always go back to close the loop which essentially takes away that awkward tension of leaving things on a bad note. This earns you respect and shows others that you are an adult.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”~ John Maxwell.
- Reflection is necessary
Most, if not all of us, are striving for something and we are prepared to keep going in pursuit of worthy goals without end. Sometimes till we deplete our last strength. This point is generally a good place to look back and take stock of where you come from, where you had expected to be and reconcile with yourself. It is here that you develop your sense of peace and find your flow. From personal experience I have found that reflection is a place where I rest my mind, it tends to create a sense of congruence within me and thus focus. When my mind is rested, my body is good to keep pursuing away. Wallace Wattles in the Science of being great said, “You are not developed by what you read but by what you think of what you read”. I interpret this as saying go through the various experiences then filter them and get a sense of your understanding of them then apply those lessons as you move forward.
- Energy doesn’t lie
John Maxwell in his book, The 21 Irrefutable laws of leadership speaks of the law of magnetism. To me this is the same as energy, and my understanding is that energy or vibes that people or situations send out to you, tend to be honest 90% of the time and we need to;
- Manage the energy we give off because others pick up that vibe AND
- Manage our energy because we attract whatever energy we give off
- Trust our intuition (gut feeling) about this energy because it’s your sub-conscious mind warning you. It speaks in whispers and tends to only speak once and then honours whatever decision you make
If you listen to any person considered a leader or influential you’ll note they speak about that small voice inside, others will say it’s God or even their inner self. What you call it is not important, it’s what you do when that voice speaks to you that matters. In the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the inner voice plays a big part in Santiago, the shepherd’s story. Don’t silence your inner voice and possibly miss your big moment.
- Success is a result of remaining with the problem a little longer than the next guy.
The simple lesson here is to keep going, it will be hard sometimes and most times you will appear to be going against the tide. You may slow down too but just don’t stop, don’t betray your vision. Remember Muhammad Ali’s “I will show you how great I am..I’m so mean I make medicine sick! ”
Watch video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm78J0JvtQA
I challenge you to list your top 5 things that life has taught you, I’m certain your list will be longer than that and that you’d be amazed by what you learn!
We ALWAYS know when others should step down from positions of leadership, yet when the person in question is us, there are often many conflicting thoughts.
From a personal perspective, I’ve recently had to have the same conversation with myself. This was after a friend pointed out that although I may have been feeling emotionally disengaged; I have to consider the possible damage this would cause to my legacy.
I suddenly felt the need to spend a fair amount of time considering why I am doing the things I do, what values and beliefs they symbolized and whether those beliefs I hold are still true.
In relaying my woes to my coach, she said I should consider the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) factor. In short, I need to figure out whether where I am still served me and how I can add value to myself as well as be of service to others.
Rob Asghar, in his Forbes article on knowing when to go, states that “there is a universal tendency among leaders to hurt their own cause by clinging to power.” He goes on to say – “George Washington’s greatest contribution to a young American nation wasn’t his strategic ability or his wartime fortitude but it was his insistence that, in order for America to be a viable democracy, it needed leaders who were willing to step aside.”
This sounds so poetic, yet somehow balancing this against the fear of a tarnished legacy I can see how it happens that great leaders stay long enough to see themselves become the “bad guys”.
It’s in acting from a negative place that this happens. Negativity is insidious, it permeates all the good we have done and before we know every single thing that we once did right and well becomes tainted.
I want to be remembered for the good things I’ve done. I want them to remember me for the passion and commitment I showed in the direction of the things that mattered to me. I care about people, I am obsessed with being an agent of change and I want to have made an eternal impression in the lives of others. I want to inspire them to make more of themselves than they ever thought was possible.
It was Nelson Mandela who said that “what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
That is my big why, my purpose, my dharma.
Now equipped with this awareness, I am able to conduct a self-analysis on a deeper, more meaningful level the outcome of which will enable me to remain relevant, create a new environment and in going about these things I would be growing both my knowledge base and my networks.
A few weeks ago I was honoured to get an invite to The Creative Council’s (TCC) breakfast event which was a review of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. From the review, my key take out was that the brands of the future are brands which are able to touch the hearts and minds of their consumers.
In short, they are brands with purpose. I recall one of the videos played at the breakfast with Jared Leto saying F$@k your advertising. To paraphrase, he says he wants to know that there is an organisation on the other side of the ad that cares about him and his reality. That was powerful for me.
In a world where consumers have access to information at their fingertips, they are no longer looking for you as organisation ABC to tell them which product or service is better purely from a jingle and a sexy girl or guy but they are looking at whether or not your company connects with them and where they come from.
TCC took us through a few advertisements which are doing just that, the Pantene ad campaign #Not Sorry and the Proctor and Gamble campaign called #Like A Girl. Organisations now have to become people experts and in a genuine way, they need to relate to the consumers of their products without treating them like idiots. This brings to mind the brightly coloured, patronising adverts used to relate to the black consumer group in South Africa.
The big advertising and marketing companies who presented at Cannes believe that through the use of neuroscience in advertising it enables an organisation, through advertising to change the perceptions of consumers because it’s when you change a perception that you can effectively control one’s reality.
This can be very scary for the consumer as essentially one would feel vulnerable and manipulated. In the same breath I’d say that people can only be fooled a limited number of times until they are onto you, thereafter they write you off…for good.
This brings me to the ordinary organisation, the one that’s too concerned with their brand key, and the demographics of the people who make the buying decision about their brand. This applies to that organisation too. They need to connect with their internal and external stakeholders in a similar way.
The focus is back on mission statements. In the book Built to Last the authors identify this as one of the separators of great long lasting businesses from the not so great. I always remember the TED Talk by Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action. This holds true in this instance as well. If I think of myself as a consumer of a vast number of products actively and passively, I am no longer buying into organisations that I don’t connect with. I want an organisation that speaks to my mind and heart at the same time.
I believe that consumer expectations are what’s dictating the future structure and policies of organisations, so as an organisation you can no longer afford to ignore them.
For more about the videos I mentioned please see:
Proctor & Gamble Like a girl campaign:
Pantene Not sorry campaign:
Simon Sinek How great leaders inspire action:
We cannot afford to not communicate, it’s just not possible!
I have recently found that I need a refresher on communicating skilfully. The reason for this is that when I’ve been under intense pressure, I tended to withdraw instead of confronting matters head–on.
My coach and I recently addressed this challenge, she advised me to ensure that when I get that feeling to withdraw I need take that as a signal to communicate and be open about what is giving me discomfort this then sets the other person free. For example, I arrived at work one day and found one of my colleagues upset that I had given an instruction to my subordinates to execute on a task which has never been within their set roles. This was not true of course; in fact it was a complete misunderstanding.
I had just stepped into my office and she was already on the attack, I could tell she had been stewing on this for a while and had concluded that I was wrong and had to be set straight. Her abrasive manner did not go down well with me and I was very brisk with her which in retrospect didn’t really make things any easier.
My coach had told me to, when I’d calmed down, to go back to my colleague and set the record straight then say that I would appreciate it if she directed my staff to me if they ever came to her with problems or complaints about their work. In addition she said, I should then arrange to go out for coffee and then iron out any other challenges I may have had with this individual in the past. She called this closing the loop (this is my favourite part). Closing the loop is effectively making sure that the air doesn’t remain uncomfortable. It’s the conversation where I would say “when you do …, it makes me feel… “. Then the hardest thing is allowing the other person to do the same. To close if off, you then come up with suggestions on how you can both move forward, this is also known as a win-win situation.
I have always sort of used my boss as my shield against difficult people and especially those whom I couldn’t afford a fall-out with. They, according to me, are influential and whatever they say in the organisation is taken as the truth and it influences how you are perceived by those who don’t know you well. What I didn’t realise is, conflict is inevitable and those who take charge of the situation, not through strong opinions, but by ensuring that the relationship is not a casualty, are the ones who grow and get respect. That for me was so powerful.
Similarly, I have found that the above principle applies when one is a business leader or business owner. When big things such as reputational damage or you find yourself in an unfavourable business climate, it’s so easy to hide away and hope it all goes away. However, this is not the best solution at all.
Leading people is about ensuring that you bring everyone along with you. During adversity is normally the time when you need to communicate the most with those you lead; perhaps you can’t share the facts entirely but say something to make them understand what is happening to them, to the company and what does it mean for them. They invest in the company each day through the work and time they deliver to you, and you should show them value.
It’s in The complete guide to understanding and using Neuro Linguistic Programming by Barbara Gibson that she advises we cannot, not communicate. This is true and even when we aren’t saying anything at all, we have communicated.
In closing, it’s important that this is done in a responsible manner. You need to understand that whoever you communicate with trusts you at some level , so be clear that everyone is aware of your intent and ensure that you are congruent i.e. what you say is aligned with what you do.
In a world of quirky start-ups, disruptive technologies and businesses like Facebook, Twitter, Apple and their kind, more and more businesses are beginning to question whether taking the traditional route with regard to innovation is best. We see more amateurs breaking the mould and creating new realities for us thus surpassing a lot of the traditional organisations in the game.
Innovation for me means putting skin in the game, the newbies’ new ways of doing things is earning them respect on the market. It appears that organisations of the future are the ones that are not shy to innovate. In a single sentence, innovate or get pushed out.
I am a member of an organisation which prides itself on its heritage and traditions. It has outlived most of its founders and remains an institutional reminder of where we come from as a society.
As a result of this tradition it’s a dinosaur to its younger members who feel frustrated by the bureaucracy. Getting simple things to change to a large extent takes an entire term of office and by the time that one thing is dealt with the world has changed once again and that matter is no longer relevant. Bureaucracy creates a maddening inertia for those who need to follow it in organisations. The perception it creates is one of arrogance.
In many conversations with my good friend about this, we have agreed that organisations are no longer respected for their past alone. They are respected for what they bring to the market and the way in which they offer utility to the consumers of their products.
In the decision between tradition and innovation, the question is how to keep the good parts of the old and when to begin using the great parts of the new. By definition, a tradition is a long standing custom or belief that is passed from generation to generation. Whilst an innovation is a new method or idea that makes changes in something established. With that said, the disruption suggested by innovation requires a tolerance for failure and a willingness to be misunderstood, qualities that many large companies find hard to master.
In the book Built to Last the authors discuss clock building versus time telling. In this chapter they define clock builders as organisations that are pace setters and time tellers on the other hand are those that stay the same, they follow the trends and never seem to lead consumers into new exciting spaces.
The need to stretch and grow and wake up to the reality of where you really are as an organisation is critical. Many a time we institutionalise our operations, forgetting the principle of continuous improvement. Operations just like competitive advantage are not fixed and should be adapted to the times.
My simple plea is, change something, anything!
We are living in a time where we are seeing a dramatic shift in the ways of doing business which are shaping the future of global business forever.
Life, you can’t subdue me because I refuse to take your discipline too seriously. When you try to hurt me, I laugh — and the laughter knows no pain. I appreciate your joys wherever I find them; your sorrows neither frighten nor discourage me, for there is laughter in my soul.
Temporary defeat does not make me sad. I simply set music to the words of defeat and turn it into a song. Your tears are not for me, for I like laughter much better, and because I like it, I use it as a substitute for grief and sorrow and pain and disappointment.
Life, you are a fickle trickster — don’t deny it. You slipped the emotion of love into my heart so that you might use it as a thorn with which to prick my soul — but I learned to dodge your trap with laughter. You tried to lure me with the desire for gold, but I have fooled you by following the trail which leads to knowledge instead. You induced me to build beautiful friendships — then converted my friends to enemies so you may harden my heart, but I sidestepped your figure on this by laughing off your attempts and selecting new friends in my own way.
You caused men to cheat me at trade so I will become distrustful, but I won again because I possess one precious asset which no man can steal — it is the power to think my own thoughts and to be myself. You threaten me with death, but to me death is nothing worse than a long peaceful sleep, and sleep is the sweetest of human experiences — excepting laughter. You build a fire of hope in my heart, then sprinkle water on the flames, but I can go you one better by rekindling the fire — and I laugh at you once more.
You have nothing that can lure me away from laughter, and you are powerless to scare me into submission. To a life of laughter, then, I raise my cup of cheer!
Empowerment in an era of transformation in a South African context was when we first encountered the term Black Economic Empowerment, which although was intended to redress imbalances made by the previous government in exclusion of a large representation of the country’s population from economic activities. The unintended consequences were that only a handful of people were empowered and the majority remained side-lined.
The topic speaks of empowerment beyond transformation; my understanding of it is the sustainable empowerment of South Africans where we look to creating more than just transactional relationships with our customers or clients (which for the purpose of this topic I will use interchangeably). A typical example of this is the issue of responding to tenders as a business.
The concept of tendering of course is not wrong; however there are other ways of developing business such as prospecting. I believe it is very important that small businesses understand the different levels of the relationship continuum so they can manage these relationships better. For instance you need to nurture your relationships with clients and manage them closely where annually you would look to progressively grow an existing account from transactional to collaborative and eventually to an alliance. This will require a lot of time from you as the entrepreneur who by assumption is the sole employee in the business. You’d need to consider training someone else to take on some of your less urgent responsibilities as your business grows.
No company arrives at the top alone. I support this statement; each company relies on a network of business relationships in order to succeed. According to the South African Supplier Diversity Council, where small businesses have an advantage over their larger counterparts is on their ability to make their operations flexible. They also state that a healthy supply chain needs to include and develop small businesses; entities that help it react to changing market conditions.
The theme then speaks to the concept of wealth creation. By extension it implies that one is keen on making their business built to last.
Let’s look at B-BBEE and transformation. I am not a practitioner on the subject however; my reasonable working knowledge on the subject is what I will share.
In a recent B-BBEE booklet by Werksmans Attorneys, it is noted that important amendments have been proposed to the B-BBEE Act and Codes. These amendments are a powerful expression of the Government’s intention to promote and implement B-BBEE. In my understanding this is more so particularly where small enterprises are concerned. The government is looking to give companies considered EMEs (exempt micro enterprises) and QSE (qualifying small enterprises) opportunities to get into the supply chains of bigger businesses therefore growing them into big business via skills development and of course supplier development initiatives under the preferential procurement act. SME is a label that denotes a phase that your company is in and by extension implies that it will move to the next phase of development. I would urge you to get a copy of this booklet by Werksmans, because I know that corporates don’t always have SMEs in their databases so they are looking especially now with the development of SMEs as one of their priority areas where B-BBEE is concerned. It makes it even better when you are prospecting, now you can call Mr Procter and Gamble for instance and ask to find out what opportunities exist for your company as far as their supplier and enterprise development is concerned.
The next part of my topic is on wealth creation. In a book called Built To Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the authors investigate what it is that has made “visionary” companies such as Ford, Johnson & Johnson and Procter and Gamble outlast their competitors? All of these companies were established before the 1950s. All of them outlived the Second World War and the depression and have seen several stock market crashes. These companies have lived to see the fall of the Soviet Union and the other side of the dot.com bug not to mention the abolishment of Apartheid and many an African nation’s independence.
Robert Kiyosaki put it aptly in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad when he said “the rich have lots of money but the wealthy don’t worry about money.” He went on to explain the difference between wealth and riches. He stated that the definition of wealth is the number of days you can survive without physically working (or anyone in your household physically working) and still maintain your standard of living.
“Wealth”, he said,” is measured in time.”
In order for you to begin turning your small business into these wealthy giants that I mentioned earlier here are a few lessons that you need to consider;
- It doesn’t always take a great idea to start a great company. When you’re starting out, it takes a while for your business to start, you may change your vision of it several times and that’s okay. Remember it’s meant to evolve. The more time you spend fine tuning it the better in the long run and even then it will continue to grow.
- The leaders of the business are pace setters. The leaders should fit into the company and not the company fitting into the leader particularly where values are concerned. Consider that you’re building a company that will outlive its leaders. And on the subject of leaders, it’s important to note that the culture and values are determined by the leader, in spite of whatever you may say your values are on paper. Those who work with you are not blind after all and they will do what you as their leaders do not necessarily what you say.
- Build the relationships first then the profits will come. It’s not an easy thing to hear when you’re struggling to make this work. However invest in your relationships. Many small businesses are out there doing half-hearted jobs and chasing the next big pay cheque at the expense of their reputations and at the risk of losing out on repeat business.
- Innovate; the book Built to last says the only constant is change. The authors state that a visionary company almost religiously preserves its core ideology – changing it seldom if ever. Yet while keeping their core ideologies tightly fixed, visionary companies display a powerful drive for progress that enables them to change and adapt without compromising their cherished core ideals.
- The focus on beating the competition: competitors don’t sit at our boardrooms with us or in our strategic planning meetings yet we put so much focus on them. Beating the competitor should be as result of continuous improvement. Always ask yourself “How can we improve ourselves to do better tomorrow than we did today?” I call it showing up differently.
- Become a clock builder instead of a time teller. An organisation with a strong cult – like culture that transcends dependence on the original visionary founders. Employees will need a motive, in the book reference is made to the conflict in Israel stating that “Unlike most nations, Israelis actually have an enduring purpose that is known by every Israeli and that is to provide a secure place on Earth for the Jewish people.”
My fascination with entrepreneurship began when I was a little girl. My dad ran his own businesses, mainly retail. He had spaza shops (small convenience stores in the township) and supermarkets. He sold clothes from the boot of his car and at some point had taxis.
I used to be that child in the store helping at the till, then in the late afternoons I’d count the daily takings and go with him to deposit them at the bank.
In school, I sold cake slices, then samosas, then fat cakes with mince in winter. As a young adult I made and sold T-shirts for a while then together with a friend started a women’s network.
What I’m getting at is, this entrepreneurship thing is mystical at times yet it appears so many of us are curious about it and earnestly want to pursue it. Wouldn’t it be better if from primary school, children were taught how to become entrepreneurs? Imagine the mind shift in our society.
Timothy Ferris a serial entrepreneur and author of the 4hour work week, states in his book that there is a new subculture of people in the world who have figured out that the 9-5 grindstone doesn’t really fire up their imaginations to any great degree. Instead, he says, they organize their lives and follow a set of uncommon rules which typically allow them to work less than four hours a week but earn more in a month than most people do in a year.
This is incredible! I’m certain many would immediately redirect the course of their lives if they knew better. If we all could just tap into this new subculture.
In essence he’s supposing that one should live by design. Meaning we have been taught one model or structure of living and that is; going to school and then getting work thereafter. At work we work studiously and in time get a promotion. At the end of your tenure, you receive a ring or watch to thank you for the time that you have invested in company XYZ. Then you finally get to doing the things you’ve always wanted to do.
Living by design says don’t postpone the life you want to live, instead of living by default and constantly reacting to life. For me, entrepreneurship provides that opportunity.
According to Timothy Ferris the 10 basic rules of pursuing the lifestyle of this new subculture are:
1. Think of retirement as a worst-case scenario – and not the goal of your entire career. By all means plan for your retirement as a fall-back position but plan on living life to the full in the meantime.
2. Remember interest and energy are cyclical – so you should break periods of intense commercial activity with “mini-retirements” where you go off and recharge your batteries. Work only when you’ll be most effective, not when you’re jaded and washed out.
3. It’s not lazy to do less work – if you’re focusing on doing the most productive things. Find workable ways to spend less time in the office but actually achieve more. Focus more effort on being productive and less on being busy.
4. The timing is never right to quit your job and start working for yourself – so plunge into it now rather than waiting until the planets are aligned. Replace “someday” with “today”.
5. It’s always much more fun to ask for forgiveness rather than asking for permission – so plunge into things with enthusiasm. Get good at being a troublemaker but be prepared to say sorry if you really screw things up.
6. Find ways to emphasize your strengths – rather than trying to fix your weaknesses. Focus on using your best tools wisely rather than attempting to repair what doesn’t work.
7. Remember it’s possible to have too much of a good thing – so plan on using your free time wisely rather than sitting around and doing nothing. Do what you want to do as opposed to doing what you feel obligated to do.
8. Remember money alone is rarely the solution – so never use it as a scapegoat. Instead of saying “I’d do that if I had more money”, create a life of enjoyment right now. Pursuing more and more money just for the sake of having more becomes a pointless illusion at some stage. Live the life you want.
9. Learn how to differentiate between “absolute” and “relative” income – and focus on making more money for each hour you choose to work. Absolute income is the number of dollars involved. Relative income combines how much you earn with how long it takes you to earn that money. As long as you have enough absolute income to cover your expenses, always think in terms of increasing your relative income. The only way to achieve that is to make more for each hour you choose to work rather than working more hours.
10. Take advantage of “positive stress” or eustress – the kind of stress which acts as a stimulus for worthwhile growth. While negative stress can be destructive and cause health problems, positive stress to realize your dreams can be helpful and beneficial. Since you won’t make progress without it, the more eustress you create, the better. One way to do this is to focus on emulating role models who epitomize what you’re trying to achieve yourself.
Go out there and live the life that’s enjoyable to you and that moves you to action at every moment.