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We recently hosted a fireside discussion with world renowned experts on contingency workforce solutions in a post COVID world.

 Experts Maurice Benz (Novartis) & Scott Wilson (Aventi) joins Georgina Barrick (Network Contracting Solutions) in discussing the wave of change in staffing solutions due to the COVID pandemic. If you missed it, watch the video below. 

 


Tyla Pieterse8/18/2021 10:21 AMThought Leadership0 
  

puzzle-pieces-with-word-change-P785TN5.JPGAuthor: Georgina Barrick 

In South Africa, we've just passed the 500-day mark into a pandemic (and ensuing lockdown of various levels) that has fundamentally shifted how we, as human beings, live, work, school our children, shop, entertain and interact with the world around us.

While we may have initially hoped that the disruption caused by hard lockdown would be momentary, we have to accept that some of the things that we thought would only be temporary changes and adaptations to lockdown are now here to stay.

 

Our lives have changed and so has the world of work. There is no longer talk of 'when things go back to normal' as we now understand that there is no going back to the way we were.

While these radical, dynamic and ongoing changes create daily challenges for leadership, it's also true that they present unique opportunities to reset, recalibrate and move forward.

As Darwin is quoted as saying: 'It's never the strongest of the species that survive, but rather the most adaptable to change.' Resilient and change-fit leaders will emerge victorious and those trying to turn back the clock to the way that things were will undoubtedly flounder.

 

What disruptive leadership trends will emerge as a result of this accelerated change? How do we ensure that we're challenged (and not overwhelmed) by these changes and that we emerge successful, thriving and able to capitalise on the opportunities that they present?

 

Trend 1: A Hybrid Work Model as the 'New Usual':

2020's remote work is slowly being replaced by a hybrid home/ office work model that represents the best of both worlds. But challenges remain for leaders, particularly in accepting hybrid as the 'new norm' and not just as an easy stopgap solution.

To make hybrid really work, the first step is for leaders to set clear, consistent boundaries that apply to all in order to avoid inequality, exclusion or unconscious bias.

Work also needs to be done on building (and embedding) the right culture for hybrid teams. A culture that uses technology and positive internal communication to align all team members and bring them together, irrespective of where they may be based.

Finally, thought needs to go into creating 'pull factors' for office space. How can leaders encourage social interaction and active engagement so that time spent in-office is about collaboration on team-based projects, while solo tasks that require more introspection or quiet time are done at home?

Ultimately, hybrid work is about holding people accountable, without the need to micromanage.

 

Trend 2: The Shift Towards a Flatter Organisational Structure:

Spurred on by how technology has improved information flow, more companies are adopting flatter organisational structures and are enjoying the benefits of lower operational costs, improved communication and increased motivation.

The role of the leader is also changing. The idea of a 'hero leader' who holds all expertise and single-handedly leads the company is outdated. Successful leaders of the future are collaborative, agile, adaptable and, instead of leading from the front, they believe that their role is to articulate vision and inspire their teams to achieve.

 

Trend 3: The Rise of Continuous Development (for All)

Post-COVID, ongoing and rapid change, evolving technology and ever-increasing information will make continuous development a must, not only to outsmart the competition but also to fill inevitable skills gaps. To be properly agile and adaptable, we need to gear continuous learning towards the right blend of hard and soft skills, developing traditional left-brained thinking (quantitative analysis and logic), while supporting and promoting right-brained thinking (like design, creativity and empathy). To succeed, we will need people who view the world differently and can see what others can't imagine.

 

Trend 4: Be Prepared for High Employee Turnover:

Short term, we need to brace for high turnover.

As the pandemic wanes, pent up lag in the system will see many people quit, move jobs or emigrate.

Events of the past 18 months have forced us all to rethink our futures – from what we want to do, to where we want to live and how we want to live our lives. In South Africa, the added worry of recent unrest is going to push some of our brightest talent to seek out opportunities offshore as the world reopens.

It's vital that we start to think outside the box about talent. From how we can nurture our teams and make them feel valued right now to changing our thinking about how (and from where) we access talent. As an example, changing cities or countries doesn't have to mean changing jobs.

 

Trend 5: The Importance of a Non-Permanent Workforce

As turnover rises and the skills gap widens further, non-permanent workforces will become central to company talent strategies. Specialists who are able to deliver on short-term projects, deal with the issues of today or supplement talent gaps (outside of the traditional permanent payroll) are in demand.

Recently, we have seen an increase in requests from offshore companies looking to set up contracting teams in South Africa to deliver on global projects. We predict that the need for 'on-demand' talent will continue to rise over coming years as some companies expect that up to 40% of their total workforce could be non-permanent.   

 

Trend 6: A Sustainable Pace is Non-Negotiable:

The hard truth is that the relentless challenges of the past 18 months have worn us all down. 

We've all had to gear up to cope and steer our business' through recent storms, working long hours at a brutal pace. And, in the post-pandemic world, things are likely to be unstable and unpredictable for a while yet. Leading through a prolonged crisis is exhausting.

 

Time off isn't really going to take the edge of pandemic stress. The only real long-term cure for an unsustainable pace is to create a sustainable pace. This means picking projects carefully, mastering the art of saying no, building time into your diary for downtime and quitting things that aren't working early. Remember that the price of an unsustainable pace is burnout and no-one can really afford that.

 

As we gradually emerge from this awful pandemic, my wish is that we will use the lessons that we have learned to build a brighter, more sustainable and successful world, one where we can all thrive.

To paraphrase Eisenhower, we need to see COVID as an opportunity to reset. It bought us time, so that we can do better than we've done before.

I believe that it's possible – and so should you.

Go well…


Tyla Pieterse8/12/2021 10:40 AMThought Leadership0 
  

download.pngAuthor: Georgina Barrick

On a flight to Cape Town recently, I was forced to ponder the psychology behind those who choose to follow 'rules' (or norms) and those who don't. Things like wearing a mask for the duration of the flight, switching your cell phone to flight mode or not standing up until your row is called to exit the plane. Naturally, if you are largely a 'rule follower', when those around you do not comply with a rule that you have chosen to follow, you tend to have a very negative reaction to the 'rule breaker'.

But, should this be the case? Or, do we all (on some level) have an element of 'rule breaker' within us? Anyone paid e-tolls lately? 

 

Ask yourself whether you often resist rules or procedures? Do you welcome opportunities to break the status quo and create new stuff or innovate? Do you consider yourself a change agent? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, then you are probably a 'rule breaker' in some way, shape or form.

Becoming a 'rule breaker' doesn't happen overnight. Our attitude to risk develops from early childhood and, by the time we reach adulthood, these attitudes are often our natural coping responses to adversity or conflict.

Fortunately, 'rule breaker' tendencies are sometimes tempered by a need to succeed, to be perceived positively or to be liked. Most 'rule breakers' have some boundaries that stop them from going too far (unlike Bernie Madoff, Billy McFarland et al)

There is no doubt that breaking a rule and getting away with it triggers brain chemicals that help us to rationalise the transgression. Being able to rationalise allows us to make exceptions of ourselves when it comes to abiding by the law, which is reinforced each time we get away with a transgression. So, while we all might agree that laws are required to keep order in society, we might come to believe that these same laws apply don't apply to us if we feel that they're unreasonable, inconvenient, go unpunished or have no real consequences.

 

As an example think of it like this…

When you get onto a plane, the rule is that you have to switch off your mobile phone (technically so that your mobile signal doesn't interfere with the operation of the plane and potentially cause a crash). However, over years, the lines have become blurred.

Firstly, mobile operators created 'flight mode', so you can switch your phone into this mode, instead of switching it off completely which, bizarrely, is allowed by some airlines and not others. As far as I'm aware, few (if any) commercial air crashes have been attributed to a mobile phone being left on, in-flight. So, because the potential risk seems exaggerated (and, therefore, unreasonable) and because there is a reasonable alternative (flight mode), we often ignore the 'phones off' or 'phones on flight mode' rule now.

 

Looking at the research, it seems that we break rules for the following reasons:

 

  • The number one reason that we break rules is because rule-breaking is rewarding. Instead of feeling guilty or remorseful, we feel smarter and more capable when we break a rule, which gives us an endorphin high (which becomes addictive).
  • Defying authority gives us a sense of freedom and makes us feel like we are able to make associations that aren't apparent to people who obey the rules – the 'I don't need anyone to tell me what to do' school of thought (and more endorphins).
  • The reason could be situational. Breaking rules can be less about our innate character and more to do with the situation that we find themselves in. Some of us may be more willing to break a rule under certain conditions or mindsets – e-tolls being a good example.
  • When Apple talked about the 'crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in square holes, the ones who see things differently' not being 'fond of rules', it highlighted the fact that rule-breakers are creative, divergent thinkers. Supporting this, a study by Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely (I'm a huge fan) found that breaking the rules is associated with creativity - being able to think outside of the box to see non-visible solutions and make them reality.  
  • Finally, rule-breaking is associated with perceptions of power – we break rules because we need to feel (or be seen) as powerful (those endorphins again).

 

So, if the high that we get from breaking a rule is rewarding and reinforces our belief that we are special, why can't we just let rule-breaking be?

 

I believe that there are two issues with 'rules don't apply to me' thinking, particularly in our working environments. Firstly, if left unchecked, 'non-compliant' behaviour can generate resentment in a team. If one employee is allowed to bend the rules persistently or is given liberties that other members are not, the team will eventually start to dislike the status quo. Over time, the behaviour escalates, which can have long-term consequences for team cohesion, motivation and engagement. Secondly, allowing 'bad' behaviour from one person opens the flood gates to rule-breaking from the rest of the team – or 'if they're able to break rules and get away with it, why can't I' thinking. So, how do we, as leaders, manage this more effectively?

 

Set clear rules – and apply them consistently…

I'm not a great believer in too many rules and would rather have a few clear, precise rules that work (and can be applied consistently) than reams of vague rules that are difficult to implement. This is because too many rules create homogenised behaviour, which stifles creativity and innovation.

To avoid hidden grey areas, be careful of setting rules that are open to interpretation. Clearly state what conduct is unacceptable and let your team know how transgressions will be handled.

In other words, as Dan Ariely suggests, set rules that clearly show people when they are in the right (or wrong) and offer examples of alternative behaviours that are acceptable.

 

Understand 'friction' and 'motivation'…

Dan Ariely's research has shown that, even when we know that behaviour is dangerous (like smoking), we still don't give it up. To change behaviour, understanding 'friction' (whether easy-to-action behaviour is aligned with the right behaviour and, if it is not, finding ways to make it so) and 'motivation' (what truly motivates people to follow the rules) is key.

 

Portray consensus.

When we know that an attitude is shared (or not) by others, we're more likely to adopt (or reject) it. If the majority of people diligently wear masks correctly, it's more likely that more will adopt this approach. And, while this might not work for all, it will work for most.

 

As leaders, we need to set rules that are reasonable, clear and precise. Rules that don't create friction in application – then we need to understand the motivation needed to follow them.

As Wallace Stegner said: 'It is the beginning of wisdom when you recognize that the best you can do is choose which rules you want to live by, and it's persistent and aggravated imbecility to pretend you can live without any.'

 

And, to the guy in 11C: You are not Elon Musk or Steve Jobs! Please wear your mask for the protection of everyone or else drive, don't fly!


Tyla Pieterse6/14/2021 10:23 AMThought Leadership0 
  

105783687-1552080443844laptopwhileworkingfromhome.jpgAuthor: Georgina Barrick 

When lockdown hit in March 2020, working from home allowed many companies to continue operating remotely, saving jobs and livelihoods. As the weeks and months passed, you couldn't open an online news site without seeing articles extolling the virtues of remote work. It started to look like lockdown had accelerated the 'work from home' revolution and that working from a home office would be our new post-pandemic normal.

 

However, fourteen months in, it appears that working from home is starting to lose its shine.

Recent announcements by global companies who are fast tracking 'return to office' plans would indicate that employers haven't fully embraced remote work.

'Work from home' movement leader, Google has done an about-face, accelerating reopening plans and announcing a hybrid model that includes a blend of both remote and in-office work. Employees have been asked to return voluntarily before the 1 September 2021 deadline and are expected to live within commuting distance of the office. Other employers, like Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young, WeWork, Apple and Facebook will be back to in-office work from as early as April 2021.

  

So, why is working from home not working?

As a start, it's important to note that there are many benefits to home working. Many of them are what we, as leaders, chase on a daily basis – like increased retention, productivity, motivation and well-being. Employees report that the flexibility of working at home allows them to fit their personal lives around work, giving them time to meet childcare and other caring needs, improve their health and reduce stress, all of which improves overall wellbeing. Dropping the commute saves time (and money) and most employees say that they are working longer hours as a result. With children back in school, working in a quieter environment, with fewer disruptions, has improved productivity for many. Finally, the autonomy that comes with working alone (along with feeling trusted to get work done) has increased motivation. For employers, savings on office space, supplies and utility bills has reaped significant financial benefits.

 

So far, so good for the 'working from home' team.

Yet, as the months have passed, the negatives of home working have started to emerge, demonstrating clearly that that WFH doesn't necessarily suit everyone.

 

Firstly, we're all finding it hard to 'unplug' from work. Without a clear-cut change in location and defined office hours (combined with the technology that enables remote work), many of us are finding it hard to separate personal and professional time. For some, this feeling is exacerbated by things like the MS Teams status, which shows colleagues whether we're available, offline or away (and for how many minutes). Many report feeling pressured to be 'at desk' more so that their status stays 'green'. Those who experience difficulty switching off from work are likely to suffer from increased stress and inevitable burnout.

 

Secondly, we're missing out on collaboration and easy opportunities to communicate.

As Google CEO, Sundar Pichai said recently 'we firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new – so we don't see that changing.' The lack of in-person 'water-cooler moments' is a challenge for many, leading to a feeling that we're missing out on the opportunities that these moments present to collaborate informally and build better working relationships. Working remotely also means that there is a chance that the full extent of our efforts won't be seen and appreciated, which could affect our career prospects in the long term – the 'out of sight and out of mind' scenario. And, for interns, lack of face-to-face guidance from managers and colleagues could slow down their learning, making it harder to develop new talent.

 

Thirdly, we're feeling isolated, which is negatively impacting our mental health.

Working remotely (particularly if we're spending hours daily working, with little to no interaction with the outside world) can make us feel disconnected from colleagues (and, often, from the company itself). Coupled with a lack of office routine and the struggle to separate work and home life, this can negatively impact our mental health, making us feel lonely, demotivated, unfocused and unproductive.  

 

Fourthly, our employers are struggling with bloated leave provisions, which isn't great for the bottom line. Greater flexibility and being home more means that we're using any free time that we have during the week (like extended lunch hours) to get personal tasks done. So, we're no longer taking regular 'personal days' to run errands, which also means that we're taking less annual leave. This is great for employees, but a real headache for employers.

 

Finally, the high cost of data (and relatively low speed) of South Africa's connectivity offering is taking its toll. Data costs more in South Africa than in many other countries, a fact which severely limits access for the average South African. If you're unable to get online cost-effectively, you simply can't do your job remotely – which is the reality for many.

 

If working from home isn't working for all, what is the solution?

Google (along with many other employers) believes that the future of work lies in a hybrid working model. As CEO, Sundar Pichai said 'We do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models'. 

A hybrid model means that employees have the opportunity to work in different spaces, with the majority of time (up to 3 days per week) spent in the office, alongside working from home or from coworking or public spaces.

WeWork (a company that provides flexible shared workspaces), recently conducted a survey of flexible working thinking, which concluded that, post-pandemic, while most employees expect to continue working from home for at least a few days a week, they desperately want to work in a collaborative office environment again. Employee's desire for greater control over their working destiny translates into a desire for flexibility – which is actually beneficial for the bottom line, through greater productivity, engagement, loyalty and well-being.

 

Given that Google and other American companies have taken this leap of faith, it remains to be seen whether their South African counterparts will follow suit.


Tyla Pieterse5/4/2021 7:49 AMThought Leadership0 
  

1.jpgSiya Kholisi's recent move to the Sharks has certainly shaken up South African rugby.

But, behind the scenes, it appears to be part of a well-thought out strategy to bring international investment into rugby, while keeping the superstar South African player on our shores.

As a career headhunter, I have been involved in many job change and salary negotiations and the most startling part of this deal is how quickly it all seemed to take shape (even though, I'm sure, not without many late night conversations).


In this economic climate, negotiations (which are never easy at the best of times) can be very stressful for all parties involved. Whether you've reached final round interviews and are being asked if you would accept a competitive offer or have been offered a role you'd enjoy, at a salary lower than you think you deserve, the truth about negotiation is that it is always about navigating perceived value in the context of supply and demand.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't negotiate, if you feel it's necessary and will protect your lifelong earning potential. But, it does mean that you need to tread carefully.

 

So, how do you successfully negotiate a holistic package that recognizes your value?

The first step is to consider the whole deal.

Remember that money is only one aspect (albeit important) of any offer. There are many other factors that will directly influence your job satisfaction, including your responsibilities, growth/ promotion opportunities, flexibility, location, long term earning potential, support for continued education and technologies used. These factors all add value to the deal – and could possibly be easier to negotiate (with greater impact on your overall happiness and long-term prospects) than money.

 

Also, bear in mind that you don't have to negotiate. This is not the time to try to prove that you're a great negotiator by haggling over things that really don't mean that much to you. My advice is that you should only negotiate if something is really important to you or when you feel (and can prove) that you deserve more or something different. If this is not the case (and you really want the job), rather accept upfront and keep your powder dry for later in your career with the company, when you really might need it.

 

Once you've made the decision to negotiate the deal, your next step is to prepare.

If you want a prospective employer to seriously consider adjusting an offer, you need to give them real reasons to do so.

  • Research the average market salaries for your job type: Knowing what the competition is paying for people with your skills will give you a good baseline to work from, while acting as justification for your requested salary.
  • Understand your value proposition: Spend time mapping out the value that you will add to the role. Look at how the results that you've achieved in previous roles (goals met/ revenue earned/ awards won) will set you up for success in this one. Or how your prior experience is valuable now. Prepare talking points so that you can detail this for your new employer as justification for your ask.
  • Prepare for tough questions: Prepare for questions that may make you uncomfortable, put you on the defensive or expose a weakness so that you can answer honestly without reducing your attractiveness as a candidate or giving away bargaining power.
  • Decide where you're willing to be flexible: If your prospective employer is constrained and can't negotiate on money, be ready to ask for alternative forms of compensation – like stock options, extra leave, bonuses or more 'work-from-home' days to combat a lengthy commute.

 

Add rehearsal time into your preparation so that you can build confidence. Once you're ready, schedule a call to discuss what's bothering you as direct contact allows less room for misinterpretation.

 

Finally, if you're going to negotiate an offer, remember the following 'golden rules':

 

  • Likeability is key:

It's simple, but true – potential employers will only go to bat for you if they like you. Anything that you do during negotiation that makes you less likable will reduce your chances of getting a better offer. It's all about reading the situation correctly and managing the negotiation well so that you don't come across as greedy, petty or overly persistent.

This is also why you should only ever negotiate a better package if you are serious about taking the job. No-one wants to waste political capital to get an increased offer approved, only to have the candidate turn it down.

 

  • Negotiate your issues concurrently:

    If you negotiate your issues piecemeal, you run the risk of seriously annoying your negotiating partner (and potentially losing the offer outright). There's nothing more irritating (or time-consuming) than someone who keeps coming back with 'just one more thing'. Rather, set out your list of issues and rank them in order of importance so that your counterpart understands the full picture and can get approval for changes, en masse, without wasting time (or capital).

     
  • Always maintain perspective:

    Remember that the outcome of a successful negotiation is a job that you love and that will love you back – it's not all about the money. To achieve this, it's best to keep reminding yourself that nothing is personal and that no-one is out to get the better of you.

Ignore ultimatums and stay at the table – but, if it doesn't feel right, be brave and walk away. This should ensure that the path you're on will take you where you want to end up.

 

No matter whether you're a Siya Kholisi at the top of your game, a graduate starting out or somewhere in the middle of your career, effective negotiation, used carefully, can be a game changer.

Make sure it's the right type of game changer, though! Good luck! 


Tyla Pieterse4/1/2021 9:00 AMThought Leadership0 
  

leadership 21.jpg‘While the world has been distracted by the noise of those resistant to change, change has been happening anyway’. These are the words that start a video about women in power that was sent to me recently. The video, which has gone viral, goes on to list all the current female heads of state, from Germany to Finland, New Zealand and Singapore. It’s truly inspiring, particularly as leadership has historically been (and, in most cases, continues to be) defined in terms of male stereotypes.


Power is still more associated with men, than women.

Which makes a recent study, that shows that countries with female leaders have suffered 6 times fewer confirmed COVID-19 deaths than those with governments led by men, so interesting.

It seems that female leaders have been far more effective at managing this unprecedented crisis than their male counterparts, ‘flattening the curve’ more successfully and reducing the number of days with ‘confirmed deaths’. As a real-time leadership test, played out in front of a global audience, COVID has rendered traditional experience and expertise ineffective, driving change in ways that we could not easily have imagined.

So, what does this mean for leadership?

It would be easy to claim that women make better leaders than men.

Women are socialized from a young age to be more empathetic than men. We’ve had to develop resilience, pragmatism and resourcefulness as we’ve had to work harder, longer and smarter to overcome broad cultural bias and prove that we’re capable.

Compelling evidence from the Harvard Business Review shows that women in leadership roles are perceived to be slightly more effective than men across almost every functional business area. Women excel in taking initiative, self-development, driving results and displaying integrity. One of the unintended consequences of sexism is that it elevates the quality of female leaders, who often end up being more qualified and talented than their male counterparts by the time they’re selected for leadership roles.  

But I believe that this is only part of the story.

Countries (and companies) who elect female leaders tend to have a more balanced representation of both sexes (or greater gender parity) across all levels than those with a predominance of male leaders. Instead of the traditional ‘command and control’ approach, more ‘gender-balanced’ societies support greater diversity in thinking and are more likely to have leadership driven by ostensibly ‘feminine’ qualities – like empathy, compassion, communication and collaboration.

When leaders are more empathetic, they have a broader understanding of the issues faced by all – which leads to more robust decision-making and the adoption of more inclusive, innovative and courageous solutions and policies. This, in turn, makes people feel supported and heard, making them more likely to be productive and satisfied with life (and more accepting of the hard decisions that have needed to be taken in this pandemic). 

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need a new type of leadership to face down our many challenges. Our pressing issues - climate change, poverty, inequality, scarcity of resources and lack of affordable healthcare – are not going to be solved with old-style homogenous leadership.

We’re also not going to get anywhere if we continue to reject (either consciously or unconsciously) 50% of our available talent for leadership roles.

If watching strong female leaders navigate successfully through this crisis leads to a change in the narrative of what a ‘strong’ leader looks like and qualities like empathy, intelligence, humility and integrity become important benchmarks for leadership, we will elevate the overall quality of our leaders, moving them from ‘leaders’ to ‘great leaders’ because, as Rosalynn Carter said,

‘a leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be’.
Let’s work together to get where we ought to be. 




Tyla Pieterse2/25/2021 8:47 AMThought Leadership0 
  

innovation.jpgI recently came across a blog post called “Fear Cultures: Do Scared People Innovate?”, which spoke to business leaders about creating workplaces that enable all staff members to feel like they can participate in discussion and innovation without fear of “rocking the boat”.


The writer said:

“We come across many clients and participants who have ideas that would revolutionise their business – were it not for the fact that they are simply too scared to change the status quo or put their head above the parapet and experiment with new things. It seems to be common practice for senior leaders to speak openly about encouraging innovation and supporting people who make mistakes, yet when it comes to their behaviours and actions there is all too often a mismatch. Beholden to their shareholders and markets, these leaders inadvertently create a 'top down fear culture'.”
In the midst of the 2nd wave of a global pandemic, people are naturally more fearful and more cautious. With layoffs and furloughs as a result of COVID and a complete redesign for some of the way we work, the temptation, at an individual level as well as an organisational level is often to just keep your head down and play it safe. No one wants to rock to the boat or challenge the status quo even if it means continuing doing things in ways that could be improved upon for a better result. Irrespective of company culture people are living in fear and here is the crux of it: Scared people don’t innovate. They don’t fully participate. They eventually just do the job they’re tasked with doing and can’t wait to get home in the evenings. When people are in a state of fear, they may deliver on objectives not because they are passionate about them but because if they don’t, they are afraid of the consequences – this constrains creativity and collaboration.

Over the past 10 years we’re been hearing more and more about “disruption” being the key to business success. New businesses have emerged in a lockdown that were almost inconsiderable before. Take JEFF to new gym – its already has 60 000 online members globally all joining to do online workouts. Checkers 60/60 – a fleet of scooter riders delivering groceries ordered on an app in 60 minutes – a big wake up call to competitors in the grocery retail sector.

So, what if you encouraged everyone in your company to speak up, make mistakes, talk about innovation – no matter what position they hold now or whatever underlying fears they may have? What if you raised the level of consciousness among your staff member, to create a place where everyone is “vibrating” at a higher level than they did before?

Science has proven that the cells of creative, happy, engaged employees vibrate at a higher frequency than sad, fearful, disengaged people. “Good vibrations” undoubtedly produce better results. The types of organisations (and there are many) that encourage every employee to be constantly looking to implement value-creating ideas that fall within their sphere of control, create a culture of learning and continuous improvement, where people aren’t scared of every possible repercussion.

Now, this may sound like I’ve headed back to the 70s , but facts are facts: Like truly does attract like and – just as a table is a bunch of atoms all vibrating at the same level to create the object – humans are atoms too, and can raise their levels of vibration to encourage greater innovation, compassion, change and happiness.

I recognise that the work from home (MS Teams, Zoom, Skype) dynamic adds another layer of complexity to this challenge – not actually “seeing” people or seeing them way less frequently allows for less opportunity to influence those vibrations - it just means we have to be very alive to all the warning sings of the people we lead .

Inspired leaders know this and change a culture of fear to a culture of elevated enthusiasm and productivity. They allow for open problem solving - the opportunity to shift perceptions away from “good” and “bad” labels and always look for the learning opportunities and the chance to continuously improve. Leaders in this zone recover very quickly from setbacks, demonstrating a higher vibrational level by their extreme resilience. They are constantly experiencing, learning and improving and this culture spreads quickly.

Uplifting people and getting rid of the directing and controlling fear based “I’m the leader, I’ll decide” mentality, can work wonders. After all, who knows more about packaging your company’s goods than the packers themselves? Who understands customers better than your customer-facing staff? Chances are, they could come up with a number of ways to create a faster system in packaging and a better customer experience than the director who only hears about issues.

Now more than ever we need to disrupt and innovate: Uplift your staff members and give them the opportunity to share ideas with you that may change the face of your business. Raise your level of vibration, compassion and enthusiasm, and watch your teams do the same. It could mean the difference between being in the red and staying in the black in these strange but exciting times in Africa.


Tyla Pieterse1/27/2021 10:44 AMThought Leadership0 
  

just be better.pngEvery so often in life, if you are paying attention, you may meet a truly extraordinary person.


These people are rare and, I suspect, if you’re not alive to the possibility, their magnificence may pass you by. Often, they aren’t the loudest or most flamboyant in the room, or the most obvious. 

Mostly, they’re incredibly hard working, humble and selfless people who just vibrate on a different frequency.

Meeting someone extraordinary can be quite unsettling. Being faced with someone who is living their full potential – with no excuses – calls into question your own life, efforts and the excuses you make for not doing more, being more or being better.


Despite the global pandemic, and the associate economic devastation caused by extended lockdowns – some people innovated, created and grew their businesses at an alarming rate. Take for example JEFF- the new gym that is now on a quest for 1milion and 1 member. Johno and Julie Meintjes saw a gap for home exercise and mobilised hundreds of thousands of people to join them in online exercise classes every day of the week.


This has led me to give thought to what separates the ordinary from the extra-ordinary. What drives someone to operate at a level so far beyond their peers that they are immediately set apart, driven forward faster than those around them. More simply, what creates sustained high performance in some of us, but not in others? And, if we can gain insight into what drives the individual, can we use this understanding to drive ourselves and our teams to high performance?

In trying to understand this, one of the interesting books about performance that I’ve come across is ‘High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way’, written by acclaimed coach and speaker, Brendan Burchard. In it, he shares the 6 habits that his research suggests lead to sustained high performance – and happiness. 

Some of these habits may be common sense, but together they create a roadmap to high performance. And, alongside increased consciousness and awareness, they create a vibrational level that moves us from ‘just getting by’ to a state of flow. I’d like to share them with you…


Seek Clarity
High performers constantly seek clarity – about their goals, direction, strategy and intention.

And, while they might not always get the clarity they’re seeking, asking keeps them focused on what is important and helps them to sift out distractions.

Similarly, high performance teams focus on ensuring that members clearly understand interdependencies, have clearly defined roles, support the decision-making process and are committed to shared goals.

A suggestion that really resonated with me is to start each workplace interaction by asking: ‘What is our intention?’, ‘What really matters?’ and ‘What do we need to achieve?’



Generate Energy
While most of us are exhausted by mid-afternoon, having lost energy throughout the day scrambling to keep up with changing meetings, tasks and events, high performers aren’t.

Instead, they use the time between tasks or meetings – called transitions – to give themselves a short, psychological break. Some get up from their desks, others meditate or spend time in quiet reflection, but all use the time to recharge and shift focus from one activity to another so that they’re primed to perform again.

Burchard’s suggestion that we plan our days in 45 to 60 minutes chunks, with breaks in between, seems within reach for us all.

Energised team environments emphasise team development, continuous learning and motivation. 



Raise Necessity
For high performers, succeeding isn’t about passion, preference or need.

Performing with excellence is as necessary to them as breathing.

And, raising this necessity is personal. It’s all about having someone to perform excellently for – family, team or peers – and reminding yourself of this reason constantly to focus your intention and mental ability towards the right goal.

For high performance teams, necessity is created by focus on a collective mission and purpose – where members can see beyond individual workload and goals towards the team’s higher purpose.



Increase Productivity
High performers increase outputs that matter – or, simply, they focus unwaveringly on what they have identified as the main event, without being distracted.

They’re also more productive because they have the subconscious ability to think and plan ahead.

Burchard’s research shows that high performers see five steps ahead at all times, identifying the major moves that they’ll need to make to achieve their goal, what to avoid and what skills they’ll need to develop to complete each move.  

One of the ways that high performance teams achieve increased productivity is through clear and constant feedback. Knowing how they’re tracking – and where they’re going wrong – helps teams to take action to correct inefficiencies quickly.



Develop Influence
High performers are influential – by influencing how others think and challenging them to grow.

If you’re lucky, you have an admired mentor who subtly shapes how you think by questioning your approach – ‘What do you think about this? Have you thought about approaching it in this way?’ and, who, in doing so, pushes you to think unconventionally and creatively – and be your best.

If you do, you’re likely to have a high-performance mentor.


In high performance teams, creating an environment where members feel secure enough to constructively criticise and challenge processes – the status quo – builds influence.

 

Demonstrate Courage
When confronting risk, hardship, judgement or a pandemic, high performers show courage in many ways.

Firstly, they speak up for themselves – and others – sharing truth that makes them vulnerable.

They also ‘honour the struggle’ – appreciating that true success take blood, sweat and tears and that working through the tough times is a necessary part of the process. They expect hardship to come with achievement, believing it be character-building. South Africans call this ‘vasbyt’.  

Finally, high performers demonstrate courage because they’ve identified someone to fight for – a family member, friend or peer – and their determination to fight through uncertainty or fear comes from wanting to work hard for this person.


I know I had many conversations with people over the last months who were responding in completely uncharacteristic ways either for the better or the worse – and then there were those who were just head and shoulders above others who were focussed and energised- who challenged themselves in a non-judgmental, but honest and conscious way, to shift old patterns and move into a more authentic state of being. These are the extraordinary among us and we should celebrate them- because they remind us what is possible – they remind us to be better.



Tyla Pieterse11/23/2020 8:41 AMThought Leadership0 
  

certainty of uncertainty.jpgDeath and taxes. Life’s only two absolute certainties, according to Benjamin Franklin.

Human beings have lived with uncertainty for millennia – which doesn’t mean that we’ve got anymore used to it.

Let’s be honest we all started 2020 believing that this was going to be “our year”. 85 days later we were locked in our houses – our businesses were shut down – schools closed, and boarders shut- oh and lets not forget there was no alcohol. 

In uncertain times like these, the only thing that’s certain is that more uncertainty lies ahead. We can’t change, manage or control this. But we can moderate our response to it…

We live in an age of unprecedented uncertainty, where everything seems even more unpredictable than before.

We’re working harder and longer than before, often for less. Political upheaval is the norm – think Brexit, global trade wars and a Presidential election. The global effect of the pandemic with more that 40 million having been infected and the number still climbing. The thoughts that this isn’t the first corona virus and won’t be the last.

Social media makes us more connected than we’ve ever been. Yet the virus has forced us physically apart. As a result, many of us are suffering the effects of stress-induced illness. Mental illness in the “workplace” especially the remote workplace, seems on the rise.

Most days, merely consuming the news requires a deep breath and a stiff drink (Monday to Friday only).

Yet, as the world becomes more unpredictable, we’re mostly coping – and many of us are thriving. It’s true that periods of massive change, while alarming, also create opportunity.

Uncertainty induces anxiety, stress and frustration. But, it also brings challenge, which leads to growth, satisfaction and strength. It’s cliched, I know, but challenge helps us understand that our limits aren’t limiting and, out of this understanding, we build resilience and become open to possibility.

So, how do we get this right?

Acknowledge that uncertainty is a part of life…
Total certainty is an illusion. We’d like to believe that we have total control over what lies ahead. But, the truth is that, while we have some control, it’s far from total. Accepting that uncertainty is a natural part of life – and doesn’t necessarily mean that things are going wrong – can help to ease our anxiety around change.

Understand that uncertainty doesn’t (always) equal a bad outcome…
If you’re a worrier (and many of us are), it’s likely that you mostly equate uncertainty with a bad outcome. However, ‘bad’ is just one of a few possible outcomes – along with ‘neutral’, ‘good’ and ‘excellent’. 

You could accept a new job that turns out to be a bad career move. It’s also possible that a new job could energise your career and expose you to new learning.

Try to steer clear of ‘better the devil you know’ thinking and be open to all outcomes.


Control what you can…
So much of life is out of our control.

We can’t single-handedly grow the global economy or rein in the bad behaviour of world leaders.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have no influence over how life pans out.

Rather than focusing on what you can’t control (which heightens anxiety), focus on what you can.

Or, as the Serenity Prayer says, accept the things you can’t change and have courage to change what you can – while hoping for the wisdom to know the difference.

A good idea is to start by determining whether you have ‘no control’, ‘some control’ or ‘total control’ over what is making you anxious. Then, focus only on what is in your control.

Another idea is to take action and, in small ways, give yourself options. Learn a new skill, monetise your hobby, save money or network to build new contacts. Small shifts can make a big difference and give you options (and breathing space). 

 

Take care of yourself…
It should go without saying that, in a stressful world, self-care is vital.

Make time for exercise. Get good sleep. Meditate. Seek out support.

If you’re running on empty, it’s very hard to see the wood from the trees.



In a world where uncertainty is the only certainty, it’s still possible to thrive.

As Eckhart Tolle said, ‘When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.’
May you be open to possibility.



Tyla Pieterse10/29/2020 11:38 AMThought Leadership0 
  

Flexible workforce.jpgThere’s no doubt that COVID-19 has changed how we work.

And, while there have been many negatives to this pandemic, it presents a unique opportunity to shape the world of work in a way that benefits all. In many countries, we’re set to see a large uptick in the use of contract or non-permanent staff, post-COVID.

There are benefits to this for both workers and employers. For contractors or temporary workers, there is the opportunity to chase technology, to hone skills (or upskill between projects) or the freedom to schedule breaks between projects to enhance work/ life balance. For employers, the rise of an agile, flexible, contract-based workforce offers the prospect of managing critical projects without the risk (or cost) of hiring skills permanently.

For the past two decades, the International Labour Organisation has been reporting on the rise of the ‘flexible workforce’ – or a workforce that ‘grows in number to meet business needs at any given time and falls back to a baseline number when the increased size is no longer necessary’.

Companies that embrace the use of flexible workers keep their number of full-time, permanent employees to a minimum, while hiring more temporary, part-time or contract employees to meet demand during busier periods or for specific projects.

The concept isn’t new. We only need to look at retail or agriculture, where seasonal workers have always been brought in to meet demand in busy periods. However, what is new is the dramatic increase (over the past decade) in the use of highly skilled contractors to deliver on specific projects or work.    

For employers, the benefits are numerous and include reduced payroll costs, greater talent diversity, access to expert skills that might not otherwise be affordable (or available locally) and greater employee engagement. For employees, working flexibly is part of the trend towards a gig economy – or the move towards temporary, flexible jobs and away from permanent employment. In an ideal world, this move is powered by independent workers, who select work contracts based on interest and how the work offered can grow their skills and expertise.

As our economy starts the slow journey to recovery, many leaders have had to reduce their permanent staff complement as a result of the effects of COVID and lockdown on business.

However, this has not removed the need to deliver on outstanding projects. Expanding the flexible workforce to support business and project needs is the obvious answer.

In my experience, effectively managing a large non-permanent workforce is not without its challenges. While your flexible contract workers aren’t employees (in the traditional sense), they (and the work that they do) still needs to be tracked. It is important to establish a flexible workforce programme to ensure that you have the right tools in place to manage this type of work effectively. As part of this process, you need to consider:

Deemed Employment: South African law makes provision for temporary or contract workers to be deemed ‘employed’ if temporary or contract employment persists beyond a certain period.
3rd Party Tax and Statutory Exposure:  If exposed, it’s likely that you will be pursued and not the contractor/ temp worker.
Worker Misclassification: Incorrect classification of your freelancers could mean that you become liable for minimum wages, pension contributions, holiday and sick pay.
IP Leakage: If your contract doesn’t make provision for IP ownership, you may have no claim over valuable IP when the contract ends.
Data and insight on costs, hourly rate benchmarking and the effective onboarding/ offboarding of contractors
Payroll Implications:  What, if anything, do you need to consider around payroll?  
If you’re interested in scaling up your non-permanent workforce, how do you navigate these complexities? The first step is to determine when (and if) you need a flexible workforce programme. Businesses should be thinking about:

If you currently have any flexible workers in your business, were they onboarded into the business in a way that reduces your risk?
Who do these contractors report to? Are they being effectively managed on a day-to-day basis? Who has sight of them and their output?
What are they doing for your business? Do they touch customers or work on any mission-critical systems?
Is your business exposed to any legislative, tax or statutory risks as a result of these flexible workers? Do you think that you have any business risk exposure as a result?
A properly managed flexible workforce can significantly positively influence business success and, with the right amount of visibility over your contractors, you can experience a better outcome. There is no doubt that, in uncertain times, talent agility is critical to organizational success. Using flexible, non-permanent talent can give you the skills that you need to get urgent work done immediately. It can also help you to build a talent pipeline to support future growth.

I believe, as John Wooden said that, today, ‘flexibility is the key to stability’ – and that, going forward, companies and individuals who embrace it will come out on top.
Good luck.


Tyla Pieterse10/6/2020 10:35 AMThought Leadership0 
  

wfh.jpg
In March 2020, when South Africans started working from home, few of us imagined that we would still be doing so 5 months later. Like most, I prepared for an initial 3 week stretch and, while I knew that it might be wishful thinking (given what was happening in Europe at the time), I hoped to be back in the office by the end of April. Looking back, I can only chuckle at my naivete.

Five months in, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way we work.

In our new reality, those of us who are fortunate to be employed are mostly working a hybrid of in-office and at-home work that we’ve started calling ‘blended’ working. Some are still working full time from home very productively and may never return to the ‘office’, except for meetings.

Work, as we know it, has changed, perhaps forever.

While this new reality has shown us that we can adapt and thrive on many levels, it also presents a challenge to the corporate cultures that we’ve spent so much time building and that we use to attract potential employees to our companies.

Culture is the character and personality of your company. It's what makes your business unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, attitudes and, most importantly, behaviours. It’s an important competitive differentiator. And, it has a big impact on morale and productivity and, in a crisis, can either see your company through or lead to its demise.

Culture is built through shared experiences, beliefs and values. It grows when people spend time together in person. So, what happens to it when we don’t meet ‘around the water cooler’ much anymore?


As leaders, I believe that COVID-19 has presented us with a unique opportunity to shape, cement and leverage our company cultures for greater impact.

I believe that it’s still possible to manage culture ‘by design’ (and not ‘by default’) even if we don’t meet in-person regularly. By finding new ways to engage, we can nurture (or create) strategically aligned, strong and adaptable cultures that will see us through this difficult time.

It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.

 
How do we manage culture ‘by design’ when our teams are working remotely?

 

Hire the Right Talent
This should be our lodestar - and not just something that we consider in times of crisis.

Hire resilient, adaptable people who work smart, use ingenuity to navigate uncertainty and embrace (and leverage) difference. In uncertain times, we need people who ‘can keep their heads’ and forge ahead to find solutions.

 
Nurture Your People
Engaged employees are your company’s greatest assets, as their passion, commitment and discretionary effort drive business success, growth and culture – whether they are working in-office or remotely.

Stay attuned to your team’s ‘temperature’. Connect regularly so that you can identify those who need support but go easy on supervision and evaluation. Instead, focus on mentorship, goals and opportunities for development – and trust them to get the job done.

Culture is defined and shaped by behaviour, so continue to encourage, cultivate and highlight behaviour that demonstrates the beliefs and values that you want to reinforce. Hold people accountable for behaviour that doesn’t. 

Lead from the front. Leaders significantly influence culture, particularly in times of stress. When the future is uncertain, leaders become the ‘single source of truth’. Educate and develop the leaders in your company so that they manage by objective, show empathy and build trust. Hold regular online conversations with your leaders to add value and connect in a meaningful way. This is fundamental if you want to hold onto your engaged employees (crisis or not).

 

Communication
Articulate, validate and reinforce your culture. The more your talk about your culture, the more you bring what you value into the open, making it more visible and making your employees more conscious of what is acceptable or unacceptable. Culture is ultimately defined by behavior, so make sure that you reinforce behaviour that supports a positive culture. Clarity about culture and expectations is more important when people can’t gather as they did before.  

Try to replicate and replace in-office interactions with easy-to-use virtual substitutes. Set up video conferences on Skype, Zoom or MS Teams to replace team meetings. Use the chat function on MS Teams for the team talk that would normally take place over coffee or at the water cooler.

Try to foster a sense of normality and familiarity online – it goes a long way towards assuring your people that the company’s culture hasn’t been eroded.
 

Find Creative Ways to Maintain ‘Esprit de Corps’
Sharing personal experiences – through team building, over coffee or through office parties – shapes culture. Find creative ways to get your team together online. Team Zoom quizzes, virtual Friday night drinks and online games can break the ice, build rapport and help with the isolation that some team members may be feeling.

Whether you started Lockdown with a strong, clearly defined and adaptable culture that has supported and sustained you and your team over the past 5 months or are struggling to overcome managing culture ‘by default’, there is still a lot that you can do shape, cement and leverage a culture that works for your new reality. It’s all about managing behaviour or, as Michael Kouly believes ‘the culture of a company is the sum of the behaviours of all of its people’.

May you find your sweet spot!


Tyla Pieterse9/2/2020 8:32 AMThought Leadership0 
  

sounds of silence.png

Like Tim McClure, I believe that ‘the biggest concern for any organization should be when their most passionate people become quiet.’

Passionate people are highly motivated. They are outspoken, they share and are full of ideas. Their passion drives your company, culture and success.
They work hard, participate, get involved (and get others involved) and show up enthusiastically. Their voice helps shape a culture. They face issues head-on, challenge thinking, find alternative solutions and drive change.

And, in doing so, they stimulate growth, performance and success.

I’ve heard them described as ‘a necessary internal energy force that moves the business forward’.

But, sometimes, they go quiet. They stop speaking out, stop driving the conversation, stop pushing for change. Usually, this is because they’ve been worn down. Perhaps the ideas that they’ve been pushing to implement (the change that they’re driving) has been rejected and it seems like there is no way forward. Perhaps they’ve given up because fighting for change or a new vision because they just don’t feel heard.

Whatever it is that causes them to go quiet, if you are not paying attention, you have a problem.

Because, like Tim McClure also said: ‘Passion is contagious… so is not having it’. In the same way that passion becomes an internal energy force, lack of it affects performance, drives distrust, raises insecurity and opens the door to dysfunction. Good people who go quiet will, ultimately, vote with their feet and quit. In a nutshell, if your good people go quiet, you need to take action.

As leaders, I believe that we need to listen for this silence, particularly now when there is so much other noise to contend with. When our attention is focused elsewhere, we risk missing the warning signs (the ‘organisational alarm’) that sounds when good people have disengaged.

Good people go quiet because they feel unheard, unappreciated or under-valued. It can take time for these emotions to build, but they generally start because of:

Breach of Trust:
Leadership integrity is an intrinsic part of the employment relationship. 

When people don’t know if they can trust you (or if you have breached trust in the past), they’ll become reluctant to share problems or speak out. Often our actions speak louder than our words. The people we lead watch what we do more than what we say.

Build trust through leadership consistency, clear communication and fairness.

If your people know that you will always speak the truth, behave predictably, be fair and won’t play favourites, you’ll breed trust.

People who feel confident and secure under your leadership are more likely to speak out.

Unapproachable Leaders:
Effective leaders are approachable and sympathetic – but can be firm when the situation warrants it. Unapproachable leaders veer towards intimidating, unsympathetic and prickly – often in the mistaken belief that this makes them appear ‘strong’.

Unapproachable leaders effectively stifle passion and silence employees because there is nowhere – or no-one – to talk to.

Companies where unapproachable leaders thrive also often exhibit ‘leadership selfishness’ – where benefits, bonuses and anything fun is reserved for leaders, to the detriment of employees. It’s no secret which approach is more likely to make good people go quiet.

Just Not Listening:
Employees who are ignored, overlooked or go unrecognized become silent.

Think about how you would feel if your ideas or input went unheard. Would you feel relevant or like you were making a difference?

Leaders who master the skill of ‘leading with listening’ are more likely to pick up on any employee issues early, fostering an environment where people feel heard – and make noise as a result. 

 Lack of Vision:
If you hear yourself saying ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘This is our recipe – it works and we’re sticking to it’, check yourself.

Good leadership requires vision – and encouraging new ideas and new thinking is the first step towards always staying relevant.

 Lack of Flexibility:
Good people follow their passions. They’re often brimming with ideas that can make processes, policies or procedures better. They find ways to take the company forward.

But, if they’re boxed in, given no flexibility and made to follow a myriad of silly rules, they will get worn down. Companies like Google recognize this and mandate that employees spend some of their time at work working on projects that will benefit themselves and the company.

 We’re all going through a tough time economically, socially and psychologically. 

We’re in survival mode – which means that we’re more focused on staying alive, than staying acute.

Now is the time to listen for the silence – and, if you hear it in your own company, take time to find out why. Your good people (and your company’s longevity) will thank you.



Tyla Pieterse7/30/2020 9:40 AMThought Leadership0 
  
kindness matters.jpg
Sometimes, I feel like we live in a world gone mad.

We are a world divided on so many important issues. Whether it’s climate change, racism, gender-based violence, gender bias, bullying and, now more recently, COVID-19, you’ll find people with wildly opposing beliefs about whether the problem even exists and how it should be handled.

This is nothing new. Debate, along with freedom of thought, belief and speech, is integral to a healthy democracy and strong civil society.
Yet, what seems to have changed (or perhaps just become more acute), is how unkind and polarizing the conversation around our issues seems to have become. Healthy debate should not include words that exclude, hurt or divide. It shouldn’t allow one voice or set of voices to dominate and it shouldn’t dismiss the feelings of others. It shouldn’t hide behind the anonymity that the internet provides to say or share untruths. And, while debate should provoke change, it shouldn’t incite or ignite unlawful, destructive behavior.

There is no doubt that, in this time of anger and of fear, we are all more prone to lash out and defend the views and opinions we hold so dear. 

In the blur of everything that is now unusual around us, in the ‘fight or flight’ world, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that kindness really matters. Kindness is such a powerful tool. It fosters empathy, acceptance and tolerance, de-escalates tension and improves co-operation. Research has shown that kindness increases happiness, improves our connection to others, raises satisfaction and promotes lasting physical and mental wellbeing (for the giver and recipient). It is an interpersonal skill that, rather than demonstrating weakness, takes courage and strength to regularly practice.

And, while we may have been conditioned into believing in the ‘survival of the fittest’, it’s worth remembering that humans are a social species who have lived in social groups and relied on one another to survive and thrive for millennia.

Simply put, kindness matters.
Our ‘Arch’ Desmond Tutu once said, ‘Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world’. I believe that the solution to some of the madness that currently pervades our discourse lies with each of us and the small acts of kindness that we can make happen daily.

As a start, kindness can make a real difference in the workplace.

A study conducted by the University of California found that small kindnesses don’t go unnoticed and tend to grow across an organization. Workers at Coco Cola’s Madrid headquarters were secretly divided into groups – ‘Givers’ were instructed to do small favours (called prosocial behaviour) for Receivers over a 4 week period. Results revealed that practicing prosocial behaviour is mutually emotionally reinforcing – both Givers and Receivers reported being happier, less depressed and more satisfied with their lives and job. It’s also contagious as Receivers began to ‘pay it forward’, doing small acts of kindness for others, which spread across the company creating a virtuous circle.

As a practice, kindness grows when we remember the following:

Words Matter
As a child, I remember being told that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me’. As an adult, I’ve realized, through sometimes bitter experience, that this old adage is untrue. Words do matter. They can build – through praise, encouragement or thanks. And, words can also divide, hurt, separate and make people feel different and isolated.

Choose your words carefully – particularly when the way that you speak can affect other’s attitudes and beliefs.  

Check Your Attitude and Behavior
Be aware of your own attitudes and behavior.

Sometimes, unconsciously, we speak or act in ways that may hurt others. I witnessed an incident in Woolworths recently that perfectly demonstrates this. A customer insisted on re-sanitising the checkout counter after the Cashier had already done so. Speaking to her afterwards, the Cashier explained that this action had made her feel dirty (which was most likely not the nervous customer’s intention). If the customer had been kind and explained why they wanted to sanitize the counter again, it could have had a completely different outcome. Seek first to understand before being understood. Strive to be less judgmental. Don’t retaliate. Bite your tongue – the need to be right or have the last word drives conflict and separation.

Get Involved
Kindness can take many forms, but it’s really, at its root, about altruism – the selfless concern for the wellbeing of others.

Find something that you’re passionate about – be it humans, animals or nature – and get involved.

If you cannot spare any time, perhaps make a financial contribution (or vice versa).

Research has shown that being kind, even when there seems to be nothing in it for us, activates endorphin release to make us feel rewarded.

Be Kind to Yourself
Kindness includes being kind to yourself.


Tyla Pieterse6/30/2020 8:25 AMThought Leadership0 
  

leadership.jpgIn March, lockdown instantly shifted us all into ‘business unusual’.


Overnight, we moved from office-based work to work from home, leaving little time for anyone to find their feet and putting us all under extraordinary pressure. For those without a home office, Level 5 Lockdown even prevented purchasing a suitable desk and chair. 

Aside from the worry about how COVID-19 could impact our health (and that of our families), we’ve had to adjust to new ways of working and meeting new demands around clients, logistics and delivery. All while trying to deal with parenting, managing our home environments and worrying about how lockdown could affect our job security and careers. This pandemic has been, perhaps, the biggest disruptor in our lives, to date.

Nearly 60 days in, some have innovated and thrived, while others are still struggling to adapt to our new reality.

During lockdown, I’ve been following (among others) the Business Results Group’s free webinars for insight into leadership practice in our ‘new’ world. This has got me thinking about how leaders have had to change behaviour in our now virtual world. I believe that some of the challenges facing leaders today include:

How do we effectively manage and motivate people remotely when we’re not able to physically ‘see’ them daily? How to we help our employees return to site in Level 3 (and beyond) and manage ‘survivors’ guilt – where they are employed and compensated, while others aren’t? How do we reconnect our company vision to adapt and thrive in this ‘new normal’, where many things will not be as they were before? And, how do we get everyone to buy into this new vision so that we can move forward instead of trying to cling to our old ways of doing things?

Nearly a decade ago, when I wrote an article on how consciousness positively influences business success, I referenced research by Bob Anderson from the Leadership Circle which still resonates clearly today (and could help to answer some of these questions). In a study about the correlation between consciousness and corporate success, Anderson found that high-performance companies are most often led by leaders with a ‘Creative’ orientation (and related behaviours), while companies dominated by ‘Reactive’ leaders performed more poorly. He believes that as reactive behaviour grows, creative behaviour diminishes – along with performance.

This thinking is supported by Liz Wiseman’s work on ‘Multipliers’ – people whose behaviour multiplies or facilitates effectiveness.  The traits of a Multiplier include that they are ‘Talent Magnets’, attracting and optimising talent. These people are also ‘Liberators’ who unlock and require everyone’s best thinking, ‘Challengers’ who extend challenges to the people that they identify as talented geniuses, ‘Debate Makers’ who see that important decisions are debated robustly before implementation and ‘Investors’ who instil accountability.

  So, how does all of this help leaders to motivate their teams to perform optimally while working remotely, while still maintaining a semblance of balance in their lives?

1.      Focus on Outcome:
Start by letting your employees work out how to work effectively themselves.

Resist the temptation to focus on making work tactical by setting strict processes, rules and procedures. It might make you feel that work is being done but being micro-managed can be very demotivating for your employees. Instead, set clear goals, some boundaries and offer guidelines – and then allow your team to exercise their creativity and work flexibly to get the job done. You can check in with them, but don’t check up. Remember that, as long as you get the outcome you expect, they should be allowed creative freedom around how the outcome is achieved.

2.      Identify Stress Triggers:
The first step towards identifying what positively motivates your team is to help them identify their unique stress triggers. There are a lot of potential culprits right now - COVID-19, the resulting economic fallout, increased (or decreased) workload and home environments that are not conducive to productivity. Sometimes, just acknowledging that we’re living in difficult times and talking through stressors is helpful.

3.      Up Your Online Meeting Game:
Personally, I’m mourning the loss of small ‘water cooler moments’, where I could interact with my team on a more personal level, allowing me to gauge mood and who might need more attention. Working – and meeting – virtually means that these opportunities are more limited and have to be created, rather than occurring spontaneously.

Daily check-in video calls can help you to pick up changes in behaviour or mood that can signal larger issues – and identify high risk employees who may need more intervention.

 Remember that it’s also easy to slip into ‘tactical’ mode in daily check-ins, focusing on tasks only. While this might work face-to-face, it can further isolate and demotivate employees who are struggling with remote work.

Foster connection by creating a space at the start and end of every check-in where people can share how they are feeling today and what they’re doing to look after themselves.

Don’t expect a detailed answer – some employees may prefer to rate how they’re feeling out of 10. The important thing is to create the space and set boundaries so that the check-in remains positive. If you do pick up negative responses, cycle back to the affected employee after the meeting to discuss how they’re feeling and offer additional help, if needed.

4.      Be Human:
The truth is that, even if we’re superstars, we’re feeling stretched and stressed right now.

These are unusual times, over which we have little control and, in the case of Lockdown, are actively being controlled.

Now, more than ever, leaders need to be available and need to be human.

Focus on how you communicate with your team. Be transparent and share as much information – particularly around company and job stability – as you can.

Encourage them to take breaks and observe weekends. Set up events to help them blow off steam – like exercise challenges, virtual Friday drinks or games evenings.

Either make your calendar transparent or to set up times for ‘drop ins’ (the new ‘open door’) when you’re online and available to chat, outside of set meeting times.

Understand their personal circumstances and give leeway, where needed.

5.      Communicate:
Communicate, communicate and then, communicate some more.

In an ongoing crisis, clear communication is more important (and more difficult) than in times of calm. As leaders, our communication needs to address the core questions of what, how and why. If we don’t get this right, we end up confusing people even more. So much communication addresses ’what’ needs to happen and even ‘how’ it needs to do so. But, too often, ‘why’ isn’t effectively communicated. This is a problem because ‘why’ gives the audience deeper understanding and allows them to align with the ‘how’ and ‘what. In times of crisis, our teams need insight into our thinking and wisdom.

We’re living in uncharted territory at the moment and are all suffering the consequences, to varying degrees, of this pandemic and it’s resulting economic fallout.

But, as neuroscientist and author Abhijt Naskar says: ‘The world is going through a period of crisis, but whether we look at it as a crisis or as an opportunity to reshape our thinking depends on us.’

Business Results Group - https://www.brg.co.za/


Tyla Pieterse5/28/2020 10:00 AMThought Leadership0 
  

covid 19.jpgPandemics – like any great shock to the global system – bring great change.


Already, we’re feeling the effects of this ‘black swan’ event. Life is unpredictable, consequences (both human and economic) are devastating and everywhere we turn, the news is unprecedented.

Many of us are so confused and battered by our new reality that it’s hard to imagine what ‘normal’ will look like on the other side. Like it or not, we will be dragged along into this new reality. We are not going back to ‘normal’, no matter how much we try to cling to it. As businesses, we need to start asking the sobering question: ‘What are we going back to?’

Everything is changing and I’m of the view that we haven’t even begun to comprehend the extent of these changes yet.

 Yet, while the COVID-19 epidemic is undoubtedly one of the most globally overwhelming events we’ve faced in generations, it also presents a unique opportunity.

As we live through this crisis, we have the chance to reimagine our world, to reconsider what it is we truly value and create a new, improved ‘normal’. One that acknowledges, as this disease has shown us, that our fates are linked and that our interdependence means that we all need a seat at the table. So, rather than just focusing on the fact that COVID is a catastrophe from which some may never recover, also look at the opportunity to engineer our rebirth and lead to a brighter future

Undoubtedly, this is history in the making.
 No one knows what our post-COVID world will look like. But, we can all start to give some thought to what sort of collective reality we would like to create. I know that I would like our world to look more like this…

Less polarized…

COVID has provided us with a common enemy, increasing our solidarity, even as it forces us apart.

This virus has reminded us that we are one people and that, if one of us is sick, we all are. I hope that this newfound spirit of unity moves us to find ways to take care of one another, for the betterment of all – whether it be in finding a way to provide sustainable healthcare for all, caring for our most vulnerable or strengthening our economy by creating stronger domestic supply chains.

The conversation around producing and buying local has already started and is likely to become more predominant in coming months and years. Our reliance on the global supply chain has impacted our economy – and a renewed focus on ‘local is lekker’ could help to stimulate it.

More real and truthful…

For too long, ‘fake news’ has dominated our discourse.

But, I’m encouraged to see the rise of the expert over the party loyalist, with people like Professor Salim Abdool Karim (a world-renowned infectious diseases expert) taking us through government’s COVID response. It’s also clear that decisions are being made based on evidence and facts and that co-operation (which builds trust and supports truth) is at an all-time high.

What is also interesting is that, with government making anyone who creates or spreads fake COVID news liable to prosecution, we’ve witnessing a shift towards a focus on verifying the source of information. We’re all questioning more and accepting less at face value – unless the news is from a credible source. This can only be good for us all in the long run.

More focus on what really matters…

COVID has suddenly made the impossible, possible.

A few weeks ago, it seemed impossible that SAA’s funding would be stopped, that the price of crude oil would be less than $0 a barrel, that we would ever consider approaching the World Bank or IMF for help (for fear of losing our ‘sovereignty’) and that celebrities who are famous for ‘being famous’ would suddenly become less relevant. Yet, all of these things happened recently, with little fanfare. On a personal level, isolation has forced us to stand still, to stop constantly seeking the next big thing and focus, instead, on what really matters. We’re baking with our children, connecting over Zoom with friends and family and taking care of one another. I hope that this ushers in a new age of realism, where we begin to focus on the core values that really matter.

Outside of what I would like to see change in our ‘new normal’, I believe that we’re already witnessing a revolution in how we work as a result of this pandemic.

Lockdown has forced the issue of remote work. For a while now, I’ve been watching this trend. It’s always seemed like a good idea but has never really been widely adopted – until now.

It’s clear that, despite the stress and anxiety that we feel about the impact of COVID, many of us are discovering new levels of productivity and efficiency as we work from home. We’re enjoying the lack of commute, the clearer skies and the pace. With time, employers may start to see the benefits of not having to fund and manage extensive office space. I believe that remote work is here to stay and that we’re going to find new ways to create connection online and to grow and build sustainable businesses.

 In terms of which ‘ism’ emerges as the dominant economic system, post-COVID, no-one can yet tell. I know that there are many conversations taking place about the fact that none of our current ‘isms’ will be appropriate in their current form. For capitalism to re-emerge, it will have to evolve significantly. As a fundamental driver of consumerism, the narrative around redefining what success looks like in our new world is taking shape and, as ethical consumption takes hold, our world will no longer be about having more ‘stuff’, but rather, more about community, giving back, sharing and collaborating.

As we live through the ‘Age of COVID’ I, like our President, believe that we can look forward to a better future and – as he said on Tuesday night – I ‘have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans who have proven, time and time again throughout our history, that they can rise to any challenge that is presented to our country’.

May we rise together…


Tyla Pieterse4/30/2020 8:00 AMThought Leadership0 
  
managing anxiett.jpg
With the arrival of Coronavirus on South African shores, panic appears to have set in. While our President showed great leadership on Sunday night, it very quickly brought the reality of the virus right to our doorstep. The JSE has lost value. Shelves in Clicks and Dischem have been stripped of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and immune boosters and people are wearing masks and gloves in the supermarket – if they’re even venturing out.

While there is no question that the spread of Coronavirus is scary, doctors are clear that up to 80% of people infected will experience mild flu-like symptoms, feel unwell – but will recover – as my New York-based friend, who is infected, reports.

As I write, China (the epicenter of the outbreak, with over 81 000 cases and 3200 deaths) seems to be getting a handle on the disease, as is South Korea.
Yet, the uncertainty around how COVID-19 will impact growth and, most importantly, when it will end, is bringing the global economy to its knees, sending stock markets reeling on the back of fears of a prolonged economic slowdown.

It’s important to remember that Coronavirus is not the first event to spark widespread panic and, given human nature, it won’t be the last. Remember the scaremongering and stockpiling that took place both before South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994 and again around the Millennium, when many were worried that Y2K would bring the world to a grinding halt? Or, the SARS outbreak that was touted as the next ‘Spanish Flu’? We know that the world lived to tell the tale then – and will again now.

Yet, still we panic, driving our anxiety to unmanageable levels – and impacting our ability to make clear, focused (and often much-needed) decisions.

It is this aspect of the Coronavirus epidemic that, as a self-professed student of human behavior, has sparked my interest – the question of what drives normally sane, rational and measured humans to panic at the first sign of trouble and start fear-mongering and making uninformed decisions.

We know that it happens to the best of us. Some years ago, when my then-business was going through a rough patch, I tried to set up an emergency strategy session with my partner. His response was a firm ‘No’ – that he wasn’t available. Yet, 6 weeks later when things were going a lot better, he suddenly was. When I asked why the change, he told me that he’d declined the session earlier because I’d been in a state of fear, which would have negatively influenced my ability to put a plan in place. I’ve never forgotten the lesson that, when we plan from a place of abundance and love, our plans are much more open, encompassing, innovative and usually successful... In other words, when anxiety overrides thinking, our ability to make clear decisions is negatively influenced.

This is backed up by science.

New research suggests that anxiety impacts our brains by disengaging the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain that is essential for good decision-making (where we weigh up consequences, plan and process thoughts in a logical, rational way and screen out distractions or irrelevant information). When this happens, we become overwhelmed, distracted and stop thinking. Emotion takes over and logic is set aside. Bad news is magnified and any positive signs are largely ignored.

At this point, we either make the ‘safe’ choice or a quick rash decision that we’re likely to regret later. Either way, with our minds racing at a million miles an hour, we’re unable to settle on a thought easily – and, when we do, that thought is most often negative, further fueling our anxiety.

So, in times of great stress (COVID-19 and beyond), how can we override our anxiety to make better decisions? 

Firstly, slow down…
Take a breath and slow down your thinking.

Very few decisions need to be made in that instant. Often, if we rush a decision, we’re doing so because we’re driven by sensationalist news, herd mentality or the belief that our thoughts, feelings and behavior are a single package. Just because we feel a certain way doesn’t mean that we have to act a certain way. Instead, we need to push against the habitual response and break the cycle by slowing the process down, being mindful and, in doing so, moving away from automatic thoughts and responses towards focusing on what is really happening and how we can best respond.

 

Then, take action…

Problems often seem insurmountable. When this happens, start small by working on one part of the problem first. Ask questions about your concerns. Find a good sounding board.

Taking action can also mean taking care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Exercise.

Remember that you don’t need news on a continuous loop – stop reading the (negative) news. Those who get this right say that ignorance truly is bliss.

 

There’s no doubt that we’re living through one of the most uncertain (and unnerving) periods in human history. And, where in times of uncertainty, we would normally seek comfort from one another, we’re being driven apart by a virus that no-one (yet) fully understands.

Truly, this is a reminder that the illusion of control we think we have is just that – an illusion.

However, what is certain is that this too shall pass. And, when it does, we will be changed and redefined in ways that we can’t yet imagine.

I believe that the secret to coming through this time positively lies in reframing our thinking.

Keep anxiety under control. Make clear, thoughtful decisions, with the emphasis on long term strategy. Regroup, reprioritize, recharge and innovate.

I always remind myself that it is not necessarily the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, the most adaptable to change.

As leaders, our teams look to us for confidence and for honest, clear communication.

And, while they don’t necessarily expect us to have all the answers, they do expect us to be working on a plan for the benefit of everyone. Showing fear and despair is not going to inspire our people to be extraordinary – and now, more so than ever, we need extraordinary. Our belief in a shared vision for the benefit of humanity is critical to our continued survival.

Above all, remember that, as Stephen King said, ‘Panic is highly contagious, especially in situation when nothing is known and everything is in flux’

Peace and love to us all…


Tyla Pieterse3/23/2020 8:00 AMThought Leadership0 
  

Family Tree 2.jpgAuthor: Georgina Barrick

I'm not a big fan of 'New Year's Resolutions'.

I prefer to work with a set of enduring and broad themes – or guiding lights to use as waypoints as each year unfolds. In 2018, my focus was very much on how to live more mindfully – how to manage stress better, get more sleep and live more consciously.

While I didn't always get it right, exploring ways to live more mindfully has certainly improved my overall quality of life. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'life consists in what we think of all day'.

My mindfulness journey continues in 2019.

As 2019 kicks off, I've been thinking about friends and colleagues who are paid-up members of the 'Sandwich Generation'. Today, thanks to advances in medicine and health, we're all living longer, while our children are growing up in a world where it's harder to get (and maintain) financial independence. Actuaries are predicting that people who are now in their 40's will be the first generation to live to 120 and beyond (a scary thought when retirement age is still 65).

The burden of managing this delicate generational balancing act falls on the Sandwich Generation – who sit in the middle and care for aging parents, while bringing up young children. This burden often comes at great personal, physical, emotional and financial cost.

Research by the American Psychological Association found that nearly 40% of adults aged between 35 and 54 feel overextended and suffer extreme levels of (poorly managed) stress as they try to balance the needs and demands of growing children against those of aging parents.

And, this stress is taking a toll, with 83% reporting that relationships with their spouse, children and family are their biggest source of stress, making it difficult to take better care of themselves.

In South Africa, a survey by Old Mutual found that 28% of urban adults take care of their children, while also supporting parents, siblings and other family members – a statistic that is growing by 2% (on average) per year, making the 'Sandwich Generation' a reality for many South Africans.

If this is what life looks like for so many of us, how do we find a balance between all of our dependents so that we're not meeting the needs of one to the detriment of others?

And, how do we make time to take care of, and nurture, ourselves?


Identify (and Manage) Your Stressors…

I've found that being able to identify what triggers stress allows me to respond more appropriately.

Also, unhealthy behaviours – like drinking or eating too much – aren't helpful.

Try to explore how you can replace this behaviour with healthier ways of coping and how you can incorporate stress-reducing activities – like exercise, socialising with friends or meditation – into your daily routine.

Practice Self Care...

When you're running on empty, you can't properly take care of others.

It's important to make time to take care of yourself. Get good sleep, schedule time for exercise and do the things that you enjoy and that nourish you.
For me, it's about taking time to have a massage or catch up over coffee with good friends.

The world won't fall apart in your absence – and you'll return refreshed and better able to cope.

Find (and Lean On) the Right Support...

Even if you're Super(wo)man, it's not possible to do everything yourself.

Think about what you need and ask for help. Whether it be siblings, older children, friends or professional caregivers, help is available. Share the load. In my experience, people want to help.

Manage Your Finances…

Many older people shy away from talking about money, believing that it's 'not the done thing'.

Given that 41% of respondents to the Old Mutual survey rely on their children for financial support, understanding the true state of your parent's finance is key to being able to put together a financial plan that works for everyone.

Start by getting everyone's finances out in the open so that you can properly plan.

It's also a good idea to get your children involved so that they can learn to become financially independent themselves.

Live in the Moment…

Truthfully, being the 'filling in the sandwich' is sometimes no fun.

It's important to live in the moment. Love your loved ones. Prioritise what matters and let the little stuff go. This too shall pass – and you may miss it when it does.

And finally, I believe that there are two gifts that you should strive to give…

First, make your children truly independent. Focus on giving them a good education and ensuring that they understand how to become financially independent.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Lindo Skhosana1/23/2019 11:45 AMThought Leadership0 
  

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Author: Georgina Barrick

How often have you found yourself reading emails, while doing homework with your children?
Or, taking important business calls while driving to your next meeting – and looking up to discover that you’re driving in the wrong direction? Perhaps, like me, you switch between tasks while waiting for something to download on your laptop.

The truth is that we’ve all done it. 
When I was younger, like a true Generation X’er, I prided myself on being a ‘Multitasking Master’. 
X’ers were really sold on the belief that performing more than one task simultaneously was key to optimising productivity and efficiency. 
This belief was reinforced when Microsoft launched Windows in the mid-80’s. Suddenly, you could open multiple windows on screen – all dedicated to different tasks – and work on (and switch between) them all seamlessly. Multitasking had become mainstream.
Today, with the help of science, I’ve come to realise that there really is no such thing as multitasking – and (like carbs and sugar) my brain and I are better off without it.

Why does Multitasking have a Bad Rap?

Multitasking really means that we’re ‘switch-tasking’.
Because our brain can’t process similar functions (like reading a book and listening to music lyrics) simultaneously, it unconsciously switches between tasks, rather than trying to work on more than one task at a time. And, when we switch from one task to another, the transition between tasks takes time as our brain needs to shift attention. While this might feel seamless, each switch takes tenths of a second, which adds up when you’re switching back and forth frequently. Studies have shown that multitasking takes as much as 40% more time than focusing on one task only – which is why it’s inefficient, ineffective and impacts productivity.

Multitasking means more mistakes…
Because the brain never really focuses on any one task, multitaskers have more trouble tuning out distractions, make more errors, remember fewer details and take longer to complete tasks than those who work only on a single task at a time.
Most of us generally shift attention every 3 minutes. But, as it takes 15 to 18 minutes of concentrated work to enter what’s called a ‘flow state’ (the state of deep consciousness where we work at optimal levels), we’re unlikely to ever enter ‘flow’ – and perform better.

Multitasking affects brain health…
Evidence has shown that chronic multitasking can impair cognitive function, affect short term memory and increase anxiety.
A 2009 Stanford study into the effect on cognitive function found that multitaskers struggle to filter out irrelevant information, have greater difficulty switching between tasks and are less mentally organised. Even when chronic multitaskers focused only on one task, their brains were less efficient.
And, because switching rapidly between tasks spreads our attention thinly, tasks aren’t given the attention they deserve (or need) in order to be properly bedded down in memory, with the effect becoming more noticeable as we age.
Interrupted work increases anxiety levels. Researchers at UCI found that the heart rates of workers with access to email were consistently higher than those without email access. For me, this is as good reason as any to switch off email and social media alerts!

Multitasking inhibits creativity…
Forcing our brains to process multiple tasks in rapid succession rewires the brain, inhibiting creativity. When we spread our attention across too many tasks at once, we use up the brain’s working memory, leaving no space for truly creative ideas and concepts.  
Also, as overload makes us more anxious, we start to rely on the more primitive ‘fight or flight’ area of the brain, instead of using the frontal lobe, which controls creativity and critical thinking.
This all makes us more likely to follow (rather than challenge) conventional thinking. 

Multitasking stands in the way of making connections with others…
Jumping from task to task means that we never really spend enough time building deep connections with others. When we read the news, while talking to our children or respond to emails in meeting, we’re never truly in the moment. Our colleagues, families and friends sense this, which impacts our connection to them. Truly connecting with others is a source of deep human fulfilment – which no task can give.

Just Say No
Having realised the impact that multitasking has on my brain, health and life, I now try to focus on two simple rules that help me to ‘just say no’.

Prioritise only one thing each day.
Each day, try to focus on only one task at a time, for a length of time. This helps to avoid switch-tasking and opens up the possibility of entering a flow state. If you can’t set aside a whole day per task, try to set aside blocks of time (an hour or more is ideal) to work only on one thing. 
Schedule (limited) time in your day for admin tasks – like answering emails – and switch off email and social media alerts. Try to limit unnecessary meetings.
For me, understanding that I don’t need to respond to everything has been life altering.

Do creative tasks in the early morning.
If you need to write a report, design a strategy or conduct an annual goal setting session, set aside time first thing in the morning, when you’re fresh and rested (and before your mind gets cluttered), to get creative tasks done.

Multitasking is the art of doing twice as much as you should, half as well as you could. 
Go forth and focus (on one thing at a time!)
 
Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Lindo Skhosana11/27/2018 10:00 AMThought Leadership0 
  

hurry-2119711_1920.2.jpgAuthor: Georgina Barrick
'Don't stress over what you can't control'. 'Keep Calm and …'

We've all heard the trite memes. I even seen t-shirts emblazoned with 'If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough'. While these sayings are meant to motivate, it's difficult to live the sentiments when you're feeling overwhelmed.

Rather than encouraging and giving us hope, these memes can paralyse us, as we try to rationalise how we're really feeling against what we believe is expected of us.

October 10th was World Mental Health Day. Against the backdrop of gender-based violence, crime and an economy that is simply failing to thrive; many South Africans are struggling with anxiety, depression and stress.

Speaking to colleagues and friends, it seems that many around us are overloaded and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life. Some have to balance the needs of elderly parents, alongside managing a young family. Others cope with ill health – our own or those closest to us. South Africa's declining economic growth – the latest petrol price hike being just one consequence – affects us all.

As leaders, we have the added stress of always needing to push the envelope. In corporate companies, meeting shareholder expectations means that each year has to be better than the last.

And, while we sign up for this race when we take on a leadership role, it's a challenge to constantly be reaching, chasing and improving.

But, is stress necessarily a bad thing? We know that it's essential for survival.

The body's natural defence against danger – the 'fight or flight' mechanism – releases cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. This prepares our bodies to respond to dangerous situations by slowing normal bodily functions (like digestion) and increasing heart rate, heightening muscle preparedness and raising alertness.

However, when the 'fight or flight' mechanism is triggered too often, too easily or if there are too many stressors at one time, our physical, mental and emotional health suffers.

Too much stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, issues with sleep and can put us at a greater risk of developing cancer. Emotionally, it makes us more prone to angry outbursts, at greater risk of developing drug or alcohol problems, impacts appetite (either by making us eat more or less) and affects our relationships.

Undoubtedly, too much stress is debilitating and should be avoided.

In the right and appropriate dosage, stress can be a motivator.

If managed properly, it can make us more resilient. South Africans, who have long lived in a constant state of uncertainty around our political and economic future, have become used to stress and, rather than hindering us, it has propelled us forward, to a certain extent.

The secret is to find a balance - as my 85 year old mother always says 'everything in moderation'.

Today, we're all more focused on our heath and on being mindful and more present in our lives. Most of us try to achieve work/ life balance and know, as I explored in last month's blog, that sleep is key.  But, how do we guard against these concepts becoming like wallpaper – there, but not seen? How do we manage our stress so that it helps, and doesn't hurt, us?

Learn to accept where you are right now.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a great fan of Oprah's SuperSoul Sundays and listen to her podcasts whenever I can. Recently, I heard her speak to spiritual teacher, Eckhardt Tolle, about how to live a stress-free life. Tolle's message – that stress is about wanting something to be the way it isn't – really resonated with me. Too often, when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we immediately jump into worst-case scenarios, using negative mind talk. 

Instead, he believes that, when we find ourselves in a stressful situation, we should accept it – look at the situation without labelling it and understand (and accept) that this is what our life looks like for now. He calls this accepting the 'is-ness' of life.

Tolle also believes that even negative situations can have a positive outcome.

When Arianna Huffington collapsed in her office from lack of sleep and used the experience to turn her life around, she found the positive in the negative. When things don't look good at first glance, acceptance can turn a negative situation around. If we can learn to 'lean away' from the noise that our minds make, we're more able to relax and go with the moment – or to accept the moment as though we had chosen it for ourselves and let it bring on a new consciousness.

Until we accept our current state and stop fighting it, we remain 'stuck in the mud'. Or, rather, what we resist, persists.


Stop 'multi-tasking'…

Often, we take on too much and then 'multitask' to get it all delivered.

We've all done this – checking mail, while meeting with colleagues, or taking important business calls while driving. I call it the 'myth of multi-tasking' because the truth is that none of the activities we're engaged in is getting our full attention – and none are being executed with excellence. 

One of the simplest ways to reduce stress is to focus, as much as possible, on doing only one thing at a time. Pick one thing to work on, remove all distractions and focus on it until it's done.

You'll find it liberating – I certainly did.


Simplify your schedule…

Overscheduling is a major source of stress.

We're all constantly on the run – to the next meeting, event or situation. Try to schedule only a few essential commitments (or those that are beneficial to you or feed your soul) into each day and learn to say 'no' to the rest. If meetings aren't essential, decline the meeting invite. Schedule time for fun and relaxation.

In time, you'll get over your FOMO.


Exercise…

Do something that gets you moving every day.

It's doesn't have to be formal – walk your dog, dance with your children – as long as it happens.

Get moving – it helps.

 

Be early – always…

Constantly being late is very stressful. Try to be realistic about how long it really takes to get ready, commute, prepare or run errands so that you can space out your meetings to give you more time.

If you're able to manage your stress so that it becomes a positive force, you'll understand – as Bill Phillips said that 'stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle'.

Go forth and conquer (your stress).

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.


Sandra Olivier11/1/2018 8:15 AMThought Leadership0 
  

Author: Georgina Barrick

I'm a great fan of Oprah Winfrey's 'Super Soul Sundays' and listen to her podcasts avidly while on my 40 minute work commute. I particularly loved her interview with Arianna Huffington – who, after building a successful business on the back of 18 hour days, has seen the light and is now the global champion for sleep and rest.

She is so passionate about sleep that she's made it one of her keystone habits and is encouraging others to do the same. Recently, Arianna wrote an open letter to Elon Musk (whose very public melt downs – and 24 hour days – are becoming almost painful to watch), pointing out that he's 'demonstrating a wildly outdated, anti-scientific and horribly inefficient way of using human energy' and that his behaviour is like 'trying to launch us into our clean energy future… with a coal-fired steam engine' because of a lack of sleep.

 

Despite being a good sleeper from birth, I have experienced disrupted sleep in times of stress and know how debilitating, and self-perpetuating, the lack of consistent, quality sleep can be. Just ask any new mother or MBA student.

 

Matthew Walker, renowned Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Berkley (and author of 'Why We Need Sleep') is clear that quality sleep is vital to health, cellular anti-aging, well-being and success. Consistently getting too little sleep decreases productivity, affects memory (sleep 'cleans' the brain by pruning unnecessary memory connections, allowing us to commit new experiences to memory), makes us more accident-prone and can even affect our earning potential.

Too little sleep also severely affects our health. Well-rested people take fewer sick days, are able to control their weight more effectively and have better quality cellular regeneration.

 

In his book, Walker explains how a lack of sleep leads to increased development of a toxic protein in the brain, called beta amyloid, which has been associated with Alzheimer's. During deep sleep, the brain 'washes' away this protein. If you are not getting enough sleep, beta amyloid builds up, increasing the risk of dementia later in life.

He also describes the physical effects of sleep deprivation (which he classifies as 5-6 hours or less of sleep per night). Men can experience decreased levels of testosterone, showing levels equivalent to men 10 years older, reducing virility and wellness.

Other studies have shown that just one night of sleep deprivation reduces critical anti-cancer fighting cells (called natural killer cells) by 70%. The link between sleep and cancer is so strong that the World Health Organisation has classified any form of night-time shift work (where sleep patterns are disrupted) as a probable carcinogen.

For leaders, sleep also allows us to make better decisions, to remain more intuitive and aligned with our decisions and to react more quickly, with a slower fuse. Exhaustion can affect our EQ, CQ and IQ.

If you're a sleep-deprived leader, your vibrational energy drops – which is palpable to the people around you. Ask anyone who is currently being led by a low-energy leader.

It's not about being 'energetic'. Our 'vibration' is a fancy way of describing our overall state of being. Everything in the universe is made up of energy vibrating at different frequencies. Even things that look solid have vibrational energy fields at the quantum level, including you. The higher the frequency of your energy or vibration, the lighter you feel physically, mentally and emotionally – and the more you experience greater personal power, clarity, peace, love and joy.

All of this can be affected by a lack of sleep and exhaustion. As Huffington admits, some of the biggest mistakes she's made in life were when she was exhausted and over-reactive. In this state, she missed opportunities and red flags.

It seems like restorative sleep is the new black (#RSITNB) – and is less about getting 8 - 9 hours of sleep, and more about getting the rest that our bodies need to regenerate and function at an optimal level. During deep sleep, blood pressure and heart rate drops, allowing a 'reboot' of the cardiovascular system. Less than 6 hours of sleep per night increases your risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke by 200%.

Walker's studies have shown that humans can function for approximately 16 hours of wakefulness before we see a significant decline in brain function. After 19 to 20 hours of wakefulness, our mental capacity is so impaired that we function like someone who is legally drunk. To recover, we need at least 8 hours of sleep to return to normal function.

While restorative functions occur during all stages of sleep, deep sleep and REM are the 2 stages during which our bodies and minds undergo the most renewal.

For me, it's about getting sustained quality sleep (+6 hours) over quantity – and about getting 'natural', rather than drug-induced, sleep.

 

So, how do we go about getting more sleep?

As research suggests, we should all aim to get at least 6 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night.

The first step is to prioritise sleep – or, as Huffington does, make it a keystone habit.

If you're currently sleeping 4 to 5 hours per night, try to increase this to 6 to 7 hours, as a start.

 

Planning is an important part of getting restorative sleep.

As far as possible, plan to leave your office at a reasonable hour. It can be difficult to do this as last-minute 'emergencies' often keep us chained to our desks. A good first step is to recognise what really constitutes an 'emergency'.

Also, as leaders, it's important that we encourage our staff to prioritise and value rest – and create a culture where it's okay for our staff to leave the office at a reasonable hour, without feeling guilty or like they're slacking off.

Electronic devices are the enemy of sleep.

Because they emit 'blue light', which boosts attention and raises energy levels, device screens stimulate our brains and make us more wakeful.

Huffington suggests that you make a time to 'escort your devices out of your bedroom', making it a completely device-free zone. This removes the temptation to check your mail if you wake up during the night - or, as she says, disconnect from technology to reconnect with yourself.

Keeping a notebook next to your bed where you can jot down things that you might not remember in the morning, frees your mind up to stop thinking and can make you less anxious.

 

Sleep 'hygiene' is important.

Set a cool room temperature. If you wear pyjamas, wear sleep-friendly clothing. Try not to drink caffeine after 2pm.

Use light stretching, deep breathing or meditation to help your mind and body transition into sleep.

Nap. The benefits of a 'power nap' (20 minutes or less) are well-known. Harpo Studios, The Huffington Post, Google and many other successful companies have nap rooms in the workplace #justsaying. Try to build nap times into the 'low points' in your day.

As leaders, Huffington believes that we need to realise that we're paying people for their judgement and not for their stamina. To focus on what really matters and, to be fully present, we need to celebrate and prioritise rest. If what actuaries are predicting is true and we do start living into our 200's, our future success depends on it.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

 

 


Sandra Olivier10/2/2018 8:48 AMThought Leadership0 
  
Author: Georgina Barrick

As employees and members of society, we sometimes remain silent when we know that we should speak up.
We see a project, process or person veering towards disaster and know that we should intervene, share our ideas or contribute in some way – yet we stay silent.
Perhaps this is because we fear the consequences or repercussions that might follow if we do speak.  
Perhaps we are concerned that our ideas won’t be taken seriously, without criticism. That speaking up – and getting it wrong – might be held against us. 
Perhaps we know that if we speak up, we’ll be forced to become involved in finding a solution, so staying silent seems to be the path of least resistance.
Whatever the reason, silence often occurs (particularly in the workplace) when speaking up is most necessary.

Research shows that we hold back on contributing when it does not feel safe to do so.
When we feel that the benefits of silence outweigh the benefits of speaking up – or, as Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson believes, when we don’t feel ‘psychologically safe’.
Edmondson defines psychological safety as the ‘belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes’. 
We feel psychologically safe when our team or environment supports risk taking and is a place where we can show ourselves without fear of negative consequence for our self-image, status or career. More simply, where we feel comfortable being – and expressing – ourselves.

Building psychological safety in your team or environment has many benefits.
Feeling safe means that we’re more likely to take risks that lead to market breakthroughs, innovate, implement diverse ideas and drive performance. We’re also more likely to be creative.
If we’re encouraged to express ourselves without fear of failure or retribution, we’re more likely to have a shared purpose and identity and remain open to learning. 
All of this may lead to higher levels of engagement and longer tenure.

As leaders, how can we build psychological safety in our teams?
Edmondson says that it’s as simple as focusing on 3 key areas…

Frame work correctly.
Be clear that you don’t have all of the answers and will need help from the team to solve problems or get work completed along the way. 
Set work up as a learning – and not an execution – problem so that the team is clear that there are areas of uncertainty that require input from everyone.
Or, as Edmondson says, we need everyone’s head in the game.

Acknowledge your own fallibility. 
We all make mistakes. As leaders, acknowledging our mistakes creates a climate of openness, where mistakes are allowed. Encourage the team to speak up by saying straightforward things like ‘I may miss something and need your input’.

Model curiosity.
Questions encourage a learning mind-set – and make speaking up necessary.
As leaders, we need to ask questions – and listen to the answers.

Other ways to build psychological safety include:

Always speak human to human.
Sometimes, we lose sight of the fact that we’re all human – with universal needs like respect, competence, status and autonomy. A simple way to get this right – and to encourage communication – is to remember that we’re all ‘Just Like Me’ – people with beliefs, hopes, anxieties and vulnerabilities ‘just like me’.

Create team rules.
And confront unreasonable behaviour early.

Be accessible.
Autonomy is important - but your team still needs to know that you’re always available to answer questions, provide guidance and help – no matter how trivial. Be the safety net – if they need one.

Finally, model accountability. 
Excellence isn’t achieved purely through psychological safety.
Psychological safety is about letting up on the brakes. Without accountability – or your foot on the gas – everyone is in a comfort zone, where no-one excels.
As leaders, we need to have – and expect – accountability for excellence to blossom.

Focus on creating an environment where your people feel safe making mistakes – and are accountable – and I’ll show you an environment where excellence is possible.

‘Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned.’

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Lindo Skhosana8/24/2018 1:00 PMThought Leadership0 
  


Author: Georgina Barrick

Generational theory is always evolving.

This makes things very interesting for a Generation X leader, trying to successfully blend multiple generations in the workplace and in life. If you've been following me, you'll know that I've shared my thoughts on balancing the power and pitfalls of Generation X, Millennials and Centennials in a series of recent pieces.

It appears that there' is now a – not so new – kid on the block.

Recently, I've been introduced to the power of the Perennial.

Coined by US Internet entrepreneur, Gina Pell, Perennials are 'ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages' who share an inclusive, enduring mindset, but not (always) an age.

Defined instead by their shared interests, behaviour and values, they live in the present, stay curious and are plugged into the world, technology and trends.

Perennials are 'passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative and global-minded risk takers' who have friends of all ages, mentor others and know how to hustle.

This immediately resonated with me as I personally don't always feel like I quite fit all of the attributes of a typical Gen X'er.

For them, age isn't limiting.

Pell believes that 'Generation Segregation', where we define people by age and generation, rather than mindset, separates us and creates tension across decades. It also puts the spotlight onto one generation to the exclusion of others, limiting opportunity. Perennials buck the trend to transcend the bounds of age.

I'm excited already.

And, marketers are taking note.

Forward thinking companies – like Amazon and Netflix – target consumers using behavioural data, rather than relying on generational stereotypes. By tracking actual online behaviour - like your browsing history and buying habits – they're able to offer you more targeted, appropriate products.behaviour - like your browsing history and buying habits – they're able to offer you more targeted, appropriate products.

In South Africa, Pick n Pay, Dischem and Woolworths (to name but a few) use information gathered from their card reward schemes to offer targeted discounts on the products that you buy most often.

This shift away from traditional marketing, which uses demographics, towards psychographics, which relies on data gathered on the personality, attitudes, interests, values and aspirations of the customer, creates a more personal experience. 

Because Perennials are a very new addition to generational theory, I believe that more research needs to be done before we can accurately predict how they're likely to influence our leadership approach. However, I think that we can expect that Perennials will change how we lead – and may already be doing so.

Expect to build a culture of continuous learning. Driven by curiosity and the need to stay relevant, 'ever-blooming' Perennials are likely to focus on ongoing development of their skills, abilities and knowledge – and are likely to expect employers to help them keep up.

Expect to create 'tailored' working environments, with flexible working arrangements.

Work from home, compressed hours, job sharing and contracting are likely to become increasingly popular ways to improve productivity and ensure long-term wellbeing.

Expect help with your mentoring programmes. An inclusive mindset, collaborative nature, friends of all ages and a love of mentoring make Perennials ideal mentors in the workplace.

Mark Twain said that 'age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter'. Perennials truly are the ageless and I am excited to consider myself as a part of this.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Lindo Skhosana8/2/2018 2:49 PMThought Leadership0 
  


Author: Georgina Barrick 

Every so often in life, if you are paying attention, you may meet a truly extraordinary person.

These people are rare and, I suspect, if you’re not alive to the possibility, their magnificence may pass you by. Often, they aren’t the loudest or most flamboyant in the room, or the most obvious. 

Mostly, they’re incredibly hard working, humble and selfless people who just vibrate on a different frequency.

Meeting someone extraordinary can be quite unsettling. Being faced with someone who is living their full potential – with no excuses – calls into question your own life, efforts and the excuses you make for not doing more, being more or being better. Professor Carol – Ann Benn is one of these people to me.

I have started to question what separates the ordinary from the extra-ordinary. What drives someone to operate at a level so far beyond their peers that they are immediately set apart, driven forward faster than those around them. More simply, what creates sustained high performance in some of us, but not in others? And, if we can gain insight into what drives the individual, can we use this understanding to drive ourselves and our teams to high performance?

In trying to understand this, one of the interesting books about performance that I’ve come across is ‘High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way’, written by acclaimed coach and speaker, Brendan Burchard. In it, he shares the 6 habits that his research suggests lead to sustained high performance – and happiness. 

Some of these habits may be common sense, but together they create a roadmap to high performance. And, alongside increased consciousness and awareness, they create a vibrational level that moves us from ‘just getting by’ to a state of flow. I’d like to share them with you…

Seek Clarity

High performers constantly seek clarity – about their goals, direction, strategy and intention.

And, while they might not always get the clarity they’re seeking, asking keeps them focused on what is important and helps them to sift out distractions.

Similarly, high performance teams focus on ensuring that members clearly understand interdependencies, have clearly defined roles, support the decision-making process and are committed to shared goals.

A suggestion that really resonated with me is to start each workplace interaction by asking: ‘What is our intention?’, ‘What really matters?’ and ‘What do we need to achieve?’

Generate Energy

In reality, while most of us are exhausted by mid-afternoon, having lost energy throughout the day scrambling to keep up with changing meetings, tasks and events, high performers aren’t.

Instead, they use the time between tasks or meetings – called transitions – to give themselves a short, psychological break. Some get up from their desks, others meditate or spend time in quiet reflection, but all use the time to recharge and shift focus from one activity to another so that they’re primed to perform again.

Burchard’s suggestion that we plan our days in 45 to 60 minutes chunks, with breaks in between, seems within reach for us all.

Energised team environments emphasise team development, continuous learning and motivation.

Raise Necessity

For high performers, succeeding isn’t about passion, preference or need.

Performing with excellence is as necessary to them as breathing.

And, raising this necessity is personal. It’s all about having someone to perform excellently for – family, team or peers – and reminding yourself of this reason constantly to focus your intention and mental ability towards the right goal.

For high performance teams, necessity is created by focus on a collective mission and purpose – where members can see beyond individual workload and goals towards the team’s higher purpose.

Increase Productivity

High performers increase outputs that matter – or, simply, they focus unwaveringly on what they have identified as the main event, without being distracted.

They’re also more productive because they have the subconscious ability to think and plan ahead.

Burchard’s research shows that high performers see five steps ahead at all times, identifying the major moves that they’ll need to make to achieve their goal, what to avoid and what skills they’ll need to develop to complete each move.  

One of the ways that high performance teams achieve increased productivity is through clear and constant feedback. Knowing how they’re tracking – and where they’re going wrong – helps teams to take action to correct inefficiencies quickly.

Develop Influence

High performers are influential – by influencing how others think and challenging them to grow.

If you’re lucky, you have an admired mentor who subtly shapes how you think by questioning your approach – ‘What do you think about this? Have you thought about approaching it in this way?’ and, who, in doing so, pushes you to think unconventionally and creatively – and be your best.

If you do, you’re likely to have a high performance mentor.

In high performance teams, creating an environment where members feel secure enough to constructively criticise and challenge processes – the status quo – builds influence.

Demonstrate Courage

When confronting risk, hardship, judgement or fear, high performers show courage in many ways.

Firstly, they speak up for themselves – and others – sharing truth that makes them vulnerable.

They also ‘honour the struggle’ – appreciating that true success take blood, sweat and tears and that working through the tough times is a necessary part of the process. They expect hardship to come with achievement, believing it be character-building. South Africans call this ‘vasbyt’.   

Finally, high performers demonstrate courage because they’ve identified someone to fight for – a family member, friend or peer – and their determination to fight through uncertainty or fear comes from wanting to work hard for this person.

Focusing on these habits and constantly challenging yourself in a non-judgmental, but honest and conscious way, can shift old patterns and move you into a more authentic state of being. Like all things that are really worth it, this takes practice and discipline, but is a challenge that can have amazing results.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource.ICT/ IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.


Lindo Skhosana6/21/2018 10:08 AMThought Leadership0 
  

Author: Georgina Barrick

Ricky Gervais joked about it while hosting the Golden Globes.

The BBC's John Humphrys caused an outcry when comments he made to a producer about it were leaked.

Northern Ireland has reversed theirs, while Iceland is making big strides towards doing the same.

Syria and Pakistan have not…

I'm talking about the gender pay gap.

#Fact: Men earn more, on average, than women.

In 2017, global average earnings for women were $12 000, compared to $21 000 for men.

This gap is evident across region, industry and age.

Education makes little difference. Neither, seemingly at this point, does legislation.

And, while the issue has been on the global agenda for decades – America's Equal Pay Act was signed into law in 1963 – little real progress has been made.

According to the World Economic Forum, at this rate, it will take 217 years before women universally earn the same as men.¹

These facts have really shocked me. It's 2018, for goodness sake.

Either I'm horribly naive or have been fortunate to headhunt for clients, and work for companies, where salaries are related to the complexity of the role, rather than the gender of the employee filling it. I was equally shocked to hear how much more than Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe was paid for commentating at Wimbledon and that Claire Foy, who portrayed the bona fide leading role of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix's The Crown (which I loved, by the way ), was paid less than Matt Smith, who played the supporting role of Prince Philip.

Locally, despite supportive legislation and better tertiary education attainment, South African women are more likely to be unemployed or work informally or part-time. We're are also more likely to work longer hours for less and do more unpaid work than men.

All of this has contributed to South Africa's ranking in the WEF's Global Gender Gap Report dropping from 79 in 2006 to 89 in 2017. The IPSOS 2017 Pulse of the People Report supports these findings - South African women earn 27% less than their male counterparts.

My blood boils.

While we've made many encouraging moves in the right direction (think 'Equal Pay for Equal Work' legislation in many countries and America's 10 April 'Equal Pay' day), myths that reinforce unequal pay persist.

Like, the idea that women don't need to earn as much as men because we work for 'pin money' – when 49.4% of all American households with children under 18 have a breadwinner mother who contributes at least 40% to household income.

Or, that we earn less because we don't negotiate salary – when the reality is that, even when we do (and 12% of women have, compared to 51.5% of men), we may, in fact, be penalised for asking, while men are rewarded.

And, perhaps most pervasive, that women choose to be paid less – or choose lower-paying jobs – because we trade salary for flexibility. When the truth is that, rather than choice, women have constraints on choice – like the need to balance raising children with a career as, globally, women typically shoulder 75% of childcare responsibility.

Or, the historical myth that biological differences keep women out of higher-paying jobs – the 'men have superior mathematical ability' argument.

Together, these endemic myths impact the gender pay gap and prevent women from participating fully economically.

As 21st Century leaders, role models and mentors – both men and women – what can we do to effect positive change on pay?

Promote transparency.

Research shows that publishing pay raises earnings – and improves employee engagement.

In some countries, legislation is pushing transparency. The UK has enacted law that makes gender pay gap reporting mandatory, while the Scandinavian countries publish everyone's income tax returns annually.

The result – Sweden has only a 6% average pay gap between men and women doing the same job.

In South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows employees to discuss employment conditions with co-workers – a provision designed to bypass the secretive approach to pay that contributes to the gender pay gap.

Don't rely on previous salary when making job offers.

Using previous salary as a base discriminates against women who have taken time out of the workplace to raise children, been working part-time or in low-paying employment.

Rather, like Google, offer what the job is worth.

Value negotiation.

Salary negotiation goes wrong for women more often than men.

One possible solution to this problem is to coach women in the art of negotiation.

Another is to raise awareness around the issue with your management team and encourage them to advocate for women during negotiations.

Yet another solution is to ban salary negotiation entirely. Rather, set pay ranges for each of your roles and make non-negotiable offers to candidates.

Create 'family-friendly' workplaces.

Many highly-skilled women leave the workplace when they start a family – which is a loss for all.

Family-friendly policies – like childcare assistance, extended leave and proper flexibility – that support working mothers make it easier for them to stay in work.

I'm exceptionally fortunate to work for a listed company, where everyone is rewarded fairly for their efforts and salaries relate to the role at hand. This means that, irrespective of gender or race, we have a package range for each role and compensate our staff based on their knowledge, skills and experience.  Looking at the facts, I can see that this isn't the case for all.

The time is now. Let's stand together against all forms of inequality and discrimination.

I know that I'm ready.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource.ICT/ IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Lindo Skhosana5/24/2018 11:35 AMThought Leadership0 
  

Author: Georgina Barrick

In 2018, HR's newest buzz phrase is 'People First'.

This means that how we see, manage and communicate with our employees is evolving.

We're moving from a more traditional HR view, where process drives efficiency, effectiveness and value (think Jack Welch's infamous annual 'rank and cull') towards a world where people come first.

Today, we regard our employees more as 'whole human beings and understand the complexities, opportunities and abilities that come to work with them every day'¹, leading us towards an understanding that their well-being, success and growth are top priority.

As leaders, we're realising that it's people, and not only process, that create value and efficiency.

This may seem almost counter-intuitive in a world were robots are replacing humans in so many jobs, but one of the key drivers of this evolution is technology.

In one of my recent articles, I talked about the impact of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Together with social media, HR analytics (aka People or Talent analytics) and human management tools, technology is driving instant access to information not available through traditional channels. This data allows HR to track employee sentiment, satisfaction and success – which, in turn, makes it possible to strategically innovate, make decisions, personalise the employee experience and create brand ambassadors out of our current and former employees.

Or, put 'People First'.

Another key driver of this evolution is rising awareness.

The greater social conscience of our younger generations, together with social media, is driving transparency – think #MeToo, #equalpayday and Wikileaks.

As leaders, we understand that our actions and culture are no longer contained within the walls of our companies, but instead are visible for all – satisfied or disgruntled – to see.

The knowledge that our treatment of people can easily become public (remember Vicki Momberg) and can impact our bottom line, is a contributing factor in this greater awareness.

As I've alluded to already, the third drive is generational.

In 2008, we had 2 to 3 generations in the workplace. Today, we have 5 working together (a first!) presenting HR with both unique challenges and opportunities.

Technology can help HR to uncover generational differences and focus on inclusivity for all, through communication.

'People First' is impacting how we do business in interesting ways…

Employee engagement is making way for employee experience or journey.

For some time, we've been concerned with measuring engagement – or how emotionally committed our employees are to us, our companies and goals.

We've also been outwardly focussed on strategies that drive 'customer experience' – but have finally evolved sufficiently to include employee experience in our arsenal.

Technology now helps us to show commitment to our employees, by driving the delivery of more personalised 'consumer-like' experiences. This extends to supporting employees on their career journeys, either internally or externally.

Tailored, flexible work solutions are gaining traction.

In the US, remote work increased 16% between 2008 and 2012, facilitated by technologies like Skype and Google Apps for Work. The resulting cost savings on office space and perks have been bolstered by the fact the flex has become a sought-after perk itself. And, one of the biggest benefactors of this shift are companies themselves who would otherwise lose workers – particularly women who may leave the workforce to take care of children.

Office perks are becoming more individualised and relevant.

From personalised wellness programmes to tailored concierge services, companies are using people analytics to personalise perks.

Good examples include Bitco's 'token system', where employees receive tokens for demonstrating knowledge sharing, communication and integrity and MultiChoice's MLife concierge service and rewards programme, aimed at supporting employee's like a 24/7 personal assistant.

Coaching is on the rise – at all levels.

Once prevalent only at executive levels, coaches now help staff across the business to understand what they really want from careers and how to unlock value.

Technology now allows coaching to be delivered on virtual platforms, which together with the increasing specialisation of coaches, makes the concept more accessible to all.

'People First' seems to be ushering in a kinder, more effective and productive way of managing human resources. As David Sikhosana, author of 'Time Value of Money', said 'Always put people first, for without them, there is no organisation'.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource.ICT/ IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.


Mpho Mothupi4/19/2018 10:46 AM0 
  

Author: Georgina Barrick

 

In one of my previous pieces 'Improving Hiring Success – Let Go of First Impressions', I spoke about the temptation to hire in your own image and likeness. It's a natural tendency – we like people who are similar to ourselves and who share our views and beliefs. With this kind of thinking, cohesion is prized, teambuilding is geared towards strengthening friendships, everyone (mostly) agrees and, in 'good' teams, conflict isn't encouraged.

 

Building a team of 'clones', with very similar backgrounds and thinking, can work – often very successfully. But there's a potential downside – groupthink.

Groupthink occurs when everyone thinks the same way. No-one challenges perceptions and there's no space for alternative ideas. If someone has a different view, they're swept along with the consensus and feel like they can't speak up or need to censor themselves to avoid conflict. This may lead to poor or badly made decisions, as ideas are simply embraced without debate and without really challenging the basis for making them.

So, while cohesion may initially boost team performance, being homogenous eventually hurts success – and the bottom line.


Over the last 20 or more years, the rise in prominence of EQ, and more recently CQ, means that we've come to understand that ego has no place in picking a great team. Getting the balance right between differing personalities is far more important – and successful in the long term.

Today, when I'm looking to expand my team, I focus on the following:

 

Make team diversity a priority.

Self-awareness – understanding your own strengths and weaknesses – is an important part of having the confidence to bring in different skill sets - and even people smarter than yourself.

Look for different personalities. To set up a truly balanced team, you need a blend of personality types including the results-orientated organiser, the relationship-focused diplomat, the conscientious process/ rule follower, innovative and disruptive thinkers and pragmatists.

To stimulate debate, seek out contrarians, critical thinkers and the naturally curious.

If you want to improve team effectiveness, surround yourself with dissimilar people who will help you to see all sides of issues and will enter into valuable, robust debate which, ultimately, will improve the decision-making process

 

Increase awareness.

Preventing groupthink starts with being able to identify the behaviour.

Make sure that your team knows what it is, how it occurs and what to do if they think it's setting in. There are also a number of thinking methods that teams can apply to ensure that an issue is examined from all appropriate sides.  An old, but still very useful, method is the De Bono 6 Hat thinking method

 

Encourage debate.

Many Gen X leaders have been socialised to avoid conflict. 'Respect your elders' teaches us that it's disrespectful or impolite to openly disagree or criticise. But, while dissent can be uncomfortable, it should be prized in team environments.

Create a culture where team members are encouraged to voice opinions, critically analyse problems and share feedback. To encourage debate, it's a good idea to assign a 'devil's advocate' to argue against the grain and to avoid criticising anyone who suggests an alternative perspective.   

However, don't let disagreements get too heated or fester. Dissent needs to be healthy.

 

Give everyone a voice.

Sometimes, quieter team members can get lost in the noise.

To overcome this, set up a suggestion box for anonymous suggestions or try 'brainwriting' where, rather than shouting out ideas, participants write their ideas down and pass the sheet to the next person, who adds their own ideas, leading to a group discussion.

 

Bring in outsiders.

Whether it's a subject matter expert or different team, get an outsider to review the situation and decisions made.

 

Document the decision.

Once the team has debated a problem and reached a solution, it's important to document the process. Try to include a detailed analysis of the situation, all possible solutions considered, a comprehensive breakdown of the recommended solution (and why it was chosen) and a project plan, covering how to implement the solution.

 

Selecting a team for high performance companies is about carefully identifying the sum of its parts. If you hire in own image, you'll miss out on competencies that you need to be a truly high-performance team. Bring in people who know more than you do in other areas – and get out of the way so that they can excel.

 

Paul Gibbons once said 'That which a team does not want to discuss, it most needs to discuss.'

Written by Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience. Connect with her on LinkedIn: Georgina Barrick.

Mpho Mothupi3/20/2018 10:50 AMThought Leadership0 
  


2018 has started at warp speed.

Or, so it seems to me. And, speaking to colleagues and friends, I’m not alone.

 

So much has happened in the first few weeks of the year, bringing a renewed sense of hope, optimism and positivity, coupled with an overwhelming sense that we have an enormous amount of work to do.

In South Africa, new leadership is champing at the bit, we finally have a new President, corruption is under serious scrutiny and the mood amongst our clients is definitely more buoyant. For the first time since 2015, the Rand has broken the R12/$ barrier. Cape Town is bracing for Day Zero and counting the potential human and business cost of being the first major city to switch off the taps, while thousands of litres of water are arriving by truck, sent by well-meaning Joburgers who want to assist animal shelters and the like.

Personally, January seems to have passed in a blur. Despite my best intentions to consciously remain focused on my crucial purpose, my packed diary often left little space or time for focus, reflection and personal development.

If, as business leaders, we’re feeling this way, our teams most certainly are too.

The question is how best to help them – and ourselves.

 

One of the avenues that has gained so much traction is corporate wellness.

For some, ‘corporate wellness’ may conjure up images of weight management programmes, SmokeEnders and emailers about managing stress. However, corporate wellness has shifted from monitoring physical health towards a more holistic, proactively preventative approach, with the intent of increasing employee engagement, reducing absenteeism and boosting creativity and focus. Going forward, I believe that we’re likely to see the rise of more sophisticated and meaningful Wellness Programmes that really make a difference by focusing on key areas like sleep, mindfulness and mental health.

 

In the 1980’s, sleep deprivation was considered a badge of honour.

Margaret Thatcher famously got by on only 4 hours of sleep a night, stating ‘sleep is for wimps’. Today, the Rand Corporation estimates that sleep deprivation costs US employers roughly $411 billion per annum – and everyone from Oprah to Arianna Huffington is espousing the benefits of at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Sleep improves cognitive functioning, productivity and creativity, protects the body from disease and helps keep your weight down.

I believe we’ll see business leaders tackling sleep deprivation with sleep awareness education, sleep challenges and work time naps. We may even see some providing sleep rooms or pods. Flexible hours also allow employees to better manage rest, particularly in an always-on, 24/7 world

 

Mindfulness is another concept that can make a big impact.

Buddhify is a mindfulness app that offers guided meditation, with surprising results. It helps users to sleep better and helps them to find their ‘happy place’ during times of intense stress. All of which is excellent, given that studies show that people who practice meditation have stronger focus, stay calmer under stress and have better memory - just ask Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Finding ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into my professional environment is one of my key challenges in 2018.

 

Mental health issues are often stigmatised – and, as a result, hidden.

However, in South Africa, loss of productivity due to mental illness is estimated to be R17 billion per year, with R15 billion attributed to ‘presenteeism’, where workers are on the job, but not fully functioning because they’re ill.

Wellness programmes can make a difference to mental health by offering mental health days, therapy benefits and a focus on self-care.

 

Many of these programmes have also become more personalised.

Today, nobody expects a ‘one size fits all’ model. AI and big data have made it possible to use collected data to design personalised experiences, which cater to individual needs, set specific challenges and offer unique incentives.

 

However you choose to navigate 2018, whether by simply focusing on the growing trend towards ‘grounding’ (the simplest way to be grounded is to go outside and place your bare feet or hands on the earth or immerse yourself in a body of conductive water, like the sea or a mineral-rich lake) or incorporating  formal wellness interventions into your life, it’s clear that to be able to stay healthy and excel in a high performance world, we need to be finely tuned and firing on all cylinders.

 

‘Health is a state of mind. Wellness is a state of being’

Good luck!

 

Written by Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience. Connect with her on LinkedIn: Georgina Barrick.


Mpho Mothupi2/21/2018 11:17 AMThought Leadership0 
  


Author: Georgina Barrick

As the year draws to a close, I'm reflecting on what I've shared with you this year and looking ahead to what 2018 may have in store for South Africa and my own business space.

2017 has been an interesting year for Team South Africa, on many levels.

We've had a bumpy ride leading up to the 54th ANC National Conference, weathering ratings downgrades, GuptaLeaks, the recall of Pravin Gordhan and Steinhoff.

Like many of you, I'd welcome a bit of a respite from 'interesting' at this point.

We now know that we have a new President. Everyone is peddling hope and weighing in on his suitability and the enormity of the task facing him.

However, it's likely that 2018 won't offer much-needed respite.

Despite the market's early positive reaction to the announcement, I think it's going to be a tough year economically as we have a big hole to crawl out of. Also, it's going to take time for the new ANC leadership team to make a meaningful impact on the mess that we're in.

What strikes me, though, is that this is not the first time we've had to grapple with economic hardship and political uncertainty. We've been here before – and many of us have survived and have the battle scars to prove it. As individuals, we're not in this alone. We're all in the same boat, facing a potentially difficult year and grappling with how best to position our businesses so that we can continue to achieve high performance and success.

To borrow a line from Oprah, what I know for sure is that our success – or failure – is going to hinge on our resilience and approach to the challenges that we face.

As leaders, we can either choose to focus on the negative – like the uncertainty of the political situation or the economy – or we can understand that tough times often bring out the best in us and start looking for better, smarter ways to operate.

South Africans are well-known for being hardworking, resilient, positive and innovative.

And, it's in tough times that we're really forced into truly innovative and creative spaces – because we have to be.

In a nutshell, I believe that the difference between being good or great in 2018 is going to be all about our attitude to challenge – our mindset and the activities that we drive.

Lately, I've spent time looking into the key trends that are likely to define 2018, while relooking at what I've shared with you this year. This process has highlighted two pivotal areas that I'll be focusing on to keep my own mindset geared towards innovation and creativity in 2018.

The right technology is an essential tool for business success.

In a recent piece, I explored how AI and machine learning are transforming our daily lives, becoming a key driver of revenue growth and profoundly impacting the world of work.

In my business space, technology is freeing my team from more admin-focused tasks, giving us more time to focus on the human element, building deeper relationships with our job seekers and clients.

It's also driving a move to flex, where staff do their jobs anywhere and at any time, enabled by technology. (You can read more about this trend here -  http://bit.ly/2z7YMs3).

Finding innovative ways to use technology to find, connect and engage will be key in 2018.

Employee experience has always been important to me and will continue to be a key focus in 2018.

This is especially true in tougher times, when your core team is likely to be asked to handle increasing more responsibility.

I've always believed that if you've taken valuable time to find the right talent – what we call SMART (Specialist, Mobile, Adaptable, Resilient Talent), you need to spend as much time nurturing and developing that talent as you do on your customers – particularly if that talent is from a specialist pressure point.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have a break at the end of this year – use it to reconnect with loved ones and, most importantly, yourself.

Plan well for the year ahead, focusing on what you want to achieve, both personally and professionally. Commit your plans to paper – perhaps even create a vision board if you're a visual person.  This will keep you centred and on track with your goals. It'll also stop you falling into old habits that may derail you along the way.

Having a plan (which may be iterative and can evolve along the way) is an important part of creating a sense of security and wellbeing.

Consider reviewing your clutter – like the desk full of paper that you never look at or the cupboard full of clothes that you never wear. Entering the New Year free of clutter will make space for new opportunities in your life.

Starting 2018 understanding what you stand for and with a connection to your innate consciousness will help you to navigate turbulent times

I'd like to leave you with 15 lessons from Madiba that are as relevant in 2018 as they have always been:

Courage is not the absence of fear.

Be measured.

Lead from the front.

Look the part.

Lead from the back.

See the good in others.

Keep your rivals close.

Have a core principle.

Know when to say no.

Know your enemy.

It's always both.

Love makes the difference.

It's a long game.

Quitting is leading too.

Find your own garden.

May 2018 be the year you shine.


 Written by Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience. Connect with her on LinkedIn: Georgina Barrick.

Mpho Mothupi12/21/2017 9:23 AMThought Leadership0 
  

Author: Georgina Barrick


Have you ever handed over your credit card, only to have your bank call you to flag the transaction as potential fraud because it didn't fit your spending profile? Or, used LiveChat to talk to a 'Consultant' when buying online? Or, been pleasantly surprised by the music recommendations that Spotify makes for you?

Artificial intelligence is to thank for all of these innovations.

Robots are on the rise.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are making them more intelligent daily – and their speed, quality and functionality are being leveraged as a key driver of revenue growth.

AI - and dramatically increased processing power - make it possible for computers to perform highly complex tasks at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time.

They're improving our lives - think Siri, Alexa, self-driving cars, 3D printers, robotic surgery and robot waiters.

This accelerating technology is profoundly affecting the world of work.

Is the worst-case scenario – where massive technological change drives shortages of appropriately skilled talent, unemployment, growing inequality and the rise of social ills – really a potential reality?

How can we survive and thrive in a digital economy?

Technological revolutions aren't new.

Mechanisation in the 18th Century. Mass production in the 19th and 20th Centuries – think the Model T Ford, personal computer and cell phone.

Technological advances disrupt and result in job losses.

What will happen to drivers and car manufacturers when self-driving cars become the norm? Or to bank tellers when bots can fulfil all of their duties and to retail sales assistants when it's easier - and more efficient - to shop online?

But, revolutions also have benefits.

Technology increases productivity and quality, reduces costs and creates employment for people with appropriate skills and knowledge. In the UK, between 2001 and 2015, technology contributed to the loss of 800 000 jobs. However, in the same period, it also helped to create 3.5 million new jobs, resulting in an estimated £140 billion boost to the UK economy.

Will the Digital Revolution be different?

The primary difference between this and previous revolutions is speed.

Today, the unique convergence of factors like clever software, innovative materials (like carbon fibre), more advanced and dexterous robots (think nanotechnology), new processes and web-based services (that facilitate collaboration) is accelerating the move from mass production to mass customisation. Never before, in the history of the world, has the pace of change been so fast - and never again will it be as slow.

This affects not only how things are made – but where. It's estimated that 10-30% of the high value goods – like computers, machinery and fabricated metals – that America now imports from China could be made in the US by 2020, giving the economy a much-needed $20 - $55 billion boost.

But the pace of change means that we're struggling to keep up with the level of disruption.

35% of UK jobs – and 77% of Chinese – are at high risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years.

'Age of Acceleration' proponents believe that the speed of automation will outpace our ability to adapt and reinvent, leading to widespread unemployment.

On the flipside, academic research suggests that the extent to which machines will take over from humans is overstated – and ignores complementary benefits, like increased productivity.

So, how can we prepare for the Digital Age – and make sure that we don't get left behind in this new reality?

It seems that there is light at the end of the (computer-generated) tunnel…

In 2013, research by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne predicted that while middle-skill workers – like telemarketers and freight agents – were most likely to be replaced by robots over the next decade, professions that require skilled workers to regularly interact with other humans - like scientists, healthcare professionals, leaders, entrepreneurs, writers and artists – were not.

Stay abreast of technology.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) training is key.

Between 2015 and 2020, demand for 'Computer and Mathematical' skills will rise, with an estimated 405 000 new jobs being created. Skills most demand will be 'complex problem solving', 'resource management' and 'cognitive ability'.

And, don't try to go head-to-head with the machines. Rather, focus on what makes you human.

Balance STEM learning with a strong focus on general 'soft' or 'human' skills – like social and communication skills, critical thinking, negotiation/ conflict resolution, problem-solving, inspiration, decisiveness, adaptability and team skills.

The combination of emotional intelligence and technical skill is important if we're going to work successfully alongside computers.

And, as always, continuous learning and staying passionately curious are paramount.

Like economist, Daniel Lacalle, I choose to stay hopeful about the role humans will play in a digital world…

'Evidence shows us that if technology really destroyed jobs, there would be no work today for anyone. The technological revolution we have seen in the past 30 years has been unparalleled and exponential, and there are more jobs, better salaries. The best example is the German region of Bavaria, one of the parts of the world with a higher degree of technification and robotization, and with 2.6% unemployment. An all-time low. The same can be said about South Korea, and the world in general.'

Daniel Lacalle, Economist

Sources: Deloitte/ David Autor, MIT/ The Boston Consulting Group/ Thomas Friedman/ World Economic Forum

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Mpho Mothupi11/20/2017 2:52 PMThought Leadership0 
  

Author: Georgina Barrick


Years ago, in a previous role, I was responsible for arranging and hosting an event for our top clients. This included a lavish dinner and show at the State Theatre. The event went off seamlessly and our clients raved about the experience.

During the debrief with my then boss, while she gave me positive feedback and was pleased with the result, she specifically asked why I hadn't noticed that a lightbulb was missing from one of the enormous chandeliers in the restaurant.

I was devastated and felt that she was being so unreasonable.

However, as the years have passed, I've never forgotten the lesson.

The difference between extra-ordinary and very-ordinary can be one light bulb.

I'm sure we've all experienced a 'missed lightbulb' moment.

A potentially good experience marred by a small, out-of-place detail.

Dinner at a top restaurant, renowned for its beautiful, expensive décor and exquisite food marred by the presence of a cheap, plastic pepper grinder on the table. And, the leather bound menu overshadowed by the wine list, presented in a cheap, plastic flip folder of the type used by school children for projects.

The website that looks really enticing, but contains typos and lacks basic information.

Or the 'on-hold' music that tells you that you're important and valued, while keeping you on hold for 40 minutes.

While each of these are small 'fails', they show a lack of attention to detail that can have a big impact on individual perception, leading our customers – and employees – to infer something potentially negative about our business.

For example, what do plastic pepper grinders say about the quality of the food ingredients used? And, if we don't notice typos on our website, how careful will we be in providing a service to our customers?

Missing the small details sends a signal that the team isn't watching – and possibly doesn't care about details, customers and employees.

The flip side is also true. Taking care of the little things sends a powerful message that we're interested and engaged – and that bigger issues are under control.

Social science uses the 'Broken Windows' theory to describe this phenomenon.

Introduced in 1982 by James Q Wilson and George L Kelling, the theory drew wide attention when New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani adopted it as the basis of his approach to law enforcement – with a resulting drop in crime.

Malcolm Gladwell describes 'Broken Windows' as crime being the inevitable result of disorder. If a broken window is left unrepaired, people will conclude that no-one cares or is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken and the sense of anarchy will spread from the 'abandoned' building to the street, sending a signal that the behaviour is acceptable.

So, how can we use 'Broken Windows' in our own businesses? And, how can we make it all about the lightbulb?

Taking care of our physical environment is a good first step.

Employees are more likely to follow the rules if their workplace is clean and orderly – and are more likely to exhibit bad behaviour in a disorderly environment.

Providing a neat, well-maintained office space, with solid (unbroken) furniture, enough storage space for work materials and lockers for personal belongings gives employees a measure of control over their working environment – and a corresponding sense of responsibility.

Managing employee behaviour is another.

Intervening early to head off inappropriate behaviour – before it escalates – is important.
Sometimes, it's easier to let careless behaviour slide. When dealing with Millennials, it's a challenge to find the right balance between being too directing and controlling and allowing freedom of expression. However, each time we let it go, rather than calling out the employee and highlighting appropriate behaviour, we run the risk that careless actions will escalate and influence other employees – with a knock-on effect on our customers and business success.

It is also important that our performance management systems drive the right behaviour and are congruent with our strategic vision.

Finally, sense-check your business processes.

Too often, business processes are onerous and unworkable in real life.

We recently needed to get our office generator serviced. Before we could schedule the service call, the repair company expected us to complete a 10 page contract – and make advance payment. Not a good experience – and not one I'd wish to repeat!

To get a sense of what your customer's experience, spend time completing your own business processes. You may get a nasty surprise.

Sometimes the benefit of getting things right is disproportionately low compared to the damage of getting them wrong. This is because most people expect us to get it 'right'. So, when we do, we simply meet their expectations, but when we don't, we break their trust.

Focus on ensuring that the lightbulbs are all on – and you'll find that the larger issues may take care of themselves.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

Mpho Mothupi10/6/2017 10:39 AMThought Leadership0 
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