The-Power-Of-Relationships-Alex-And-Renias-Walk

The Power of Relationships

Renias Mhlongo and Alex van den Heever are from two completely different worlds.

Over 25 years they have built a relationship of deep respect and mutual reward.

I listened to their story this week. It moved me and it got me thinking.

Alex is of 14th generation Afrikaans heritage. His great great grandfather introduced Afrikaans into the Cape Colony in the late 1800’s. Renias is an 18th generation Shangaan. His family was painfully evicted from the Kruger National Park in the 1960’s.

It is unlikely they would ever have met.

But Alex went to work at Londolozi Game Reserve as a safari guide. He was paired with Renias, who was by then a seasoned and experienced wildlife tracker.

Alex was 19. He was enthusiastic but inexperienced.

He needed Renias.

He needed to learn from him to be any good at his job. But he was also curious. He wanted to learn about Renias’ culture and the Shangaan way of life.

His interest was genuine.

Renias was skeptical in the beginning. Alex was not the first guide he had worked with. There had been many over the years. He admits to losing faith that white people would want to learn about an African culture.

Early on an experience shaped their relationship. It built trust and confidence.

They were tracking a mother leopard together in a donga. She had cubs and charged them fiercely. Alex tripped and fell in the commotion and for a while was in great danger. Renias took control. He became the protector and got Alex out without harm.

This cemented something essential in their relationship.

Alex learnt that Renias could be trusted.

The-Power-Of-Relationships-Alex-And-Renias

 

In time, Renias invited Alex to stay at his home in Dixie, Mpumalanga.

Dixie is a small Shangaan community of 400 people on the edge of the Kruger National Park. Like every other village in the area it has no running water and electricity. The houses are made of mud walls excavated from termite mounds.

Alex turned him down.

Not once, but many times. He admits to being afraid, unsure of this step into the unknown. Renias too had concerns. He was unsure what the community would think. Bringing a white person into Dixie was not common at the time.

Together they were breaking new ground.

In the end they both took a risk.

What followed sealed their relationship. Renias not only opened his house. He opened his heart. He moved out of the main bedroom so Alex could sleep in comfort. He arranged for the Londolozi chef to cook a gourmet meal for him. A steaming hot bath was prepared in a community with no running water.

In Alex’s words, “The spirit of hospitality was extreme. It was the ultimate form of giving.”

Deep into the night they sat around the fire.

Under bright shining stars they opened up to each other. They spoke about what mattered to them. What was troubling them. A spirit of empathy entered their relationship and they began to identify at a deep level with each other.

Many adventures followed. All are beautifully told.

Notable to me was that Renias began teaching Alex Shangaan or Tsonga. To learn someone’s language is to enter a rich new world of meaning and relationship. Alex was an eager student. He persevered and now speaks Shangaan fluently.

The benefits of their relationship began to flow.

They loved their work and being together.

In turn their guests loved being with them.

Their personal chemistry was energizing. Guests spoke highly of them. Many would return, year after year. Not only to be in that special place again. But to see Alex and Renias, with whom they had formed a deep bond.

Perhaps the greatest fruit from their relationship is the Tracker Academy.

Founded by Mrs Gaynor Rupert, they started it to train disadvantaged rural people in the ancient art of tracking.

For the past 10 years, 136 unskilled, unemployed people have had their lives changed by the Academy. 94% of them now have full time employment in the safari / ecotourism industry.

The story of Renias and Alex is inspiring and simple.

They took a risk. They got to understand each other’s life circumstances. This built empathy, which led to trust and respect. Benefits flowed for both of them and others that have been rich and long lasting.

It’s a wonderful legacy. A legacy which flows from the Power of Relationships.

Please comment below. We love to hear from you!

Resolutions Really Worth Making

Resolutions Worth Making

If you have a desire to get new results this year I offer 8 things. Eight behaviours. Five to start and three to stop.


These come from our direct experiences with leaders. Listening to them share what they most want for their businesses.


All want to unlock the potential in their organisation.


To break down silos. Foster a culture of experimentation and to give people the courage to try new things.

They want to tap into more of what people have to offer. To build organisational cultures of ownership and initiative. To end passivity and fear.


The behaviours you will read about are tried and tested. But they are not always applied.


The pressure and the pace of daily business push them to the side. So they get relegated. Old habits kick in and each year seems to roll by without much change.


No breakthroughs. No shifts. People lose hope and feel disappointed.

It does not have to be this way.


Let’s begin with the START

1. Create clarity. Cut through the noise and simplify your business.


Define a purpose, course of action and goals that people understand and believe in. Concentrate precious effort, attention and resources only on what matters. Beware the trap of too many priorities. Too many mean none at all.

2. Generate energy. Charge up the spirit of your organisation in 2019.


Not only in your own area but across the organisation. Inspire hope and confidence. Encourage. Support. Raise the standard. Assist people to grow. Your personal conduct matters too. No business will ever rise above the passion of its leaders.

3. Build an awesome team. Transform your team into a performance powerhouse.

Teamwork is widely spoken about and admired. But remains untapped and elusive. Make your team stand out as exceptional. It takes courage and persistence, but in one year a team can be totally transformed.

4. Over communicate. Be the Chief Reminding Officer.


Life is busy. There are distractions and problems. People need reminding. Reinforce, over and over again, what is true and important about your organisation. Your purpose, your goals, your vital behaviours. Make it a two-way thing. Listen. Ask questions. Involve. This builds trusts, generates commitment and inspires confidence.

5. Obsess about the details. Yes the details!


I don’t mean micro managing (see below). The best leaders I know intimately understand what makes their business tick. This keeps them awake at night and inspires them during the day. Own the details more than anybody else in the business. The when, the what and the how. Assume nothing will happen unless you kickstart it and see it through.


And now 3 to STOP

1. Stop avoiding difficult issues. Sweeping difficult issues and conversations under the carpet is tempting.


But never advisable in the long run. Fearing conflict and wanting to be liked is a strong human driver. But it leads to problems. Poor performance and behaviour are high stakes issues. So are unmet expectations. Make 2019 the year you confront issues early and tell the truth kindly.

2. Stop micro managing. Doing the work of others is not a good idea.


For you and for them. It robs people of the opportunity to learn, grow and make mistakes. And it stops you from working on the greater challenges that lie ahead. Get out the way so that others can start proving themselves and you can leave your comfort zone.

3. Stop admiring the problem. It never takes a genius to point out the problem.


It takes a leader to do something about it. Closely related to admiring the problem is complaining. It’s a cancer that spreads. Attacking the immune system of your business. Solving problems is how you create value. It’s the reason why you’re there!


These behaviours lie at the core of what it means to be a healthy business.

Becoming responsive, agile and innovative is not a nice to have. Something you hope for.


It’s a strategic imperative to stay alive.


A choice you make and ultimately a set of behaviours to embrace.


Here’s to a healthy new year!


Grant


Please comment below. What are you doing to get new results this year?

Setting Goals, Building Trust and Catching Buffalos

This is the final video in the series. Ian and I have been talking about the process of building a high performing team.

In the beginning it starts with decisions the leader must make around team membership and size. The qualities and skills of the people on the team define what kind of team it will become.

To be high performing you need people who are hungry. People who want to achieve and who have the discipline and endurance to actually carry out the tasks required for success.

But as Patrick Lencioni writes, they must also be humble and smart.

This means they are open to learning from others, place the team above themselves and show good judgment when dealing with people. Leaders of high performing teams are both wise and courageous with team selection.

They know this is their most important task.

When it comes to team size, between 5 and 10 is the ideal number. Too big and you lose the ability to meet often, to go deep into issues and to be agile and responsive.

Clear Goals and Trust are the next big building blocks.

We talk about these in the video and once again we turn to lions to bring lessons back into business. In particular we draw our biggest insights from those lion prides who pursue big, dangerous quarry like the African Cape Buffalo.

Goals create focus and they concentrate effort. Skilled and committed people concentrating their effort on a few big things leads to breakthroughs.

But often in teams there is the temptation to have too many goals.

I come across teams with as many as 10 or 15 priorities. Our adage is too many priorities mean none at all. By clear we mean the few vital things the team must achieve with excellence or nothing else it achieves will really matter.

Trust relates to team members’ confidence to speak up, to disagree, to own up and to be vulnerable.

Despite being so obvious and widely spoken about, many teams still struggle with both of these concepts.
Not only have most teams not clarified the few vital things, but there is also not the level of trust in place to have the kind of open, free-flowing, often heated and spirited debate, so necessary for making decisions that generate commitment.

This mixture of goal confusion, ambiguity and low trust is a proven recipe for mediocrity and low morale. The exact opposite of high performance one is trying to create.

High performing teams have mastered this challenge. Not only can people accurately describe the goal, they can also describe in detail their part in achieving it too. And they are not afraid to speak up, to disagree when it’s required and to encourage others to speak out too.

Not that they are disagreeable, quite the contrary.

It’s that they are so committed to the team and so badly want the best for the business that they are slightly paranoid that something important will be missed.

Building a high performing team is easier than it seems.

It does not require a new theory or great intellectual insights. But it does ask for courage from the leader and a real commitment from the whole team to doing something special and in the process avoiding the well-worn path of playing it safe and mediocrity.

We hope that you will enjoy this short video … as much as we enjoyed making it.

We also always love hearing from you.

What question would you like answered when it comes to building a great business culture, leading an organisation, or setting up and sustaining winning teams? No question is too big or too small. We will do our best to answer all of them in a meaningful way or at least to point you in the right direction.

Please comment below. We would love to hear from you!

To view the full series, and for more articles and resources, please visit www.leadershipworks.co.za or www.ianthomas.net.

Or you can follow us on our travels on Instagram @grant.ashfield | @ian_s_thomas.

What do lion prides do with passengers?

Tackling the thorny issue of poor performance and unmet expectations is vital if a business team wants to be successful and breakthrough to the next level.

Ian Thomas and I discuss this question in the 2nd video in the series.

The key is to deal with these issues early, directly and of course kindly. It’s a mistake to wait.

Waiting does everyone a disservice. People want to know where they stand and they rely on you to tell them and guide them.

I am a beneficiary of this. Ten years ago, after a consulting session with an Executive Team the CEO invited me for a chat. He got straight to the point.

No elaborate preamble or attempt to soften what he was about to tell me. I recall his words clearly. “We like you. We want to work with you, but today you disappointed me. We have not hired you to tell us what we already know. Your job is to bring us deep insights from your experience, to challenge us and to force us to talk about the things we would rather avoid.”

That was it. Simple and clear. I had to get better if I was to keep working with them. It was a turning point for me and our business.

This was unusual. Mostly senior leaders allow too much time to pass. The real issue I think is the discomfort with the conversation. We hope that the other person will somehow gain the insight by themselves and take the steps to change, without us being in the uncomfortable situation of having to challenge them.

In a lion pride the issues are so much sharper and real.

Here if you don’t contribute you don’t share in the rewards of the hunt and ultimately you fall out and die. It’s stark but its true. The sustainability of the pride relies heavily on the contributions of each individual but the individual is not more important than the pride.

Contribution and performance defines membership.

Are you moving too slowly to tackle behavioural and performance issues on your team?

Are you avoiding the uncomfortable conversation about someone’s performance or behaviour?

Take action today!

Begin by writing down what you expect. And yes, write it down. It’s important to be specific. Avoid generalising. This is not about their character. It’s about their contribution and behaviour – be crystal clear before going on.

Check your intent. You are doing this out of love and respect. The other person wants to grow and improve as much as you do and you are a necessary part of this process for them.

Don’t sugarcoat. Be direct and sincere. Offer help and support but don’t take on responsibility for their choices and actions.

Then follow up and follow through with rigour.

In the next video, Ian and I talk about building trust and goal setting. These are the next vital steps in building a great team.

For more articles and resource visit www.leadershipworks.co.za  | www.ianthomas.net. Or you can follow us on Instagram at @grant.ashfield | @ian_s_thomas.

Lions have mastered this skill… how about you?

In a lion pride, team selection and membership is an essential part of their survival. For lions, especially when they are hunting big prey like buffaloes it is a life or death issue.

Having the right team members on the hunt not only ensures their success but also guarantees their safety. Here there is no place for complacency, confusion or personal positioning and ego. It is about getting the job done and ensuring the wellbeing of the pride.

In organisations the consequences of getting team membership wrong is not so immediately felt. But it’s essential nevertheless.

In fact it is the # 1 executive skill.

Who should be in the key seats around the table is a skill every leader has to master. It is essential to be rigorous about people decisions. If you get this wrong, especially at the top, the whole organisation suffers.

Recently my friend Ian Thomas – best selling author of Power of the Pride, and team expert, and I caught up to talk about this subject. Ian has spent his life studying lion prides and bringing the lessons back for business people.

In this short three-part series we talk about team membership, dealing with passengers on the team, trust and goal setting. We hope that these are useful, fun, and helpful to you!

Getting Team Membership Right

In the next video we will focus on dealing with passengers and poor-performance.

With the right people in place you can now focus on accelerating your growth and building a healthy organisation – one that is future focused, outward looking and entrepreneurial. Vital qualities that every CEO I talk to deem essential to their success.

For more articles and resources visit our websites. www.leadershipworks.co.za and www.ianthomas.net. Or you can follow us on Instagram at @grant.ashfield and @ian_s_thomas.

Please comment below. We love hearing from you. We will send each person who comments a free copy of Ian’s book – The Power of the Pride. * limited to the first 10 comments

Leadership Works Is Your Organisation A Great Place To Work

Is your organisation really a great place to work?

I recently hosted a discussion with a small group of people aged between 21 and 34.

The group, made up of employees from junior and middle management, was talented and ambitious with the potential, the CEO told me, to succeed at the highest level in the company.

Her worry was whether they would stay and if the culture of the business really supported the growth and development of talented people. “A lot of our best people leave once we have trained them, it’s very costly and frustrating to keep starting all over again.”

It’s a problem many companies face.

The purpose of this discussion was to build the awareness of the Executive Team.

They wanted insight into how this group felt about the leadership of the company. They wanted to know if this really was a great place to work, why they had joined and what would cause them to leave.

This Executive fully appreciates the extent to which politics, confusion, turf wars, enlarged egos and dysfunctional behaviour at the top breaks down employee morale and productivity and how much this contributes to suppressing (and depressing) talent, causing them to leave.

This team is vigilant and determined to build a healthy organisation.

Respect, trust, confidence and pride in the culture are the hallmarks of a great organisation and the CEO in particular wants to know that these are present in her organisation.

To the credit of the group, once we kicked off, no one held back. From the start the discussion was animated, engaging and free flowing. Soon we were oblivious to the executives sitting around us, who were scribbling notes and listening intently.

Ninety minutes flew by and at the end definite themes had emerged.

1. Right now in their careers opportunity, guidance and autonomy is vital.

They need real work and responsibility that challenges them and leaders who will support them on the way. Few people, even the most talented, are able to be successful on their own.

But they also need space. They need to make mistakes safely and they’re not able to grow with managers constantly looking over their shoulders and interfering.

Peter Drucker said “that most of what we call management, consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” There comes a time when senior managers need to get out of the way and let people get on with it.

2. This generation is strongly motivated by the need to make a difference.

They want to make an impact and they want their work to have meaning. For many this includes being role models for their community – to show other people that it’s possible to come from very little materially and get somewhere in the world.

From their leaders they also need inspiration … more ‘why’. More knowing that what they are doing serves a real purpose. For any person, feeling that one’s work is neither appreciated or valued is demoralising, but its especially so for this generation.

3. “More feedback please!”

“Tell me how I am doing. Be direct and honest and please don’t shield me from consequences or the truth. Mostly don’t ignore me. Please don’t hire me and promise me great things and then ignore me.”

These words were spoken passionately and over again and were perhaps the biggest takeaway for this Executive Team.

One of my favourite management maxims, “Know me. Value me. Focus me” sprung to my mind.

To give of their best, everyone, especially this generation, wants clear direction and expectations, to be known and valued for who they are and to believe that what they do makes a difference and matters, especially to someone in authority.

I left the discussion with the overwhelming feeling that in our own striving, those of us in our 40’s and 50’s must not let this new generation down.

We are blessed with talent in our companies.

Our job as leaders is to see it. Nurture it. Release it.

As always we love hearing from you. Please comment below and let us know what you think. Is your organisation really a great place to work?

Leadership Works 2017

What is your most important priority as a leader in 2017?

Every business we work with today is experiencing major competition and change. Under this constant pressure everyone is striving to stay ahead.

Despite this, many leaders still limit their search for competitive advantage to conventional and largely exhausted areas like marketing, strategy and technology.

It’s not that these aren’t important. They are and always will be. But the obvious is being ignored. In every organisation there is an untapped gold mine sitting right beneath every leader.

Becoming a healthy organisation is how to access this gold.

As Patrick Lencioni asserts, instead of trying to become smarter (most organisations have enough of this already) leaders must shift their focus to becoming a healthier organisation, allowing them to tap into the more-than-sufficient intelligence and expertise they already have.

One of our clients is a well-known South African company.

They have great marketing, a distinctive strategy and the very best technology and systems in the world. Their products are stunning and they have terrific employee benefits and perks.

Yet there is also mistrust and fear. They are bedeviled by silos, turf wars and internal competition that wither away goodwill, damage trust and cause good team members to disengage.

In their marketplace there is what they describe as ‘hyper competition’. It’s real and it’s relentless. Areas where they have dominated for many years are for the first time being seriously challenged by global players. Yet just when they need every ounce of resourcefulness, initiative and commitment on the inside, people are holding back,

Morale and productivity – which should be high – as it is when people pull together to unify against a common threat, is low and in its place is ambiguity, victimism and interdepartmental rivalries.

This is only good for their competitors. Good people are leaving (or thinking seriously about it) taking valuable skills and years of hard earned experience with them.

They are also troubled by a recent survey that reveals that very few people in middle management aspire to become senior leaders in the organisation. This gap between top management and those close to the front line is worrying and has a big effect on productivity.

Ironically the leaders are really great people. I know them personally – predictably they too are also not having much fun.

It does not have to be like this.

For this organisation the warning bells have sounded and they have begun to take action.

What is your most important priority as a leader in 2017?

Will this be the year that you tap into the gold mine inside your organisation? Take up the challenge and use 2017 to defy and attack the root causes of dysfunction, politics and confusion inside your organisation?

  • Imagine if you got everyone rowing in the same direction?
  • Imagine if everyone was crystal clear on the goals and what your business needs to do to succeed?
  • Imagine teams where people submerge their egos, co-ordinate seamlessly, support each other selflessly and do whatever it takes to succeed?
  • Imagine too a genuinely cohesive team at the top. Where all the executives are on the same page, setting the tone, standard and pace in a credible and unifying way for every other person in your organisation.

Nothing about this work is touchy-feely or soft.

It is as tangible and practical as anything else a business does, and even more important.

When politics, ambiguity, dysfunction and confusion are reduced to a minimum, people are released to concentrate on the customer, empowered to design products, solve problems and help one another in ways that unhealthy organisations can only dream about.

Yes it takes hard work, commitment and courage – anything that’s really worthwhile does. The rewards for everyone are immense and when you do you will be satisfied that you have fulfilled the most important leadership responsibility of all – to create an environment of success.

Next time we will write about how to start.

We love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts on this post with us below. Do you think building a healthy organisation is the most important leadership responsibility of all?

Guangzhou China Leadership Works

Guiding principles for a great career

I have been working in China this month – in Guangzhou, a city home to 12 million people.

Guangzhou China Leadership Works

We were there to conduct a Leadership Development Programme for a large global company. The participants were all young leaders, from diverse Asian countries – all in the early stages of their careers.

Many of the young leaders on this programme were still learning to lead themselves and now they were being asked to step up and take responsibility for others too.

It’s a crucial transition point in their careers and presents an exciting opportunity to grow into. But moving from team member to team leader can also be difficult.

Our job was to equip them with the knowledge and skills to make this transition faster and smoother.

The first step in this process is to help them develop a leadership philosophy. It is their own personal theory of leadership that acts as a set of guiding principles for how they will conduct themselves.

To help demonstrate how a leadership philosophy can guide them, we asked the Managing Director of the Chinese business to share the guiding principles that he has used to build his career as an international leader.

Here are the 9 practical gems he offered these young leaders on building a great career.

  1. People are your number 1 priority. The higher you climb the more dependent you are on those below you. The people you lead have three expectations of you; ‘know me, value me and focus me.’ This principle allows the people you lead to be successful, and the more successful they are the more successful you can be.
  2. Always exceed expectations. Try to do this everyday. Make a real effort to be crystal clear (your responsibility) on what is expected of you and how to exceed expectations. If you do you will rise to the surface, be noticed and succeed.
  3. In the short term careers are not always fair. There will be setbacks. Welcome them early on in your career. If you do not encounter setbacks early on, you will not be able to learn from them and they will then come later in your career when it is harder to recover. Remember that a horizontal move is not a backward step. Make your foundations strong so that you have a strong base to launch from.
  4. Be bold with your ambitions. If you think small and plan small you will win small. Thinking big breaks the status quo and pushes a company into achieving large positive goals. Do not dream incrementally. Leaders need to look into the future and imagine the amazing things a company can do and then they must discover the steps needed to achieve those goals.
  5. Make clear choices. Not everything is important. There are usually only a few critical decisions that will drive a company or team forward. When everything matters resources are diluted and you will be focused on the wrong things. Reduce noise and focus on the essential.
  6. Work together. Early on in your career it is all about you. You are trying to establish yourself. However this will not carry you all the way. Make sure you work with others to achieve more and that the people who work for you work as a team. People love to work in silos, its safer, but it is important to stop this and work together.
  7. Confront and connect. Master the balance between the two. First connect, build a relationship, and then use that relationship to drive healthy conflict where it is safe to disagree and discuss. Leaders need to make the best decisions for the company, not the individual. This can be uncomfortable at times, but if you connected well at the start and have forged a strong working relationship it will lead to great results. Always remember to reconnect and keep working on your relationships.
  8. Be brave. We love people with courage. The easiest solution to a problem is often not the correct one. Make the difficult choices. Sometimes you will fail, but if failure isn’t an option, success isn’t either. Courage is a muscle you need to work every day.
  9. Love what you do. No one can fake passion. People will feel it and it will be difficult to inspire others. Know your subject, be an expert on what you do and be curious about the world around you.

Like all executives he has managed to simplify his thinking into non-theoretical, actionable concepts. Have you done the same?

What principles guide how you act as a leader? Please comment below. We love hearing from you.

We will send you our template to help you refine or start crafting your own guiding principles. With the break coming up it’s a great reflective exercise for the holidays.

Thank you for your support this year. We wish you a well-earned rest and a safe and happy festive season.

Patrick-Lencioni-South-Africa-Interview-LeadershipWorks

Building High Performance Business Teams – Patrick Lencioni Interview

Patrick Lencioni is a best-selling author, speaker and consultant. He has worked with thousands of senior executives in organisations ranging from Fortune 500 corporations and professional sports teams to universities and nonprofits.

He is the author of the international best sellers The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage, which are weekly fixtures on international bestseller lists; his books have sold over three million copies.

Ian-Thomas-Profile-Interview

Lions, Business Teams and High Performance

Ian Thomas is recognized internationally as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and is the author of the bestselling book Power of the Pride – How Lessons from a Pride of Lions Can Teach You To Create Powerful Business Teams.

His work combines a detailed understanding of nature linked to clear insights into the conditions under which business teams thrive. Grant Ashfield caught up with Ian to better understand the link between lion prides and high performance teams.