Becoming successful out of necessity.

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of GuydingPrincipals

“Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it”

 

A while back it was mentioned to me that in our darkest hour we could achieve our greatest success. Hearing it at first made me think that it was a bit of a crazy statement. When everything is going wrong, how on earth can you achieve anything even remotely great? We all go through tough times but to my understanding we never really achieve anything from that. So I deemed the whole theory ludicrous.

It was not until later that I truly understood the theory and got to see it in action. I have to admit that it changed my thinking about achieving better results out of desperate times.

Recently I have been active in some projects around South Africa when established entrepreneurs coach and assist up and coming entrepreneurs. In a country where unemployment within the youth and working force (age 15-34 is considered youth) is at 32,8% (Q1, 2018) it is crucial that the public sector has to assist where the Government is failing at an alarming rate. Overall national unemployment is at 27,7% (Q1, 2018). So needless to say that many families are struggling to keep up with the living costs.

I would like to share a story of a young man I met while working with entrepreneurs in impoverished communities. This is a great example of how we can create a better situation for ourselves even from desperate times.

For the sake of the story, lets call him David.

David came to South Africa as a refugee only 6 years ago. He was unemployed with a below par education and no real job skills. Him, like many refugees around the world leave their home countries in search for a better life for them and their families elsewhere.

Like most refugees new in a foreign country, David was not able to speak any of local languages (SA has 11 official languages) and was forced to live on the street and beg for money. Ridiculed by the locals for being a refugee he struggled finding any form of employment that could help him get on his feet and even just a place to stay. Day in and day out was a struggle for him, a struggle many can not even understand.

He saw numerous other refugees turning to a life of crime. Selling illegal drugs and armed robberies. He was struggling so much that he had no choice but to consider doing the same. Being in that position will force anyone to make some drastic decisions.

He told me that he thought about what he was going to do day and night. It completely consumed him. He was starting to think and act on instinct as it was becoming a fight for survival.

He then made a commitment to himself not to go for a life of crime, no matter how bad it got. He told me that he felt that he had survived some terrible condition at home and that he survived the long trip to South Africa. He felt that he needed just a bit of luck to get him out of that situation. Notice how he was becoming positive in the dire conditions he was in.  He started to believe that there was a way out, and a better future ahead.

Eventually he did find a job as a delivery person for a small take out restaurant. He did not need a drivers licence as they were using bicycles. He mentioned that his pay was not really great but at least he could afford a room to stay in and that he was given meals when working. He said that it was like a dream come true considering where he was just a couple of months before.

He kept on working at the same restaurant for some time but he still had that dream of something more. The same dream he had when he arrived to South Africa, his new home.

After a couple of years he was in a better financial situation and mentally and physically a new person. When I met him for the first time he could speak the local language and came across as a professional and disciplined person. I had no idea about his past and what he had to overcome just to be able to be alive and working.

He got involved with the program as he is now part owner of that take out restaurant he worked at. The owners have decided to retire and left the restaurant for the staff that was working there. It is not a complete fairytale ending as he still has a long way to go to live the dream life he is chasing. Owning a business is a big responsibility and can be very challenging. And he admits that this is only the real start for him.

With assistance from the previous owners (as they have great experience with this operation)  the program I am part of is guiding and training the staff on how to best manage the operation and good financial practices. I believe that if he commits his energy to the business as he has to himself there is no other option but success.

The point I would like to get across is to show that we all react differently in tough situations. David could easily have chosen the easy and fastest way out of his troubles by choosing a life of crime. Just like many others did. But he chose the honest and positive way out. He believed in a better future and his situation did improve. Not overnight, but with persistence and hard work he is a lot closer to his dream than he was when he just arrived.

This story reminds me every day about how lucky many of us actually are and that we as humans are very resourceful even in the toughest of times.

We can achieve greatness even through the darkest of times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Are My Staff Unhappy?

By Donnavan Finlay

“Treat Employees Like They Make a Difference and They Will – Jim Goodnight”

In my previous career at a large establishment the topic of staff retention was ever trending. The turnaround in staff was concerning to HR and many questions were raised on how to keep the staff happy so they will stay longer.  After leaving the company and now being in a position where I employ my own staff, I asked myself the same question. “How can I hold on to my staff?” “How can I keep them happy?”

Turns out asking how to keep them happy, is the wrong question.  The annual retreat with your team to some resort is no longer enough. We live in a society of quick turnover and instant gratification. A week after an annual trip, most will be back to the moods they were before the trip.

I met up with one of my old HR managers at a large corporation and he mentioned that all companies are keeping a very close eye on the staff turnaround and what he mentioned was the Glassdoor ratings. He stated that they are working hard on building inclusive and multi-generational teams within the organization.

We all understand that the attitude from the staff towards their work or company has a direct connection to productivity levels. Negative staff will have a negative effect on the results and positive staff will have a positive effect on the final results.

So, in the world we live in today, what can we do to ensure more staff stay with the company, and more importantly, what can we do to keep them positive?

First things that come to mind are money and position.  But can it really just be that simple? Pay the staff more and they will suddenly deliver better results for longer periods of time? Actually, money and position will only have a temporarily positive impact on the staff. This is not what we are looking for. We are looking to be able to sustain positive attitudes and therefore positive results.

The problem we are dealing with is actually very complex. First thing we have to understand is that in many companies we have to deal with multi-generational staff. This is a very good asset but can be tricky to deal with. People at different ages will have different values. Communication between the different age groups may also be challenging.

It is also easy to say that we should just engage the staff more and people will be happier. This is true but the thinking is a bit limiting. We need to look at building the organization that is exciting, fulfilling and fun. Think of companies like Google, from what I have only seen n magazines, has created an incredible workspace for the staff. You need people to get fully committed, not just engaged.

We have to start right at the beginning. We need to look at who is being hired. Are you getting the right people in the right positions? If you place a person in a position that they are not ready or good for, they will just face more and more pressure and eventually just quit. This is not the employee’s fault, but fault of the person that did the placement.  Make sure you get the right people in the right positions with a clear career path and they will be in a better mental state about the job and their career at the organization.

Second suggestion is to make sure you have a good training and development concept in place. It is great to have such a department internally, but there are also many coaches and consultants out there.  Training your staff can only yield positive results. The better they are trained at what they do, the easier the job will be. Simple as that. Training should also go beyond just the job. Why not train people on topics like cultural or age diversity? Training around positive thinking and different personality traits.  Topics that will broaden their minds, expand their thinking and understanding of society.

Another idea is to have staff complete surveys. They are anonymous so the staff will feel free to tell the truth. This is great information and you will be able to read their thoughts. This will put you in a good position to make the changes that are needed.

Celebrate milestones with your staff. Get something in place that will make you aware of birthdays and other celebrations. People spend most of their waking hours at work during the week so it is a good idea to make an effort to make it feel a bit like family. In a large company it can be done within a team environment, no need to get everyone involved.  Celebrating service awards should go without saying. People should be publicly recognized for achievements. Whether it is years of service or top sales person. The importance is around the recognition.

Earlier we discussed having a training and development department or consultant in place. No more so than for your leaders within the organization. All leaders should be well-trained in their position beyond just the job description. Part of the job at hand is to look after the team and make sure it is a well-oiled machine. All leaders should have extensive training in conflict resolution and dealing with different personalities.  The best book I can recommend on this topic is “The Oz Principle”. All leaders should read this book, often.  I attended extensive training sessions around this book for a few weeks at my previous employer. It is extremely empowering and effective when implemented correctly. With well trained leaders in place the rest of the staff will follow the example set by the leaders and function effective to achieve the collective goals of the departments and the organization as a whole.

My one big gripe when I was an employee was meetings that could have been an email or meetings that had nothing to do with me. Meetings are important for everyone to touch base but also to get everyone’s point of view. I always hated meetings as I though to myself, “Why am I here, this has nothing to do with me”. Truth is that my boss wanted everyone’s opinion on the matter. I never realized that, as he never made me feel included. He had no game plan. This is why I suggest doing comprehensive planning around your meetings to make sure they are effective and everyone feels included.  This is a complex topic so I suggest reading a book like “Meetings Suck by Cameron Herold”.

At the end of the day you need to see your staff as part of the product. Even if you are in retail, your staff becomes part of the purchase. If your staff are well-trained and in a positive frame of mind, it will come across to the customer. That is nothing more that value added service. This is something that is lacking in many organizations these days and will put you ahead of the competition.