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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why you should write a book. And do all the other stuff you ever wanted to do. 

Why you should write a book. And do all the other stuff you ever wanted to do.

By Scott Simpson. Author of “Unity”.

Unity Book Cover Resize2

 

Life is short. Like really really short. I know 80 years seems like plenty of time but it really isn’t. Especially when a learner driver taking selfies (#justgotmylicense) or an errant cancer cell can turn that 80 into a much smaller number. In order to maximise the little amount of time we’ve all been given I am a big believer in “Bucket Lists”. This list doesn’t necessarily have to be written down, in your head is just fine so long as you find yourself referring to it occasionally. My personal bucket list consists of things I’ve already been lucky enough to achieve such as travel whenever and wherever possible, find and marry an amazing woman, learn to paraglide (thanks Bitcoin!) as well as a host of thing still to come, own my own beach resort, buy a sailboat and learn to sail, have kids and be as good a father to them as my own was to me.

While these big life goals such as starting a family or retiring while still able to control your own bowels should absolutely be concrete goals that you actively work towards it is as important to maintain a list of smaller, more easily achievable goals. Who hasn’t experienced the following: It’s Friday and you’re driving home from work! It’s the weekend and you can’t wait for a couple day’s of fun and relaxation. You get home, throw on some PJ’s, crack a beer and suddenly it’s Sunday night. You can’t work out how this happened. You think about the last 48 hours and vague memories of pizza delivery and 3 seasons of Park & Rec run through your mind and before you know it it’s Monday morning and your’e heading back into the office. My biggest fear is laying on my death-bed (hopefully at the ripe old age of 114) and having this feeling, the feeling that days that held such promise were squandered because I kept waiting for life to start and I just sort of muddied my way through all the while waiting for something that always lay just around the corner.

A little over a year ago I immigrated to the United States to join my wife who I had first met years earlier while working on Cruise Ships in the Mediterranean. When I arrived in the States I had to wait around 3 months for Trump to complete my paperwork allowing me to live and work in the country. Three months legally not being allowed to work at the age of thirty was something I had certainly not predicted. Having an incredible wife who had a great job I saw this mandatory sabbatical as a great opportunity to revisit my mental bucket list and make sure I didn’t squander this time on Judge Judy marathons and Candy Crush. I went through my list and while financial constraints ruled out a couple of the options (Eg Sailboat) I settled on item number 17, write and publish a book. Also, it may not have been item 17, I don’t actually number them.

My parents, being the saints they are, patiently put me through six years of University while I tried to figure out exactly what it was that I wanted to do with my life. Four of these six years saw me complete 876 cases of Black Label beer, 23 breakdowns in my 1987 Renault 5 and most importantly an honors degree in Journalism. Armed with this degree and a fridge stocked with the nearest thing to Black Label America had to offer (PBR) I sat down and started writing. The story behind what would eventually get published as Unity actually first started bumping around my head when I was around 8 years old. An epic tale of a scientific experiment gone wrong, global devastation and a group of heroes and villains locked in a bloody battle that would ultimately decide the fate of humanity. While I had previously written a great deal this had almost exclusively consisted of news copy for newspapers and websites, this was to be my first foray into the world of the novel.

Not knowing how to begin I simply sat down and started writing. I wrote the very first paragraph and then skipped ahead to the end. I knew how I wanted to end the book and so it seemed logical to write that first. With the (epic) conclusion done I then jumped around the timeline of the book writing and rewriting chapter after chapter as new ideas and ever more intricate plot twists sprang to mind. Characters were written in and out with abandon. I made a conscious decision not to be guided by any particular genre while writing. This meant sweeping love stories met violence and bloodshed while heroic battles and unnecessary sex and gratuitous nudity appeared at random intervals. Long story short, each day I sat for a couple of hours and had fun.

The book that emerged was fantastic. Honestly I’m not just saying that because I wrote it, it is an incredible novel. I never wrote Unity with the intention of throwing money behind marketing it and doing everything in my power to get it on to the New York Times Best Seller List (although God knows it belongs there). I wrote it because it was on my bucket list and it was something that I can now be proud of, something my great grand kids can buy off Amazon in 2076 by which time I am sure the company will be fully self-aware and we will all be citizens of The United States of Amazon. My point is that make sure you do the things you have always wanted to do. Every few months I now get a little royalty check from Amazon and while the amount is certainly not going to buy me my sailboat or beach resort it is always a pleasant reminder, a tangible proof that I ticked something off my list.

Two very cheesy sayings that have been beaten to death but that I will kick one last time: “Every day is a gift” and “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. You have all read these inspirational quotes backgrounded by sunsets on your friend Carly’s Facebook page but don’t take for granted the message behind them. Life is short. Take responsibility for the events that make up your life and your happiness. Write your bucket list and actively take steps to work your way through it. There is always a reason not to do something, to wait for a better time. Don’t be that person that wakes up on their drive in to work on their last ever Monday morning wondering what happened to their weekend. Whatever your “book” is, write it.

Better Food For A Better Mood

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

“You Are What You Eat”

Have you ever noticed how cranky and moody the world seems to be? People are constantly complaining and fighting about mostly irrelevant stuff. The frustration some individuals have been holding in is simply pouring out. I witnessed a person lose his mind in a store this week. The poor store employee was insulted and criticized beyond belief. Thing is that it actually had nothing to with the employee. The customer was upset because of the increased price. I just thought to myself, “if you can’t afford the item, don’t buy it”. Simple as that. No need to lose your marbles at the poor employee.

This is just one example of incidents I have noticed over the last couple of months. Tensions seem to be really boiling over. I know you cannot judge an individual on one incident, as you have no real idea of what they may be going through. They may be having a really tough day. Maybe they just lost their job or going through a divorce. We never know.

That said, it made me think of ways we can improve our moods overall. The most popular come to mind, meditation, mindfulness, relaxation and plenty other new age ideas. You know what I am on about. Then I thought to myself that a different approach to our diets might also have the desired impact. And if so, what foods do we need to include into our daily eating patterns to have an effect on our mood and attitude.

The following is what I came up with after tons of reading and research. I have been adding these foods into my diet and I have to admit that I do feel better overall. I get up easier and have better mental focus during the day. In the past I was completely drained by the end of the day, but now I have some energy left at night.

  • Banana

With a good supply of vitamins and carbohydrates it will help you feel full for longer and slow down digestion and also keep your blood sugar levels stable. It is rich with potassium and B vitamins it will provide your body with a more sustained release of energy.

  • Salmon

We all know by now that it is good for our hearts. With the energy-boosting omega 3 fatty acids it will increase energy production, brain activity and overall circulation.

  • Water

It is advised that we should always start our day with two glasses of water before we start our day. We should then only eat or drink something else 30 minutes later. The water will give your metabolism a chance to get going without the spike of sugars or whatever else is added to our normal morning routine.

  • Honey

Add some honey to your tea or breakfast. Daily intake has great health benefits like enhancing memory power and strengthening our nervous systems. This will lead to reduced stress and anxiety levels. Just ensure that it is organic honey only.

  • Almonds

These nuts contain a lot of zinc. Zinc is a mineral that helps balance your mood. Almonds also contain healthy fats and iron that inhibits brain fatigue.

  • Blueberries

The fruit contains phytonutrients, vitamins and antioxidants that all combat anxiety and depression symptoms.

  • Eggs

We all know by now that eggs are a great source of protein and iron. They are also rich in B vitamins that assist the body with turning food into energy.

  • Asparagus

Low energy levels have a major effect on our moods. Asparagus is one of the best sources of tryptophan, which helps create serotonin that is one of the brains primary mood-regulating neurotransmitters.

  • Avocado

Loaded with benefits ranging from protecting our hearts and helping with digestion, it is also great for improving our moods. Avocados are natural hormone balancers that ensure our brains are making the right chemicals needed to keep it feeling great. It is said to be the #1 food to eat to feel happier.

  • Strawberries

Rich in an array of vitamins and nutrients like vitamins A and C and manganese. Strawberries serve as a strong line of defense against brain degeneration, but also boost the happy chemicals our brains produce.

 

Add this to your diet and stick to it. You will notice that you will feel better as your energy levels increase. The next step you need to take is to get some exercise. The diet is only one part to improve your mood. Getting regular exercise has great health benefits. You do not need to join a gym and spend hours there every week. All you need to do is change small habits you have. Avoid taking the elevator; rather choose to take the stairs. Take your dog for a daily walk. Take a walk on your own if you have to. Go for a run when you can. Get your family to join you as it will inspire you to stick to it for longer.

So we have spoken what we need to put into our bodies to improve our moods and wellbeing, but there are some things we need to keep out and avoid.

 

  • Alcohol

  • Coffee (Read All Caffeine)

  • Sugar (Including Artificial Sweeteners)

  • Fast Food

  • High Sodium Foods

  • Tofu

  • Processed Foods

  • Wheat Bran

  • Hydrogenated Oil (Read Fried Foods)

 

Being mindful of what we put into our bodies and overall wellbeing has great benefits. We need to take care of ourselves to function at a higher level and be more productive. The benefits speak for themselves and your family will thank you as well. No one likes to be around a grumpy person for any amount of time.

Eat better and live better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Back to Work.

“One Day or Day One, You Choose”

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

With the vacation coming to an end for most of us, I thought I could share some of my thoughts on getting back to work and be effective and not just overwhelmed. I remember the days I dreaded getting back to the office after a vacation. All the catching up to do, the e-mails alone got me all rattled up. That was until I sat down and really though what I can do to set me for a less stressful return.

Most of us have the idea that we will get there all refreshed and ready for anything our jobs can throw at us. The reality of the matter is far from this.

Most will get back and be completely overwhelmed with all the tasks at hand. Meeting after meeting. Hundreds of e-mails and you will see your calendar just gets fuller and before you know it you hardly have time for some lunch. Before we know it we are looking forward to the next vacation.

When you walk into the office after vacation with a plan you can avoid being steamrolled with everything. Nothing will drain your energy and motivation than being overwhelmed and not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Before you set off on your well-deserved vacation, ensure that you have an “out of office” reply set up with your mail and phone before you leave. Keep it short but informative. Add the date of your return but also forwarding information. If it is urgent they can contact the person still on duty. Most offices will have some staff around during the holidays. You should use that to your advantage.

First thing I like to do when I get to the office is clean and organize my workspace. Nothing wastes time more than looking for stuff on a messy desk. This will just add pressure to the already stressful day. Keep a trashcan close and trash everything you need to. It’s a new year so surely you do not need all the stuff and old documents you left there before your departure. Start the year with a clean slate and a tidy desk.

Just as we have planned to go away we should plan to get back again. This will avoid a pile up of work when you do get back to the office. A great book to read on managing e-mail and electronic communications is “Bit Literacy by Mark Hurst”. We tend to spend hours everyday sorting through e-mails and messages. This book trained me to cut that time in half. This gave me added free time to get other tasks done. You should consider nuking your inbox when you get back to work. Just give it a quick look, flag any important or interesting mails and delete the rest. That is correct, just nuke it. This will prevent a complete waste of time going through e-mails that do not apply to you. Avoid reading you mails in chronological order.

Consider getting back a day or so earlier. We would all love to stay at the beach for one last or extra day. I choose to get home one day or even a couple before I have to return to work. This gives me time to settle in at home. Time to unpack and actually chill a bit. This will get you in the right frame of mind before getting back to work.

You should already have an idea of what to expect when you get back to work, so use that experience to your advantage. You know what time the meetings will be and how much time most tasks will take. Plan your day in intervals so you know that you will be able to complete what you need to get done. I tend to break my day up in 30-minute intervals. Most important tasks first. This helps me stay focused on one task at a time and it helps me complete more than I would when I try to do everything at the same time.

If possible, push meetings to a day or so after your return. It will help you to not be overwhelmed with everything. If you do have meetings on the first day your to-do list will just get longer. Also, if you do share a calendar with the office, block out some time in advance. If it looks like you are available you will get tasks added to your calendar by others.

No late night drinks with you buddies. There will plenty of time to catch up and have some fun. Postpone any after work activities till after you feel settled in again. The only drinks you should be focused on are water and coffee. We all know coffee is our friend. Leave the office on time and get good rest.

Last thing to remember is that you will miss some things. Things may happen that you do not really like or agree with while you are away, but that is fine. You have a vacation for a reason and it is to get some rest and time with friends and family. If you keep checking in with work you will not get the rest you need to be productive in the office for long periods of time. Believe me, I have seen people being burned out and then losing their jobs, not a pretty sight.

Good luck with the return and I hope everyone’s new year will get off to a cracking start.

 

What have you done in the past to get you to settle into work a bit easier?