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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making That First Impression.

“Two things are irretrievable, time and first impressions”

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

Over the past month I have been travelling all over our planet again for personal and business reasons. Although I hoped I would have some off time, it turned into endless meetings, networking events and dinner parties, one after the other. I ended up having the privilege to meet many great people from different countries and backgrounds. It all turned out great thinking back.

At the events I was meeting these new acquaintances, both personal and professional, I started to realize how some people’s body language changed the tone of the conversation and ultimately the outcome of the discussion. Taking note of how people were addressing one another and how they presented themselves through non-verbal communication, aka body language.

I noted how some people just got it all wronged watching in agony as they suffered through one conversation after the other and that is why I decided to touch on this subject again.

When we meet someone for the first time we pass judgment on that person in only a few of seconds. We would all like to think that we are not that superficial and do not judge a book by it’s cover, but we would just be lying to ourselves. Think of meeting two people. One person is well dressed and intently listening to what you have to say and engages as part of the conversation. The other person is untidy, looking around all the time and checking his phone every 30 seconds without it making a sound. This all while you are talking and trying to make your point. Which one of the two do you think you would like to keep the conversation ongoing? My guess would be the person that is intently listening and engaging in the conversation. Why would you want to spend time with a person who is obviously not listening and would rather like to be somewhere else?

This is why you need to practice good body language at all times. With time it will come more naturally and you will be able to carry across your points and visions for others to see without misunderstandings. Not just verbally, but non-verbally as well. Good body language can set you up for a successful evening, dating or professional. Poor body language will have the opposite effect.

This is the same for your professional and personal life. Every time you go out and would like to meet someone, you should focus on your body language. Giving a positive first impression will put in a good position to have a good night. On the other side, when you make a negative first impression, you have a tough disadvantage and will most likely end up creating a bad reputation for yourself.

At the end of the day, body language is a pivotal form of non-verbal communication.

Here are some tips to focus on and make that positive first impression.

  • Eye contact

When you are having a conversation with someone you should make and maintain good eye contact. No need to stare the person down, just keep eye contact to show that you are listening and interested. How would you feel if you are in a conversation with a person and they keep looking away at the TV in the corner of the room? You will feel that the person is not interested in what you have to say and you are wasting their time, right? This will end a first date early, guaranteed.

  • Posture

Keep yourself relaxed, whether you are sitting or standing. Keep your back straight but not too stiff. Relax your shoulders and hands. This will state that you are comfortable with your surroundings and help the other person feel relaxed as well. If you sit up too straight and fidget with your hands, it will let the other person feel that you would rather want to be somewhere else.

  • Lean in

When you are in a conversation with another person, you should lean in slightly towards that person. This will affirm that you are interested in what they have to say. When you do the opposite by leaning away it will tell the person that you are not interested in what they have to say, or make them think that they might smell funny.

  • Arms

Always try to avoid crossing you arms in any conversation. When you do, you are sending the message that you don’t like what is going on around you. It shows you are closed to the conversation and hostile to the environment. Practice on letting your arms hang by your side or bring your hands together on your lap. This sends the signal that you are open to the conversation. This goes for sitting and standing.

  • Affirming movements

Smiling and nodding your head shows that you are listening to the conversation and will show you have empathy with the person. When dealing with a difficult person this is an important attribute. People in general just want to be heard. When smiling and nodding, (and not interrupting) you will make them feel that you are listening to them and that you understand their plight.

  • The Handshake

This is a key non-verbal communication point. In some circles this can make or break your reputation and can even show disrespect to the other person. Make sure you have a firm grip, but not crush the other person’s hand. Combined with good eye contact, this will set a good tone for the meeting or conversation. A weak grip and avoiding eye contact will make you look weak and fragile. Not a good way to start a conversation. Especially a first date or job interview.

  • Slow down

Take a deep breath and relax. Slow down your talking and movements. This will show that you are confident and thoughtful. It will have a relaxing effect on you and the other people in the conversation.

Now you have some pointers on what you should work on to make that good first impression. Doing this will help you start a conversation on a positive note and people will listen to what you have to say. Important to remember is that this needs to be practiced in all areas of your life. Whether you meet new colleagues at work, networking events, new boss or just going on a first date. First impression is a lasting impression.

  • Not to do

Now for the NOT TO DO list. These are some notes I made while travelling and seeing people actually make these mistakes. I cringed at some of them and did not know how people can be so ignorant to their own behavior. Then I realized that it is something that needs to be practiced. It takes time. I had to learn like everyone else. This at the end of the day is why we started this venture of Guyding Principals.

  • Fake Smiling

People can pick this up very easily, so ne need to even bother. This will just annoy people and make them dislike you. Think of the times you have had to go to a store and was greeted by someone with that fake smile. You picked it up easily and so can other people. Avoid at all costs.

  • Checking the time

I have no real idea why someone would think this is okay. Checking your time while in a conversation tells the other person that you are not interested and already thinking of what you need to do later. You might be in a hurry but at least tell the person that you have limited time if you have to. Then when you tell the person that you have to go, it will not be so bad.

  • Tapping

Avoid tapping your fingers or feet. This tells the person that you are in a hurry to get this conversation done.

  • Interrupting people

When you are in a conversation, listen. Truly listen. Avoid thinking of your response and rather focus on what the person is saying. Do not interrupt this person. When they are done talking, then you can ask questions. This will tell the person that you were actually listening. They will respect that.

  • Avoid distractions.

Avoid looking at the TV when you are in a conversation. Keep eye contact and avoid looking around the room. I know a TV can be distracting, but you can always look up the football scores at a later time. If you do this on a first date you will show the other person that you are more interested in the sport scores and you will be going home alone. This goes for checking your phone all the time as well.

There you have it. Focus on the things I suggested and you will notice that you get a more positive responses from people. This is all from experience and I have had to work on them to improve my own body language, and I still do. Body language is controlled by our subconscious but that does not mean that we cannot work on it to improve it. Studies have shown that most communication is nonverbal. Up to 90%. The first impression will be a lasting one, so make sure it is a good one.

What have you noticed other people do that annoys you and tells you that they are not interested in what you have to say?

 

Dealing with Shyness.

“Believe in your Flyness. Conquer your Shyness” – Kanye West

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

I posted an article about dealing with shyness at networking events and it got some good feedback. I did realize that this is not the only area some people need help with their social anxiety. It is estimated that about 17 million Americans have to deal with social anxiety or a social phobia on a regular basis. This is not an issue only adults have to deal with. Kids do as well. When kids join a new school they have to try to make new friends. I remember the times I moved schools. The one thing I hated was anxiety I felt, as I knew I had to try to make new acquaintance. I found it pretty stressful.

From my experiences and with dealing with shy people at a variety of events, I have put together some ideas of what you can work on to deal with your anxiety.

  • Act with Confidence.

This is one thing that you will have to work on continuously. Only through action, learning and practice will you get the results you want.

As with most things in life you need to practice continuously and learn as you go along. Think of playing golf. You need to put in a lot of practice to get better results. And even when you do get better, you still need to work on it to keep that performance level. If you do take some time off from playing, next time you do play you will have poor results and you have to almost start all over again.

Practice makes perfect.

  • Participate in YOUR LIFE

Life is too short to worry about being rejected. And to be fair, who really cares. So next time you are at the gym, start some small talk with someone.

Sporting events are great places to start a random conversation. You already have something in common, you like sports. It is easy from there.

If you see someone you are romantically attracted to, start a conversation. Ask them on a date if you feel the timing is right. Worst-case scenario, they say no. Nothing has changed and life goes as normal.

Most important lesson here is to engage and participate in your own life.

  • Just Say, “YES”

Step out of your comfort zone and try something new that makes you a bit anxious. I usually suggest to people to join some sort of club. Whether it is a sports club or social club. Put yourself in a position where you can meet new people. This will help you gain confidence and your anxiety of meeting new people will fade over time.

Another great option is to take on a new task. Something that will challenge you. Get a new hobby or develop a new skill.

Challenge yourself at every opportunity you get.

  • Be More Talkative

Whenever an opportunity comes up where you can do a speech or presentation, take it. This will be scary at first, but this is a great way to gain confidence. It will take some practice but so does everything worth doing.

Forget what other people may be saying or thinking. This is not about them, this is all about you.

Participate in conversations and make you ideas heard.

Remember that not everyone is going to like you. And it is simply impossible to keep everyone happy. So no need to even try.

  • Take Note of your Body Language

Confident body language is very important. Stand up straight, make eye contact, shake hands and listen. When you do speak, speak clearly and take note of your language.

  • Be Aware

You need to be present in your own life. Be aware of your thoughts and where they lead. You need to keep a positive mind to achieve better things. You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.

When you try new things and conversations, take note of the whole experience. Learn from it and work on it. Experience your own life. Take note of the things around you that you are grateful for. There are lots of positives all around us. No need to dwell on the past and bad experiences and memories. Life is happening now.

 

Follow these steps and keep working at it. At the end it is only you that can make the positive changes in your life that you desire.

This is not a quick fix and will not always be easy. But the juice will be worth the squeeze.

 

Suggested book to read ; How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. 

Tell us what you do to overcome anxiety.