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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving the Office Party.

Surviving the Office Party.

“What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day”

– Phyllis Diller

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

With the holiday season coming up I thought it is a good time to touch on this topic. We have all had to attend an office party at some point and it can really be a minefield of opportunities to jeopardize your career. It can also be the place to make some serious connections in the workplace and even lead to some great friendships.

When we look at a movie like ”Office Christmas Party” we wish our office party would end up like that. Completely out of control and then a happy ending. Reality is that it will most likely not. I have attended some parties that I was wishing I was somewhere else, and I know I am not the only one. I have also attended some office parties that I wish would never end.

Reality of the matter is that it is completely dependent on the people who attend and the general office environment.

There is nothing wrong with having some fun but I advise you to be aware of your behavior.

  1. There will be Gossip.

Only thing I can really say here is to avoid getting into conversations where anyone else is discussed. Just walk away. If someone overhears any part of the conversation it can be devastating to your reputation. Even if you were not part of the conversation you will still be associated with the conversation just due to your presence.

  1. Dress appropriately.

Dress professionally. Even though it is a party, it is still a work event. If there is a theme, stick to the theme.

  1. Keep the conversation light.

Avoid getting stuck in a deep or heated conversation. Avoid conversations about religion and especially today, politics. Keep moving around and mingle with as many people as you can. This is a great time to meet other employees that work in different departments. This can lead to some great connections at the workplace in the future.

  1. Drinking?

Pay attention to how much you are drinking. We all know our limits. You may think you are in control, but it may be different in someone else’s perspective. At the end of the day it is their perception of you that will affect your reputation.

  1. Do Attend.

You might not like the idea of attending a party with all the other employees you already spend a lot of time with. It is however a great place to network and meet the decision makers. In the long run this can be great for your career.

Last note is that it is not the worst idea to go. It might actually be fun. With a clear understanding of what pitfalls to avoid, you should build a good reputation and meet some influential people who may be able to help you in the long run.

What is your worst experience at an office party?