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TIPS FOR FRESH GRADS (AND THOSE LOOKING FOR A FRESH START)

 

Work is a great way to expose us to new environments and challenges, presenting us with experiences that will further develop our skills as well as our character.

But for this to happen, we need to find the environment that is most conducive. So if you are young and looking for work, how should you go about it?

 

Know yourself

You have only just graduated so you may think you haven’t got much to say on a CV or a job application. But having spent around 24 years on this planet, there are experiences you have had, observations you have made, things you have learned, views you have started to form. Write them down. Reflect on them. Figure out what makes you tick, what doesn’t. Discern your likes and dislikes. Find your highs and your lows. What you are proud of, where you could have done better. Your self-awareness and ability to extract lessons from experiences will start set you apart from others.

 

Get curious!

You have access to mounds of information on various industries, sectors and even the businesses themselves. Instead of spending time on social media pressing like and share, you might be better off doing some research to see what appeals to you. Make a list of companies that interest you. See what attracts you and what doesn’t. Look up the people who work there. Does anything/anyone resonate?

 

Be brave (and vulnerable)

Reach out to the companies and people you have identified to learn more. It may seem daunting picking up the phone or sending a mail to a complete stranger, but the world we live in is intimately connected. Jump on LinkedIn and track them down. See if you know someone who knows them. Create and leverage your network. Once you get hold of them, ask them about what they do. What they love about it, what they don’t. What types of people do they look for? Do you fit? Don’t hold back from telling people your aspirations. Even be brave enough to say you don’t know and you’re exploring. You will see that people are pretty kind and are willing to lend a helping hand because you know what, we’ve been there, we know what it’s like. Decent people will help and encourage you to find the right path.

 

Listen

A mentor once told me, “You have two ears, and one mouth use them in that proportion (and engage the grey matter in between)”. Ask smart questions and listen intently. Listen to what is said and what is not said – sometimes more is shared in the spaces in between. And also listen to yourself – some call it their gut, others their intuition, this will help you figure out if something is right for you or not – the package may be tempting, but are these people you want to spend your time with?

 

Do It!

Don’t be surprised if you are offered an opportunity along the way. Don’t overthink it. At some point, you must take a decision, and once you do, do it wholeheartedly. Just make sure you can learn from your boss, and s/he or someone else in the organisation will take you under their wing.

Rethinking Startup Success

We often hear ‘it’s a great company, they’ve raised $x’. This is the wrong metric, and recent disasters (e.g. WeWork, Uber and Theranos) have confirmed this. Thought it was time to peel back the layers on what we should be looking at. Here’s the article featured in Entrepreneur Middle East. read more

Discussion on AI & Intellectual Property

A recent article in Technology Review posed the question of whether AI can be an inventor. In principle, it’s a debate around IP law and whether AI can own ideas it generates. Check out the debate generated on LinkedIn. It’s worth a read. Additional views always welcome. read more

State of MENA Startups 2019

Following on from the recent report on the startup scene in the MENA Region (well done to MAGNiTT and 500 Startups for putting this together), here we peel back the layers on some of the issues raised. read more

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MORAL COURAGE AND CORPORATE CULTURE

It is not in calm seas that our character and integrity are tested but in times of crisis. It is at these times that mistakes are likely to happen.

When people think of ethics and social responsibility in the corporate context, they perceive it as a simple matter of determining what is right and wrong. Since we do not live in a world where decisions are a matter of black or white but more in shades of grey, steering the right course is not always a clear cut decision. With increased diversity of cultures and nationalities in the workplace, the topic of ethics and social responsibility becomes ever more complex, and one that should be treated with attention and focus.

Every company in hiring executives seeks people with integrity and good moral standards, but how do these translate to the corporate culture?

Every organisation has a value system. But is what the company says it stands for and the value system communicated, aligned with desired behaviours, practices and reward systems? There is little point in having formal policies and procedures that prescribe one mode of behaviour, if people are positively rewarded for achievements where an alternative and ‘non-desirable’ behaviour is applauded in terms of raises, bonuses and promotions.

Sharing the value system of an organisation enables the individuals within it to look within themselves and align their values and subsequent behaviour with that of the organisation, making them stronger people and better corporate citizens. Making this a topic of continual attention in an organisation has a resultant impact on the level of openness, integrity and trust amongst colleagues. Research has shown that in organisations with such systems, people within the organisation are motivated to not only be stronger representatives but better enabled to handle turbulent times such as change or crisis management. Continual attention to ethics in the work place sensitises leaders and staff to how they want to act consistently. And this comes from the top – leaders who lead by example will set the tone for the whole organisation to follow.

Ethics programmes have also been shown to support employee growth and development. A study cited in the Wall Street Journal found a direct correlation between the level of emotional health of an executive and the results of a battery of tests on ethics.

Having ethics as part of the organisation’s agenda better prepares employees to face reality with the resultant effect that they feel more confident and ready to deal with whatever comes their way.

Another benefit is the impact ethics can have on a company’s public image if people perceive those organisations as valuing the manner in which business is conducted more than profit. Recent years have seen greater attention to this factor, with more companies reporting on their social responsibility and analysts making it part of their agenda in their valuation of company stock.

In the meantime, we need to ask ourselves how are we contributing to the sustainability and longevity of the local economy? How are we ensuring that our actions have a positive contribution for the next generation and beyond?

THE STORY BEHIND AMANI™

THE STORY BEHIND AMANI™

During my time in Executive Search, I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing brilliant people every day. Amidst a 'war for talent', I didn't experience a shortage of talent. What I found was a shortage of great companies that deserved great talent. I didn't...

COMPANY CULTURE STARTS WITH YOU

COMPANY CULTURE STARTS WITH YOU

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WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – A MIDDLE EASTERN PERSPECTIVE

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – A MIDDLE EASTERN PERSPECTIVE

  There is a general look of surprise, even bewilderment when people hear I love working in the Middle East, for the simple reason that I’m a woman. I understand how there is a perception that women are not respected or highly regarded in the Middle East,...

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GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BOARD

While internal boardroom politics are the bane of many an executive’s existence, getting your board members working in the same direction can be a vital step towards a successful CEO tenure.

Corporate governance has brought with it greater scrutiny of the board, its role, its composition and its effectiveness, and we are ever more aware of the importance of independence and ethical guidelines. And when one looks at the composition of several boards, there are general rules of thumb that are followed. But looking across a number of organisations, it can be seen that although some companies’ boards have the “right” mix in terms of backgrounds and skills of the individual directors, some have more of an impact than others.

So, if it is not structure, what is it that makes a good board? Research documented in the Harvard Business Review stresses that the key ingredient is the social element as opposed to the structure per se.

Just as the chemistry in a well-functioning, successful team cannot be quantified, it nonetheless is a key, determining component that is present in effective boards.

There are five key elements that can help a CEO foster the optimum environment in which the board, and each member within it, performs at their best: creating a climate of trust and candour; fostering a culture of open dissent; harnessing the mix of different roles; ensuring individual accountability and performance evaluation.

Climate of trust

Creating a climate of trust and candour is a virtuous cycle whereby board members develop mutual respect, therefore developing trust, and hence enabling the sharing of difficult information. The CEO needs to be transparent and open in information sharing, providing documents with ample time for them to be read and digested. This will enable all members to have the same level of information and so allow for more balanced discussion and a better- informed decision process.

The CEO should also give board members free access to people who can answer their questions, such as creating opportunities to meet key company personnel and inspecting company sites. Encouraging different board members to engage in this kind of activity and spending time together creates more unity and minimises the exposure or risk of factions. Providing free access to information and key personnel also eliminates the need and/or desire of individual members to create “back access” to information leading to them breaking away from the team and creating possible factions.

Open culture

In an environment of trust and mutual respect, healthy debate is encouraged where assumptions are challenged. This ensures issues are thoroughly discussed and each member has the opportunity to voice his viewpoint.

The CEO should not punish or discourage rebels or nonconformists, but instead use the opportunity to learn. It is through these interactions that people’s perspectives are challenged and horizons expanded. The CEO should leverage the knowledge and wisdom of the members of the board. Having a thorough understanding of members’ positions and their justifications opens opportunities to new conclusions and stronger decisions.

Research conducted by Eisenhardt and Bourgeois, found that the highest-performing companies have extremely contentious boards and regard dissent as an obligation, treating no subject as a taboo topic.

Roleplay

CEOs, along with other board members, should encourage members to play a variety of roles thereby giving them a wider perspective of the business. Viewing a scenario from a different perspective and developing alternative scenarios to evaluate strategic decisions not only broadens the number of possibilities and opportunities but also inhibits members developing a rigid point of view. Hence, members should be encouraged to play devil’s advocate, at other times delve into the details of the business and also be given the opportunity to act as the project manager. A case that demonstrates the impact this can have on a business was at Pepsico in 1997 when the board decided to sell the various components of its well-run restaurant group.

CEO Roger Enrico had previously turned around the unit which had been the brainchild of two of Enrico’s predecessors and must have had great pride in the division. Yet, he eventually convinced all that the restaurant unit should be sold and so that it could flourish freely beyond the controls of the parent company. It proved to be a brilliant idea.

Accountability

Ensuring accountability is probably one of the toughest challenges a CEO faces. In a survey conducted by the Yale School of Management and the Gallup Organisation, 25% of CEOs claimed that their board members did not appreciate the complexity of the businesses they oversaw. In recent history we have seen cases of individuals blaming others, proclaiming ignorance, Enron being a case in point.

Directors should take their duties seriously and encourage others to do the same, setting the tone for acceptable behaviour and performance.

Behaviour breeds behaviour and although the CEO and chairman of the board can assign tasks to get individuals fully engaged, peer pressure will play a major influencing factor in further enforcing positive behaviour.

Tasks can take on various formats and could involve collecting external data, meeting with customers, anonymously visiting plants and stores in the field and cultivating links to outside parties critical to the company. The exercise will then require members to impart knowledge and findings to the rest of the board and allows them to become better versed in strategic and operational issues the company faces.

GE’s board members for instance, dine with the company’s largest suppliers and distributors the night before the annual meeting while Home Depot’s board members are expected to visit at least eight stores outside their home state between board meetings.

Evaluate performance

Not giving feedback to a team is self-destructive as there can be no learning without feedback. Findings from a combination of research and surveys show that directors rate their board’s effectiveness significantly more positively at companies where individual members are evaluated. Although, when individuals are in an interdependent group such as on a board, it is better to conduct a formal evaluation on the performance of the overall group rather than its individual members.

One reason for this may be that, as it currently stands, board members are typically replaced for performance reasons only in extreme circumstances (e.g., criminal misconduct, conflict of interest, active disruption, very poor attendance/participation record) – and if they are replaced, they are rarely given an early warning and a chance to improve. In most cases, boards wait for under-performing directors to retire, a more reactive than proactive approach. Since the Board is in effect a high-level team, no matter how good it is, it is bound to get better if  there is an evaluation process in place.

A good first step in director evaluation is to have directors assess only themselves. After two or three years, a peer assessment can be introduced, with directors evaluating one another. A simple pass/fail along several dimensions will ensure that the process is not too time consuming. The evaluations can be handed over to a trusted board advisor, such as outside legal counsel, who summarises the findings and provides individuals with their results. A next step is for the assessments to be turned over to the committee charged with director nominations, so that under-performing directors can be identified and action taken. Overall, this is good way of identifying who is truly adding value to the organisation, as well as making performance expectations clear. In evaluating directors, ask yourself the following questions:

• Do they understand the company’s strategy and business?

• Do they keep up to date with issues and trends affecting the business?

• Are they willing to challenge management when necessary?

• Do they have special expertise that is important to the company?

• Do they have an appropriate level of involvement in CEO succession and assessment?

• Do they attend boardroom meetings and discussions?

• Are they readily available for committee meetings?

• Do they contribute to board and committee agendas?

• Are they well prepared for meetings and discussions?

• Do they actively participate and contribution to the committee and boardroom deliberations?

• Are they available outside meetings to advise management?

• Do they effectively inquire about major performance deficiencies?

Although there are guidelines in how to formulate a board, the attitude a CEO takes towards the board is key in the tone that is going to be set. If a board is to truly fulfill its purpose of monitoring performance, advising the CEO, and providing connections with a broader world, it must become a robust team. Its members need to be actively engaged in seeking the truth and challenge each other to broaden their perspectives and viewpoints. The CEO should work in collaboration with the Board and all its members as opposed to viewing it as an obstacle that needs to be managed. Adopting an approach of transparency, honesty and respect will go a long way to building and nurturing a strong team, and a robust and effective board.

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VALUES AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES

We have all seen a myriad of company websites touting a list of values they stand for:

  • Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence;
  • Integrity and honesty in everything we do;
  • High performance and great behaviours driving exceptional rewards;
  • Respect, trust and integrity; the list goes on.

And yet, it is no good saying what you stand for if the actions of the people and the company operations are not in alignment with what the values presumably set the bar to be.  Values are not mere marketing, nice to have fuzzy words, but rather guiding principles that are supposed to be the bedrock and governance practice of every individual within the organisation. The values listed above are those of notable organisations.  Companies that until the recent past were held in high regard until they were linked or associated with fraud, corruption and the manipulation of the truth.  One would hope that by now, we would be wiser, smarter and behave more responsibly.  But alas, this is not the case.

Countless people are talking about values but how many people in any organisation are aware of what values the company supposedly stands for?  And if they don’t know what they are, how can they be behaving in alignment with those values?  Do we brandish certain values to the outside world, whilst we create compensation and rewards structures that promote behaviours that are contradictory? Values are not drawn up by a single individual or, more worryingly, by a marketing company who then presents some nice fluffy document or prospectus.  Values are determined by the people building and driving the organisation – by individuals who are committed to a vision and have the courage to develop a set of principles they are committed to living by in order to meet that vision.  Everyone in the organisation is responsible for acting in alignment with the values.  But let’s take a closer look… The following is an extract of some values of a financial services organisation.  This is for example purposes only and is not meant to single them out per se, but rather to show the potential complexity in adhering to values and knowing what truly will be ‘rewarded’.

  • Our clients’ interests always come first.
  • Our goal is to provide superior returns to our shareholders (…significant employee stock ownership aligns the interests of our employees and our shareholders.)
  • We stress creativity and imagination in everything we do. (…We pride ourselves on having pioneered many of the practices and techniques that have become standard in the industry.)
  • Integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business.

One could argue that it is these same values that drove this organisation and its people to develop and market complex financial instruments that were a factor in the lead up to the financial crisis, with the exception of course of the last principle – integrity and honesty.  But when a reward system is based on short-term gains and organisations are under pressure to post quarterly results, people choose to hear what they want to hear, making them feel that they are acting honestly. Back in 1990, in an article by Amar Bhide and Howard H. Stevenson entitled Why Be Honest If Honesty Doesn’t Pay, published in the Harvard Business Review, they had highlighted that unfortunately, treachery can pay, and that without values, without a basic preference for right over wrong, trust based on such self-delusion would crumble in the face of temptation.

The recent events have proven this.  Suffice to say, no one person is exempt from knowing, honouring and living the values, regardless of rank, position or title.  People in an organisation and serving an organisation have a fiduciary responsibility to balance results against the backdrop of ethics and purpose.  The real challenge is for each and every one of us to have the courage to do what is right, to think, speak and act with the highest intention, and to have the courage to say no, to break away from the crowd and not be lulled by what the proverbial Joneses are doing.  Failure to do so will inadvertently lead to a more disturbing economic climate than we are experiencing currently. So how is this done?  The key word here is alignment.  Imagine a compass setting for a moment.  If the heading is North, everyone first needs to know the heading is North.  We then need to determine what behaviours are in alignment with the North heading.  And then they need to be tested, creating scenarios that will test their applicability – the what if scenarios.  Just as any sailor knows, the seas change, the winds shift direction, but the heading is there and the skills and tenacity to navigate the course are what determine the true leaders.

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ENABLING THE NEXT GENERATION TO THRIVE

I love studying, working with and sharing stories about the next generation for it is a subject that encompasses defining wealth, the impact of our actions and indeed our purpose. In a nutshell it incorporates the purpose of our wealth…the purpose of our lives…and how we maximise both.

But how?

John F Kennedy had said, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.”

And we have in the large part great expectations of the next generation.

And yet, one of the greatest fuels of disappointment is expectations.

Seneca, the Roman philosopher and senator, attributed anger to frustrated expectations.

So here we have one of the dichotomies faced, not only by wealthy families but also by human beings at large.

And it is our humanness I would like to focus on for the next few minutes in determining what we pass on to the next generation and how.

Some time back, I was at a conference and was asked, “What is the responsibility of the family?”

Any thoughts?

In my opinion, the primary responsibility, regardless of your level of wealth is to best prepare your children to survive and thrive in this world, to be good human beings. You may give them lots of money, but do they have the wisdom on what to do with it? If there is a downturn in the economy and fortunes are lost, do they have the ability, fortitude and resourcefulness to rebuild it? What about if they grow the wealth or forge a path that is away from the ethos of the family? What if they are fantastic in their business but are terribly unhappy in their private life?

There is so much written about succession, legacy, constitutions, and governance that I sometimes think we have forgotten what it’s all about and left out the greatest aid in our cause – the love and respect we have for each other as family.

But do we?  Do we truly understand each other?

Do we empathically listen to each other?

Do we really endeavour to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes?

Or do we adopt an attitude of – this is how we have always been, this is how things are done in our family.

What do we really want for the next generation?

Isn’t it really about them growing into the people they have the potential to be?

Every family is different and every human being is different too.  It is not for me to tell you how you should or shouldn’t do things. My intention is rather to provide you with a framework to see where you are right now, to contemplate where you would like to be, what matters, to consider if your current strategy will get you there, and the steps to course correct.

We are all familiar with a tree. But the tree didn’t come out of nowhere. You first need the seed, you need to prepare the soil, you need to plant the seed in the right environment to ensure its roots take hold, and you need to provide it with the appropriate amount of water and sun to ensure it grows. It is the same with the next generation and it is these elements that we will extrapolate to practicalities in nurturing and developing the next generation.

There are three 3 core areas:

  • Mission & Purpose;
  • Values & Self Awareness;
  • Actions
Mission & Purpose

Most businesses have a mission statement and a purpose. It is well articulated, often hung in the reception, in the corner offices, on the fronts of prospectuses, on the website.

But how many families take the same care in developing and understanding their own family’s purpose, what they stand for, what is important to them, their raison d’etre? This is not a nice to have but a must have – a unified philosophy that instills a sense of identity and direction in the family. This is not something that is imposed by an outside adviser, marketer or lawyer, all scenarios I have heard of, treating it as a check box on the path to governance, but rather a process of exploration and discussion.

This is not too dissimilar to building the foundations to a building – do you want a shack or the ability to grow into a soaring tower? It is the same amount of depth the family and its members need to go through if they want to grow as a family and instill growth in the next generation. It is an essential process that provides an opportunity for other family members to voice their perspective, dreams, hopes and desires in co-creating the environment which is most essential for their development and growth – their home.

The Purpose & Mission become the bedrock upon which the next generation understand the character that was weaved into the family through the generations, the moral compass that will help them determine the right path to choose, in discerning the multitude of options presented to them. It provides them with a backbone, a support mechanism upon which to draw wisdom. As long as it is done correctly, with the appropriate level of exploration and discussion it requires, and deserves.

One family of noble lineage stemming back to the 800s epitomised their family philosophy in the following way: our family is like a chain along a wall, attached by a nail. Some nails are lower, others higher, holding the line of the chain. Your responsibility is to ensure you place a nail. It doesn’t matter if up or down, but ensure you place a nail. It is this simple philosophy that enabled this next generation member to muster the courage to reshape himself and move forward after losing everything in the financial crisis. This simple phrase enabled him to remember the character instilled in the family, the courage and resilience of the family, and the standing of their good name. This went on to determine how he handled the situation he faced, how he interacted and engaged with others, how he conducted his business affairs, how he severed the ties he needed to, all with the dignity, grace and integrity instilled in him along his line.

That is the power of Mission & Purpose. The ability to thrive in the face of challenges.

Values & Self-Awareness

Has anyone ever upset you, even perhaps made you angry?

It probably wasn’t the person’s intention to make you angry. But their actions or what they said happened to impinge upon one of your values. Moreover, their behaviour was also linked to their values. We see people like icebergs. Not from a temperature perspective but from a depth perspective. We only see the tip of the iceberg, the one-eighth peering above the surface, people’s behaviour. But the majority of the iceberg lies beneath the surface, in the depths of the water it occupies. And this is where we have our beliefs, perspectives and values, lying beneath the surface and façade of our actions, often lying within our unconscious mind.

Failing to be aware of, or sensitive to, what these are is like being in constant autopilot.

Imagine being in a plane, relying on the autopilot but you don’t know the controls, navigation system or even what all the parts are called. Do you think that journey will end well if something unexpected comes into sight? And when life happens, it is values and perspectives that are affected.

Let me share a story to illustrate: One family had built a significant investment company and it was understood this was a family business to be grown and transferred to future generations. Then tragedy struck. The father was diagnosed with cancer and, shortly afterwards, his wife also. They underwent treatment and, thank goodness, they survived. The experience shocked the family and all were immensely grateful the parents survived. The experience affected the parents profoundly, driving in them the desire and will to found and endow a world-class medical research facility dedicated to uncovering the causes, treatment, prevention and cure of the genetic cause of cancer and other genetically based diseases. In addition, they tithed 40% of the family business’s annual profits to fund the facility.

That is how values are shaken and reshaped – when life happens.

Actions

The third is Actions. All the goodwill in the world, all the lovely statements and words will do no good if we do not follow through with our actions. We are pulled in a million and one directions with many demands on our time, and mostly looking forwards not back. We have all heard the expression ‘with the benefit of hindsight’.

So it is the ultimate hindsight I would like to touch upon – the topic that is rarely talked about – and that is death.

It is ironic that as human beings we avoid the topic. How many times have you heard a patriarch, even yourself say, “if I die…”? We love guarantees, certainty, and yet we shy away from the ultimate deadline. But through this lens, we can glean much insight into what is truly important to us: Where we focus our time and efforts; What we put off for another day; Who we say no to; What and whom we say yes to; What we don’t say waiting for the right time or holding on until the other makes the first move.

Consider this if you will – imagine you had a week to live:

  • What would you do differently?
  • How would you behave differently?
  • Who would you choose to share time with?
  • What conversations would you ensure you had?
  • What can you now see that you couldn’t see before?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What really matters?
  • When you are no longer here, what do you want to be remembered for – the empire you built, or your character, how you conducted yourself, how you treated others?

One family’s experience that resounds in me is the story of a beautiful woman, now with children and grandchildren of her own. She is a humble and soulful lady, doing her best to be a steward for the wealth as well as being a loving wife, mother and grandmother to her family. In sharing her story she revealed that her father worked very hard, committed to the company and what he was creating. His focus on his work, as well as his belief that women had no role in business, meant that he shared very little time with his daughter, to the extent that she learned who he was and his accomplishments through a book. On the other hand, he did share a lot of time with his grandchildren who can now forge their own path instilled with the grandfather’s philosophy.

Nelson Mandela said “In judging our progress as individuals, we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education…but internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being.”

So in considering what we leave the next generation and how, I would impress on you the importance of focusing first on the foundations. This enables the next generation to have the capacity to delve within themselves to grow and have the impact they are capable of. It also enables us, to understand and embrace what matters and to be the best we can be. For it is in our own life’s example that we leave the ultimate testament to our legacy.

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WILL YOU CHOOSE TO MATTER?

There is a great talk and initiative by Angela Maiers entitled “You Matter”, and how these two words could positively impact our lives.

It really puts into perspective and simplicity the manner in which we conduct ourselves in our daily interactions, with great relevance for the corporate world and our business dealings.

Consider Customer Care for a moment. How many times do you interact with representatives who simply do not seem to care, let alone make you feel that you matter.

Or of trying to have a conversation with someone who is affixed to their computer or mobile, or looking elsewhere.

Or simply not being acknowledged.

Do these make you feel that you matter?

For if we are making people feel they don’t matter, we make them feel insignificant. And since what goes around, comes around, the deeper question is, do you feel you matter?

For me, these two words “You Matter” have brought to the forefront of my mind a simple code of conduct – going through each day, being present, truly engaging with and caring about people we come into contact with, even people we come across in the street – a simple smile, offering a helping hand, being kind. Isn’t this what being human is ultimately about? I cannot fathom why many people stop being human as soon as they walk into an office building and hide behind “but this is business”.

We have a tendency as humans to complicate simplicity, coming up with words that become so overused they become jargon and meaningless: employer of choice, corporate social responsibility, ethics – all very noble in their own right and when done with the spirit the words themselves intended. And yet ‘You Matter’ for me personifies many of these. If every interaction we have, every decision we make, are centred around these two words, how different would our days be, the people around us, our families, our businesses, our communities. How different would we be? How different would you be if you felt you mattered?

I believe everyone has a purpose and yes, each and every one of us matters. I believe now is a good time to let go of our past, our titles and our pride, and be someone who matters by making someone feel they matter. Will you choose to matter?

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FIND YOUR HARMONY – UNLOCK YOUR POTENTIAL


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finding your inner harmony

Imagine a violin – its beautiful lines, the warmth of its colour, the depth of its lacquer, the tactile feel of the wood. Such a work of craftsmanship, and yet, the beauty of the violin is wasted if hidden, nestling in its velvet lined case. Its true beauty comes when it is picked up, brought in to the light, balanced in hand, tuned and the bow kisses the strings creating pure harmonies. An exquisite amplification and showcase of the player’s unique skill and technique.

This is a simple allegory for human potential, looking at our talents that, like the violin, are hidden until we pick them up and employ them. Talents need to be tuned, artfully brought out and harmonised for the myriad of possible repertoires and circumstances.

The other beautiful analogy of the violin, or any other musical instrument, is it can play many tunes, many harmonies, in solo, as a duet or leading an orchestra, both syncing and syncopating the melody and harmony to the others. The same is true of us, applying our talents to personal goals, relationships, team environments and wider organisational missions, listening to the music and tuning in.

Some pieces of music are better suited to some instruments than others – and that’s ok. You don’t see a violinist or flautist upset because a part of the composition doesn’t include their instrument at that moment. Musicians understand and love the beauty and harmony of the piece, and are happy to play their role in weaving it together. They trust the conductor, each other and themselves to do the piece justice, to woo the audience and transcend them to another place, filling them with the emotions the composer intended.

Now consider an organisation, built on great values, with a shared mission and goals. Each team member needs to play in harmony for the organisation to achieve. An environment where each person is knowing, confident and passionate about their particular talents and how they mesh with others to create beauty and harmony. Unusual words in an organisational framework, and yet, it is music to our ears when we hear positive feedback on our work, when we satisfy our customers, when we have content employees, when our shareholders are happy.

So be like the great conductors and get your orchestra to play in harmony. Lead the way in doing things differently.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

inSight - Salty not Sweet

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COMPANY CULTURE STARTS WITH YOU

COMPANY CULTURE STARTS WITH YOU

Ask a person the reason they love to travel, and often they say to experience different cultures. Human beings seem to be intrigued by the social norms and ways of living of their fellow man in different cities and villages around the world. Having the experience and...

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – A MIDDLE EASTERN PERSPECTIVE

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – A MIDDLE EASTERN PERSPECTIVE

  There is a general look of surprise, even bewilderment when people hear I love working in the Middle East, for the simple reason that I’m a woman. I understand how there is a perception that women are not respected or highly regarded in the Middle East,...

AMBITION, ATTITUDE AND ACTION

AMBITION, ATTITUDE AND ACTION

Ideas are great, but it’s action that turns them into reality. So do you know what you’re creating? Do you know for what purpose? Or are you in danger of getting there at a cost you hadn’t envisaged? Here are some tips to help you achieve what you truly want – not...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

EMERGING MARKETS: Navigating a clash between corporate governance and local customs   CHALLENGE A multinational company operating in emerging markets discovered an individual who had access to the company float was taking money out of the company but replacing it...

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TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE


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Within every person lie moments of significance, experiences that shape us, change our perspective, carve our character and drive us to a deeper part of ourselves.

A few years ago I had one of those moments. It took the form of a terrible shock – the sudden death of someone I loved deeply, his last breath in front of my very eyes. I would be lying if I said, as I reflect on that moment, that my heart doesn’t hurt, that my own breath doesn’t stop for a moment. But just as I choose to ride rollercoasters, with the gut wrenching squeals that come with them, if I’m honest, I choose to reflect on that moment. Not to experience its sadness, but rather to encapsulate a sense of purpose, of urgency, of peace, of joy, of life itself.

The fact of the matter is a) I can’t change what happened b) it could happen to anyone of us at any moment c) our own time on this planet, whether we choose to admit it or not, is finite.

So I find it focuses my mind to what really matters in life, knowing all too well that this could be my last moment. As strange as it may sound, I choose to see it as a gift.

I have held back from sharing this openly with people, in a way fearing putting myself so much on the line, fear of being judged, fear of being labeled as morose. But those who know me can attest that I have a love of life and a love of humanity. And it is because of that love that I am doing this, because maybe the lessons I learned through my experience could in some way make a small difference to someone, and that in a strange way will make the experience worthwhile.

No Unsaids

If you love someone, tell them. If you need something, ask. If you’re stuck, own up. Don’t be afraid to share your dreams, your wishes, your aspirations. Don’t worry about airing your fears, they don’t seem so bad when they’re brought out from the dark recesses of our minds. Be fearless in challenging perspectives (especially yours). Be honest. Be truthful. Be honourable.

Connect deeply

Put down your phone, your iPad, your laptop. Ignore your emails, messages and put your phone on silent or off. Get the person you care about most in the world and look into their eyes, hold them, feel their breath, take time to listen – to the words and the silence in between, the magical doorways that lead you to their essence.

Be present

If you’re at dinner, be at dinner. If you’re having a conversation, be in the conversation. If you’re sharing a moment with someone (even yourself) be in that moment. Absorb everything every moment offers you. Just as you would savour every morsel of a gourmet meal, so it should be with moments.

Have the courage to love deeply

The only thing that hurts more than loving someone is not having the courage to love at all. Love with all your heart, with abandon, with fullness, with gusto, with no holds barred.

You can’t have a rainbow without some rain

Don’t be afraid of shedding a tear and definitely don’t bottle it up. See tears as a way to transform what may seem as a sad or painful experience. With light shed on it and the right perspective even that moment can bring beauty and joy into your life.

Gratitude

Be thankful for every moment – to have an extraordinary life one must take pleasure in what may seem extra-ordinary.

Tend to what matters

It is easy to get distracted, to listen to the drum of others. Take some time to figure out what truly matters to you and make sure your daily actions reflect that.

Just do it!

Don’t wait till tomorrow, till next week, till you have more time, till you have more money, till whatever excuse or reason blocks your way – today, right now, this moment. Tick tock, tick tock. You have but one life – live it!

 


 

Headhunter turned talent spotter, Deborah is vested in the impact business has in both economic and social terms across various strata of society. She is the Creator of AMANI™ and a catalyst for business being a force for good, 

 

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

EMERGING MARKETS: Navigating a clash between corporate governance and local customs   CHALLENGE A multinational company operating in emerging markets discovered an individual who had access to the company float was taking money out of the company but replacing it...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

  WHEN INVESTORS COME IN Tackling transition and the growing pains of scaling a business CHALLENGE A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. There was low morale, diminished team spirit, lack of personal performance, all ultimately impacting results. INSIGHTS...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

  MILLENNIAL LEADER: Unmotivated and difficult to manage?   CHALLENGE A team transformation process with people from various backgrounds and ages. One person, in particular, was a millennial in a leadership position. He was perceived as difficult to manage by his...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

ESTATE PLANNING Wealth transition between generations   CHALLENGE An Ultra high-net-worth family had sold the shares in the family business and placed the funds in trust to secure the wealth for future generations. However, the structure was creating family...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

SUCCESS IN SUCCESSION The next generation taking over the family business CHALLENGE A nextgen was taking over the family business. To grow the business he also took on a private equity partner. The private equity firm recommended me as a sounding board to the CEO....

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

THE RIGHT PERSON TO LEAD? Taking a closer look at people's credentials. CHALLENGE The client needed to find a Managing Director for their business in an emerging market. A potential candidate had been recommended. I was asked to profile him. INSIGHT On paper, the...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

A TEAM ACQUISITION Handling the fallout from the financial crisis CHALLENGE A global financial institution was in trouble. Bankruptcy was inevitable. Wanting to get ahead of it, a member of the regional team approached us to explore options.  INSIGHT Profiled every...

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IN SEARCH OF WEALTH


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I recall being at dinner with the Chinese Ambassador in Malta some years ago. My boss and mentor had invited me, so as they were in the throws of a discussion about power and money, I sat listening.

The conversation was leading down a path where there was no delineation between power and money. That money gives you power and being in a position of power brings you money.  I still recall the unease within me – the restlessness that comes with knowing there is another truth.

Not being able to hold my tongue any longer, I posed a question “Did Mother Teresa have power?”

They looked at me stunned, and then smiling, the Chinese Ambassador nodded at my boss.

I don’t know about you but discussions of this nature have always intrigued me, and how we all too simply assume that one brings the other. Of course, this is very much the truth in some cases, as can be seen amongst some of the regimes and heads of state that exist around the world. But it is not the whole truth.

A similar debate ensued with a group of Russians, some of which were sons and daughters of oligarchs. This time the discussion was around the difference between being rich and being wealthy. If a person is rich, are they necessarily wealthy? If you have lots of money but are not happy, are you wealthy? If you don’t feel free to do or be what and who you are, would you feel wealthy?

In my opinion, wealth goes deeper than the number of digits behind a dollar sign and is more closely linked with the quality and richness of life. By this I do not mean just about how we create a quality of life for ourselves by buying things. Rather how our character, way of being and manner of doing things impact the quality of our experiences internally and externally. In a way, wealth is more closely linked to legacy, purpose and our role as members of the human race – humanity.

Nelson Mandela had once said, “In judging our progress as individuals, we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education…but internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being; humility, purity, generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve your fellow men – qualities within the reach of every human soul.”

In doing your own search for what is important to you, here are some things for you to think about and consider:

  • If you were to find out a product you buy was produced in a way that conflicts with what you deem to be moral, fair and ethical, would you still buy it?
  • Do you care enough to ask the extra question and find out?
  • Do you consider and understand the ripple effects of your decisions and the impact they have?
  • Do you have the courage to speak your truth and not follow the status quo?
  • Do the means justify the ends, and how do you balance these?
  • Where do you draw the line about what and who you care about and what you are willing to do about it
  • In the final count, is wealth perhaps about our ability to enrich the lives of others?

 


 

Deborah has the ability to sense the underlying potential of people and their ideas. Previously a successful headhunter, she is a catalyst for business as a force for good, and works with founders, entrepreneurs, successors and innovators in building businesses with purpose and profit.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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IN SEARCH OF WEALTH

IN SEARCH OF WEALTH

I recall being at dinner with the Chinese Ambassador in Malta some years ago. My boss and mentor had invited me, so as they were in the throws of a discussion about power and money, I sat listening. The conversation was leading down a path where there was no...

HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST PEOPLE

HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST PEOPLE

Searching for talent is about fixing a problem – that of finding the right person to tackle a business opportunity or challenge. Contrary to popular view, the toughest challenge is not finding the right talent. It is finding great companies to find talent for. This is...


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YOUR EXPERIENCES MATTER

We often admire the big names, the personalities, the people in positions of influence. But in so doing, we sometimes forget our own significance.

I am currently in Malta. My mother’s native country. A place I have had a varied relationship with throughout my life, and a place I have come to love and appreciate deeply. Last night, I went to the church my mother used to take us to as children. I had gone to say hello to a dear old neighbour of ours – she always had gentle wisdom to impart, oftentimes in the form of a smile. The choir was in the middle of practice and as I sat there I was greatly moved, not only by their voices and the amount of effort and practice they put into the songs, but by the passage of time. This was the church with so many events: first holy communion; confirmation; the baptism of my cousins; the funeral of my mother and countless confessions. In those moments I was overwhelmed with and grateful for the journey of life.

As I observed the ladies in the choir I was reminded of another facet. These were the ladies whose doors my brother and I used to knock on as children doing ‘bob-a-jobs’, little errands to raise money for the scouts and other countless initiatives we got involved in at school. These were the girls who were with us in our religious classes. It reminded me and brought home that regardless of our background or our upbringing, we are all doing the best we can with what we have and see in front of us. No-one is better or worse than anyone else. We have nothing to prove. Only to be and do the best with what has been bestowed upon us. I wonder if all those people realised what an imprint they had on our lives as a family, me as a person and the role they played in nurturing our spirit.

My mother was an extraordinary woman, with strong values and the courage to live by them. As I get older, I understand with greater depth the lessons she used to impart, and with every passing moment I smile, realising that there is very little she did that wasn’t a lesson.

One particular summer when we were living in Saudi Arabia, I asked my mum to teach me how to knit. An odd thing to do in summer in the blazing heat, granted, especially in my friends’ eyes, but I wanted to know how to knit. So my mum, with all her patience, started to teach me the craft of knitting. I was making a sweater, black, with two cables on either side. From time to time, my mum would take over, reviewing the work I had been doing.

“Deb” she used to say, “be mindful, you keep dropping a stitch. Make sure you have all the stitches.”

So at the end of each row, I would go back and count all the stitches, ensuring I had not dropped anything along the way.

There I was thinking I was learning how to knit, which of course I was. But I learned something else too. I first needed to decide what I wanted to knit – the shape, the size, the colour, the thickness and so on. I had to choose the type of yarn and quantity that would enable me to create what I wanted. And I had to have the skill and tenacity to follow through. I also had to overcome the cajoling from my well-meaning and fun-loving friends :-).

These traits are no different from the traits we need to establish in the lives we want to create for ourselves. In our rush through lives and our focus on a particular outcome, we sometimes forget elements that are important to us – our loved ones, our friends, our health. We even forget experiences that shaped us, that developed our strength, our character. We can forget certain skills or gifts that we have. We can even forget what matters.

So in planning your life, your career, your education, or whatever it is that is important to you remember these steps, and please, above all, don’t drop a stitch.

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THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN PEOPLE AND COMPANIES

If you speak to a young person about their job search, many will say they have applied to a number of companies through their online web portal but have never heard anything. And those that get rejected are disheartened because they never got to speak to a human being. They don’t know why they got a ‘no’ so they can’t even learn along the way. I think most of us hate to see anyone lose their confidence and enthusiasm in their search for a meaningful role, let alone those just embarking on their professional lives. What should businesses that care do to prevent this?

Purpose, Vision and Values

Many companies have their purpose, vision and/or values listed on their site, but are they compelling? Is it a purpose and mission that truly reflects what the company aspires to and not just spin? Purpose, vision and values are important, but more critical is the true culture of the organisation.

Given that cultural fit is a key component in determining the suitability and longevity of a person within an organisation, it would be beneficial both for the company and the applicant to have a good understanding of the character traits they look for in determining cultural fit. These should be clearly communicated on the website and you should even give tips to young people as to how these could be demonstrated. You could have candid biographies of your current star talent at different levels of the organisation, podcasts, even call ins for applicants who want to ask questions. Fostering a human touch will improve not only the caliber and breadth of applicants but also your standing as an organisation in the community.

More than a CV

Do you think a CV is a true reflection of who you are and your capabilities? Some exaggerate their capabilities whilst others play them down, but for some reason we still use this piece of paper as a major screening tool. How does a CV highlight an individual’s attitude, personality and character? Whilst aptitude, capabilities and skills are important, there have been countless studies showing that it is much easier to teach a skill than it is to transform an attitude.

We need to encourage applicants to show more of who they are – as human beings. It is often personal experiences that demonstrate resilience, character and determination – the golden nuggets for employers. Companies need to create the environment where people feel safe to be themselves.

Get the Business Lines Involved

If we were looking for widgets to fit into a machine, I would understand the current systems. But if today’s applicants don’t become our employees, they are tomorrow’s potential clients, investors and partners. Anything we do to help foster goodwill is a good investment, for today and the future. Let’s all take it upon ourselves to do our little bit in helping guide the next generation and not leave it to a web portal or HR. If nothing else, update your LinkedIn profile saying you are willing to take a call or an email. This in turn will say a lot about your character and who knows what doors could open for you in return?

Deborah is an advocate for business as a force for good, building companies that create value, in both financial and social terms.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – A MIDDLE EASTERN PERSPECTIVE

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – A MIDDLE EASTERN PERSPECTIVE

  There is a general look of surprise, even bewilderment when people hear I love working in the Middle East, for the simple reason that I’m a woman. I understand how there is a perception that women are not respected or highly regarded in the Middle East,...

AMBITION, ATTITUDE AND ACTION

AMBITION, ATTITUDE AND ACTION

Ideas are great, but it’s action that turns them into reality. So do you know what you’re creating? Do you know for what purpose? Or are you in danger of getting there at a cost you hadn’t envisaged? Here are some tips to help you achieve what you truly want – not...

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON WORK & ENGAGEMENT

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON WORK & ENGAGEMENT

Do we treat people like a one-night stand or do we show the level of commitment we would give someone we want to marry? And once we marry, do we work at keeping the relationship alive, or do we take each other for granted? I can’t think of many people who don’t want...

DO BUSINESS PRACTICES IMPACT PROFITABILITY?

DO BUSINESS PRACTICES IMPACT PROFITABILITY?

  For a company to thrive, it needs to ensure the wellbeing and level of satisfaction with its stakeholders – investors, employees, suppliers and customers. Recent times have seen how bad conduct results in negative publicity, poor company image and a drop in...

CASE STUDY

STEWARDSHIP, EDUCATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

  Family wealth fails to make it beyond the third generation in 90 per cent of cases. This failure isn't due to poor investment decisions, but rather a lack of cohesion and communication between family members, where the family fragments, and with it the wealth....


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3 SECRETS OF TOP TALENT

In any organisation these days, we come across a myriad of titles. But when one breaks it down, what are titles really all about? Do they help us in being better? It seems to me that sometimes, a title is a mask and stands in the way of us being our best.

For simplicity’s sake, imagine two people in an organisation, each responsible for their own area but ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of the organisation. And now imagine one of them is missing the ball on something.

I recently observed this and was fascinated by two hugely different outcomes when adopting two opposing outlooks. In the first instance, one of the colleagues was willing to allow the other to trip up. And yet, when she adopted the perspective of a fellow human as opposed to a colleague with a title, she took on an entirely different stance, one of collaboration, empathy and all hands on deck.

Somewhere along the line, we have created a belief system within organisations and ourselves that, in order to make it to the top, we have to be guarded, tough and use sharp elbows – for what end really I have no clue, since getting to the top in that manner would be very lonely indeed.

So, adopting this vein of thinking, one would like to believe that the people at the top are mean, ruthless and generally not very nice.

The good news is that this is not the case. In profiling some of the best talent from around the world, there were three elements that were consistently present amongst those who companies wanted to have as part of their team:

1. They are great human beings – possessing strength of character, commitment and integrity, they have a desire and ability to grow and guide people, working with and through others.

2. They love what they do – doing something which resonates with a deep part of who they are, something they are interested in, engaged with and committed to.

3. They all had a mentor in some way shape or form at some point in their life and/or career that imparted wisdom and guidance.

There are some positive shifts taking place, with a call to basic and traditional values of honour, integrity, respect, etc. A time when people want to treat others and be treated as human beings as opposed to numbers. Where, to bring out the best in others and ourselves, we must be true to who we are as human beings as opposed to hiding behind some title.

We are in a time when we can create positive changes in our ‘corporate’ experiences. An opportunity to instil a strong value set within our companies that resonate with and embody members of the organisation, enabling them to tap into who they truly are instead of resorting to titles for position and power. A time when companies live human values as opposed to a string of words and niceties that beef up a website or other corporate collateral. An opportunity to shape our organisations to create real value with every interaction and along the value chain.

It will be interesting to see the progress of our students, our future leaders, who are currently watching the debacle we are going through.  They are a key element since they will be demanding more from the companies they will be choosing to work for.  And if they don’t find the right value set, I hope they will have the courage, determination and network to create their own new cultures which will resonate far more deeply with the customers they will have set up to serve.

Headhunter turned talent spotter, Deborah creates the connect between people of character and companies with principles. The Founder of AMANI™, she is an advocate for business being a force for good, vested in the impact business has in both economic and social terms across various strata of society.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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MORAL COURAGE AND CORPORATE CULTURE

MORAL COURAGE AND CORPORATE CULTURE

It is not in calm seas that our character and integrity are tested but in times of crisis. It is at these times that mistakes are likely to happen. When people think of ethics and social responsibility in the corporate context, they perceive it as a simple matter of...

GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BOARD

GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BOARD

While internal boardroom politics are the bane of many an executive’s existence, getting your board members working in the same direction can be a vital step towards a successful CEO tenure. Corporate governance has brought with it greater scrutiny of the board, its...

VALUES AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES

VALUES AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES

We have all seen a myriad of company websites touting a list of values they stand for: Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence; Integrity and honesty in everything we do; High performance and great behaviours driving exceptional rewards; Respect, trust and...

WILL YOU CHOOSE TO MATTER?

WILL YOU CHOOSE TO MATTER?

There is a great talk and initiative by Angela Maiers entitled “You Matter”, and how these two words could positively impact our lives. It really puts into perspective and simplicity the manner in which we conduct ourselves in our daily interactions, with great...

3 SECRETS OF TOP TALENT

3 SECRETS OF TOP TALENT

In any organisation these days, we come across a myriad of titles. But when one breaks it down, what are titles really all about? Do they help us in being better? It seems to me that sometimes, a title is a mask and stands in the way of us being our best. For...


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HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST PEOPLE

Searching for talent is about fixing a problem – that of finding the right person to tackle a business opportunity or challenge. Contrary to popular view, the toughest challenge is not finding the right talent. It is finding great companies to find talent for. This is because the objective is not merely to find talent but to retain it and get the best out of it.

In Executive Search, potential candidates are typically happy and successful in their current roles. In my experience, more than 80% of cases involve international relocation. This brings with it an extra layer of complexity – that of moving house and in the case of children, school.

So what are the markers that ensure the new environment would be such that the person, and their family, would settle in and stay?

Purpose

Companies need to present a compelling proposition that candidates can relate to and connect with. A company whose sole objective is to make profit with no sense of meaningful purpose or differentiator, have a tougher time attracting the right people. It doesn’t have to be complicated but something that is real and the company is committed to pursuing.

Principles in Practice

Mission statements are great but what happens in reality is what matters. People joining and working in an organisation want to ensure their own personal values will not be compromised. There is no point in brandishing a set of values if the modus operandi and decision-making does not reflect this in reality. The spin and facade might bring them into the organisation, but it will not bring out the best in them and it will not keep them.

People

The leadership and team already in place impact the quality and calibre of talent a company will be able to attract. High calibre talent looks for environments in which they can grow, excel, contribute and thrive. Leaders needs to have the ability and foresight to bring out the best in people, providing them with the tools and resources to succeed. The team needs to foster collaboration, trust and mutual respect, a cohort of colleagues with different yet complementary capabilities one can resonate with.

Performance

High ideals are great but for a company to be successful it needs to deliver. Failure to do so will result in poor financial results and the inability to support its employees. This takes appetite, commitment and follow through. For instance, if the problem to be fixed is the financial well-being of the company where a turnaround is required, the company needs to ensure they have the willingness and ability to bring about the change. There is no point in hiring people if they are hindered from doing what is necessary to deliver.

 

Packages

Fair compensation is key. That said, I would ward off anyone hiring a person whose sole motivation is the financial package. This is for the simple reason that unless the individual is aligned and committed to the mission, there is always the next biggest bidder willing to dangle a bigger carrot. It is important for people to feel they are fairly rewarded for their efforts. Compensation packages need to be fair and look at the person in terms of return on investment and effort. Companies also need to ensure the metrics they are measuring and rewarding are in alignment with the business’s objectives and principles. Avoid conflict that arises from mismatched incentive programmes – this is a sure way to demotivate people and create an atmosphere of resentment.

Process

The process through which you take a potential candidate can make or break your hire. From interviewing to induction, getting bogged down in HR processes is a sure way to turn off top talent.Talented individuals want to get a handle on the business environment, the vision and the task at hand. They are looking for data that will enable them to determine if this is the type of company they are best suited for and if they are fit for the mission at hand. If the role requires a relocation, a broader set of decision criteria will be at play. My counsel would be to identify who else is affected by the move and include them in the process.

Ultimately, companies need to ensure they have the ability to understand a candidate’s capabilities, character, concerns and level of commitment. Only in this way will you ensure you have people on board with the right fit – and cultural fit is essential for people to thrive in and add value to your business.

Deborah drives business as a force for good, building companies that create value, in both financial and social terms.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

inSight - Salty not Sweet

15 + 1 =

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

EMERGING MARKETS: Navigating a clash between corporate governance and local customs   CHALLENGE A multinational company operating in emerging markets discovered an individual who had access to the company float was taking money out of the company but replacing it...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

  WHEN INVESTORS COME IN Tackling transition and the growing pains of scaling a business CHALLENGE A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. There was low morale, diminished team spirit, lack of personal performance, all ultimately impacting results. INSIGHTS...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

  MILLENNIAL LEADER: Unmotivated and difficult to manage?   CHALLENGE A team transformation process with people from various backgrounds and ages. One person, in particular, was a millennial in a leadership position. He was perceived as difficult to manage by his...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

ESTATE PLANNING Wealth transition between generations   CHALLENGE An Ultra high-net-worth family had sold the shares in the family business and placed the funds in trust to secure the wealth for future generations. However, the structure was creating family...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

SUCCESS IN SUCCESSION The next generation taking over the family business CHALLENGE A nextgen was taking over the family business. To grow the business he also took on a private equity partner. The private equity firm recommended me as a sounding board to the CEO....

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

THE RIGHT PERSON TO LEAD? Taking a closer look at people's credentials. CHALLENGE The client needed to find a Managing Director for their business in an emerging market. A potential candidate had been recommended. I was asked to profile him. INSIGHT On paper, the...

CASE STUDY

CASE STUDY

A TEAM ACQUISITION Handling the fallout from the financial crisis CHALLENGE A global financial institution was in trouble. Bankruptcy was inevitable. Wanting to get ahead of it, a member of the regional team approached us to explore options.  INSIGHT Profiled every...


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MONDAY MORNING BLUES

Have you heard of people not looking forward to going to work on Monday and dreading the week ahead?

It’s quite extraordinary really, especially when you consider that at one point these same people were happy to get the job, for I cannot think of one person who was disappointed to find employment. And yet, some time down the line, maybe weeks, months or even years, the joy of work seems to elude us.

So what happens? Making things simple, let’s look at three main scenarios:

1. You were excellent at what you did and you got promoted

One would think this is a good thing. However oftentimes, people are promoted either out of their core competence or into a role that eliminates an essential element that brought them great satisfaction. We often see this with sales people who are promoted to a managerial role for instance, and find themselves carrying out administrative duties as opposed to dealing with clients. In effect, the ingredient that brought them success is the one which gets greatly reduced, and in some cases even removed.

2. You aspired for a role and someone else is hired from the outside

There you are, working hard and delivering for the company. You love the company, believe in what you are doing, and want to grow and advance. You are aiming for a role, believing that with hard work, dedication and results, you will be promoted. The next thing you know, you find out someone was hired into the position, in effect wiping out the opportunity for you to grow to the next level. This is extremely demotivating, and you find yourself increasingly disillusioned and your job, which was once a source of inspiration, becomes a have-to.

3. Perception versus reality

We’ve heard it many times over – you thought you wanted to work with this company, in that industry, or to have that title. But when you get there you find yourself saying ‘is that it?’ feeling that sense of emptiness or disillusionment, breaking of the perception of what you wanted to the reality of experiencing it.

So how do we rectify this?

The truth is, there is a great difference between being employed and being engaged, and enhanced employee engagement is at the core of successful organisations. Remember, you spend at least a third of your waking life at work, so if you do not enjoy what you are doing, or are not happy about certain aspects, you had better start asking yourself some great questions on how to shift the situation.

What can you do to avoid the three scenarios above?

Employers – find out your employees’ innate talent, interests and aspirations, and hire people that are in-line with your corporate culture.

One of the factors that influences employee turnover is cultural mismatch. Regardless of how desperate you may be to fill a role, it is worth getting it right first time. Otherwise you have a great chance of having to rectify the issues that may arise from a mis-hire and you will have to go through the entire process again some months down the line.

To keep in touch with your employees’ aspirations, many companies these days have formal reviews. Unfortunately in some cases, these become part of the administrative process with much time passing between one formal review and the next. Just like with New Year’s resolutions and other goal setting exercises, the less time you review where you are heading, the less likely you are to reach it. A partnership between leader and employee should be fostered, creating an environment of openness and dialogue.

The safer you create the environment for people to open up, express themselves and be given opportunities to expand, the greater the level of trust and engagement.

Everyone – now is a good time to start exploring and understanding what your strengths are and to be honest about them. We sometimes act like Cinderella’s ugly sisters, trying to squeeze ourselves into a shoe that does not fit. We are all aware of financial pressures that tend to place even greater stress on our job search, but bear in mind that the probability of you having to go through the process again some months down the line will be greatly enhanced if you are not honest with yourself. So ask yourself what you enjoy in your work, what you are great at and share them. Take a genuine interest in the organisation and find out what aspects of the company draw you the most. This will help you carve your path. Yes, most organisations have systems in place to develop talent and look after their human resources, but they cannot help you if you do not know who and what you are, and what you would like to become.

So before you embark on your new week, take a moment to reflect on how you fit into the particular tapestry that formulates your unique work community and have a great week!


The creator of AMANI™, Deborah has profiled many of the world’s top talent, identifying the secrets to their success as both business people and human beings. She connects human and financial capital to create economic and social value across various strata of society.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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BANISH LIMITING BELIEFS

A friend of mine shared an anecdote of a time when someone asked him what his new year’s wish was, to which he answered ‘for there to be a year with no wars, no hunger and no misery’. She laughed at him, saying he was a fool asking for too much.

We have much to answer for in the beliefs we hold and the possibilities. Imagine for a moment someone a hundred years ago said “I want to go to the moon”. Suffice to say, he would have been laughed at, and if she were a woman, even more so. And yet, it was possible, it did happen. So would we not be better thinking how to make something possible as opposed to treading on ideals and hopes, dreams and desires?

Within each one of us, lies a part that wishes for a better world, for the removal of injustice, for the cessation of cruelty, poverty and hunger, and indeed, a world full of peace and a better way of life. So can we stop ourselves from stopping others striving for their ideals? Putting out their light so that we don’t feel bad about ourselves? Can we encourage people to pursue their ideals as opposed to telling them to be realistic? And dare we own up to what our own heart’s desire truly is and strive for it?

What is realistic? Back in the dark ages, it wasn’t realistic to have light or running water. It also wasn’t realistic to have planes, trains and automobiles. And yet, that is the reality we have today.

We should encourage ourselves and those around us to speak about our dreams, our ambitions, and to create an environment where it is safe to dream and to pursue them, to realise them in thought and turn them into a reality. We say a problem shared is a problem halved  I say that a dream shared is a dream doubled. Only in that way can we shape a new reality, for ourselves and those around us, something I believe is one of the things many people wish for.

 

 

Deborah has profiled many of the world’s top talent, identifying the secrets to their success as both business people and human beings. She challenges the way people think, engaging their talents, fulfilling their aspirations and positively impacting the world around them.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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Had a Good Giggle Recently?

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.”  Horace Walpole

We sometimes get too serious for our own good. Actually, when you sit down and think about it – and see through the initial façade – we really are quite funny as human beings.

Take fairy tales: There are people who believe in the fairy tale of living happily ever after – not a bad thing in itself.  But we seem to have forgotten that in a fairy tale – and before the happily ever after part comes in – the good queen usually dies, and an evil witch dupes the good king.  We only remember the happily ever after bit.  So, when something ‘bad’ happens to us, we rebel, saying this can’t be happening, feeling the injustice of it all.

But if we’re smart, we would rejoice because the quicker we realise what’s going on and see it as a stepping stone to the happily ever after, the stronger we will persevere.  Just as we’d read through the ‘scary’ part of the book, knowing that it all works out in the end, perhaps this would be a wise way to pursue our life.  Please do not misunderstand, I am not making light of things that happen to us in life such as loss, grief etc. but they are part of the passage of time and we have a choice – to become broken through the event, or to realise it is part of the kaleidoscope in what we call the journey of life.

Some may think this a silly outlook.  But we’ll see who ends up laughing.  For if we can’t laugh at ourselves, our folly and idiosyncrasies, what hope do we have of taking everyone else’s foibles in our stride?

Laughter and comedy are great tools in the journey of life.  Just in case you weren’t aware, here are a few quick health benefits:

  • Humour is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze.
  • When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy.
  • It’s fun, free, and easy to use
  • Humour lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system, decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh.

 


 

Headhunter turned talent spotter, Deborah creates the connect between people of character and companies with principles. The Founder of AMANI™, she is an advocate for business being a force for good, vested in the impact business has in both economic and social terms across various strata of society.

 

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The world is starving…

“The world is starving, but not for food, for love.”  Mother Theresa

I was recently having tea with a friend. I hadn’t seen him for some time so we were catching up on life, work, love, relationships and everything in between. It’s always such an honour to have the time and space to have a proper heart to heart – some of my most treasured moments.

He was sharing the challenges he’d been facing, his hopes and fears. At one point I asked him if he was spiritual. Before I lose anyone here, let me just say that whether you are Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist or any other religion or creed, the following is not a debate about religion.

Life doles out its challenges, trials and tribulations to every one of us, some making us stronger – others making us question and doubt some of our fundamental beliefs. And my hunch told me, that my dear friend was experiencing the latter.

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his lap, hands clasped together in front of him. His head lowered, eyes looking downwards, I could see he was contemplating, searching within for what he felt was true. After some time he looked up.

“I don’t know Deb. If God existed why would all these bad things happen to children.”

And it is true – the atrocities that some children in this world experience are shocking. What ensued was an interesting dialogue about God. I am sure you have all experienced some form of God debate at one point or another, blaming some outside force for the ills that exist in this world. But, taking a close look at the main troubles that exist on this planet, there is no unknown force behind them – sadly they are the making of our fellow man.

So my response to my friend, was “But that is not God’s doing, it is people’s doing. And then people like you exist and come about to right the wrong.”

The anguished look he had upon his face until this moment disappeared, replaced by his sparkling eyes and beaming smile. If there is one thing my friend is passionate about, it is the wellbeing and welfare of children. It was just the dose he needed to hear, reinstilling his own inner belief in his efforts.

Regardless of how old we get, as human beings I believe we all need that safe haven, the quiet port away from the stormy seas. In our busy lives, we sometimes miss when someone needs that quiet place, that time and space to feel safe, to share their heart’s desire and rest a weary soul. So in this holiday season, I hope you find your quiet time and space, and please remember to create that safe port for others.

 


 

Headhunter turned talent spotter, Deborah creates the connect between people of character and companies with principles. The Founder of AMANI™, she is an advocate for business being a force for good, vested in the impact business has in both economic and social terms across various strata of society.

 

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Small Thing Make a Difference

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy – too afraid to follow our convictions, too fearful to trust ourselves.

A number of years ago, I was working on a project where part of our mandate was to create a place where people congregate, a place they felt they belonged, a platform from where they could be heard. We were open to everyone – from upcoming musicians and singers to charities raising awareness of their causes and everything else in between. We used to incorporate these happenings in our calendar of events. But little did we know this calendar would take on an additional purpose.

It was meant to be a monthly publication – a small leaflet promoting the activities taking place, some free, some paid, to which visitors could come. Having a strict budget, or should I say no budget, we were meant to find a sponsor who would place an advertisement on one of the pages. Time was ticking and no sponsor was found. Truth be said, being somewhat of a purist, I was rather glad, not wanting some ugly ad to ruin our lovely design. But there was something else – I had this feeling there was a different use for that page, something we had missed.

This leaflet would reach thousands of people. So the question was – what message would add the greatest value?

Some time before, my boss had given me a story entitled “The Star Thrower”. Always of the belief that every person matters and every action counts, the story really resonated. And as I sat at my desk, contemplating what to do with this extra page, there on my desk was a little starfish. That was my Eureka moment and the start of a new section entitled b-inspired.

Ensuring we had the right permissions to print it, we included the story. The typesetting was done, the printing was underway and the delivery date confirmed – there was no turning back.

When the boxes full of leaflets arrived, my boss called me into his office and asked me to bring the leaflet with me. I had a sense of trepidation – since I hadn’t included the ad I thought he wasn’t going to be too impressed and I would have to bear the consequences.

As I walked into his office, I handed over the leaflet. Knowing he could read me like a book, I explained what I had done. But it was too late. He had already started looking through it, turned it over, and there it was – the story in lieu of the ad. Much to my surprise and relief, he looked up, smiled and came over to give me the biggest hug.

“Well done, I am really proud of you,” he said.

I was stunned. There I was expecting to be berated and instead got a pat on the back.

There were so many other surprises that went along with the ‘b-inspired’ journey:

  • The stories people would send us to be included in future issues
  • People waiting expectedly for the events leaflet – to see what the story was going to be
  • Seeing one of the stories on a client’s employee notice board two years later

Never did I realise what could unfold from sharing a little story. So next time you wonder if what you are doing makes a difference, may I suggest you put aside the doubt and trust that regardless of how seemingly small it may appear to you, you do indeed make a difference.

 


 

Headhunter turned talent spotter, Deborah creates the connect between people of character and companies with principles. The Founder of AMANI™, she is an advocate for business being a force for good, vested in the impact business has in both economic and social terms across various strata of society.

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