On the morning of that particular event, I had awoken well before my alarm clock feeling really chilly.
The reason for the bone-chilling cold became clear very quickly when I tried to switch on the bedside lamp. There is a thing called “load shedding” in South Africa which means that because there is not enough electricity for everyone, the councils randomly decide to switch various areas off at various times, to conserve power. At 3.30am that morning the term “blackest Africa” made total sense, as I literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, never mind feel them from the cold.
Not being able to raise anyone in management at the guest house at such an early hour I resorted to the light of my phone which afforded me 3 seconds of light if I activated it, but at least 10 seconds if I checked emails. I have since discovered where the torch is. By the cell phone on and off method I managed to gather what I thought I might need in terms of clothes, computers, notes and make up and felt my way to my hire car, narrowly escaping falling into the swimming pool en route. The resident ridgeback mutt who wound himself around my legs in giddy delight for the unexpected early company the entire feel-my-way journey wasn’t really helpful either.
With my car lights on (yaay–lights! Heater!) I crawled along the dark driveway, towards the gate of the complex, trying not to think about what I would do if the electric gate, surrounded by an enormously high electric fence, didn’t open. To my intense relief it evidently had a back up generator and I was able to escape into the surrounding suburbs, all sans traffic lights to fight my way past the errant black taxis (they really do want to kill you) towards the motorway. Catching sight of my vehicle temperature gauge I finally realised why it had felt so cold, it was minus 7!
After doing my make up in my car mirror at a nearby fast-food outlet whose car park functioned well as an anti highjack spot, I arrived at the venue early, in good order, albeit with a slightly fluffy hairstyle and mismatched socks.
And so against this backdrop my answer to the passionate new business leader was a simple “keep struggling!”
He burst out laughing and then realising I was serious backed off quietly to think about that. I really hoped that he listened and decided to keep struggling because it sounded to me like he was doing everything right and as the start to my day had served to remind me, sometimes it's just a struggle.
The challenge for the many of us that come out of a “rules” based environment in our formative years, is the complete lack of rules present in the entrepreneurial world. But despite the fluidity of the environment I do believe that we can apply certain rules to being a good business leader today. (By the time you finish reading this newsletter they might have changed but chances are you have some time).
Here are my top 10:
- Bank Integrity. Even if this means forgoing a big opportunity or business deal which opposes your values. Having integrity sets us apart from the minions in our industry in the longer term but it requires our sacrifices early.
- Connect Personally. Whilst social media plays a significant role in the way we connect today we shouldn’t let the digital world magnify our distance from our clients. Actually being physically present in important meetings, discussions and presentations is necessary for the authentic connection needed for business growth (and survival) at critical times.
- Time is a major issue to all of us – we need to provide value for the time we ask for from our clients.
- Over deliver if possible, but don’t under promise. Our clients are not stupid and they will recognise this well documented trick tactic a mile away. If we do fall short of the over-delivery at least we deliver what we promised.
- Linked to the last point, we should be careful not to over extend ourselves. Disciplining ourselves to use effective planning tools to make sure we are capable of the leadership our business needs is critical. A small amount of time spent in preparation for planning and delegation makes a phenomenal difference to the carrying out of a project or simple “day in the life” of our business activities.
- If anyone in our company is underperforming or pulling in the opposite direction it is our responsibility to cut them loose (within the required rules and procedures) in the interests of all those who are doing their best for our business.
- Actively seek out powerful and uplifting strategic partnerships to create a far more powerful force than we might be capable of as individuals.
- Take full responsibility for results. The world is far from perfect and at many times downright unfair, but as soon as we apportion blame elsewhere we disempower our ability to fix something and grow from the learning experience.
- Be prepared to fail. If failure is too big an issue or we only want to do things our way, we will severely limit our chances of greatness.
- Practice contributive thinking. Any feelings of entitlement will quickly pull us away from achieving what our world needs from us. Click here to read more about this topic.
5 minutes into that presentation in my mismatched socks, I could see that I could have pitched up in my pajamas and slippers and it wouldn’t have made any difference to these wonderfully receptive people and I managed to unleash many lions that day.
Struggle is the nature of the beast worth fighting.