Were we born to reach perfection?

November 10th, 2021 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Were we born to reach perfection?”

I’ve always been a fan of the multitude of skills that Leonardo da Vinci brought to the world. A painter, draughtsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor and architect (thanks Wikipedia), his art – in whichever format it was created – is well-known across the planet, throughout history.

Stories shared through time explain his commitment to his work and how hard to continued to push towards greatness. Which is why I was quite perplexed when I saw this quote the other day, allegedly his last words:

“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Now, I’m not sure about you, but if I had achieved what he achieved over time, through multiple disciplines, I’d be giving myself a big fat pat on the back on my deathbed just looking back at what I had contributed to the world.

His comment has been widely discussed over time, so I’m not going to argue whether it was shared exactly as stated, but I’d imagine someone like Leonardo da Vinci probably did, in his own creative way, feel that his skills should have continued to grow and improve to make an even bigger mark on the world. You don’t get to a position like he did, creating masterpieces, without pushing yourself and expecting more from yourself to achieve perfection.

So it left me with one question: Am I pushing hard enough to achieve perfection? Am I giving my all, giving absolutely everything, in the pursuit for perfection? I mean, I have the words “Don’t hold back” tattoo’d on my arm, so clearly I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve greatness, to achieve perfection, right?

As much as I’d love to say “Yes, I’m killing myself day in and day out to be the best version of myself I can be”, and make Leo-D proud, I can’t. It’s not the case. What I am doing, though, is ensuring that finding the balance between focussing on growing and sharing my ‘skills’ (the work stuff) as much as I can, and ensuring a healthy life (the personal and family stuff), I am indeed driving towards being the best version of myself. Too often you hear of people who stretched too hard, too far, in their pursuit to build their business or profile and leaving the other elements of their lives in their wake. It’s a choice, I accept that, but I’m not on a journey to break the rest of my priorities to focus on one.

My journey is one of balance, of alignment, and staying true to myself.

What’s yours?

Lessons from Ted Lasso’s first cup of tea

September 17th, 2021 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Lessons from Ted Lasso’s first cup of tea”

Ted Lasso, apart from being one of the most lovable characters in a TV show, has the most incredible way of delivering negative news to people. His upbeat honesty is clear, radically candid, and the receiver of the news is left not feeling bad at all, but with a clear understanding of how and where the exchange has ended. It’s awesome, and there are loads of lessons we can learn from him. One of those lessons comes from the very first episode, and sets the scene for what kind of character Ted actually is.

If you haven’t watched the show, here’s how it starts:

Ted Lasso, an American, has been hired to coach a football/soccer (depending where you come from) team in England. He knows nothing about the sport (he’s an American Football coach) but keen to take on the new challenge.

On arriving in the morning straight off the plane at his new job, he meets his new boss, Rebecca Welton (the owner of AFC Richmond), in her office, and their first exchange goes as follows:

  • Rebecca: Can I get you something to drink?
  • Ted: Yes please! Didn’t get much sleep on the plane so anything you got, a little boost of caffeine should do the trick you know, mochachino, frappucino, any coffee-thing as long as I can taste a hint of coffee is good.
  • Rebecca: How do you take your tea?
  • Ted: Well usually I take it right back to the counter because someone’s made a horrible mistake, but, when in Rome, right?
  • Ted sips the tea.
  • Rebecca: Well?
  • Ted: You know I always figured that tea was just going to taste like hot brown water. And you know what? I was right. Yeah it’s horrible. No thank you.
  • Rebecca: Welcome to England.

THE LESSONS:

  1. When asked a broad question, get to the point, and be clear on what it is that you need/desire, and why.
  2. If the result is not quite what you’d originally had mind, don’t write it off immediately. Try it, test it, you may be surprised.
  3. If the result, however, is completely off-point, let the person know this (in as constructive, candid way as possible) and move forward.
  • Also, always remember: Critique the result, not the person.

The Double-Doov: Unintended consequences of ‘doing your own thing’​

July 27th, 2021 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “The Double-Doov: Unintended consequences of ‘doing your own thing’​”

Over the recent past, there’s been a heavy increase in commentary online about ‘taking control’, ‘doing your own thing’, ‘just say no’, etc etc etc. And while I’m a big fan for every single person to always look out for #1 (that’s you, by the way), there are unintended consequences that may result in you just deciding, without really thinking it through, or doing a deeper analysis of what will happen when you make that all-important decision.

A story to illustrate the point:

For years, my wife and I have run a fun little exercise where oftentimes, in the deepest of her slumbers in the middle of the night, she gets too warm and removes a layer of bedding from above her in order to be as comfortable as possible. Completely fair. No one should suffer if the easy removal of a duvet can fix your rising body temperature. However, the unintended consequence of the removal of the duvet from her, means that the duvet needs to go somewhere else: Onto me. With the quick flip of her hand, half of the duvet soars through the air and lands on top of my existing duvet-coverage, making mine a “double-doov”.

The result? I start to burn up as I’m now doubly-covered, and in turn need to navigate my own extra duvet part removal without placing the unwanted half back onto my wife. Tricksy business while half-asleep. The task has made for interesting morning coffee banter over the years. And while a double-doov is pretty warm, even in summertime, when an unwanted additional sheet finds its way onto me at midnight, the result is, again, a too-warm Don. A real pickle, let me tell you.

So why am I telling you about our midnight antics?

Well, sometimes (through no fault of our own) we make decisions that will impact ourselves directly for the better – whether the decision is made consciously or while fast asleep – and there are others left in your wake who have to deal with the results of that decision which impacted them directly. And again, while I’m a big fan of ensuring that each individual needs to drive to be the best that they can be, always be mindful of the butterfly effect of your actions, and where they may lead.

Photo credit: https://tinyurl.com/ygp3h38q

You’re not in control of your own retirement (and why you should be)

August 1st, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “You’re not in control of your own retirement (and why you should be)”

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I am not the guy to talk about retirement or finances with any authority. I’ve always left it to the experts. The smart folks. The people who know what’s going on. Below though, is my own personal money story that I have shared with so many individuals over the past while, and thought I’d share it publicly too, as most people I’ve shared this with are in a very, very similar position.

This journey had turned me from a bystander to a valuable contributor, beyond the one just paying the money.

For years I thought my retirement, when it happened, was pretty sorted. I’d stop working at 65 (that seemed to be the standard retirement age thrown out by everyone) and my RA would kick in and have me covered for a fruitful, old-man lifestyle. At least, that’s what I thought and believed, but I had no true idea of whether that was going to happen, really. Call it blind faith, hope, trust, whatever you want, but the idea of putting money into something called a “retirement annuity” made complete sense to me. Annuity income after retirement. A no-brainer. When I hit 65, I’d be sorted.

How wrong I was.

Now, before you blame me or my financial advisor for not knowing whether this was actually going to be a reality or not, let me tell you that at least once a year since I was 23 years old I was sat down and shown my potential future, except I had no idea what it all meant. I tried, I really did, but the numbers and timeline were just too far away to comprehend. The truth is, I had no idea if that was, in fact, a lot of money at retirement, or how much money I’d realistically need to live on monthly. Would I still be paying off cars or a house? Would I be taking big holidays away? I had no clue.

Research will give you sums of what ‘the magic number’ is. X times your current salary multiplied by Y years you have left to the square root of what year you feel like dying, add sixteen zeroes after that number, and Hey Presto, there’s your retirement number! That’s how much money you need. Simple!

Ummm. Not really.

There’s no one magic number, only your magic number. And just to be clear, that magic number is not necessarily calculated on what you have now, it should be calculated on what you need then. So when you happen to find that elusive magic number and jot it down somewhere you’ll never forget it (we’ve all got that magic number jotted down, right!?) the next step is to put a detailed plan together, considering inflation, all your assets, contributions and savings over time, key events over that time (new car, move house, kids’ university, buy a boat) and you’ll have the perfect dashboard view of what you need. Simple!

Ummm. Not really.

The average Joe (of which I am one) doesn’t necessarily understand how to build these calculations. The idea of creating a future-wealth plan is so incredibly daunting that we don’t even start, so all our trust is placed in experts in the financial services industry to have a look at what we have now and to hope they say we’re on the right track.

With all respect to financial advisors, while they can look at your portfolio – all of your numbers – and have some sense of what you have right now, they really can’t give you a definitive answer (that you can clearly understand) as to whether you’ll be okay or not at retirement. Why? Because it’s difficult! They’re not in your everyday conversations about budgets, plans, goals, holidays, anything to do with your finances. They get 60-90 minutes of your time asking some questions, getting those high-level answers and have to make adjustments accordingly, and we expect them to make the best decisions for us. They’re the experts after all, right? While that’s the norm, that’s a shit norm. And by us average folks giving them all the responsibility to do this in a short space of time means that we are completely outsourcing our plans for financial wellness to someone who sees us once, maybe twice a year.

Shame on us.

So why now, at 99-days-to-40-years-old, do I believe this?

3 key events happened over the past decade that delivered me to this point.

  1. In 2010, when I met my future wife, I had no savings to speak of apart from an RA that I was putting minimal contributions into every month, and life insurance – which wasn’t for me anyway, and not a savings option. My advisor at the time always suggested contributing more into my RA each month, but that BIG number showing at 65 looked good to me, plus, I was 30 and still wanted disposable income for entertainment, so I ignored his pleas. Lauren, on the other hand, was brought up with an appreciation for the power of saving money. She had investments – onshore and offshore – and our financial conversations started to drive an appreciation from my side as well. It was tough because I always had a “make money, spend money” lifestyle, ensuring I ‘lived’ each month by spending what I had. Over the past 10 years, my view shifted, and we’ve been able to save as much as we can where possible, squirreling a little away here and there. My mentality around money has changed dramatically.
  2. Fast-forward to March 2020. I’d just left my business (and a stable income), and COVID happened which killed a large portion of my future potential business, so we needed to adjust our budget, which included pausing any saving plans and to move money around in order to still manage our monthly finances without having to live off credit. Adjusting monthly budgets is never a fun exercise. However you play it, the process of ‘cutting back’ – while smart – is lathered in a feeling of failure and inadequacy. Because Lauren and I have a strong and healthy relationship regarding finances, we took the task on together – including our financial advisor – and shuffled things around. Payment holidays were put in place, and Woolies would be seeing us less. We knew this would put a dent into our savings, but it was a decision we were both happy to make. What we didn’t know, though, was how much of a dent it would actually make.
  3. April 2020, one month later, one of my business peer group forum members, Alex Cook, sent me a message. We’d been discussing my new life’s plan in our forum, and he wanted to help me out by giving me free access to an online finance tool that he’d built to help people understand their retirement and manage their cashflow better. Having some extra time on my hands I happily agreed to check it out. We logged in and plotted our savings, assets and monthly contributions in the respective slots, allocated a detailed budget for both right now and what we believe we’d need at retirement (medical aid goes up, home loan goes away, for example) and the results were delivered. They were horrific! And I loved it.

Why did I love this horrific picture? Because I could finally, FINALLY see the bigger picture. The journey from now to retirement – and beyond – was laid out in front of me. All the numbers that have been shared with me by financial advisors were all there too, except now everything was consolidated and clear. You need X by this date in order to have a safe and happy retirement. Simple!

Yes.

Because now we had an opportunity to play with our own retirement plan, without needing our advisor present, and adjust accordingly. Can we really afford to retire at 65? What if we moved it to 68? What if we added an extra R100 into that monthly contribution? Building scenarios for ourselves meant that we could now CLEARLY see, in real-time, what kinds of decisions we need to make in order to retire with enough, working toward achieving our own magic number. And with the help of our advisor, be steered in the best direction. Win-win.

I loved the tool, Wealthbit, so much that I’ve joined the team on a contract basis to help get the word out to more people.

Analysing your financial reality is scary, I know. Seeing our not-so-good stats was not followed by popping a bottle of champagne. But ignorance with regards to your retirement is not bliss. Forewarned truly is forearmed. The statistics of people who can safely retire in South Africa, I’ve come to learn, are shocking. With all the collective saving we’ve been doing over the past 10 years, thinking we’re heading to a truly safe and happy retired life, Lauren and my Wealthbit currently shows that we’re still behind, but, I’d rather know that I’m behind, than think I’m ahead and be wrong, when it’s too late.

As Don Packett, the average guy with a previously-average grasp on his future financial happiness and well-being, I’d suggest asking your financial advisor to check Wealthbit out to enable you, the person who needs to know, to truly understand where you’re positioned for retirement so that you can, together, plan accordingly.

 

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

Where will your saved company spend go?

May 26th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Where will your saved company spend go?”

Let’s face it. With the rise of companies now realising true #WFH opportunities, there’s been a big drive for a lot of organisations and business owners saying that they don’t need offices as big as what they have now (or if they need them at all), downscaling to a potential zero office environment. David Lichtenstein and I were chatting last week about this #newwayofwork, and, more particularly, what these organisations are actually going to do with the saved money.

Completely removing an office from your monthly spend removes expense line items like the rental of the physical space of course, but also:

  • parking,
  • electricity,
  • coffee and food/snacks (for staff and/or customers),
  • cleaning staff/services,
  • phone lines,
  • internet,
  • office maintenance
  • and a bunch more.

WIN FOR THE COMPANY! WOOHOO!

However…

The extra costs are now going straight to the employee. They’re drinking and eating more at home (which, depending on the organisation’s food/drink offering, could be a good or bad thing financially), but also an increase in their possible upgrades in services like WiFi or phone lines, furniture/decor for their office space (there’s only so long you can work on a couch or at your diningroom table), increase in electricity usage, etc.

So organisations are saving, and employees are – more than likely – not.

So what to do?

I think companies have a few options and, depending on their culture, I believe they can do a few things with the money they’re no longer spending, like:

  1. Plough it back into the business (for growth, or sustainability during this tough time)
  2. Declare a bigger profit (for ego)
  3. Draw larger dividends (for pleasure)
  4. Reduce the cost of their products or services (customer benefit)
  5. Increase staff salaries (employee benefit)

There are probably more, and I’m sure a combination of the above could be achieved as well.

While I think the decision to save money and use it in a different way is great, I’m curious to know if organisations who have decided to go this route have told their people about what they’re doing with the money they’re no longer spending.

Note: I’m guessing most organisations would say point number 1, but when they start generating a more stable income, the next phase will have to kick in.

Is your organisation downscaling office space? And if yes, where’s the saved spend going?

 

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

“We’re (not) all in the same boat”​

April 4th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on ““We’re (not) all in the same boat”​”

On a group call this week I caught myself saying the age-old phrase “We’re all in the same boat”. It was, as you can imagine, relating to the stay-at-home lockdown situation we’re all facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For some reason the phrase stuck in the back of my head for a few hours after that, lingering like a mosquito at night that just won’t stop buzzing around your head. It eventually hit me, and I realised why it was irritating me so much: We’re actually all not in the same boat.

Being in the same boat implies that all things are equal and we’re all weathering this storm together in an even playing field. But we’re not. Not even close. We’re not all in the same boat, we’re all in the same torrential storm in the middle of the ocean, but we’re all on different boats.

Some of us are in huge tankers that are swaying in the swells. It’s uncomfortable, items that aren’t nailed down are sliding off the tables, and going outside is not ideal but we can chance it because the boat is still steady enough. Others are on luxury yachts, with all the creature comforts but are annoyed that we can’t anchor down in the Med for the upcoming summer break. We’re rolling around like crazy but ‘hey, we have our martinis, so let’s just weather this one out, we can sail south and catch summer there’. Then you have this of us in speed boats, nipping between crashing waves, dodging all the other ships, turning to find the best place to spend the tiniest amount of time to stop and make the next decision and speed off again from there. There are also those who are stationed on the shore. Those who have understood for a long time that going out in the ocean is a bad idea, so they’ll watch from a distance, but are still a little inconvenienced because some of the people they work for are battling squalls in the deep blue. Finally, you have those who are alone in the ocean, hanging on anything they can, like Jack in Titanic.

The problem, I believe, is that there are more Jacks in this situation than anyone else. And, what’s worse, far fewer broken planks floating around for them to grab hold of. I can’t imagine what they’re going through.

If you’ve ever met a Jack. Or worked with a Jack. Or know a Jack who’s small business has closed. Or have the tiniest bit of heart for others less fortunate than yourself, I’d urge you this weekend to find an organisation that’s contributing to people who can’t go out and work and make a living in order to feed themselves and their families. Keyboard-contributions, for the fortunate few, are easy. Sign up, pay up, and know that you’re making a difference.

Some South African sites that you can check out to do your bit:

I know I’ve missed a lot more, so please share any others in the comments below.

Make some good decisions this weekend. Help others out.

 

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

Remote working with your significant other

March 18th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Remote working with your significant other”

In the wake of pretty much mass hysteria about COVID-19, including infection, death, travel bans, social distancing and everything else that comes with it, there’s also been a strong focus on businesses trying to figure out what to do with staff (and whether they can work remotely or not). For those who can have staff off-site and work remotely, the conversation I’ve seen happening online focuses on remuneration, best practice on paying for staff data to remain online, video-conferencing tools, etc., all focused on the business imperatives, but I’ve not seen much about the people themselves. The conversation is more “How will my business keep going?” and very little “How will my staff cope working from home?”

Here’s where it becomes tricky. The problem is that while every organisation strives to build their own office culture and way-of-work, remote workers are now taking that energy home (habits are hard to break), which may conflict with their significant other’s office culture and way-of-work. My personal experience is this:

My wife has been working from home since before we met. Working with or consulting to organisations in other countries across various timezones has enabled her to build a solid remote-working routine and energy that I’ve never quite been able to grasp. It’s frighteningly efficient and applaudable. She can get work done in perfect time, manage our household (contractors, shopping, etc.) all while getting it done in the quite, serene comfort of our own home. There’s structure, process and a work/life balance that most people would envy. She really has it all figured out.

Enter Don into the mix. For the past 18 years I’ve working in an office with loud punk rock blasting through the speakers, people shouting across the office, ping-pong balls bouncing on tables (ping pong and workstations), sporadic bursts of “Happy Birthday to you!” from the crew when people walk through the doors (almost every time it was not, in fact, their birthday), and jumping on tables and singing at the top of our voices to whatever track was playing at that point in time (granted, I’m probably the most guilty of this one). I’ve now entered into her domain. Her calm, her planned days, her structure. A few days into me working from home, I’ve found out that I:

  • type extremely loudly on my keyboard
  • make throat-noises when I’m concentrating
  • need to chat to her at random times about random things, breaking her stride

and a few more things that I can’t recall, or am yet to hear about.

Anyone who knows us well will agree that Lauren and I are a solid unit and can weather a lot of storms as a strong force, but getting into a new work rhythm at home together, bizarrely, has been a challenge. So here’s a few things we’ve put into place that I believe has and will continue to help us, and I’m hoping may help you too.

  1. We work in different spaces in the house. Sharing a desk/table with someone who doesn’t work the same way you have before, is a potential argument waiting to happen.
  2. We plan our days the previous evenings or mornings and know exactly what the other is doing, in order to plan around each other, particularly when it comes to potential noise during video calls.
  3. We agree on mealtimes, to save time, energy and dishes. This also has us ‘meeting up’ in the middle of the day to discuss the morning’s events, if anything particularly interesting happened.
  4. As best as we can, we keep gaps between videocalls (at least 30mins). Generally, if I was riding from meeting to meeting, I’d have this time to address an email or two, to think about the meeting I’d just had, or to think about and mentally prep for the meeting I was going to. Jam-packing calls in a row loses that.
  5. To avoid cabin fever, we go for strolls. Either in our garden or around the estate. It’s not a marathon, just a decent amount of time around the block for fresh air and perspective.

Another big reason we try to stay clear of each other during the day is to ensure that at the end of the day, much like it was when I was working from an office away from home, that we still have something to chat about at dinner time. Looking forward to catching up on the day not only helps me build some excitement about certain things, but also gives us both the opportunity to review the day with some perspective. Oftentimes, these end-of-day reviews and conversation end up with ideas/tasks to improve them, which has always been a spectacular gift.

My question to you:

If you’re working from home with your significant other, or roommates, what are you doing to ensure your sanity and best way-of-work?

Here’s why PowerPoint’s ‘Presenter Coach’​ – a competitor to what we do – is amazing for our presentation business

August 31st, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Here’s why PowerPoint’s ‘Presenter Coach’​ – a competitor to what we do – is amazing for our presentation business”

 

“Public-speaking is nerve-wracking, which is why having a coach is so important.” – Microsoft365

Missing Link is a Presentation Specialist firm on a journey to save the world one bored audience at a time, by helping our customers create memorable, remarkable presentations that will activate their audiences. We make presentations. It’s quite simple. And particularly niche.

So whenever Microsoft or some other startup launches a new addition or competitive product that makes it easier for people to create their own presentations, we generally get bombarded by emails and messages from people we know, asking how it’ll affect our business, and are we concerned that we’re being made redundant.

Every time I answer a clear “No.”

Not because I’m blind to progress or foolishly cocky, but because of this simple reason: Awareness. Let me explain.

PowerPoint was release in 1987 to, essentially, replace the archaic overhead projector and become a replacement in a digital format. In that time, PowerPoint has been a tool used by 99.9% of the world in a very, very bad way. Bad because of design, bad because of narrative, and bad because being bound to a perceived way of creating a presentation (their templates) has hamstrung speakers who don’t know better. It’s okay, we understand. The beast that is Microsoft built a platform that says “Insert header here”, so you insert your header there. You trusted them. It’s an easy mistake to make.

10 years after its launch – when my partner, Rich, started Missing Link – he went out to break every SOP that Microsoft and PowerPoint were driving, to ensure that the tool itself could be better. He saw potential in what it could become. For the past 22 years we’ve been waxing lyrical about the power and potential of good narrative and powerful use of the PowerPoint tool, but our reach has landed on an audience just far enough to make an impact around us, but it’s a very big world out there.

So when Microsoft365 announced the soon-to-be-released Presenter Coach, we got quite excited. (Click the pic to watch the video)

 

Overview: Presenter Coach uses on-screen recommendations and audio reminders, giving you:

Intelligent tips to improve your presentation skills

Real-time feedback on pacing

Use of inclusive language

Warnings if you’re using ‘fillers’ like ‘umms’ or ‘ahhs’

Feedback if you’re reading your slides

 

Microsoft is now coming to the party to help us share this important message, by allowing people to use the tool in a better way, and to realise that having a coach to help you present better is a far cry better than just standing up on stage, or in front of a potential customer, hoping for the best. They’re showcasing the value of speakers preparing, correctly, before going out to present. For speakers to go out and want to be better.

So why is this great for Missing Link? Well, because the more people understand how important it is to be a great speaker in order to activate your audience, the more I believe we’ll get inbound leads asking how we could help them. Online coaches and real-life coaches bring different things, of course, but I’m just extremely excited about more people realising how important this is. Will certain people stop at Presenter Coach and build powerful presentations on their own? Absolutely. Will that be the majority of people? Not even close.

So why am I telling you this?

Stop seeing newcomers or new products into your market as threats, and see them as opportunities. Change your mindset, change your narrative, and embrace the new entity. Shaping yourself up for a new adventure will only make you stronger going forward.

Thanks again for realising the power of presenting beyond PowerPoint decks, Microsoft. Glad you’re here.

Bucket lists, birding and sticking to the Victory Condition

April 8th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Bucket lists, birding and sticking to the Victory Condition”

Most people I know have a bucket list (whether mental or physical). A list of things they just have to experience or do before they die. Inspired by Rich’s video (you really shouldsubscribe to his channel), I created my own Bucket List PowerPoint deck.

The result: Having it visual and accessible actually helps me get things ticked off the list. Once I’d had them all listed together, I also realised that most of them are pretty easy to do: They just require time and money. For example, “Meet Mona Lisa” and “Eat a crepe under the Eiffel Tower” were both ticked off while on a visit to Paris in December. Buy flight ticket. Book Airbnb. Easy.

However, going through the list again this weekend, I realised I not only had ‘the easy ones’, I had a list within a list. List inception. You see, one of my bucket list items is “Tick 1000 birds in the world”. As a birdwatcher (birder / twitcher / birdnerd) I have another list I’m completing too. Since I started this hobby in 2013, every time I see a new bird species (they’re called ‘lifers’) I get to tick it off the list, and it’s been one helluva exciting, emotional, tactic-shifting journey.

When I started birding it was easy enough. We placed some food out in the garden and watched them flock in. The usual suspects visited, and kept visiting, but the lifers decreased, and eventually ended. So we visited other places around the country to add to our Southern African list. Different birds prefer different areas, habitats and food, and seldom wander out of their areas, so by going to new places, the lifers increased. As the list grew, though, it’s started to get trickier to add more.

You see, ticking birds off the list is, essentially, a diminishing return. Of the roughly 950 recorded bird species in Southern Africa alone, we’ve ticked 482 lifers to date. This not only requires travel, it now also requires heaps and heaps (did I say heaps yet) of patience. Why? Well, the birds we’ve added to the list to date are mostly the easily-accessible ones: The raptors who soar the skies, the fence-sitters who grace our roadside telephone poles, and the species who are happy to be out in the open – in grasslands or wetlands – for the world to see. To add more lifers to the list, we now need to go out and find the more difficult-to-see species: The shy. The secretive. The species who don’t like coming out in the open. The ones who skulk around in the middle of bushes or reeds, keeping to themselves, keeping very quiet, and not very keen on being seen.

I’ve made a few birding friends in the past few years, and I recall early on someone mentioning for me to sit and continue to scan the area for a while when in search of birds. Back then, my ‘while’ was 5/10 minutes, and if we didn’t see something moving around, or didn’t see something new, we moved on to the next location. Well, how things have changed. This year alone, we have spent hours and hours in bird hides (we recently did a 06:00-09:00 stint in one hide waiting for one particular bird, who never showed up). So my plan to achieve my bucket list item has changed from a ‘let’s see a few birds in this area’strategy to one of ‘if we get to see only one on this trip, we’re winning’. This weekend, after spending a number of crazy visits around the country, over 5 years, to try see one particular bird, we were graced with a spectacular viewing of one of the most secretive birds in the region: The African Finfoot.

I won’t lie. It was a spiritual moment.

So why am I telling you this?

Finding these kinds of birds now requires a different approach. Different tactics. My Victory Condition remains the same: “Tick 1000 birds in the world”. But how I get there has changed. It had to change, and that’s okay. If I hadn’t instilled saintly-patience into my birding journey, I’d add very few new species, which would be not working well towards achieving the Victory Condition laid out before me.

My question to you:

Are you trying the same-old tactics, but not getting results? Think it’s maybe time to change something?

 

Originally posted on LinkedIn, 25 March 2019

6 Ways To Lead In The Multi-leader Economy

November 21st, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “6 Ways To Lead In The Multi-leader Economy”

Why business leaders today compete for mindshare among their employees, and how they can lead.

Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine – November 2018

I recently attended an event where a CEO delivered the company’s annual results and outlined its future strategy. He closed the talk with some inspirational content to get the team excited about the year ahead.

While I listened to this business leader speak, I also had my eye on the audience. While the content was relevant and inspiring, the narrative and delivery was off. This was evident in the audience, who seemed disengaged – most had their faces in their phones. These employees, who should be inspired by their leader, were simply biding their time, waiting for the next speaker.

Was it because they’re generally rude, disengaged people? Not at all. In fact, they were a phenomenally switched-on crowd when we presented to them. So why weren’t they listening intently to the proverbial captain of the ship?

I believe it’s because leaders today are competing for the attention of those they lead. People are exposed to hundreds of potential leaders in their daily lives, and that number grows daily as the internet brings a whole host of outside influence into reach.

While many of these influencers are not tasked with leading, per se, great leaders seldom have to force a following. They naturally build one through an innate ability. They achieve this by delivering inspiring and engaging content on a regular basis via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, podcasts or TED.com.

And it’s not just inspirational visionaries like Jobs or Branson who people listen to today. Anyone with a strong message can self-publish to spark debate, inspire or influence.

Accordingly, whenever a leader steps up to deliver something relevant to their team, they need to be aware that in the past 24 hours their audience has probably watched people like Simon Sinek, Mel Robbins or Will Smith deliver a message that could spark a different way of thinking.

If you’re a business leader and have not considered the possibility that your team is also being influenced and, often, led by a host of other leaders, then you’re in for a tough time. The reality is that leaders now face fierce competition, and as the head of an organisation you need to take charge and own that space.

Here’s how you can take the lead in leadership:

1. Maintain face-to-face engagements

This is still the best way to work, especially when talking about important matters. I have a standing one-hour meeting with my team every three weeks. I open this session with a 10-15 minute talk on a specific topic I feel is important. The remaining time is used for open discussion. These sessions have been incredibly powerful, because it’s an opportunity for everyone to have their say, share their views and contribute to growing the business and the team, together.

2. Write narrative that catalyses conversation

This pertains to the content of your engagements. This needs to be something that’s not only on your agenda, but also on your employees’ agenda. People need both answers and guidance, but when leaders and teams can work on both aspects together, magic happens.

3. Deliver with conviction

Leaders often throw out a concern, hoping that it gets resolved. You can’t do that. Leaders need to stand up and deliver with passion to galvanise their teams. Sure, be part of the conversation, and ensure that your team knows how important it this, but understand that it’s more than just a conversation.

4. Get them to challenge you

The proverbial ‘open door policy’ requires employees to walk up to the door. Our regular team session offers me the opportunity to ask everyone, collectively, about their thoughts on a subject. I’m basically standing at the open door and asking them to come in, and not just randomly, but to discuss something pertinent.

5. Make the changes required

After listening to your team, take action. Due to the influence of social media, society today is plagued by “ask-holes” – people who ask for advice or ideas, but never action them. Leaders need to listen and take action. Not that you should do everything you team asks, of course, but listening is the first step to understanding, and action needs to follow.

6. Rinse, repeat

Effective leadership is not an annual speaking engagement. It requires constant work to keep teams focused on the business. The biggest failure in most businesses is a lack of communication, which is something leaders need to constantly work on.

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Copyright Don Packett 1980-2020