Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Training and Generations

I have been asked to give a short talk on Generational Theory on Friday.

Until fairly recently I had not taken too much interest in the topic. I concentrated on understanding different personality styles and how to apply that for better business and relationships as well as specific techniques only used for understanding individuals in depth.

Getting on with and understanding people of different generations did not seem difficult. However with the so called Millenium Generation entering the workforce I became more aware of the differences. I am now overlaying generational theory with personality styles to deepen our understanding of how to interact productively and harmoniously with people both in and out of work.

I am addressing this specifically to those of you in the training and HR environments or in business. I believe the only real way to differentiate one’s business is through the quality of service and experience that your customers receive.

That is achieved through quality people. Quality people are those chosen for their values and qualities and then facilitated through a combination of training, coaching and mentoring to develop the required skills.

In my research I came across this blog post from the TomorrowToday company, generations-and-training, which I encourage you to read so we can all more effectively grow the skills base.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Believe in your ability

I just came across this quote from Obama. This is precisely what I was talking about in the previous post.

People make change. The leader inspires and focuses the efforts.

"I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington. I'm asking you to believe in yours." ~ Barack Obama ~

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Yes We Can

I love the slogan – short, simple and inspiring - and in alignment with CanBeeDone!

Wasn’t that a great speech? Well written and presented with style and skill. Earlier in Obama’s campaign I was unimpressed by hearing him speak. But today I was so impressed and inspired I had to write.

Obama spoke to all Americans, not just Democrats. He reached out to include Republicans who’d voted against him and he complimented McCain on his contributions to the States. That was refreshing to me. Both candidates demonstrated good sportsmanship in their respective speeches - McCain gracious in defeat and Obama a courteous winner.

I am pretty clueless on US politics but leadership is my hobby horse. So far Obama is showing promise. He has a vision and he can share that so that people are inspired to join with him and follow him - two very important factors in leadership. Time will tell whether he has authenticity, another essential in my book.

John Robbie on 702 this morning was asking whether, with such high expectations from the people, Obama could deliver. A listener, with an American accent, called in to say it’s not up to Obama, but to the people, to deliver.

It made me think. There is truth in what she said. The leader will get the credit when all is said and done but it’s not his job to do the actual work or in this case make the “change”.

We all have tremendous potential within us to do good, be creative, make change, find solutions, put in productive effort. Many people are doing a great job of contributing to society in their way. But without cohesion we are like many little streams flowing across a dry plain in different directions. If all the little streams are channelled into one direction they can join together into a full, flowing river whose potential energy can be used to power a country.

A leader’s role is to have a vision, to share the vision and inspire others to follow it, to assemble a team with the required skills, create supportive conditions and let them get on with the job, all the while ensuring they remain encouraged and focussed on the vision.

After the speech was broadcast a variety of South Africans called into 702 giving comment. In all their voices you could hear the excitement. Because of a speech on the other side of the world many people here went to work feeling differently today.

Yes we can take positives from Obama’s speech and leadership example and make SA change for the better as well.

Healthy GI

Butter is bad for you. Butter’s better than margarine.

Red meat’s bad – eat soya. Most soya is genetically modified. You don’t know what problems that might cause.

Advice on what is or isn’t healthy to eat is highly confusing and contradictory. But there is one concept that makes good sense, is very easy to apply and is healthy for all of us. That is the glycaemic index, or GI for short.

Many things that we eat cause a release of glucose into the bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin to maintain balance. If a large amount of glucose is released the pancreas responds with a large amount of insulin. The result is an initial sugar high followed by a sugar low. This yo yo-ing can feel uncomfortable and is unhealthy in the long term.

The glycaemic index is a scientific measure of the rate at which a food releases glucose. A true Low GI food releases glucose slowly and steadily into the bloodstream without overstimulating the pancreas to produce too much insulin.

By using the GI concept we can maintain steady levels of blood glucose. If we combine that with low-fat foods then blood pressure, cholesterol and weight levels can all improve as well. The Heart Foundation of SA recommends it as a healthy, normal way of eating for the whole family.

Leo and I have eaten this way since the early 2000’s. We started because both of us often experienced low blood sugar episodes. Nowadays it is rare that we have that experience of a sugar low when you struggle to think clearly and concentrate, maybe sweat or just feel tired.

Last week when speaking to my homeopath he stated that we should all probably eat in this manner just for general good health.

Now you know what GI is and why using it is good for you, how do you do it?
The idea is to adjust your choice of food so as to eat more low GI and less high GI foods.

Finding low GI foods is quite simple. Just changing the brand you buy or the variant you use is often sufficient.

Here are a few examples –
When buying breakfast cereals or breads many of them tell you on the packaging if they are “low GI”. If not then slowly become familiar with what is. If it’s All Bran Flakes you want then buy Bokomo or Spar, if oats then buy Bokomo, Spar, Pick n Pay or Woolies brands. And the wholewheat variety of Pronutro as well as the multi grain version of Provita biscuits are both low GI. By the way the so called slimmer’s cereal of Special K is a high GI cereal. This means that you feel hungry again quite quickly after eating it. A bowl of Bokomo All Bran Flakes and some plain yoghurt will keep you satisfied for much longer.

Most white and brown rice is low GI and Basmati is intermediate. Pasta made from dhurum wheat is great and baby potatoes in their skins are both delicious as well as low on the GI scale.

Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low GI. And all meats, fish and chicken as well as eggs. Also the dairy protein sources like low fat milk, yoghurt or cheese.

How our bodies react to food depends on chemistry so combining foods correctly lowers the GI. Adding milk or strangely enough sugar to cereals lowers the GI so Strawberry pops have a lower reading than Rice Krispies. Another funny one is cooking and then allowing something to cool often lowers the GI. This works with pap and custard.

Generally the simple mixing of a high GI item with a low one will bring the value down to the average. In general combining protein with carbohydrate moderates the body’s response.

To get a more detailed understanding of the GI concept you can go to the website There is also a range of recipe books all containing low GI, low fat recipes. The first one was called Eating for Sustained Energy. All are coauthored by Gabi Steenkamp.

To sum up why it is beneficial to adjust one’s eating in this way. It helps one generally feel well with good energy levels and in the long run reduces one’s risk for lifestyle diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
And best of all it is really simple to get started and it easily becomes a normal way of life.

Kairos Time

Being a person who believes in synchronicity, it is no accident that the two banks I have banked with have now taken slogans that describe my approach to life.
“make things happen” and then “inspired, motivated, involved”

In 1976, before Soweto erupted in riots, I was a compliant and diligent 11 year old. Sport wasn’t my forte although I participated with great enthusiasm and lesser ball skills in the B netball team. However I was doing well in highland dancing.
My big escape was devouring books. All my life I have read anything that passes my way. At breakfast I would read the back of the cereal packets, everyday. If I visited someone in a block of flats I read the notice board whilst I waited for the lift.

It was now time to choose a high school. My parents applied for scholarships to a number of good schools and I wrote the exams and attended the interviews. The outcome was that I tied with another girl for the Kingsmead College Scholarship and was offered a bursary to attend Woodmead High School. The choice was mine. A very prestigious, all girls school or a small, radically different, co-ed school. I chose Woodmead and as the poet Robert Frost says “that has made all the difference”.

Kairos time is an opportune moment, or a time in between - in between what was and what will be. The Ancient Greeks used the word Kairos to describe a time when conditions are right for a crucial action.
Our lives are the accumulation of how we use our periods of kairos time. Each time we use one we put our lives onto a new path.
When I made my choice of high school, that was kairos time. It’s the first such kairos moment that I can recall in my life.

Woodmead encouraged and actively developed free thinking and questioning, self discipline and leadership. The school’s leaders were challenging invalid laws by being the first secular school to admit non white pupils. During the two years I was there I experienced real education rather than just schooling. The previously hidden rebellious side of me began to emerge. Thereafter I no longer accepted an adult’s superiority unquestioningly and I began to speak up for anything I felt strongly about. A boss of mine once wrote in my reference letter “Alison challenges management in a positive and polite way”. I thought he was being very kind!

In the mid 1980’s I began my first career, as an Optometrist. By 1995 I had changed from full time practise to doing locums, was married for the first time and had two young children. Regular part time work at one of Pretoria’s large practices led to another kairos moment.

I had always had an interest in IT and at this practise I had tweaked the data tables in their software. One afternoon I received a call from a man who introduced himself as Stephan from Capital Computers. He explained that his company was developing a new package for optometrists and needed an optom to help them understand the unique needs. The owners of the practice had recommended he speak to me. He asked me to go to their offices and spend two hours with the development team answering their questions. At the time I had a visitor from overseas so it wasn’t very convenient but I felt an upsurge of excitement inside and I arranged to meet them the day after. I remember going to my visitor, Mark and saying. “I think this could be my opportunity to get into the IT field”.

It turned out to be just that. I worked part time as an independent contractor for them for the next five years.

The action I took in my kairos time moved me from optometry into IT and management.
It showed me that I could do many things that I had not been formally trained for. That I could learn just about anything I set my mind to. It started me on a path that has so far also embraced four years in HR and transformation and three years on my own as a development tutor – growing people and growing businesses. By drawing on my understanding and knowledge of both human needs and business needs I help people and businesses to be as productive as possible whilst enjoying themselves.

Be aware of your own kairos time. Don’t let it slip by unnoticed.