Sunday, 13 December 2009

Grow Through Speaking

"we shall fight on the beaches,

we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender"

Those were powerful words. Words spoken by Winston Churchill in 1940. Words that pulled a nation together.

The words themselves are important but if they had been delivered differently would they have been effective? Would they have been remembered?


Ghhh we shall UM fight on the beaches,
actually we shall fight on the landing grounds,
um um we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight you know in the hills;
and we shall I mean never surrender

It just doesn’t work, does it?

Being able to speak well is one of the most powerful life skills we can have.

Earlier this year I was at the elections for the new school governing body at King Edward VII school. A Mr Owusu was standing but he could not be at the meeting so he sent his 18 year old son to represent him. Owusu junior walked up to the lectern with confidence and clearly explained what his father could offer the school. He spoke well and with confidence. And he got his father elected.

Why? Because his speaking impressed us. Rightly or wrongly first impressions count and if you speak well the impression is that you are intelligent, capable, confident. And we assumed his father must be the same.

Speaking well opens doors of opportunity.

Where do we need to make good impressions ?- job interviews, dating, meeting new clients or the boss.

We all want something from our lives – it maybe money, position, good relationships, the opportunity to give. Certain skills and qualities make these easier to achieve. Apart from speaking what are some of the others?

Two big ones that come to mind are communication and confidence. Communication is not only speaking but listening as well.

We all feel quite confident about walking don’t we? Why? Because we know we have the skill to walk and because we have had positive experience of doing it. The same is true of gaining confidence in anything in life. Learn the basic skill and put it into practise. The more times it works the more confident you will feel.

Where do we learn these skills and gain this confidence? Well Owusu junior was in the school debating club and public speaking society . He was the deputy head boy of 2008 and he was the Mayor on the junior city council.

If we didn’t learn it at school what can we do?
We can join the local Toastmasters International club.

Toastmaster’s prepared speeches and table topics (impromptu speaking) are the debating society and public speaking club. Being on the committee is a chance to be the deputy head boy and being the area or divisional governor is being the junior mayor.

The TMI system has been designed to build the skills of communication and leadership and it gives people a safe space in which to practise so they have positive experiences and gain confidence. This then rubs off into other areas of their lives.

Many of us will rarely do prepared speaking in our daily lives but we all do much impromptu speaking. We introduce ourselves to people, we talk to clients, we talk to the manager or boss, we receive poor service from a company and we approach management to get it resolved or perhaps we get interviewed on the radio.

How do we develop impromptu speaking skills? Through prepared speaking. Think how say a tennis player becomes skilled at match play. They practise set shots over and over and then they practise them as a variety and then they use them as required in the game – spontaneously. The routine practise is used so that the skill is available for the spontaneous need.

The other half of TMI is leadership development.

In a business good leadership takes a company from good to great. But it is not only at work that we need leadership. Communities need leaders. Families need leaders. And we need to lead ourselves – organise ourselves, be punctual, take decisions, be accountable – so we can succeed for ourselves.

In Toastmasters this is learnt from the speaking projects and from the meeting roles.

When one puts leadership and communication together you can achieve most things.
You can inspire your team at work to put in a little more effort
you can help your teenager understand and enjoy their schoolwork
or you can persuade the bank to refund you the interest they over charged.

The TMI system is designed to give members the opportunity to develop these communication and leadership skills. But perhaps the greatest benefit of working the TMI system is the sense of achievement you feel for achieving your own personal goal. Whether that be to complete an Advanced Communicator gold or just to be able to stand up in front of people without your knees knocking. Or maybe it is to be the Club Secretary or the next District Governor.

So whether you want to inspire a nation or just your little girl; lead an army into battle or your team to an increased turnover; work the toastmaster system and it will work for you.

For information on your nearest club - phone or e-mail as per the moving banner at the top of this site

Circles of Influence and Concern

Whilst at high school both my children have been members of group accident insurance schemes. The insurance covers the medical bills in the case of injuries whilst involved in any school activities. My daughter is now going to Tshwane University (TUT) and they don’t seem to have one. I think it would be excellent for all the tertiary institutions to offer these schemes as one cannot join as an individual member. Am I likely to be able to organize this at TUT?

It is fairly unlikely. It is a large organization. Their processing of student applications is already backlogged. It is quite challenging to get to speak to real people. I and my daughter are unknown to them….

Contrast this with the my daughter’s school where I have enjoyed ready access to the principal of her school, the executive head and many other staff members. I am on a first name basis with all of them. And I know how the system works.

At the school my circle of influence was large but at the varsity it is tiny. In both places I am concerned for the education & well being of my daughter and the related costs so the circle of concern remains fairly constant in size.

Circle of concern

Circle of influence


When at the school the circle of concern is only a little larger than my influence. At TUT the gap is huge. This is where frustration comes in. In most circumstances our circle of concern is greater that our circle of influence. The bigger the gap, the greater the frustration. If you are high up in a company your influence is generally pretty high. The further down the ladder you are the less your influence. The larger the organization, the higher up you have to be to have influence.

When I worked at middle management level in a 50-employee IT company I could walk into any of the directors’ offices and be heard and often make an impact on their decisions. When I moved to the same level position at SARS with 13000+ employees I could access a few senior managers and one or two executive heads, at a push, with a formal appointment.

I often meet people who are struggling with this – “I want them to do this”, “They should do the following”, “No-one listens to me”.

We are trying to exert influence over others. As a parent of a newborn one has influence almost as great as one’s concern. As the child grows the circle of influence shrinks. But the concern remains almost as great. Our influence over other family, friends or acquaintances may be even less, depending on how much they trust and respect us. The only place where we truly have really great influence is over ourselves.

The concept of these two circles is a Stephen Covey one. Understanding it puts us in a position to do something about it. We can either grow our circle of influence, reduce our circle of concern or accept the gap with less emotion.

In some places we can grow our influence by getting more involved, better known, contributing more. At the school I had that big circle of influence because we’d been there for five years, attended many functions, volunteered to assist at school expos and contributed actively via the parents’ association for the last three years.

We can reduce some of our concern for others by reminding ourselves that they have their own path to walk, their own lessons to learn. My daughter is now 18. Most of what she experiences or gains from her varsity years has to now become her responsibility (even though we are paying for it J). She has to start flying a little way from the nest, strengthening her wings for future long distance flight.

Sometimes we can do nothing to shift the gap from either side. Then we either keep on fighting because we feel so strongly or we can relax, accept it as it is, and save our energies for another situation.

So the next time you find yourself frustrated trying to make something happen, look at your circle of concern, compare it to your circle of influence, see if you can do anything to adjust the gap. And if not, decide whether it is a battle worth fighting or not.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Does Vodacom respect us as customers - part 1

My business partner in Nurture Your Future, arrived for a meeting rather distracted. She had just received notification that her 3G data card useage was up to R4800 for the current month. This on a contract of R649 per month.

A couple of weeks later she is still struggling to get Vodacom to look into how the usage shot up in less than a week.

Wishing to learn from her bad experience I called 111 to see if I had a setting on my 3G card to warn me when I exceed my contract limit. I was informed that everyone receives an SMS to let them know when they are going to be billed for bandwidth useage outside of the contract.

My first gripe is that, that SMS is sent to the data card number. I don't use my 3G card for SMS's. I use my cellphone. In fact I don't use my card much at all as I have ADSL at my office. If something goes wrong and my data allowance is being chewed up I am not going to know anything about it. There seems to be no option to have the notification sent to another cellular number. Does Vodacom actually want me to see the message? Or do they just want to be able to say they sent it?

The call centre agent helpfully suggested that I could put a call limit lock on the card's number as well. I thought this was the perfect solution. The minimum limit allowed is R50 over contract excl VAT. So I agreed on this limit thinking "50 bucks plus VAT, that's an acceptable risk".

Then came the catch. Before they implement the limit you have to receive a request form, and return to them the reference number on that form, in acknowledgement that you have received it.

When the form arrived I found it contains a waiver. The clause reads "If for any reason whatsoever your limit is not enforced you will remain liable to pay all the charges in excess of the limit set or not."

Now I ask, why should the technology not enforce the limit? And why should it be my fault if it doesn't?

Have I not done my part in asking for it to be placed there?

To my mind this is not customer service. This is PR. The company can say it sends warning messages when certain levels of use are exceeded. It can say it has systems in place for customers to limit over use. But in reality the messages are quietly placed where they may well not be seen and they take no responsibility for enforcing the safe guards.

Does this sound like the behaviour of a company that values and respects its clients?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Experiencing the universe in action

This week I had the amazing opportunity to be connected with someone, and to see why, within hours.

It started with me receiving an e-mail advertising a charitable function. I had received this before and knew I was already committed for that evening.

This time my attention was drawn to the name of the founder of the NGO. Lets call her Sarah. There was familiarity in the name and I felt drawn to check if I had met her. She wasn't in my contact database so I googled (how else does one find people these days :-)).

I found her LinkedIn profile. My eye was drawn to the education block. Over ten years ago she had been at the same school as my daughter now attends. I am on the parent committee of that school and had been at the AGM just the night before.

This was too many coincidences. I had to make some sort of contact. So I sent an SMS to the number on the invite explaining the link and asking to connect on LinkedIn.
She replied immediately and I sent the invite.

About an hour later my cell phone rang. It was Sarah. She was having trouble replying to my LinkedIn invite. Shortly thereafter she was pouring out her frustrations and concerns about making the fundraiser a success - sharing how she had been in tears the night before. We chatted for awhile about things she could do. Nearly half an hour later we rang off with her sounding calmer and refocussed.

So often we meet people in unusual ways and in some cases years later I haven't come across the reason why that connection occured. This time I had the answer so quickly. It was awesome to be able to play a roll in the universe's fulfillment of a need.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Overcoming - Setbacks Turned into Opportunities

We all experience setbacks. That is part of life. Whether it is as simple as phoning to invite a friend and finding they aren't available or as serious as losing a limb. It is what we do with these situations that determines our lives.

Today I stumbled across this article on Natalie du Toit, South Africa's multi award winning swimmer, who overcame the loss of her leg.

Our results come from our actions, which in turn are influenced by our emotions and thoughts. To get the best results we need to ensure that what we see, hear and think is supportive of our vision. Here is a short version of Natalie's story to give you some fresh inspiration.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

What services will you pay for?

I have a friend who is the “Admin Handyman”. He recently sent me a solution to something a little out of the ordinary that I was trying to do in MS Outlook. I was over the moon and replied with thanks, asking how he found it when I had spent ages searching for the solution.

His reply was - One of the services I offer is Internet Research. More often than not I do this for nothing, as in your case, when I hear something at a meeting or in a conversation. I should, of course, charge. If I had said I will research the answer for you at a cost per hour would you have paid me, irrespective of the result, i.e. for the time I have taken to do the research?

I thought his question was an interesting one and one which may be of interest to many of the readers. People make choices based on perceived value for money and fulfilment of a need.

I sent Peter the following answer - I suppose it’s back to the balance between time and finances – does one have the time to do the research without intruding on one’s core business and family time or does one have the money to pay someone else to do it? In most cases the cost of getting someone else to do the work will probably work out a lot cheaper than doing it oneself.

You raised some interesting questions around the issue of value associated with internet research.

I think it is a balance between cost and need.

In general I am very wary of giving a go ahead for IT problem solving work that is based on a cost per hour basis. This is because I know how time consuming it can be – whether we are solving it on the machine or researching a solution – and how virtually impossible it is to estimate up front how long it will take.

If something will not work at all and it is imperative that I get it sorted out, then I would generally have to pay whatever it takes.

However most of the time resolving a problem is only worthwhile within a certain cost. Let’s say the limit is R500. Then so long as I can get a solution for R500, I want it. If it will either cost more than this or I risk paying the money and not getting a solution for it, then I will either do without or try it myself.

The reason trying it myself is still worthwhile is that

  • I am in a position to say when it is no longer worth trying
  • I may well learn something useful along the way
  • I can choose to see it as “recreational” and do it instead of watching TV etc.

I think having internet research as a paying service for clients who are cost sensitive may require the following:

  • Define clearly what the required outcome is
  • Estimate how long that will take you
  • Give a fixed quote ie a quote for the job regardless of how much or little time it takes you. The client will then accept or reject that based on the perceived value to themselves of having the task accomplished

If one is doing a fair bit of this there will be some jobs you gain on and some you lose on, so it will work out fairly in the end. The more you do it, the more accurate the quoting will become.

The logic in this answer can be applied to many services. Is it relevant to your business? Do you “buy” in this way yourself?

If you need to contact Peter for virtual or onsite admin services or internet research drop him a mail at and tell him Alison gave you the recommendation.

Do you have an empty swimming pool?

I recently shared a great story on this blog that I had received from Adele Howell-Pryce, and I gave her credit for it. I have since been contacted by Bernadette Doyle, apparently the original author, as per the comment below.

I apologise for unintentionally using Bernadette's work without credit.

It is a great story with a message for all of us. My copy and paste function does not want to work, so unfortunately I cannot replace the article, therefore I am removing it. The link to Bernadette's original is given in her comment below. Enjoy!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

More than a Blind Biker

A different Bumble Bee Insight today - a story about a client of mine - an amazing man, Jacob Kruger.

Jacob calls himself the Blind Biker which you will understand when reading the article. He has faced extreme adversity with great fortitude and is an inspiration to all of us, whether disabled or able bodied.

The article is reproduced from Imfama Magazine with both their and Jacob’s permission.

More than a Blind Biker…
Lindie van Zyl

I pondered for a long time on how I could capture the essence of an interesting, multi-facetted man that I was introduced to. Which box could I put him in for a clearer description? I soon realised though that 36 year old Jacob Kruger does not fit into any box. In fact, Jacob casually sums up his whole existence in four words: “I am just me.” He has been blind for just over four years now, but losing his sight never changed who he was. This is Jacob Kruger…

Getting Back on the Bike:
Let me start here…the accident. Jacob is a motorbike enthusiast and loves to drive around on his bike. In November 2005 he had a major accident with his bike when a motorist in the lane next to him, swerved into him. Jacob and his wife, who were both on the bike, were thrown off. He sustained serious injuries and was in a coma for almost a month, taking just over three months to become lucid again. The serious physical injuries resulted in his loss of sight. Sadly, Jacob’s wife was killed in the accident.

Doctors told Jacob that his brain moved around so much inside his scull during the accident that his optical nerve tore where it was attached to his brain – this caused his blindness.

He eventually left the hospital in March 2006, and started orientation and mobility training, which included getting used to walking around with a white cane, doing some cooking and so forth. The orientation and mobility training helped Jacob, however, the greatest enlightenment for him was finding out how to make use of technology without his sight, and getting back to using a computer. Since Jacob is a web developer and had basically lived on the internet since it became available in South Africa around 1996, re-learning how to use a computer was very important to him.

Raising Hell with the Hellrazors:
After his accident, Jacob did a Google search for ‘blind motorcyclist’ and came across a write-up about Billy Baxter, who was part of the UK army's motorcycle stunt team before he became blind. Billy is now in the Guiness Book of Records for doing 180mph on a bike after losing his sight. Jacob found Billy to be very inspiring and wanted to get back on a bike himself, but just sitting at the back was never an option for him.

When Jacob recovered, he was back at work and back in the biking scene. He is a member of a bike club called the Hellrazors (named after the Ozzy Osbourne song). The club members support Jacob in many ways, including guiding him when he rides his bike.

Once a year, normally in November, the Hellrazors organise their own track day at the Phakisa raceway in Welkom, and this is where Jacob gets on his favourite motorbike (a Suzuki Bandit 1200 Streetfighter), puts on a radio headset, full leathers and a good helmet, and rides up and down the main straight with his friend giving him instructions via a cellular phone.

Jacob enjoys this so much that he says: “Although I have a dark visor on my helmet since I don't need to let the light in, I reckon the 50 or so people watching me, cheering, shouting and taking photos must have known that I was smiling so broadly inside my helmet that it almost hurt my face.”

IT Enthusiasm:
Jacob, who is an IT-fundi, designed the Hellrazors’ website (, his own website ( as well as some interesting pieces of programming for and about blind people.

Although he knows only basic braille (he only uses it for labelling things like pills, spices and food), Jacob has written his own talking computer software, including a braille reference feature which gives instructions on how to write letters in basic braille as you type them on the keyboard. He has also invented his own talking version of snakes and ladders for the computer - using the original board, along with sound effects and speech output. The idea behind the game, as explained by Jacob, is for it to be used even by sighted kids so that they can form an idea of how visually impaired people use computers.

Jacob started the first e-mail mailing list for 'bikers' in South Africa in 1997, called BikerZA. He has now also started such a list for visually impaired persons and anyone interested in supporting them, or even just for people who are interested in learning about their lifestyle. The link to the page for that mailing list is:

Dog Tags and Tattoos:
Above all, Jacob is an excellent advocate for blind people. He is very approachable and carries the ‘signs of blindness’ with pride. As he puts it: “I wear leathers and have tattoos, so people are not afraid to ask me questions”.
True to his style, Jacob sports braille tattoos on his forearms, which consist of black raised ink dots. He is a firm believer in balance and therefore he has two words of equal length – one positive and one negative- on his arms. The left arm’s tattoo spells out the word “depression” and the right one balances it with “positivity”. He also wears a silver dog tag plate around his neck with his name brailed on it. Jacob uses his dog tag and tattoos to show people what braille looks like. I must say this is definitely more interesting than having braille explained on an alphabet card!

Jacob is also working on a set of instructions for newly blinded people. This will include who to contact, where to go for assistance and so forth. On this he added: “I refer people to Council as some people do not know about its existence.”

Motorcycle Gloves and a Dog called Inzamam:
Jacob, who lives in Kempton Park, is still designing websites, but also started a new job in October 2008, programming in a Windows environment. He adjusted to his new world quite fast. Jacob also told me that he uses his motorcycle gloves for cooking, since they're thin enough to still be able to feel what he’s doing without really having to worry about getting burnt. Although this is very ingenious of him, I wouldn’t advise trying this at home!

A big black Labrador guide dog named after the great Pakistani cricket player – Inzimam ul Haq, joined Jacob in February 2009. Jacob and Inzamam are already getting along nicely.

On Playing ‘Happy Birthday’:
In his already busy life, Jacob still has time for hobbies! He says that he plays drums as a form of exercise as well as a way to vent his frustrations. Well, at least he’s thought of a melodious way to vent… Jacob also recently acquired a mouth organ which he carries around in his bike jacket. He feels that this is one instrument where being able to see or not, has no impact on your playing of the instrument. He is practising whenever he has time, and has already mastered playing Happy Birthday, although I’m sure a few more interesting songs will be added to his repertoire very soon!

Originally published in Imfama Magazine. The official magazine of the South African National Council for the Blind
PO Box 11149, Hatfield, Pretoria 0028
Web:, E-mail:

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Integrated Rugby

A couple of Saturday's back I was at KES (King Edward VII School) in Houghton to watch their first team "The Reds" take on Jeppe Boys High - both government schools. KES won with some excellent school boy rugby.

I am no rugby guru but those in the know are saying The Reds this year are the best first team that KES has fielded for many years. Much of that maybe due to the new coach, Carl Spilhaus.

What struck me was that seven of the KES starting 15 were black players. Apparently all 15 are also boarders, but it was the integration of the team that caught my attention. Seeing that the team is so strong this year one can surmise that this is a team chosen on merit. And as such what a really super example of how integration can occur naturally when given time.

These boys were mostly born in 1991. They are children born after Nelson Mandela was released from jail and who started school well after the first democratic elections. If this team is an indication of what is happening in school rugby then we can say that it has taken 15 years, since the 1994 birth of the "new" SA, for integration to get through to matric level sport. If these 18 year olds (white and black) are given support and encouragement some of them can conceivably move on into provincial and eventually national rugby over the next five years. It will then have taken 20 years to achieve natural integration in rugby - just a generation! Without all the aggro that has accompanied the forced, accelerated integration at national level since 1994.

Was pushing integration, with its rumours that players haven't earned their jerseys, really worth it?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Lessons from Barbara Cassani

Today’s thoughts are especially for those of you who are either managers or business owners – and anyone else who is interested.

Yesterday we awoke very early to an extremely cold autumn morning on our small boat on the Vaal Dam. So I climbed back under the duvet for a few hours of great reading. I was reading “Go - An Airline Adventure” by Barbara Cassani. The Sunday Times (probably the UK one) says it is “One of the business reads of the year” and I agree wholeheartedly. In March 1997, Barbara Cassani was asked to set up and run a low cost airline for BA. She turned a profit in three years, led a management buyout and eventually sold the company for £374 million, just four years after its launch.

Surprisingly for a story about a business started with corporate money, this is a story of entrepreneurship. This lady used guts and chutzpah coupled with excellent people skills and sound business analysis to do what very few thought possible. The book is a really enjoyable read whilst at the same time sharing a great deal that we can all learn from.

Some of the points I picked up on:
· The management team of Go were always clear on the company’s purpose – “To be Europe’s best low cost airline. - To provide best prices with the best no-frills service.”

· Barbara (the CEO) stated from the outset that ‘employees must know they matter and customers must get genuine value for money’. And she stuck to this even when it meant some very tough decisions. After 9-11, when other airlines had to lay off staff, Go did not. They had regular GO MAD awards for people who made a difference and all staff received personal thank you’s and birthday messages from the CEO. Go reintroduced pre assigned seating because the normal low cost push and shove method created excessive stress for the traveller.

· At the same time she is a tough, determined, driven lady – no push over. She is a perfect example of what I often speak about - making sure people are treated well does not mean being soft.

· Go demonstrated another of my favourites - marrying human and business needs results in a profitable company with happy people working in it. They had tremendous spirit resulting in staff and management often going much further than the extra mile to handle emergencies. Barbara calls this their Warrior Spirit.

· This Warrior Spirit was part of the culture Barbara and her management team created at Go. It was a culture of all working together to make the company successful. Barbara comments on how there will always be operational glitches in a low cost operation. At these times only with the goodwill of the employees pulls the business through. She says you cannot buy this goodwill. I agree but would add that you can earn it through treating everyone authentically, kindly, fairly, equally but uniquely.

· Barbara’s communication skills really stood out for me. She communicated as openly and as frequently as possible with staff and customers using many methods but mostly verbal – either in person or with podcasts. This was emulated by her management and staff so that when emergencies occurred at airports that were beyond their control, they still managed to keep their customers – because they talked to them!

· She and her team stuck to the company’s values; were high energy; made tough decisions and found creative solutions.

Barbara writes, "Business models don't make profits, people do.
Passion, honesty and emotional commitment to people and the business produces excellence; mediocrity is the result without them."

I think this is a must read for business owners and managers. And this coming long weekend is a great opportunity to snuggle in and read. (The ISBN number is 0 7515 3560 5.)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

It's a generational thing

Have you noticed that your attitudes and values are different from that of your parents or grandparents? Perhaps they keep the old wrapping paper to reuse, saying “waste not, want not” and get upset when you change jobs after “only” five years.
If you have children in high school or older do you sometimes clash with them over their attitude or values. Are their friends more important than their own family and would they prefer to send a text message instead of talking face to face?
This is apparently because we belong to different generations.

When I first heard about generational theory I thought it was nonsense. I believed my children differed from me because they were going through a teenage phase, which would pass. And I differed from my mother because we have different personalities. Then I began noticing that the younger staff in our office, were different from myself and colleagues of my age, in some ways that were consistent amongst themselves, regardless of personality.

Unlike many other theories about people this one is not psychological but sociological. And it isn’t new. A 14th Century Bedouin, Ancient Greek writers, Chinese philosophers and the writers of the Old Testament all noted the cyclical nature of history and generational development. However it was really popularised by two Americans, Howe and Strauss, in the 1990’s. Since then our own Graeme Codrington, with his company TomorrowToday, has made it easy for all of us to understand through his talks and his book called “Mind the Gap”.
Graeme explains simply, “Generational theory explains that the era in which a person was born affects the development of their view of the world.” Strauss and Howe point out that “History creates generations and generations create history”.

A generation tends to be about 20 years in length. Because it is bounded by significant events in the country or region the dates can differ from place to place. According to Codrington people in South Africa with the same generational characteristics are 3-5 yrs younger than the same group in the UK and that in turn is 3-5 yrs younger than the same generation in the US. Therefore in total there is up to 10 years difference between SA and the US. This is important when reading articles about the latest generation – the millennium generation. Most of these are written from the States and speak about their place in the workplace. Here in SA those people are just finishing school now and have not yet entered the workplace.

Tonight I would like to briefly look at two of the generations that are very active in our workplace at present: the baby boomers who were born from around 1950 and the Generation Xers who followed them from about 1970 until the end of the 80’s. So for us here that means if you are over 40 years old you are possibly a Boomer and if you are younger then you maybe a Generation Xer.

Those who have studied these two groups in the workplace describe the Boomers as a workaholic generation, driven, goal oriented and bottom line focussed; motivated by vision, mission and strategy. They are principled and optimistic with a leadership style that doesn’t consult much with other generations. They hate ageing hence the booming industry in anti aging products.

On the other hand the Xers look for quick, short term rewards and for a work-life balance. They are informal, self reliant and individualistic. All of which can make them appear arrogant and rebellious. They dislike bossiness and company culture. And they need constant change and experiences. They are sceptical of hype and being “sold” and tend to be more pessimistic.

People born as the generations changeover are called cuspers. According to Codrington they tend to take on the characteristics of one or the other generation but they are comfortable with both. This makes them very good at bridging the gap.

Why is it useful to have some understanding of how generational theory applies to the workplace?
Well differences between people are often a cause of conflict. But if we understand where that difference is coming from it is easier to tolerate and accept it and potential conflict can then be reduced.

Thursday, 26 February 2009


At a business networking function on Tuesday evening, the guest speaker spoke about a recession and us needing to open our eyes to it. I didn’t see the purpose in that.

I spoke to quite a few people at the dinner who are not feeling pessimistic. They don’t deny that globally a big shake up is taking place. They just don’t feel it is “the end of the world”. In fact one or two said “This is Africa’s time.”

We are not in a recession. Maybe we will still go into one, maybe we won’t. What do we achieve by focusing on the possibility? How does it make us feel any better or prevent it or get us out of it?

The speaker suggested that we shouldn’t be spending money on extravagant luxuries. I agree with that, if the spending means using credit and increasing your debt. As individuals the lesson we can take out of the current circumstances is that debt is a trap. Take small but continual steps to get yourself out of any debt you may already have and don’t create any additional debt without careful consideration.

It seems to me as a lay person that everything in international finance and economics is cyclical. And those cycles benefit some and hinder others. When interest rates are high those with bonds and loans cringe, but pensioners with investments rejoice. Then they come down and the response swings over. When dollars are expensive in rands the importers cry, whilst the exporters rejoice. Despite all the doom and gloom stories there are astute businessmen preparing to make a lot of money right now.

I suggest we each need to find where we can make present circumstances work for us. As an example my work with staff and managers, when embraced, results in increased efficiency and productivity. In tight economic times smart companies realize they can no longer afford to be wasteful with their human resource. They need to be more productive in order to be profitable. I need to capitalize on that. What can you capitalize on?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

PACE your Butterflies

Heart pounding, knot in your stomach, tight chest, brain disconnected, can’t remember anything…..
Can you relate to those symptoms?
Perhaps when waiting to be introduced as a speaker? Or sitting in reception before an important job interview?

When we are under stress our bodies ready themselves either to fight or to flee and the non dominant part of our brain shuts down. This can result in any or all of the symptoms I just described.

When people talk about handling nerves they sometimes say “it’s normal to have butterflies in your stomach – you just have to keep them flying in formation”. I am going to share with you a couple of techniques to do just that. To calm your body and clear your brain - helping you to function optimally.
The educational kinesiologists call this “doing PACE”.

To help you to remember I’d like you to do them along with me.

There are four steps.
The first is to drink water
Our brains consist of 80-90% water. Without being fully hydrated the thought impulses cannot travel correctly from one brain cell to the next. We need around 1.5 – 2l a day – more if we are perspiring from exercise or nerves.

The second is brain buttons
This exercise helps improve blood flow to the brain - to "switch on" the entire brain and improve concentration skills
· Put one hand so that there is as wide a space as possible between the thumb and fingers.
· Lean forward, hunching your shoulders in.
· Place your index or second finger – whichever feels more comfortable, and thumb, into the slight indentations below the collar bone on each side of the breast bone. Massage.
· At the same time put your other hand over your tummy button. Keep massaging for at least 20s.

The third is cross crawl
This helps to integrate the right and the left sides of the brain so you get more whole brain thinking and you counteract any tendency for the non dominant side to want to shut down.
· Stand up. Start marching on the spot touching each hand alternately on the opposite knee. You are crossing right to left and top to bottom.
· Do this either sitting or standing for about a minute.

And lastly "Hook Ups"
This works very well to calm the mind and improve concentration.
· Push your chairs back to give you a bit more space.
· Cross the right leg over the left at the ankles.
· Take your right wrist and cross it over the left wrist and link up the fingers so that the right wrist is on top.
· Bend the elbows out and gently turn the fingers in towards the body until they rest in the centre of the chest. Stay in this position.
· Keep the ankles crossed and the wrists crossed and then breathe evenly and deeply for a few minutes. Good breaths right from the tummy. Deep breath out pushing the tummy flat. Deep breath in filling right down to the tummy.
· Do this for a couple of minutes.

To summarise, PACE has four steps
- Drink plenty of water
- Rub the brain buttons
- Do cross crawl
- Hook up and breath deeply

Next time you are in a situation where you want to give of your best, give this a try and “PACE your butterflies”.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Cat that Growled

“Grrr” “Grrr” I stopped abruptly as I entered the kitchen. Standing still I looked cautiously around me. None of my dogs around. No strange dogs. “Grrr”…”Grrr”. The sound was coming from the washing machine.

The machine stood in a narrow recess with just a slight gap on either side but the nook itself was deeper than the machine, so there was about a ruler length of space behind it. The deep, menacing growl was coming from in there.

The only way to see behind was to lean over the machine and look down from above. Whatever was down there could jump up, teeth bared, claws flying into my face. I hesitated, took a deep breath and peered over cautiously.

A small black face with narrow green eyes glared up at me, and growled again. I retreated quickly. It was Pukka, my black cat, that on a normal day loved nothing better that to drape herself around my neck like one of those fox furs that high fashion people used to wear.
Now what was she so angry about? I ran through possibilities in my mind – she had hurt herself badly and was scared out of her wits or, ‘oh no” could she have rabies?

I gingerly took another look. She was crouched down, staring up at me. There was no frothing at her mouth but her hair was sticking up like the bristles on a brush.

I’d have to get her to a vet but how? I certainly didn’t want to get attacked. Instead of calling our usual small animal vet I called the equine vet because she always came out to see our horses. After listening to my account of what was happening she instructed me to bring the cat into the surgery immediately. It seems that tiny cats don’t qualify for house calls!

I fetched the metal travelling cage and a bath towel. Fortunately the maid was in the house. We eased the washing machine forward so it was only just keeping the recess blocked. Whilst Aletta swung the machine sharply out I threw the towel over Pukka and pounced on the squirming body. Between us we wrestled the bundle through the small opening of the cage, pushed the lid closed and quickly slid the locking bar across. By the time it was locked the cat had wriggled out of the towel and stood bristling on top of it, growling from deep down in her chest.

The vet’s surgery was close by so we were soon in her rooms with the cage stood on the metal examination table. Dr Higgerty keeping a respectful distance from the tiny, angry, black fur ball observed Pukka and interrogated me. What had she eaten? Had we seen any other animals behaving strangely? Had anything unusual happened today or yesterday? “No, everything has been as usual. She was perfectly well yesterday. I put flea muti on her in the afternoon and she ate her usual supper.”

“What did you say about muti?” asked the vet. I explained that a veterinary nurse friend had given us a bottle of anti flea and tick muti to use for the dogs and cats. Yesterday I’d dosed all the animals on the back of their necks. “How many drops did you use? she asked. “Well, it’s supposed to be 3 for a cat but she wriggled so much that I couldn’t see exactly.”

“I think you’ve poisoned her. Cats are extremely sensitive to medicines and they have highly absorbent skins. If she got more drops than she was meant to she maybe terribly ill.

I felt dreadful. I love animals and I never want to see them suffer. And certainly not to cause it.

The vet said she’d give Pukka an injection of atropine and keep her in for observation. If she improved then we’d know it was an accidental poisoning. If she died her brain would have to go to Ondestepoort for autopsy to see if she had rabies.

As she lifted Pukka out of the cage, Pukka, quick as lightening, grabbed her finger and bit, drawing blood. The vet turned white but bravely hung on and the injection was given. A tense couple of days followed whilst we waited to see if the cat and the vet would be alright!

Fortunately a few days later I was able to fetch a perfectly healthy cat from a deeply relieved vet. Pukka purred like a little engine all the way home whilst I promised myself I’d never overdose a cat again.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Searching for purpose, happiness, meaning ...

Exclusive Books has just published their list of the 110 best selling books for 2008.

The top four are all books about searching - searching for happiness, purpose, meaning, self fulfillment, abundance. They are all books in some way related to self development and to either finding what you want within the life you already have or turning that life upside down to create a new one that has more meaning or fulfillment.

Then The Shack, Kite Runner and Shantaram are in the next five - all books that call the reader to think, reflect on their lives and on the human race.

Ten years ago this list would have looked very different. It is not just that these books are being written. It's that there is a need for them. An audience just waiting to buy and embrace them. Wanting to be challenged to think beyond the basics of getting up, going to work, eating supper and going to sleep.

Not one of the top ten in the list is a true novel. Those that are labelled fiction, are all in fact based on true experiences.

What is it about the new millenium that has awakened so many more people? Is it the age of aquarius - the searching for knowledge? A universal consciousness?

I don't know, but I am so pleased. My purpose is to be a facilitator for people wanting to be the best they can be. And to help people understand themselves and others so as to work together in productive harmony. There are now so many more opportunities for me to walk alongside those whose journey touches mine.

Here is the top 10 list

1. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Elizabeth Gilbert
2. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose Eckhart Tolle
3. The Secret Rhonda Byrne
4. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari Robin S. Sharma
5. Spud John van de Ruit
6. The Shack William P. Young
7. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
8. In Black and White: The Jake White Story Jake White & Craig Ray
9. Shantaram Gregory David Roberts
10. After the Party Andrew Feinstein

To view the rest of the list go to

The Violinist

Welcome back to Insights from the Hive. I hope you found tons of enjoyment over the festive season.

When I received the following true story, from a friend yesterday, I found it very thought provoking; a good way to start off this new year. (I have added a little more info that I found on the internet.)

My theme for this year is doing something differently. For all of us some things worked well for us in 2008 and some didn’t. To move forward in our personal lives as well as our businesses or jobs we need to do at least one thing differently. What are you going to do differently in 2009?

A Violinist in the Metro

It was a cold January morning in 2007. A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and began to play a violin. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, over a thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money down and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, a man leaned against the wall to listen but then looked at his watch and started to walk on again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tried to hurry him along but the child stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time.
This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 7 people stopped to listen to him and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32.
When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded. There was no recognition.

The incognito violinist in the baseball cap was in fact Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played some of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a 300 year old Stradivarius violin.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston and the seats averaged $100. During the nearly 45 minutes he played in the subway only one person had recognised him. That person gave a $20 tip.

This was an experiment organized by columnist Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.
The question was: In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour
Do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it?
Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
Does the value change if we place a higher price on accessing it? (Business owners think about perceived value of your product or service).

Wishing you all a very special 2009. One in which you make time for self, for special moments with loved ones, for gratitude for living and for the world around you.