Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Solving a Problem or Wasting Resources?

Minister Motsoaledi wants to ban alcohol advertising. His reason – to reduce violent crime fuelled by excessive drinking.

A solution needs to address a problem, right? Without checking the research I am pretty sure that there is enough to prove a strong correlation between excessive drinking and increased violence. However I am not sure that there is such a correlation between the advertising of alcohol and the excessive use of it.

One of the critical, but often ignored, skills of effective leadership is the ability to effectively solve problems. The Leader-Management Framework shows this involves four steps – acknowledge the problem, explore ways to treat the root cause, consider the consequences then take action.

Minister Motsoaledi has the first step right. He has acknowledged the violence and the connection to the abuse of alcohol. From here on he has a lot more work to do. Does banning advertising treat the root cause? If not what does? If you ban advertising what are the possible consequences? If you have a good solution it will have many positive consequences. Nevertheless you still need to see if they outweigh any negative ones.

Once you are sure you have the right solution to treat the root cause you take action. Motsoaledi has already jumped to step four with his announcement of the ban. The missing steps in between are crucial to effectively solving problems instead of wasting much time and money.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Making Energy

Despite not liking the cold I am crazy enough to love going to Grahamstown, an even colder part of the country in June/July, for the National Arts Festival. This year was my third visit having first gone in 2004 (?) thinking I would then be able to tick it off my list. Instead I am becoming addicted!

We drove down stopping overnight in Middelburg. The next day driving through the Eastern Cape I found myself excited and energised both by the beauty of wide grasslands with fields of red flowers stretching up out of spiky aloes, as well as the prospect of great performances.

We have four sources of energy – physical, spiritual, mental and emotional. Each one is like a muscle. To make a muscle strong it needs enough movement (exercise) to really exert it, but not too much that it takes days to recover. If we utilise our four energy sources in this same way we make our own energy. The beauty of the Little Karoo is for me soul food and soul food is what makes spiritual energy. The excitement of being on holiday and anticipating the shows is emotional energy.

For four days we soaked up three to four shows a day – drama, comedy, dance, physical theatre, orchestral concerts and edutainment. Everything is within walking distance so with your pack on your back you feel like a student wandering this town of churches and schools. We saw amazing talent, laughed and cried. Sometimes walking from one venue to another we would see a sign for an art exhibition and stop in to take a look. Or with a longer gap go off to the Big Field at Rhodes to browse through the Craft Market (lovely leather belts). At night there is the Long Table for a meal with a difference and almost the guarantee that some interesting stranger will strike up a conversation. This year was no exception as we met a retired German couple living in Gouritzbaai spending ten days soaking up shows and interesting lectures. On their recommendation we went off to see another unusual drama after supper.

The walking was physical, the laughing and crying was emotional, some of the content gave food for thought – mental, and for me watching good performances is soul food – spiritual. It hadn’t been planned that way but I had found a way to re-energise myself through all dimensions.

For most of us the quickest ways to make energy are to look for physical and spiritual inputs. Do you have enough of these in your week? If not, make a commitment to just one movement activity to bring into your routine, and pay attention to the things that make your heart soar. When you find them give them regular space in your week.

If you have never been to the Festival and you have any interest in performing arts, visual arts, writing, quality talks or music do yourself a favour and make a plan to visit. Next year’s dates are 28 June to 8 July!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Don't give up on the child with poor marks

Parent's Evening during the early grades always went the same way. "Your son is mischievous, he isn't working to his potential. But he is such a delightful boy. I love teaching him."

In Gr 3 his teacher said there could be a problem with his reading. As an ex optometrist I knew quite a bit about child development and perceptual problems. I took him to various professionals to check vision, hearing etc. and for extra reading lessons. An OT offered some hope. She said his right and left brain weren't connecting well. But as he was already good at judo, swimming and gymnastics she struggled to find any activities that brought about more integration.

By early Gr 5 his marks were on a slippery slide downhill. We had a meeting with his teachers but they said we expected too much of him. "He isn't like his older sister. He just needs to apply himself a bit better. He'll end up a fair 60 percenter." I knew that wasn't true. He was sometimes quite brilliant.

We wanted him to change schools and he wanted to stay. So we said it was up to him to turn his marks around.

Then we stumbled across a person who could assess his brain dominance profile. The profile showed us the strange way in which he processed information and that when stressed his brain "closed down" - information couldn't go in or out. The practitioner was able to show him that he wasn't stupid. He needed to do things like using colours, sitting where he couldn't be distracted easily and having a ball of prestick handy to fiddle with. He also had some Tomatis therapy to stimulate the brain integration.

From this point onwards his self confidence began recovering, he learnt ways to calm himself and to work with, instead of against, his own style. He was also lucky to have a couple of terrific subject teachers the following year. His marks picked up and by the end of Gr 7 he won the award for top Technology student.

One of those terrific teachers was an ex headmaster with many years of experience. At prize giving I went to thank him. He said "Your son still hasn't reached his real potential. Just wait. He will come into his own in Gr 11/12."

This year he is in Gr 11 working towards a fully academic matric. Today the first term reports were issued. His results - two A's and an A+ and two more A's knocking at the door!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

GM's advert sends the wrong message

The GM Red Tag advert is back on our TV screens.

Every year that it airs it annoys me. Why would I want to buy a car from a company who thinks it is impressive that their staff work extrememly long hours - hours that are so long that they forget what their daughter looks like or where things are kept in the kitchen?

Excessive working hours can lead to burn out. I have seen people who've burned out in this way. Their ability to handle work and stress after they "recover" is never what it was before.

It is also well known that working excessive hours damages home life. And people with problems at home become less productive at work.

So in the medium to long term allowing your staff to lose their work - life balance makes them far less productive and therefore possibly no longer of use to the company.

As someone who helps managers to work together with their staff to bring out the best in them, now and in the long term, it goes against the grain to buy a car from a company who sends the opposite message.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

In a crisis you need that foundation

On the Sunday evening after New Year my husband and I felt like a meal out. I am always looking for new places to try so had a list ready with three close to us. The first was closed for the festive season but we found the second open and buzzing with about half the tables occupied.

After placing our order we realised that the majority of those at the tables were in fact waiting for take away orders. They seemed to be getting quite agitated. My husband had a view into the kitchen and could see the manager, perspiring heavily, trying to get the orders flowing.

As time went on there were more and more complaints which were met with apologies and excuses of being busy. As the wait for food got longer the waiters disappeared, to avoid dealing with the conflict. We eventually received our order, out of the blue, an hour later. The Thai food was lovely but the evening hadn’t been a good one.

By this time things had quietened down, all the take away people had left and the seated diners had been served. The young manager came out from the kitchen and started visiting each of the remaining tables. We could hear the conversations as he got closer to us. He profusely apologised to each one explaining it was busy and he couldn’t be everywhere so had prioritised being in the kitchen.

When he got to us I thanked him for his apology and suggested he needed to find an experienced restaurant manager to help him get on track. I pointed out that in fact the restaurant wasn’t really full when things started to fall apart. Blaming it on a busy night was ignoring the true problem. There simply wasn’t the correct foundation in place to cope with a reasonable amount of business.

The key components of leader-management had not been put into place:
• Implement systems & processes – who does what, where, when and how - roles, responsibilities, skills & procedures
• Develop a strong work culture – we work together for a common purpose even when the going gets tough and without supervision
• Connect effectively with people – we are loyal & supportive, communicate well and are comfortable to use our initiative

Because the manager hadn’t created that foundation, when the “crisis” came he had no team, he was on his own. As an individual he was willing, polite, hard working, responsible. All great qualities. But as a manager he was lost.
Where does the blame lie? Is it the young manager’s fault? I don’t think so. The responsibility lies with the restaurant owner. He or she hired someone with a good attitude but without the necessary skills and experience. Now they need to bring in support to teach him. And after a bit of theory most of that teaching needs to be on the job mentoring – understanding how to translate theory into practise.

Do you have situations like this in your workplace? How can you make it more effective and profitable, and still have fun?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

New labour laws disastrous

There are four Labour Bills currently under discussion by the South African parliament. The proposals will considerably tighten the labour market and negatively impact on business and individuals in SA.

The main concern is supposed to be to protect the employees. However we already have legislation that more than adequately protects employees who wish to contribute effectively to the economy.

No matter how much legislation you have workers can still be abused so long as they are not in high demand. To explain further. A company requires a staff member to work longer hours than those legislated. If the person has to use legal channels to complain they may be able to force the employer to shorten their hours but the relationship will probably be harmed and the employer can retaliate in many legal ways. If however there were plenty of available jobs that this person was suitable for they could leave and go elsewhere. If this kept happening the company would probably amend the working hours in order to retain staff.

The focus needs to be on education and training so as to have a well skilled work force as well as creating an environment which allows for the creation of many jobs. With both in place we would have a good supply of skilled workers able to pick and choose their jobs. Employers would then be inclined to voluntarily abide by fair legislation.

Any changes made to labour legislation need to be those that make employing people easier and more appealing. The current proposed changes do the opposite.

Our economy strengthens when businesses are profitable and growing. This requires employees to be productive and effective. Creating employment that is virtually secure no matter whether the employee works well or not encourages laziness and creates a culture of doing the minimum. This sets up a cycle of weakening rather than strengthening the economy and job opportunities.

For more discussion and useful links to the acts see