Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Perfect Average Day

Before I could even write the planned "perfect average day post," I woke up to an email from Mbali asking me to walk a  mile in these shoes: 


03:01, you awake off the floor to switch on the kettle so you can get ready for work. Your shift starts at 07:00, to get to work on time you've gotta catch the 5 am bus and travel 53 kilometers. To get a seat in the bus you've got to be the first to arrive at the bus stop. Failure to do will see you standing throughout the journey. After bathing in your plastic wash basin, you've got to boil water for your siblings who will be picked up by their transport at 04:00 to be at school by 08:00. They leave home at 04:00 because they are part of a carpooling system which loads 20 other children from surrounding areas in a ten seater mini bus. Although unsafe its the only way the kids can get to school since no one in the family has a car. So you spend R550 a month and cross your fingers that nothing fatal happens to them while they are packed like sardines. 


They take turns to bath, and you prepare 'umdoko' (soft porridge) which is your fuel for the day. You fold the blankets to set up the table so you can all have breakfast before heading your separate ways. 04:07 you hear a car horn hooting, they grab their bags and kiss you goodbye. You wash your breakfast bowls as well as the shirts and socks they wore to school yesterday. 04:48 you head out to the bus stop. First in the line, so you have a choice between window or aisle seat. It's a no-brainer you rest your head against the window, 6 minutes into the trip you are out for the count. 6:27 your internal master clock wakes you, in 500 meters you would have reached your destination. 6:31 you walk into the powder room, lay on a solid face beat, whip out your court heels which complement your pencil dress and strut all the way to your cubicle.

07:00 'Thank you for calling, my name is Mbali how may I help you?' A greeting you repeat until the clock strikes tea time! Black coffee - not only is it low in fat and calories; it supplies a wealth of antioxidants that help protect your health, more importantly, it's "free" so it sees you through the day. 'That lipstick looks amazing on you' says a colleague in the corridor. 'Thank you, its M.A.C Ruby Woo.' you reply coyishly. Your subconscious reminds you that you haven't paid your Foschini account.  One of the four accounts you rely on to remain on fleek. Your Team Leader tells you to sign off at 12:00 to attend a reward and recognition ceremony, you heave a sigh of relief. RnR means lunch and supper for you and your siblings. You sign back on, work and anxiously await 12:00.

Noontide you walk into a room with Management, Executives, HR and your fellow nominees all gathered to celebrate top achievers and top contributors. You walk away with the Best Customer Experience Award for the 3rd month in succession. HR Manager hands you a bouquet, a certificate, and an envelope. You pose for a picture and find yourself a seat close to the finger food platters.  Everything about the moment is perfect for your Instagram aesthetic. #Queening #BlackGirlMagic #BerekaMosadi

The ceremony concludes you're encouraged to socialize, mingle and help yourself to the food. As much as you'd like. "I'm not hungry right now but can I pack some to eat later?" "Absolutely, wrap it in foil," says one of the supervisors. The ceremony concludes with 15 minutes left of your lunch break. You walk out to catch some sun and open the envelope. It's a spa voucher to the value of R1500. 

You head back to complete your shift. 16:00 is home time. The bus leaves at 17:00, so you pass the time catching up on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the latest celebrity gossip. 16:45 you make your way to the bus-stop. The bus is full, so you have to stand for the trip back home. Handbag and bouquet in hand trying to maintain balance is a bit of a nightmare. One of the passengers offers to hold it for you. You have two hours to reflect on your day, and you come to realize that you don't have a vase for these flowers and no justifiable reason to spend a day at the spa getting a facial or a massage when you have bills to pay and an empty fridge. The certificate you've carefully put up at your desk isn't recognized by any institution or prospective employer. So where is the reward? You think of potentially selling the voucher for cash which will make a difference to you and your family.

19:07 you walk into the house, to find your siblings waiting for you in the dark. You use a prepaid meter, and the electricity units have been depleted. You message Thato asking him to eWallet you R20 so you can buy 2liters of paraffin. You serve finger foods for dinner by candlelight while you head to the supermarket. SMS notification confirming that R20 has been deposited to your cell phone followed by a low battery alert.

19:40 you fill up the prima stove and the lamp to help the kids with their homework. 21:00 you fold up the table and lay the blankets for bedtime. You sleep with one eye open; a drained cell phone battery - as drained as you are - means you don't have an alarm. If you wake up a minute later than 03:15 your morning routine will be severely comprised. 03:07 you're at it again only today with a paraffin scent in your Malaysian wig!

This is Mbali's reality, and before she's introduced to textbook theories and formulas aimed at improving her outlook and perspective, it would be wise to take into account that this what her perfect average day is. She had two meals, got to work on time and helped her two siblings with homework next to candlelight before going back to sleep on the floor, to repeat it all the next day.

As Leaders and Managers, we often blanket approach motivation. We don't get through to Mbali because we don't have the context of her reality. In 1081 words I have given you context. BE THE DIFFERENCE.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Own Goal

Creating goals is relatively easy. We often get stuck at execution and or application level. 

We get stuck because we often set the goals without careful thought. Your goals should be SMART and form part of your perfect average day for the goals to excite you. That way you won't lose steam two weeks into setting the goal and start procrastinating as you've been doing all along. 

By SMART I don't mean having or showing a quick-witted intelligence. I mean:  

S - Specific, Significant 
M - Measurable, Meaningful, Motivational 
A - Attainable, Achievable, Acceptable 
R - Realistic, Reasonable, Rewarding, Relevant 
T - Time Bound

Specific: 

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • Which resources or limits are included?

Measure-arable: 
"Defining the physical manifestations of your goal or objective makes it clearer, and easier to reach."

Attainable: 
Your goals should stretch your abilities but still be possible.

  • How can I accomplish this goal?
  • How practical is the purpose, considering the constraints I may face, i.e., financial difficulties.  

Relevant: 

  • Is this worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match my other efforts?
  • Am I skilled or adequately equipped to reach this goal? 

Time-Bound: 

  • When?

Let's practice by setting a broad goal: 

  • Specific: I will become a renowned  subject matter expert on the topic of Contact Centre Operations Management 
  • Measurable: I will consider myself triumphant when I am asked to speak publicly on the discipline monthly, receive regular interview requests and write one article per month for a top industry publication.
  • Attainable: I will accomplish this by qualifying my experience through acquiring an education, strengthening my experience, and marketing.  
  • Relevant: Establishing myself as a Contact Centre Operations Management expert will reinforce my ten years of expertise in the field and allow me to reach business owners who need Contact Centre Operations Management Advice.
  • Time-Based: I want to be considered a Contact Centre Operations Management expert within two years.

Got it? Good. 
Spend the next 48hrs hours setting your own goals, on Thursday we'll discuss your perfect average day. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Have you got a plan?


  • You are living from hand to mouth.
  • You are over-indebted. 
  • You are frustrated by your living conditions.
  • You are struggling to maintain what you deem as a socially acceptable appearance. 
  • You have to always make a plan to get to work because you run out of funds 15 days before pay day.
  • You have to scratch Thato's back to get to work once you have depleted your earnings. 
  • "I'm the breadwinner" is how you introduce yourself. 
  • You don't see how being employed is changing your life. 
  • Getting up for work is a burden. 
  • You forget your lunch box 20 times a month.
  • You are the unluckiest person in the world at work because all the unfortunate things in the world happen to you and result in you being unable to report for duty. 
  • You have a persistent medical condition which attacks you on the last week of the month, and only the GP up the road seems to understand it. 
  • You want to leave your current job in pursuit of another job to increase your income for you to balance or manage your life better. 


I get it. You are uninspired. "Your life will not get better by chance; it will get better by change." 

Change in perspective, change in positioning, change your approach, change your habits, change your words and change your world. 

You are going through life without a plan, putting a plan together feels futile, money is at the core of all your problems so what's the point?

Well, planning is at the core of your solutions. A plan will allow you to clarify your goals and challenges then help you to identify the steps you need to take to move forward. The challenges you face may cross more than one discipline; therefore, you will need to work with more than one professional to resolve them. 

Clarifying your goals will give you a long term vision and short term motivation which will help you manage your time and resources. Assess your life and be your own goals.

"A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true. " - Greg Reid

Monday, 13 March 2017

A seat at the table

I recently shared a meal with a few young people to discuss self-fulfilling prophecies and their impact. Interestingly I found that none of them deemed themselves as professionals nor did they view themselves as having careers. (These were individuals in the contact center industry.)

“This is a means to an end,” said Mbali a call center agent.
She joined the contact center industry with the intention of raising capital to fund her university studies. Her tone in trivializing the contact center industry made me lose interest in what her original career aspiration was. Her reality came when she, unfortunately, lost her mother and inadvertently became the bread winner. She's been a call center agent for the past 14 months and wants to “break free from it.” The hindrance to that move is that she has no qualifications for any other field nor is she experienced in anything else either than customer care.

dictionary.com describes a profession as something someone does to earn a living. A job is a paid position for regular employment. A career is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress.

To Mbali and the rest of the table: 
You don't seem to understand that your intentions determine whether you have a job or career. Opportunities to progress are in abundance in the service industry. You just to need to approach them with a clear plan. 

BusinessTech in 2014 reported that more than 2,000 call centers across South Africa employ over 225,000 people – 175,000 of which deal directly with customers.
The call center industry in the country was expected to grow at 15%, annually. In Africa, it was anticipated that 5,000 more call centers would pop up in the next five years.

It's been three years since that article was published. How much do you think the industry has contributed to South Africa's GDP?

The age groups you find in contact centers, the industry helps to create employment for school leavers who have little to no work experience and who may not be able to afford a Berkeley education. Case in point Mbali.

Does this mean they have no chance of increasing their earnings potential? Transforming their lives and pursuing their dreams? Not! In the words of Olivia Pope and Cyrus Beene stop being “little b$#ch babies.” 

The truth is everyone has a sad story. You're not that special. "If you hang around a barbershop long enough you are bound to get a haircut."

You are here, now what?

On your journey to securing a seat at the table understand that no one cares what you're going through. What matters is what you're doing while you're there because the tail of hardship is only inspirational and celebrated when it's supported by triumph.

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Apprentice - You're FIRED!

Another evening spent with The Apprentice! The women's team lost the challenge again, and the Project Manager was terminated. Self-fulfilled prophecy realized! 

Wikipedia defines self-fulfilling prophecy as "a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true." 

Robert K. Merton, a sociologist, created this term to describe "a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior, which makes the originally false conception come true."

You were given your key performance indicators, you looked at them and decided these are impossible to achieve. Four weeks later in a performance review, you are rated least effective. Well, you called it! 

The predictions we make at the start of something affects our behavior in such a way that we make the prediction happen. 

You called it, so it happened, now you've encouraged some confidence in your future predictions. Six weeks later you are placed on a performance improvement plan which yields exactly what you called. 

Congratulations you've successfully worked yourself out of a job. 

Self-inflicted unemployment is unacceptable. So Wednesday night, you and I, dinner. 

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Apprentice


I just spent 46 minutes of my life watching a reality show titled Celebrity Apprentice. The Apprentice is a reality business series which pits contestants against each other.
After 46 minutes engaging minutes I found myself pondering  over the following: 

Would I win such a contest? I contribute to a company whose net worth is estimated at $69.4 billion.
I form part of a team of 35 global managers. How would I fair if each day spent at the office was an actual episode of The Apprentice? 

Let me give you more context. 

The contestants are divided into two teams of 8. Males vs. Females after that they are briefed on the challenge for the episode. In today's episode, the contestants were required to create a Tyra Beauty experience in a 10-minute presentation. 

After which, she will view both experiences and choose who wins the first task. The contestants were advised that they will be judged on the 10-minute live presentation as well as the overall knowledge of the Tyra Beauty Brand. 

The teams are required to pick a Project Manager. In an off scene interview, when asked why she didn't volunteer to be the Project Manager one of the female contestants said "I didn't step up to be Project Manager because this is our first task, nobody wants to go home first, the Project Manager is usually the one on the line". 

A contestant from the losing team is eliminated from the series at the end of each episode. This woman placed her focus on the worst case scenario for herself and her team. Could such an outlook have an impact on the outcome?  Let's move on.

I found the team's strategies to be particularly interesting. Here's what they did: 

The women asked who would like to be the Project Manager and then started to hint towards the ideal candidate until she obliged. The men, on the other hand, broke down the skills and competencies required from the Project Manager of this task then narrowed it down to who best fits the description. 

Once the Project Manager was appointed, Tyra Banks visited each team. Let's call this an Executive Meeting. 

The women took notes as Tyra spoke about the products and the brand while the men asked Tyra for a makeup tutorial and talked through product composition.  

Post the "Executive Meeting" each team set out to work on their action plans. 

The women discussed roles and responsibilities; they decided they didn't need more research or any additional information because they are familiar with the product since they are obviously makeup consumers. 
The men brainstormed how they would approach the task seeing as they had little to no knowledge on the subject and settled on having the most athletic men apply the makeup. Their rationale was if they can do it, the consumer will be able to do it too. As a result, they spent the rest of the day learning how to apply makeup. Experiencing what the user would experience. 

The teams delivered their presentations, and the male team was the superior team for this challenge. Which meant the lady who denied the role of being Project Manager, would soon face the worst case scenario she worried about - one of the ladies will be eliminated.

So, I'd like to place myself in the show again.

In my case, I've been allocated a team, and I've been briefed on the site's key performance indicators.

My title and position at work suggest that I'd be the Project Manager in this competition. I choose to use the word suggest for a reason. I'll expand and explain why on a different day.

Before determining who would be eliminated the following questions were posed to the team members, issues that my team can face: 

1. As the Project Manager, how did you feel about the whole thing? 
2. Do you think everyone participated 100% 
3. Why were you not the Project Manager? 
4. How did you feel about her leadership?  
5. What was your responsibility? 
6. Did anyone lead with you?
7. You were the Project Manager what happened? 
8. Did you utilize everyone 100%? 
9. Did somebody in the team feel underutilized? 
10. What was your contribution? 
11. Would you be surprised if you were eliminated? 
12. Who should I fire? 
13. Who was the weakest link? 
14. If not you then who? 

These are all pertinent questions, questions that can transform how one leads, participates and engages on a daily. 

I've gone to the office 40 times this year? Am I the Apprentice?

Sunday, 1 January 2017

January

January is named after the Latin word for door (ianua) therefore it is the door to the year. The month is also said to be named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, and endings. Could this be the reason why we gravitate towards initialising change and transformation in January?

Resolving to change, improving yourself and your life shouldn't be dependent on a day or month of the year. You either get shit done or not!

As people, we suffer from procrastination therefore in January we benefit from the spirit of Janus. We make resolutions to improve our quality of life.

Research suggests that these are the most popular New Years resolutions:

Get healthy
Get organised
Spend less, increase savings
Live life to the fullest
Travel
Learn something exciting
Help others with their dreams
Spend time with family
Read more


The same research suggests that a quarter of you will lose steam in the first week, a third in the first month, fewer than half after six months and less than 10% will succeed.

My team and I have a few tricks up our sleeves to help you stay on track and get shit done. Let's help you be the difference!

Until then may the mythical god of new beginnings and transition be with you.