Category Archives: Management & Leadership

10 Insightful Talent & Career Quotes to Inspire & Motivate You

ONE):  “Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?”- Thomas John Watson Sr., Former chairman and CEO of IBM

TWO):  “Acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth. Hiring was – and still is – the most important thing we do.”- Marc Bennioff, Founder, Chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce

THREE):  “The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”- Steve Jobs, Chairman, Former CEO and co-founder of Apple

FOUR):  “If you hire good people, give them good jobs, and pay them good wages, generally something good is going to happen.”- James Sinegal, Co-founder and former CEO of Costco Wholesale Corporation

FIVE): “The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area.”- Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft Corporation

SIX): “Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.”- Lawrence Bossidy, Former COO of General Electric

SEVEN): “You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are — and you just might become the very best version of yourself.” – Sheryl Sandberg

EIGHT): “Change equals self-improvement. Push yourself to places you haven’t been before.”– Pat Summitt

NINE): “Positive thinking can be contagious. Being surrounded by winners helps you develop into a winner.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

TEN): “We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.” – Kobe Bryant

Image Credit: AlesiaKazantceva


5 things I learnt from the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the lessons they have for business

The 2014 FIFA World Cup recently concluded and despite on and off the pitch controversies, and much public anger at the cost of the Brazilian Government’s spending on infrastructure, the tournament was one of the most successful and memorable in living memory. Here are five things I learnt from watching the tournament and the resonance they have in business:

ONE – There is no substitute for team work and attitude:

Teams such as Costa Rica and USA were a prime example of team work and attitude. They didn’t have the household names and match winning players of other teams but they proved that getting basics right, having a nothing to lose mentality and punching above their weight together with helping other team members out when they were out of position made them a force. This propelled them to the highest level of performance any team can desire at a major tournament.

Business Lesson: Go beyond your job description and keep things simple. Believing in yourself and your team members will create a positive team environment. More importantly, understand what the common goal is and be realistic in your expectations.

TWO – Don’t be afraid to take a risk:

Netherlands coach Louie Van Gall embodied this in abundance. During the Quarter Final match against Costa Rica, Van Gaal substituted his first choice goalkeeper Cillisen and replaced him with Krul when the match went to penalties. The outcome of this was that Krul saved two penalties and this put the Netherlands through to the semi finals. His greater height and reach were sighted by Van Gaal as the rationale behind the substitution.

Business Lesson: Don’t be afraid to experiment. As a Manager, next time you have a project – put an untested team member on the project. Know your teams’ individual strengths and skills to get the best out of the team.

THREE – Have a plan B:

In each of the games Netherlands played, the team adapted their style and tactics to their opponents and that proved valuable as Netherlands progressed through the tournament. Van Gaal was a thinking coach who constantly studied the oppositions every move before executing his strategy.

Business Lesson: In business, it’s important to know what you will do in a clutch situation. Something might not work as you would expect. Have something prepared that you can revert to in times of need – a toolkit etc.

FOUR – Stick with the norm and you run the risk of failure:

By the time we got the Semi Finals when Brazil played Columbia, signs were evident that Brazil was not up to the standard of other teams. When Brazil played Germany, their weaknesses were laid bare and they imploded before the eyes of their country. In the aftermath of Brazil’s disastrous exit, it was apparent that coach Scolari was heavily reliant on Neymar and Tiago Silva who were the spine of the team. Scolari kept faith with the same team as he picked in the first match to deliver but as that turned out that was blind faith. Brazil were predictable, relied on the same tactics and never had a plan B.

Business Lessons: Don’t be afraid of mixing things up and when it comes to recruiting a team; do not be averse to individuals of unconventional backgrounds whose CVs may not read great on paper. Resist having similar styles of people in the same team and instead select individuals who would complement each other and a particular function and/or department. Above all, give indivuals time and autonomy and let them flourish.

FIVE – Feeling valued elevated a player:

Suarez, Neymar, Neuer, Messi, Robben, Rodriguez were all talisman to their team. Their talent is undeniable but what was even more important was that they had the support of their team, coaching staff, and when these players performed they had a domino effect on the rest of their team.

Business Lesson: Feedback and engagement are two of the most critical elements in business. Get either wrong, and you end up with a disenfranchised and de – motived workforce. To get it right, work out what truly drives your workforce and what puts them off. Move forward then by making a commitment to driving out the practices that create unhappiness in the workplace.




Talent management and retention in a changing world


The economic changes brought about by the global financial crisis have reshaped the business world. This is a challenge of considerable importance for way human capital is developed and managed.  Successful talent management begins with a proper understanding of how people work effectively and more importantly what it is that makes them tick. Built on to this is the notion that people are motivated by different things. According to renowned author Daniel Pink, there are three things that motivate workers:


1)      Workers want to be given autonomy – they want to be in control of their time

2)      Mastery – workers want to make a contribution at work

3)      Workers want to make a contribution likened to a broader purpose in the company

The key takeaway for companies is that they must synchronize these three motivations with their own goals. If these three fit well, a winning situation is created. However, companies also need to address the issue of staff retention. Compensation is not the only reason to ensure employees stay happy and committed. Daniel Pink’s analysis of employee motivation, highlight non – financial factors as being increasingly important in dictating the motivation of employees in a post crisis world.

However, in practical terms the focus must also be on the economic cost. It costs more to hire a new worker than to train an existing worker, so the focus must be on retention. The time has come for companies to think of employee retention in an innovative light.

Socio – economic factors have radically altered the make-up of the average workforce that will impact a company’s recruitment and retention practices. People work across international boundaries and live longer. The work forces of the future will probably be made up of a 20 something, a 40 something and a 60 something worker. Multi – generational teams will be more prominent in the years to come. Companies need to actively think of creating balanced workforces that are rich in both age and experience, and focus on the human side of management. By adopting such practices, companies will be better prepared to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling – Bold and Controversial Does It

Women in Business

I recently read a very interesting old article on Karen Brady that was published in the Guardian newspaper.  A familiar face on BBC’s The Apprentice, she is widely described by her peers and the press as one of the most successful women in British business. What is even more interesting about her story was her career path and the challenges she overcame to claim a substantial presence in UK Plc.  Not all her choices that led her to her success were straightforward. Indeed, many of the decisions she made were seen as unconventional l, often bordering on controversial. But they were choices that made her who she is, and help her smash her way through the glass ceiling that all too often paralyzes many women’s careers. If all women were like Karen Brady, then there would be no glass ceiling to speak off. Her meteoric rise through British business speaks for itself. She was the first female and youngest (at 23) Managing Director of a British publicly traded company, Birmingham Football Club. Moreover, she is now a Vice Chairman of West Ham United Football Club and holds several positions on various boards, and still only 44 and married with 2 children. Could Karen Brady then be the answer and inspiration for women to penetrate the glass ceilings of the business world?

Bold and Controversial

Karen Brady started her career in advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi. But her career really started taking shape after she left Saatchi & Saatchi to join London Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). There she became acquainted with David Sullivan, a client of LBC and sold him advertising space which earned her more commission then the entire sales team put together at LBC. Impressed by her “go getter” attitude, Sullivan offered her a job with his company. Then after a few years, Brady persuaded Sullivan to buy struggling British Football Club, Birmingham City which he did and made her the Managing Director off at the age of 23 that she returned to profitability.

What was a critical factor in her career was her choice of mentor, David Sullivan who was an adult entertainment entrepreneur. What makes Karen standout is that she is totally comfortable in her own skin, and she is not afraid of what somebody else might say. What would have many women running scared actually drew Karen towards Sullivan, and she benefited from that as she progressed throughout her career. Even in the male dominated environment of football, she was totally comfortable. In her first day as Managing Director at Birmingham City Football Club, she turned up to work wearing a fitted powder pink jacket. When one of the players made a sexually suggestive remark, she replied by telling him that he wouldn’t be making remarks like that when she sells him to a rival football club. It was this cool and collected, and mercilessly unflinching manner that propelled her through her career, and made headlines in the male dominated world of football.  Interestingly though, her success has not made her ignorant. She has encouraged and empowered other women like her in business which is a testament to her role at Birmingham Football Club which she left with a senior management team that were 75% women. She sees women as essential in management in companies, and believes that public companies that don’t have women on their boards should have to state the reason why in their annual reports.


Karen Brady is as smart and sensible in her personal as well as professional life. Here is her take on life:

“Life is a series of problems, and how quickly and easily you overcome them generally means how happy you are.” To her, this means not spending life questioning and analyzing because that will end up driving you crazy. To move forward, close the door and don’t look back and move on to the next thing.

What has really allowed Karen to be as successful as she has been is that she has been able to take control of her career at a very early age which is courtesy of her mature thinking when she was made Managing Director of Birmingham City Football Club, and total self belief in her abilities. She has focused on herself and hasn’t allowed the judgment of others to direct her path. Here are the elements that make her tick:

  • A charismatic personality
  • Enthusiasm to operate in a male dominated environment, and totally relish it
  • Raw energy
  • A controversial figure as mentor
  • Not emotional but very rational – doesn’t take things to heart and allows her head to rule her heart
  • Sustainable strength – thick skinned
  •  Keeps weaknesses at bay
  • Keeps doubts at bay – toughness in decisions

Many of these elements are personal and unique to Karen but others have been developed over time that has allowed Karen to negotiate the challenges she has faced. What Karen’s experience demonstrates to women is that it is often a combination of conscious choices women make and other personality traits that can help in developing their careers.

Leadership Wisdom – 7 Knowledge Nuggets

Leading the pack

Leadership is a fascinating discipline in the business world. Many academics and theorists have written at great length about the topic and published countless books for us to read and process their insights. New research is being published on the subject regularly to help us understand the essence of leadership. Here are seven observations that I discovered in an old journal that characterize what leadership is all about in the real world:

  • Be ready to take decisions when you can’t be certain that you are right
  • Invest more time and effort than you really want to in getting to know your team – talk to them and listen even when you know that what you are saying might not be right
  • The key attributes of successful leader are focus, context and communication. You can learn them. The first 100 days are key: manage your team, listen to them and remember that to get 70% right, you have to get 30% wrong
  • Run an operation through other people rather than doing it yourself. Step back and trust the people working for you
  • A leader has to make the direction clear
  • Effective leaders have a clear sense of purpose and strong values, but they also know when to make compromises
  • Leadership is not achieved by riding into town and shooting it up. Skillful leaders spend time getting a sense of the place

Are you doing any of this? If not, you would we wise to do so!

Photo credit:  Ulrik

Things You Shouldn’t Be Doing as a Boss

Stop sign

When you are running your own business and employ staff, you have to learn how to trust them and give them space to do their work with clear guidance and instructions. If you are constantly treading on their toes then you will have them heading for the exit door faster than you can think. Here are six things that bosses need to consciously avoid doing:

  1. Comparing your current employee with a former superstar employee – If you are constantly banging on about how a previous hire knew everything about the company and everything about the job around employees you are going to lose the confidence they have in you, and in turn you will create unnecessary insecurities among employees that will be detrimental to the company.
  2. Playing Big Brother – If you watch and constantly keep up to date with what employees are doing inside and outside the company, you are going to be viewed as a busy body and a micro manager. Worst of all is monitoring the performance of employees in order to reprimand them. Performance management in reality is about trusting your employees to do a good job and giving them the tools they need to do their job effectively.
  3. Always talking about employees bad points – As a boss, it is your job to inspire and motivate your employees. If you are constantly berating them about their weaknesses, you aren’t doing anything positive. What you should be doing is leveraging their strengths with the company’s requirements. Weaknesses can be improved upon through internal and external training.
  4. Getting worked up about tiny things – If you spend more time picking faults in your employees work then you shouldn’t even be a boss. Every employee is unique and has their individual style. If their style isn’t negatively impacting profitability then that is a positive sign. As one Director I once spoke to said, “I don’t mind how an employee does their work, as long as they do it effectively and on time.”
  5. Stop making assumptions about employee engagement – Yes that word ‘engagement’. You here it a lot and you will hear it even more. Some people don’t understand what it means but it means a great deal more than just to motivate and inspire employees. As a boss, if you think that paying an employee a salary on time, giving them their holiday entitlement and providing them with a job is enough, you are wrong. Employees want something more than that but it is often the simplest things that can make a colossal difference. In a recent magazine interview, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo has cited the need to recognise what things matter to each individual employee and driving engagements efforts based on that. If spending more time with family matters to them then offer them flexible working.

The global economic depression has resulted in a lot of managerial shift. Managers have become younger and one criticism expressed by commentators is that this new generation of bosses does not have the neccessary skills required to create healthy and engaged workforces. What is required is to spend more time training would be managers in soft skills that will increasingly play an integral role in corporate training and development. From a board level perspective, training budgets should not be cut as the economic depression has seen, but boosted and prioritsed to the top of the corporate agenda.

Get the right mix to create the right team

Lizard BalanceHuman capital is one of the most critical areas of a business. In the midst of the talent war, it is now even more important than technology. What is even more important is the caliber of people in a company and the competencies they bring to the table. People are now are the main driver of a business. If companies are to thrive, they must take responsibility for realizing the potential of their staff. They must ensure that any training brings about clearly identifiable and measurable improvements in relevant skills and boosts productivity. However, a pre-condition for this is to have a balanced workforce. A quote by Management Today magazine (2006) captures the essence of this balance by indicating that, “to work well, any company needs a variety of functions – if they unite, it is a premiership side.” A strong team therefore, is made up of a balance of styles. Here are four teamwork styles and their characteristics:

TEAM STYLE 1: Routine Keeper – Tracks details, monitors deadlines, handles paperwork, keeps minutes.

TEAM STYLE 2: People Person – Communicates on multiple levels, builds relationships, brokers solutions, resolves conflicts.

TEAM STYLE 3: Analyst – Evaluates costs, risks and ROI of various options.

TEAM STYLE 4: Visionary – Sees the bigger picture, creates compelling business visions, keeps ahead of trends, thinks outside the box, takes advantage of opportunities.

A lack of styles in any company is likely lead to problems which is precisely why many people working together on teams have differences of opinion. So a company must put in place effective recruiting practices in line with its business objectives. Built on to this is a need for a proper understanding of how each individual works and more importantly what motivates them. When this happens, the company is on course to creating a good team with the right balance of skills and aptitudes.