Success comes in many forms, but the journey to get there is rarely a simple one. There are ups and downs, twists and turns, and often an ongoing struggle of trial and error before you find success – whether it be personal or professional.
There is no “one size fits all” solution, and if you were to speak to a hundred successful individuals, they would cite for you a hundred different approaches. Yet, despite this array of issues, there are trends and patterns we can all use to our advantage, including examples of how successful folk have approached mistakes and failure.
In fact, the truth is that those you admire have built a career on the backs of mistakes and failures, learning from them and progressing a little further each time. They are no different from you and me; they are not immune to obstacles. What’s different is that they use these obstacles to their advantage.
I realised this after interviewing 163 entrepreneurs for my latest book (The Successful Mistake) about how these individuals transformed past mistakes into subsequent success. They taught me that mistakes happen regardless of money, fame or fortune, and that it’s your job to turn things around (and spot these issues before they have a chance to build).
From the anecdotes my interviewees shared, I want to share four such mistakes that you may be making right now. If you happen to be making one or more of these errors – and you allow them to continue – they potentially could transform into business-threatening failures.
If you catch them beforehand, however, they’re all often easy to fix.
1. Don’t listen to the “yes men”
When I interviewed the New York Times best-selling author Steve Olsher (What is Your What?), he told me how he built a successful online business (Liquor.com) before the dot.com boom. Because he was in the right place at the right time, Olsher said, he enjoyed a lot of success, and had many people “beating down my door.”
Investors and “experts” alike showered him with advice and promises of this and that. But, a caveat: “They wanted to see experienced CEOs and CFOs [join his company].” So, Olsher told me, when I interviewed him: “I literally signed away my management rights to the company.”
Within a few months of signing over those rights, he – and so many others – watched as the dot.com crash disrupted their lives.
Those “yes men”? They disappeared, and Olsher realised that he was the only person who could run his business. It wasn’t that he didn’t speak enough or listen enough, but rather that he didn’t filter out the noise. The takeaway? Once you build a successful company, this “noise” will surround you. It’s your job to disregard it, and get rid of those yes men. They represent a mistake that’s easy to fix when there are just a few of them. But the more there are, the harder it gets.
2. Don’t get stuck in your own head
The flip side to Olsher’s issue of listening to others is to lose yourself in your own ideas.
Few people create greatness on their own. It takes collaboration and communication, which teenage prodigy Fraser Doherty lacked during the early days of his startup, SuperJam.
Having learned how to make tasty jam from his grandmother, young Fraser began to make it and sell it around his local community as a young teen. Word took off. Local shops wanted to stock it. Fraser quickly outgrew his operations, so he decided to go “all in” and build his brand (so he could pitch to the U.K.’s major supermarkets later that year).
The teen hired a local design agency to develop his brand, but he had his own ideas and insisted they stick to them. That’s how he lost himself in his own ideas, forgetting to involve other people in the lead-up to his big pitch. When that day arrived, things didn’t go according to plan. The supermarket chains rejected him. They said no.
Devastated, Fraser had to pick up the pieces, soon realising that his own lack of communication had been the issue. He had lost himself in himself – an issue we all face at some point. Your job is to stop this from happening, and force yourself to involve others in the process.
3. Don’t play the blame game
When hardship hits, it’s easy to play the blame game (by blaming either yourself or someone else).
Tech entrepreneur Brian Foley and his team of co-founders experienced this as they committed to turning their app-idea to app-reality. They spent months designing the Buddytruk app, and after positive feedback, knew their Uber-like service would prove successful.
The problem was, nobody on their team had the experience to develop the app’s framework, so they hired a programmer.This tech expert soon finished the app, but the result fell short of Foley’s and the team’s expectations.
“At first, we blamed the developer,” Foley told me, during our interview. “They didn’t a do a good job, but then as we thought about the situation more, we realised we’d never communicated what we wanted – and didn’t fully appreciate what we wanted as a business or team.”
Blame didn’t solve the problem (it rarely does) for the team members; but taking a step back, and summing responsibility for their own lack of communication, did. They soon got on the same page. They build a better app. They articulated their idea and then some; but that happy upshot occurred only after they quit playing the blame game.
4. Do not presume . . . anything!
This final mistake is possibly the most dangerous of all, because you know what you know, and it all seems so simple to you.
You build a business, perform a task, work through a process and tell yourself that the process is second nature to you. It’s easy for you, and it’s easy to presume other people will find it easy, too. Big mistake.
Podcaster and serial entrepreneur Ben Krueger found this out the hard way during the early days of Cashflow Podcasting.
Initially, Krueger told me, he found success after success, because the popularity of podcasting meant that more people needed help creating, launching and promoting their shows. He offered a high-quality and personal service, and soon had so much work that he couldn’t keep up.
That’s when he hired his first employee to ease the strain, and after showing that person how to use the successful process he had developed, he got back to work under the assumption that all was well.
Soon after, however, a few of his customers noticed a drop-off in quality, and his previous happy customer base grew increasingly unhappy by the week.
It wasn’t that Krueger’s new employee didn’t have the right skill set, but rather that Krueger, the founder, didn’t take the time to communicate the exact process his customers were used to (step by step).
The takeaway: As a leader, you cannot presume that those around you know what you know. What is easy for you may not be easy for them. How you work may not be how they work.
This isn’t their problem. It’s yours; it’s your job to communicate what you want, how you want it and why you want it that way – and then, show your employees/interns how to do what you want them to do.
These are just four mistakes that have the power to shake your world; and if you cannot relate to at least one of them, I’ll be amazed. So, right now, I ask you to take a step back and honestly answer:
… Am I making one of these mistakes?
If you are, don’t worry. Get back to work, turn things around and fix these issues before they grow into something much larger.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Want To Achieve Greatness? Force Everyone Out Of Their Comfort Zones
Diverse teams are better performing teams, but only when they are inclusive.
Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance.
Diverse teams are smarter teams. They have higher rates of innovation, error detection and creative problem solving. In environments that possess diverse stakeholders, being able to have different perspectives in the room may even enable more alignment with varied customer needs.
Being able to think from different perspectives actually lights up areas of the brain, such as the emotional centres needed for perspective taking that would previously not be activated in similar or non-diverse groups.
In a nutshell, you use more of your brain when you encourage different perspectives by including different views in the room. However, work done at the NeuroLeadership Institute has proven that this only works when diverse teams are inclusive, and this still remains a key challenge in business today.
When we consider the amount of diversity present in the modern workplace and the addition of more diverse thinking as a result of globalisation and the use of virtual work teams, it’s clear that the ability to unlock the power of diversity is just waiting to be unleashed.
Here’s how you can unlock this powerful performance driver.
The Social Brain
Despite the rich sources of diversity present in most workplaces, companies are still often unable to leverage the different perspectives available to them in driving business goals. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have enabled us to understand why. The major breakthrough has centred around the basic needs of the social brain.
We have an instinctual need to continually define whether we are within an in-group or an out-group. This is an evolutionary remnant of the brain that enabled us to strive to remain within a herd or group where we had access to social support structures, food and potential mates. If we were part of the out-group it could literally have meant life or death. We are therefore hypersensitive to feelings of exclusion as it affected our survival.
The brain is further hardwired for threat and unconsciously scans our environments for threats five times a second. This means, coupled with our life or death need for group affiliation, we are hypersensitive to finding sameness and a need for in-group inclusion.
When we heard a rustle in a bush it was safer to assume that it may be a lion than a gust of wind. It is this threat detection network that has kept us alive until today. The challenge is that society has developed faster than our brains. In times of uncertainty we often jump to what is more threatening.
Some of the ways that this plays out is when we leave someone out of an email and they begin to wonder why they were left out. The problem is that it’s easy to unconsciously exclude someone if we are not actively including. The trouble occurs when we incorrectly use physical proxies to define in-group and out-group, as this is the most readily available evidence used unconsciously by the brain.
Barriers to Inclusion
A study done between a diverse group and non-diverse group demonstrates how this plays out in the work place. Both groups completed a challenging task and were asked how they felt they did as a team after the exercise.
The effectiveness of the team and how they perceived effectiveness were both measured in the study. It’s no surprise that the diverse team did better in the completion of the problem-solving task, but what is surprising is that they felt they did not do well. In contrast, the non-diverse team did worse, but felt that they had done well.
Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance. It feels easier to work in a team where we feel at ease in sameness, but in that environment we are more prone to groupthink and are less effective.
We can’t assume that when we place diverse teams together we will automatically reap the rewards of higher team performance. As discussed, we’re hardwired for sameness and if we’re not actively including, we may be unconsciously excluding.
If we want diversity to become a silver bullet, we need to actively make efforts to find common ground amongst disparate team members. This in turn will build team cohesion and create a sense of unity, including reminders of a shared purpose and shared goals. Many global businesses put an emphasis on a shared corporate culture that supersedes individual difference.
It’s the same mechanism that is used in science fiction films that bond individuals together against a common alien invasion. It can also be used to describe why we felt such a great sense of accomplishment during the 2010 World Cup as we banded together as a nation.
We must also make sure we uplift all team members by sharing credit widely when available and recognising performance. The last thing we can do to further inclusion is to create clarity for teams. By removing ambiguity, we allow individuals to not jump to conclusions about their membership within groups and calm their minds so they can use their mental capacity to focus on the task at hand.
To Get A Job Or Not Get A Job. What Are We Teaching Our Children?
Remember the days where if you went to school and studied a degree, you got a job and built a career that enabled you to retire comfortably? I don’t, in fact I’m not sure those days ever really existed. If they did, they are long gone.
Today STATS SA tells us only 1 in 3 of the youth in South Africa have a job, even worse still – 34% of graduates aged 15-24 are unemployed1. The bottom line is that there are not enough jobs to cater for every child that finishes school. Our children need to learn entrepreneurship. If we want a brighter future for them, we need to nurture, teach and develop the skills and behaviours required to create jobs of their own.
With no intention of knocking the school system it would seem for the most part it discourages entrepreneurial thinking on a fundamental level; it prepares students to become good employees. Tuck your shirt in, sit still, stand in line, do your homework, focus on the task, check this box, you get the picture. Three decades ago this may have worked but it won’t work when we are trying to teach our children to survive the forth industrial revolution and prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist!
It may sound like a cliché, but kids are our future. As a parent I believe one of the most important duties we have is to give our children the best possible start. We need to prepare them on how to live, survive and thrive in a world that is rapidly changing, mostly unpredictable and often unforgiving. This starts by identifying the skills and nurturing the behaviours that will give them the best chance for success.
Teaching entrepreneurship prepares our children for the future
Entrepreneurship encompasses so much more than starting and running a business. It’s a shift in mindset, a different way of thinking. Entrepreneurship views problems as opportunities and fuels creativity in the pursuit of solutions. All these skills can be applied to life.
Successful entrepreneurs are resourceful, self-confident and tenacious. They are great communicators and marketers, good at identifying and understanding risk. They have learnt from failure and made mistakes. Entrepreneurs are financially literate, understand cash flow and how to manage money. Again, these are skills that every child and student can benefit from.
To make it in the workplace of the future you will need to be self-confident, innovative, creative, motivated and curious.
Employers will need to hire staff that have the creative ability to innovate and ensure the longevity of their organisations. Those people that show entrepreneurial flair will be in demand in a world that is ever and more rapidly changing.
Exposing our children to entrepreneurship, teaching them the fundamental skills and behaviours required to start a business, and letting them know it is a career choice should be a requirement in all schools and endorsed and supported by all parents.
- Youth unemployment still high in Q1: 2018 http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=11129
How To, In Practice, Distinguish Between Executive, Non-Executive And Independent Directors And Their Functions
Learn more about the differences in executive and non-executive directors.
Definition of a director in terms of the Companies Act
Section 1 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (Companies Act) defines a Director as “a member of the board of a company, as contemplated in section 66, or an alternate director of a company and includes any person occupying the position of director or alternate director, by whatever name designated”.
Powers of directors
Section 66 of the Companies Act determines that the business and affairs of the company must be managed by or under the direction of its board and that the board has the authority to exercise all of the power and perform any of the functions of the company, except to the extent that the Companies Act or the Company’s Memorandum of Incorporation provides otherwise.
The board of directors, for the first time in our current Companies Act has been assigned the legal duty and responsibility and play a very important role in managing the affairs of the company and making vital decisions on behalf of the company.
Number of directors required on a board
In the case of a private company, or a personal liability company, the board must consist of at least one director and the case of a public company, or non-profit company, the board must consist of at least three directors. A JSE listed company requires at least four directors. The company’s Memorandum of Incorporation may however specify a higher number, substituting the minimum number of directors required.
How to distinguish between executive, non-executive and independent directors and their functions
A clear distinction is noticeable between the different types of directors in practice, even though the Act does not distinguish between executive, non-executive and independent directors.
The below table gives a clear understanding of the differences between executive and non-executive directors:
Member of the board of directors with directors’ duties.
|Part of the executive team, as an employee of the company and generally under a service contract with the company.||Not an employee of the company.|
|Involved in the day-to-day management of the company.||Not involved in the day-to-day management of the company.|
|In addition to a salary, does not receive directors’ fees.||May receive Directors’ fees, but does not receive a salary.|
|Shareholders are not involved in approving their salary packages.||Shareholders must approve their fees by way of special resolution, in advance.|
|Employee entitlements apply, such as annual and sick leave.||No entitlements apply.|
|Has an intimate knowledge of the workings of the company.||They contribute to the development of management strategies and monitor the activities of the executive directors.|
|They carry an added responsibility. Entrusted with ensuring that the information laid before the board by management is an accurate reflection of their understanding of the affairs of the company.||Plays an important role in providing objective judgement, independent of management on issues the company are facing.
Independent, non-executive director
An independent, non-executive director does not have a relationship, directly or indirectly with the company other than his or her directorship. They should be free of any relationship that could materially interfere with the independence process of his or her judgement and they do not represent the shareholders of the company.
An independent, non-executive director should be evaluated on an annual basis to determine if they are still considered independent.
The role of these directors
All directors should apply objective judgment and an independent state of mind, regardless of the classification as an executive, non-executive or independent non-executive director.
Executive directors may be appointed as non-executive directors on other boards if this does not influence their current position and is in accordance with company policy.
Before a director accepts the appointment, they should be familiar with their duties and responsibilities and be provided with the necessary training and advice.
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