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Why Tyra Banks Cold-Called Zappos’s Tony Hsieh

Never stop learning.

Ashlea Harvey

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Tyra Banks has long played the role of wise teacher-on America’s Next Top Model and now as a “boardroom adviser” on NBC’s The New Celebrity Apprentice. But mentorship is also at the core of her businesses. And she’s just as eager to be a mentee.

When it comes to finding mentors, I hear you’re a big fan of the cold call

Yeah, I have no shame in it. I may have fear in my belly, but I just push past those nerves. Years ago, I read Delivering Happiness, by [Zappos CEO] Tony Hsieh. I was struck by how he saw company culture, and I knew I wanted to build a business like that one day. So I picked up the phone and dialed his number. He didn’t believe it was me! Over time we developed a friendship, then a mentorship. I’ve learned so much from Tony. Especially the HR nuts and bolts.

Related: Zappo’s Customer Service Excellence Comes Down To Company Culture

Richard Branson is also a mentor of yours. How did you meet him?

tyra-banks-as-richard-branson

Tyra Banks as Richard Branson

I dressed as him for Halloween! My makeup artist transformed me without any prosthetics. I put pictures out on social media, and then I got a wonderful call from Richard. He said I was the most beautiful he’d ever looked. From there, my team connected with his, and he later invited me to do a Google Hangout with him.

He wanted to talk about failure – my failures, his failures. I decided then to just put him on the spot and ask him to mentor me. I was nervous, but I figured, I like everything this man stands for. I can learn a lot from him. Let me just go for it. So I asked him to mentor me, in front of thousands of people. He kind of hemmed and hawed, “Ah, I have a wonderful team of people, Tyra. They can totally be there for you!” And I was like, “That team meaning you, right?” I just kept pushing him. I also pay it forward by mentoring people myself.

What is your mentoring style?

I’m constantly teaching and enriching my team because I want them to learn and grow and move up in the company. Either that, or I want them to move out but always have a positive outlook on what they learned during their time with me. You know, something one of my Harvard professors said was “Feedback on the run is better than none.”

I used to feel like you had to have this, like, formal meeting in order to give or receive feedback. But sometimes you just don’t have time. Especially if you’re a startup, or you’re busy, or you’re going through a raise, or a sale, or mergers and acquisitions, or just drama, whatever it is.

If you’re running to the bathroom and they’re in the hallway, there is nothing wrong with giving them 30 seconds of feedback. Just make sure it has a positive spin so it doesn’t sound crazy.

Related: How To Do It The Branson (Centre) Way With Mentoring

What is a question entrepreneurs don’t ask their mentors enough?

To be hard as hell on me. To hurt my feelings. To be so blunt that I might cry myself to sleep at night. But then I get up the next morning and I’m ready to attack my problem.

You’ve said that your mom, Carolyn London-Johnson, whom you have worked with, is one of your greatest mentors. Were you ever nervous to mix family with business?

tyra-banks-business-advice

No, not at all. My mom was a life raft for me. I was going through so many difficulties in the modeling industry, I begged her to quit her job [as a photographer] and work with me. At the same time, we had tons of conflict because we were still mother and daughter.

She would get angry at me when I wouldn’t pick up the phone, call my modeling agency and tell them that I was dissatisfied; I wanted her to do it. Or we’d argue because she’d say, “OK, I’ll call for you,” the phone would start ringing, then she’d throw the phone at me and run out of the room. As an 18-year-old, I thought she was scared to talk to them. Now at 43, I know she was pushing me out of the nest and making me strong enough to stand up for myself. So a lot of our arguments were about her empowering me.

In May, you’re guest lecturing to a select group of M.B.A. students at Stanford University on creating and protecting a personal brand. Do the same strategies apply to building a personal brand as a business brand?

There are some similarities and some differences. A business can crash and burn and you can start a new one, but if your personal brand crashes, there may be nothing you can do. You can’t lose yourself. You can’t lose your body. It’s not as easy as losing a business and starting again. That’s what we’re going to be talking about on my first day of class – the positives and negatives of intertwining a business brand with a personal brand.

Related: Personal Branding Pitfalls Women Should Avoid

You’ve admitted to being a “bad delegator” in the first seven seasons of America’s Next Top Model. How did you ultimately identify that as a weakness and how did you fix it?

americas-next-top-model

I was burned out and exhausted and eventually realised that I had to rely on people who knew what they were doing. It took me a long time to figure that out. I am not a leader who is just an overseer; I feel extremely connected to things. It’s not hands-on, it’s body-on. But I’ve learned to focus on my core competencies, hire people who are better at some things than I am and trust those people.

That said, when I am adamant about something, those people should respect that and get behind it. When I hire a team, I want to be wrong 70 percent of the time. I want to be in a meeting and say something and they either say something better or make it better.

Seventy percent of the time I say, “Yeah, let’s go with that!” But 30 percent of the time I say, “No, let’s not go with that; I need you guys to get behind this.” That 70-30 rule has a lot to do with delegation and trust.

You’ve talked a lot about the importance of pivoting. Looking back at your various ventures, was there ever a time that you wish you had stuck something out?

I can’t think of ones I left that I wish I’d continued, but I almost walked away from Top Model about 10 years ago. My attorney sat me down and said, “What are you doing? You created this global phenomenon and you’re just going to walk away? Have you lost your mind?” He did an intervention and stopped what would have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

Why did you want to leave?

I had started a talk show, and I felt like I was going out of my mind with stress.

Related: 4 Stress-Management Tips For Reducing Anxiety And Getting More Done

With Tyra Beauty, you’ve said it was important to you to create a brand that wasn’t a licensing deal but a true self-funded start-up. Why did you choose a multilevel marketing model?

We call it “social selling,” and I chose it for a number of reasons. For many years, I’ve been telling people, particularly women, to be their own boss. Be the CEO of your life. Take control! Have self-esteem, have self-worth, all of these things. When I first decided to start a cosmetics company, I was just going to put product on a shelf.

Then one of my mentors explained to me about social selling and how close it was to my messaging of empowerment. I also thought about my mother and her struggles. She was unhappily married to my dad, but she stayed because her self-esteem was low and she didn’t have any financial outlets. I’m on tour now for Tyra Beauty.

I’ve gone to Denver, Phoenix, Houston, Portland. I’m spending time with my “beautytainers” [members of Tyra Beauty’s sales team] and their families. You hear so many stories. One of my beautytainers had never seen the ocean, and this allowed her to put her feet in the sand for the first time. For most of them, Tyra Beauty is a side hustle. Extra side money means you can have a more interesting weekend. Or instead of a Honda Civic, you have a Honda Accord. By no means am I saying, “Get rich quick!” That’s not what it’s about. Tyra Beauty is not so much life-changing as it is a life enhancement.

Any tips for handling press exposure as a business leader?

Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Your mic is always hot.

If you could start one business not tied to fashion or beauty, what would it be?

hospitality-management

I’m obsessed with hospitality. Obsessed! Hotels, experiences – that will be my next side hustle. I met a friend at Harvard who got his undergraduate degree in hospitality from Cornell. We really want to open up a very experiential type of hotel, something out of the ordinary. Because, you know, that’s what I like to do – things that are kind of different.

The eyes have it

The simple way to impress Tyra Banks (or anyone else in a rush).

Eyes are big with Tyra. Any Next Top Model fan can recite her “smize” tip (smile with the eyes!). But her focus goes far beyond making good photos. “If someone is asking me for modeling advice, start-up advice, business advice, entertainment advice,” she says, “and I answer them but I see their eyes glaze over because I’m not giving them the answer they wanted, I know not to invest any more time in that person. When you see them go, ‘Uh-huh, yeah, oh, uh-huh,’ I’m like, Uh, OK! Moving on.”

This isn’t just a Tyra thing. This is an established body language thing. The eyes can convey many messages, and quickly impress (or turn off) a future mentor or partner. There’s a formula to it: “Maintaining eye contact for roughly 60 percent of a conversation comes across as interested, friendly and trustworthy,” explains Travis Bradberry, president of TalentSmart, which provides emotional intelligence tests and training for businesses, and coauthor of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Too much eye contact can be perceived as “aggressive and creepy,” he says, while too little can signal boredom or embarrassment. And be mindful of the rest of your face, he says: Fake smiles are obvious (because real ones crinkle), furrowed brows denote stress or discomfort, and unblinking stares might signal that you’re lying – or just scare people off. So get rid of the sunglasses! And practice your smize.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Ashlea Harvey is a qualified media trainer and has a Masters degree in Media and Broadcasting from Lynn University in the USA. She was the Cape Town reporter for CNBC Africa and hosted the show, CNBC’s Eye on Western Cape. She has reported from The World Economic Forum, The Mining Indaba, The World Bank and the JSE. After graduating Summa Cum Laude, Ashlea went on to work at Al Jazeera and ABC News in the USA, as well as working in politics on Capitol Hill. Ashlea has interviewed some of the world’s most prominent business professionals as well as a range of South Africa’s top CEOs. Let Ashlea Harvey teach you the art of presentational tactics and how to give a killer interview.

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Leading

6 Questions To Help Anyone Get Better At Anything

Top athletes have coaches because they’re winners. Business leaders should be the same.

Nadine Todd

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Dr Marshall Goldsmith

Whether you’re a CEO looking for a mentor, coaching your management team, or structuring a coaching programme for your managers to implement, there are six questions that can help anyone get better at anything.

The Expert

Dr Marshall Goldsmith is a best-selling author and world-renowned business educator and coach. He has coached top CEOs, including Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

The key to a successful coaching programme is simple dialogue and establishing responsibility. The person being coached must understand and agree that success lies in their hands. They must take responsibility for their actions.

Related: The Mentorship Challenge – Behind Every Great Leader Is A Great Mentor

The Method

Once every few months, have a direct coaching session. Ask (or answer for yourself) these six questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What are you doing well?
  4. Do you have suggestions for my improvement?
  5. How can I help you?
  6. So you have suggestions for me?

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The One Leadership Trait That Will Ensure You Succeed At Anything You Do

Can you adapt when the tough times hit?

Matthew Toren

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Very few things are certain in entrepreneurship. Regardless of how much your preparation or previous experience, obstacles and events you never considered are bound to creep up. Things will not go as planned. And while that does not mean a lack of planning is okay, it does mean that you need one critical leadership trait to survive and thrive – not just in entrepreneurship, but in all you do.

But, before I get to that, I have a story for you.

Several years ago, my brother Adam and I met an entrepreneur who had been somewhat of a strip mall king in a certain part of the U.S. He shared his story with us one afternoon, and we were amazed at the turn of events he had experienced in the previous few years. He had owned about 60 strip malls and, up until 2006, had been expanding pretty quickly.

He explained that he had put a hold on expansion because he was one of few people at that time who saw the looming real estate collapse that was about to hit. Not only did he see it coming, but he was actually very excited about it. He considered it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he spent considerable time and money preparing to capitalise on the downturn. He liquidated much of his stock portfolio, downsized his company and even sold several properties while he knew he could get top dollar – all in preparation for a strip mall buying spree once the time was right.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

When the crash finally hit, about six months later than he originally predicted, he was shocked when it didn’t go as he had hoped. In his area of the country, commercial real estate faired better than in most areas, and the amazing deals he expected to see just weren’t there. He was able to close some bargain properties, but his “spree” fizzled pretty quickly, and he was stuck with liquid capital that needed a home – and one that offered the kind of return he had originally planned for.

With no experience in residential real estate, but knowing there were plenty of fire sales going on in that sector, he set out to change his entire approach, focusing on buying single family houses. He ended up purchasing nearly 2,500 houses (mostly from the banks), and in many cases, was able to rent them back to the original owners, allowing people to stay in a house they would otherwise have lost.

While still real estate-related, this new venture was a far cry from the strip mall business. But, as residential property values have recovered, you can imagine the return he’s enjoyed from his investments. Today, his portfolio is diversified among commercial and residential, and he’s waiting for the next once-in-a-lifetime scenario to come along.

The one thing

What was it that this entrepreneur had – and I would argue every successful entrepreneur has – that allowed him to be ultra-successful, even when things didn’t go as planned? It’s flexibility. Having the ability and willingness to pivot when something gets in your way is crucial to your success.

There is not a single thriving business that looks exactly like its founder envisioned it when he or she started out. Mark Zuckerberg had no idea Facebook would be what it is today and had no way of knowing the giant obstacles he’d encounter along the way. The same goes for any successful enterprise. And the one thing that the leaders of those enterprises had to have had is flexibility.

Related: How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

Just as important as being flexible is knowing when to pivot (or “flex”). Someone who pivots at the first sign of change ends up being all over the place – unfocused and scattered. The key is to know when flexibility is necessary to stay on a course to success.

One great indicator that it’s time to pivot is when you feel like giving up. When a challenge presents itself that’s so daunting that you consider throwing in the towel, think flexibility instead. How can you change direction – maybe toward something you never even considered – to stay in the game?

Don’t be so married to your ideas that you must either rigidly pursue them or give them up completely. Incorporate flexibility into your life in a smart way, and you’ll be a leader in all you do.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How To Make Speedy Decisions As A Leader

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Dirk Coetsee

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“Trusting one another, however can never mean trusting with the lip and mistrusting in the heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi


“Self-trust is the first secret of success” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Rapid decision-making

Harvard research has identified amongst other key traits of the most successful CEOs’ of Fortune 500 companies the ability to make decisions quickly and act on them at a rapid speed albeit with the inherent acknowledgement that they might get it wrong forty percent of the time.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

Why is speedy decision making and a rapid pace of execution so critical? Top leaders know that making quick decisions combined with swift execution creates a much better chance of success as opposed to very slow and bureaucratic verdicts underpinned by little or no action.

When there is a high level of distrust amongst the stakeholders in any entrepreneurial venture literally everything slows down as negative arguments ensue and takes up an enormous amount of precious time. Forced action underpinned by distrust loses quality and speed and can potentially bring a business to its knees.

“The speed of trust” is therefore an extremely valuable principle that all Leaders should live by, that is if they wish to serve a higher purpose than themselves and others. Those Leaders whom have developed a high level of self-trust and have earned the trust of their team members have put themselves in the very advantageous position of being empowered to move towards their vision at a rapid pace through quickfire decisions positively multiplied by confident and competent execution.

“The speed of trust” does not mean that decisions are made without careful consideration and stakeholder input putting the level of quality of execution at imminent risk. It simply means that the decision-making process is quicker than most as mistrust does not cast unnecessary shadows of doubt over the intentions and ambitions of all the stakeholders.

A Leader or Leaders whom has fostered self-trust within themselves will not go through lengthy spells of procrastination that those whom lack self -awareness and suffer from severe self- doubt has to go through.

How do I execute at the speed of trust?

How do I practically bring the principle of the “speed of trust” to fruition within my business? Firstly, ensure that this critical principal is applied throughout all business processes which starts with hiring trustworthy people and by working those out of the business whom cannot be trusted.  Secondly, as  a Leader your actions and words echo throughout every aspect of the business therefore do what you say you are going to do. Admit to your mistakes and fix them.

Thirdly be authentic in your pursuit of the vision of your business. One of the possible ways to achieve that is by being a visible and living example of the business values that you advocate as a leader.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

Lastly in order for you to be trusted as a leader you must first show trust in others. Trust others by giving them more responsibility and verbalise your high level of trust in your team members. Passionately speak about this principle and its positive fruits at every opportunity. Make the practical display of this principle by employees or any other stakeholders known to all stakeholders and be lavish with your praise when anyone is willing to earn the trust of other team members.

A very good example of this principle in action was embodied by the Supreme Russian commander, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov whom never lost a battle and was respected by both his men and his enemies. He earned the trust of his men by being amongst them as often as he could, by sharing their hardships and by offering them the most authentic and quality military training known to man within that period of history.

Suvorov was a humble student of warfare and documented every detail of his learning experiences which included setbacks that he faced. He observed the morale of his men first hand and ensured that he inspired them not only through his inspiring speeches but by being a living example of discipline and bravery.

I will leave the reader with an important question to ponder, one that has echoed throughout history: Do you trust enough to be trusted?

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