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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

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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What Kind Of Leader Are You?

Your effectiveness in scaling your business starts with the kind of leader you are. Here’s how you can build yourself up into a leader others will follow.

Nicholas Haralambous

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When you are in start-up mode it’s tough to take a step back and think about the kind of leader you are or want to be. Most of the time you’re fighting to keep your business alive, never mind think about how you lead.

This is especially challenging when it’s faster and more efficient to just step up and do things yourself. It’s easier for you to make the decisions, do the work, check the work, follow up on the work, etc. However, it’s this situation that prevents young companies from scaling to the next level.

Ask More Questions

I work really hard every day to be quieter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail so dismally that I actually do more damage than good. You see, I like to talk. I like to hear other people talk and I like to bash around ideas until they become something bigger, something better and something that can move from idea into action.

Related: Your Leadership Journey Starts Now… And Go!

Coupled with liking to talk, I also like being right. Who doesn’t? Add onto these two things the fact that I like to read and research and then throw in a teeny bit of ego or pride and it’s a recipe for leadership disaster.

If I am the most well-read, loudest and most opinionated person in a meeting then all that happens is that I end up pitching an idea, getting everyone to agree with this idea and then assigning the work on the idea to become a reality. Basically, I am working with, for and amongst myself. It’s an echo chamber that leads to bad ideas surviving and an unhappy team leaving.

The Collective Is More Intelligent Than the Individual

As a leader and founder, you probably feel like you are the person with the best understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and the best person to solve the problem. This can lead to a dictatorial approach to leadership, team inclusion and problem solving. You have an idea, you tell your team and they do what you tell them.

If this is how you do it then I have to ask you a simple question: Why did you hire smart people? Just so you could tell them what to do? If that’s the case rather hire capable but cheap people, not the best.

Your best people are there to help you scale your business beyond your own thinking and time. There are a set amount of hours in the day. There are only so many emails you can answer in your day.

A good example in my business is customer support. We pride ourselves in our impeccable customer service online and offline. I can’t physically answer every question posed by customers but I can hire incredible colleagues, entrust them with my vision and views on our customers and then trust them to go out and use their good judgement.

Work With The Best

Here’s the kicker to being a good leader: You need to work with the best people.

This is not something I say as a passing statement. I want you to stop reading right now and think about the ten people you interact with at your company every day. Are they the best people you could be working with? If not, why not? How do you find the best people and bring them into your business? Go and do that.

Related: You’re The Boss, So Be The Boss

It’s important to work with the best for two very simple reasons.

Working with the best people pushes you to be better. If you are literally the smartest person in the room in every aspect of your business it means that you are surrounded by subpar players and you are not learning anything. The people around you are meant to educate you and push your business into places you didn’t even know were there.

Second, working with the best people attracts other incredible people. If you have a business full of average team members, can you guess what kind of people they pull towards your business? More average or less than average people. Why? Because average people don’t want to be surrounded by incredible people. If they are, they look worse and not better.

It’s incredibly difficult to be a good leader all of the time. In fact, it’s close to impossible. What you can do is try to be a leader who communicates, learns and grows with your team in an open manner.

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All The Business Wisdom You Need From 4 Famous Entrepreneurs

Combine the knowledge of the greatest entrepreneurs with your own hard earned lessons.

Brian Hamilton

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There’s a lot of deification of entrepreneur “personalities.” The truth is that a few entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are probably luckier than good. But, some of the praise and deification is warranted. There have been some fantastic business leaders in this country, and one can learn a ton from studying them. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the four entrepreneurs who have taught me the most over the years.

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