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.
Richard Branson is also a mentor of yours. How did you meet him?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
The Buzzword Isn’t Disruption, It’s Determination
Every other headline and insight demands that you become the ultimate sword in the disruption battle, but the real focus should be on determination.
The biggest business conversation that the entrepreneur should be having today is around disruption. The problem is that being disruptive – invading a traditional space and reinventing every part of how it is done and perceived – isn’t as important as being determined in your methodology and focus when it comes to achieving disruption. Uber, the ultimate disruption example, didn’t miraculously appear overnight. It was the determination and foresight of its founder that saw the company completely transform an industry.
Decide to disrupt
If you want to disrupt, you need to make a conscious decision to change the way things are done and the way people engage with a specific market, niche or solution. If you want to disrupt your business model you need to understand exactly what that means and how it will impact on your people, your company and your clients.
Disruption isn’t just about being the next Uber or Airbnb. It’s about improving and changing the way people do things in a fundamental way that means something, that delivers value.
It also has to happen at speed.
You aren’t going to disrupt an industry if you’re still dithering over decisions. Slow isn’t usually associated with disrupt.
The reason why disruption is associated with determination is because it will make you extremely uncomfortable. Changing things and redefining how you work, do business and live, requires that you completely change where you are right now. You need to be open to transforming the way you do business and this process can be both awkward and uncomfortable.
Go to war
Disruption is going to war with industry on behalf of your customers. It’s also the need to look internally and constantly question your market, how you engage with your clients and the solutions you deliver. This is not an economy that allows for the entrepreneur to rest on their laurels – someone will quickly disrupt you. You need to be determined enough to succeed that you can relentlessly reassess your business, your systems and your goals.
This is the challenge that’s affecting the large enterprise today.
These behemoths risk being easily disrupted as they don’t like change. It has left many doors wide open for those entrepreneurs who are open to opportunity, but if they step into these new spaces they are under pressure to remain agile and aware or they run the risk of becoming the next incumbent that’s disrupted.
Change your thinking
As you ponder the relevance and value of disruption, both as a business and as an internal benchmark, there are a few questions you can ask to refine your process and your thinking:
- Do I deliver the same impact on my customers every day? Impact is important – is your product or service still impacting on your clients the way that you (and they) want.
- What questions are clients asking and how is my business answering them?
- Do you need to fundamentally change the way you manage certain systems and solutions to ensure there is value?
- Is my value proposition still meaningful and does it attract the talent I need to drive my business forward?
- Does my operating model still deliver to the scale and efficiency that I need or does it need improvement?
Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team
The question every successful business leader needs to consider – How do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
As I witnessed the rain dancing against the window panes of the Mega mall in Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I started reflecting on how to lead a culturally diverse business team.
Thousands of Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans passed me in the hallways of this gargantuan construction and the Dalai Lamas’ wise words reminded me that at the core of it all, irrespective of what your nationality is or what your belief system is, in general:
“We all want to experience joy and avoid suffering”
A key question that every team leader should carefully consider is how do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
How can we as a diverse team be united in the joys of experiencing an expanding and successful business with a wonderful and constructive culture and avoid the suffering of a failing business and the negative experience of a toxic culture? These are of course ‘loaded’ questions because inherent within these questions are the birthing of other key challenges –
How can we as Leaders create a relatively stable and inspirational environment from within which it is easier for each individual to unlock their vast potential when vast differences in upbringing, schooling, world views, and religious beliefs exists within one team. Especially when considering the ever changing and evolving business environment within which we operate?
Fulfilling the role of a Business Leadership coach, trainer, or life coach as the situation demanded over several years I have coached, Lead, or trained Pilipino, Chinese, Malay, African, and European people. A very key learning from my experiences is that a “cross cultural and shared understanding” can be created that transcends any spoken language or any national culture.
This common language and culture has many elements but for the purpose of this article I will focus on the three key aspects:
Have a united and focused purpose
When a united and focussed purpose exists for the business team that they collectively place higher than themselves the barriers of differences in upbringing, schooling, and world views can dissolve within their shared purpose. As business leaders we cannot refer to purpose too much, even more importantly that that, we must be living, walking and talking examples of the businesses’ purpose.
To simplify the concept of purpose it can be said that purpose is the highest intent for, or the very good reason why we do what we do. That reason is or should be even more important than ourselves. When we really love what we do and sincerely so our performance is likely to be very good, on the other hand if we totally dislike the line of business that we are in or totally despise our role within an entrepreneurial venture we are likely not going to unleash our unlimited potential.
It could be argued that the sole purpose for having a business is to make a profit. Through this article I argue that that is not a strong enough reason to sustain you and make you thrive even through difficult times. The strange thing is that when you truly live your purpose with all your might and tirelessly inspire your team to do the same the money comes anyway…
Servant heart and attitude
Rabindranath Tagore famously said:
“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”
A servant heart is universal and transcends cultural difference, a sincere and giving smile is a beautiful language of its own that needs no translation. If that ‘servant heart and smile’ is underpinned by well-developed people and technical skills it multiplies into a potent combination of character, experience, and wisdom that has great influential power within any culture.
Whether it is through the use of interpreters, and even if it takes great patience, even when a lot of mistakes are made, persevere until everyone in the team understands that servant leadership is the key to winning the minds and hearts of others.
When all in the team becomes aware that we were only ever meant to master ourselves and thereby become better servants to all, this heightened awareness can unlock the unlimited potential within individuals in the team.
Respect for people and their worldviews
My favourite poet Rumi said:
‘The wound is where the light seeps in’
Respect all as we could not understand each individuals’ pain and hardships unless we went through it ourselves. Have compassion for all as we, in general expect compassion when we go through hardships. We can only imagine what sets of beliefs we would entertain where we to grow up in a completely different culture.
My endless curiosity and determination to learn has served me well as a coach for when your interest in others is sincere they tend to ‘open up’ to you and share and thereby you fasttrack your own learning and gain insights into your co-team members worldviews which in turn greatly enhances the team dynamics.
Be authentic and acknowledge your vulnerabilities, ‘wounds’ and shortcomings and be proud of your strengths for then your team members will help you to overcome your weaknesses and learn from your strengths.
15 Ways To Command A Conversation Like A Boss
If you’re the one talking, it’s your responsibility to make sure others are listening.
Conversations can elicit a range of emotions. They may be daunting, or they may be dreaded. They may be awkward, or they may be monotonous. The good news is, you, as a participant in any conversation, have more control than you think about whether these emotions overtake the dialogue.
Having a successful conversation is about striking the balance between preparedness and flexibility, between explaining your thoughts clearly and knowing when to pause or check in. It’s about being upfront about your preferences and ideas while being open to adapting them based on what comes of the discussion.
A fruitful conversation stems from establishing a rapport with someone. Show them you know where they’re coming from. Clarify that you understand what they’ve said. Be respectful of their time and don’t dictate back to them how you perceive them to be thinking or feeling. Keep questions open-ended. Experiment with new conversation settings or styles. And don’t give in to the internal voices that try to convince you to defer too much or suffer in silence.
To help you get your points across and help others convey theirs, read through the following 15 tips, which expand more on the ideas above.
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