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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

Become Your Best In Business

How can you streamline the actions you take in your business?

Dr John Demartini

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A few of the primary keys to becoming successful in business include having a clear intent or purpose, a truly inspiring vision, a grand message to share, a genuine social calling and a targeted niche to serve. From these initial basics arise the primary strategic objectives you would love to accomplish or achieve and a plan for their implementation. But before these objectives can be met, the mastery of the mind is to be initiated.

True business leaders are those who are congruent and integrated and who can organise and lead their inner parts purposefully. Once leaders govern themselves, they can govern others.

Time Is Life

When you loaf about, your mind starts thinking about all kinds of doubts, insecurities, fears, other people’s beliefs and worries about what’s happening and what isn’t happening. Such dead time can zap your energy and confidence levels and distract your mind from your purpose. Any time or space that’s not filled with high priorities often automatically becomes filled with low priorities.

Have you noticed that when you’re busy, you often accomplish and create much more? The more intensely you’re focused and active and the longer you maintain such a focus, the faster your accomplishments (time x intensity = results). Time spent on doubt, fear, or low-priority actions slows down your accomplishment process.

When you take your mind off your focus, all you see are obstacles. When your mind is focused on your dreams, you don’t have time for the many self-doubts that block them.

Raise Your Standard

Anything you do consumes time. To maximise the value of your time, prioritise your interactions. People who seem less busy and want to consume your time may think you’re being rude when you say no to their invitations, but busy people understand immediately that you’re just choosing to prioritise and wisely manage your time.

People who don’t value their own time want to take up yours with small talk, and if you keep associating with people who talk small, you could end up with a small life. You’ll find out what kind of people they are by putting a fee on your time and raising that fee regularly. If people really value your skills and time, they’ll pay for it.

“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Efficiency and Effectiveness

Often when you perform a service for less than you feel you deserve, you lower your worth and enthusiasm and slow down your business. Even though you may be working like a ‘dog’, it’s neither efficient nor effective.

Any aspect of your work that pays less than you truly feel you deserve can become the weak link of your business. In addition to undermining your motivation, inefficiency and ineffectiveness can also reduce profit margins. When you or your employees perform effective actions in an inefficient way, ineffective actions in an efficient way or ineffective actions in an inefficient way, your business becomes undermined. Your worth can be determined by how efficient and effective you are at performing high-priority actions. Business masters are those who love what they do, do what they love, and work efficiently and effectively. They delegate everything else to those who desire to do the same.

How can you streamline the actions you take in your business? Ask yourself, “What can I delegate?” You’ll be far more productive, energised, and inspired at the end of the day when you can stick to actions you deem to be high-priority. Unless you value your time, neither will the world.

For more information on Dr Demartini’s teachings, visit www.drdemartini.com

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Leading

How To Be A Leader

Lead by example and you’ll win the respect and loyalty of your staff.

Richard Mukheibir

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Being a successful entrepreneur is not about locking yourself away in your workshop and bringing a great innovation to life. Certainly, you need a must-have product that will have customers beating a path to your door. But you also need the business skills to ensure you can scale up production – and the leadership skills to motivate the staff you have employed to help you make this happen.

It is rare to find these three key skills balanced equally in an entrepreneur. Most have more of one quality than another – but there is one of these qualities that we tend to fool ourselves about.

Most of us know whether we have creative skills that can produce great innovations or whether we need to improve our business skills. Almost all of us assume we can be leaders if circumstances mean we have to step up to the plate. However, almost all of us are wrong about that.

Leadership skills are something that you develop and hone as your career progresses. You might think that being head girl at school, rugby captain or president of your Toastmasters’ branch means that you have got leadership nailed.

You would be right that you have some leadership experience. But you are wrong because so much about leadership depends on context. Just as what works on the rugby field and what works in the debating chamber are not the same, so what works in business is different.

In part, it can depend on the size and sector of your business. That in turn is partly because your understanding of the context – your business savvy as opposed to your business skills – is as important as your credibility as a leader.

But there are some common traits in leaders that work in all business contexts. Once you have these nailed, you will find that you can reuse them in different businesses as you expand your entrepreneurial interests.

Here are three starter principles to put into practice today:

1. Be first

Get to work first and leave last. As an entrepreneur, one of the prime qualities you need is energy. You need to put mental and physical energy into knowing the detail of what is going on in your business.   Listen to the insights of your staff as to how your systems are taking strain or could be streamlined. If you are serious about growing your business, you cannot expect to achieve this as a sleeping partner who drops by the business premises at best once a week.

2. Be a team player

Make it clear that you are not giving yourself privileges just because you are the boss. If your business involves any kind of production line, whether actual or virtual, you should be able to pitch in and help out if there is a rush of demand or an unusual number of staff hit by the virus that is going round. This is also an opportunity to check personally on the effectiveness of the systems you have set up and make tweaks where you see bottlenecks or downtime occurring.

3. Be last

As well as leaving work last, you should also pay yourself last. Consider this part of your investment in your business – and also an investment that will pay dividends in consolidating staff loyalty.

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Leading

Peak Performance – How To Become A Strong And Legendary Business Leader

The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.

Dirk Coetsee

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‘Leadership is a potent combination of Character and strategy’

– General Norman Schwarzkopf

Leadership has long fallen into the category of the enigmatic. It is no longer the case considering the ‘deep dive’ neuroscientists, psychologists and industrial psychologists have taken into understanding the brain and human behaviour in general.

For those that have a deep and driving desire to understand themselves better volumes of highly beneficial research are available to you. How willing you are to seek for and apply the infinite amount of knowledge out there is dependent upon your priorities, your ‘grit’ and your level of desire to personally transform and be impactful in this world.

Most of all a strong belief in your own abilities to become a legendary business leader is a basic requirement for the alchemy from follower to leader to take place.

The human nature guru Robert Greene describes a strong character as follows:

“Strong character has a tensile quality like a good piece of metal – it can give and bend but still retains its overall shape and never breaks”

Character is who you really are, not what you want others to think of you. Who you truly are is especially revealed under the most challenging circumstances. How your investors, co-founders, employees and clients view you is highly dependent upon your actions during times of business crisis, failure or when you as an entrepreneur are faced with turbulent personal circumstances.

The ability to authentically and empathetically (towards yourself and others) take a stand for your beliefs, admit (to yourself most of all) to your mistakes, rectify them (the highest and truest form of an apology) within times of strife and difficulty leads to a strong and un-breakable character.

Through this writing you are strongly urged to reflect on the fact that a strong character will not fall from the sky and simply be bestowed upon you, instead a strong character, akin to steel, is moulded and shaped by fire meaning that your character is mostly shaped by challenging times.

As the late master poet Leonard Cohen said –

‘There is a crack in everything that is where the light seeps in’

Nothing is perfect and when you truly learn from failures and mistakes your wounds can become blessings, your tests can become testimonies and you can lead others to achieve the same.

Those that have a slight and very determined smile on their face and maintain belief and even dramatically increase their levels of performance the moment they recognise that they have arrived within a highly challenging space are the ones that have trained for that exact moment.

The Navy Seals say:

“You do not rise to the challenge you fall to your level of training”

All external information gathered within each moment enters the brain and is processed through the Amygdala first – that part of the brain that provides housing for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Information is first filtered through your very own doubts, fears and insecurities.

If you have not worked on your own fears diligently and instilled habitual mechanisms of effective action triggered by fear your re-actions of lack of action (procrastination) will not be optimal at all. ‘Grit’ is born at the intersection of passion and perseverance and can be trained. Bravery can be trained. Leadership can be trained. Character although influenced by genetics can be trained.

All tools to succeed at the aforementioned subjects are within us all, in a lot of cases lying dormant and anxiously awaiting your increased levels of awareness which will empower you to use the tools required effectively.

As a practical example I coach my ‘Peak Performance’ clients to train for Grit in the following way – Choose a day of the week when you are especially tired and not in the greatest of moods force yourself to the gym and train the toughest muscle group for you (usually legs) and where you normally do three sets of squats do seven and make those sets harder than before in every way.

Or again choose a day of the week again where you are very tired and instead of taking a plunge onto the couch to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or whatever it is, go and hike, a long tough hike that will really test you.

It does sound harsh but you will thank yourself when the tough times occur and they will, that you have willingly trained yourself for grit.

On to the subject of Strategy which forms a potent combination with character and results in Leadership.

Dictionary.com defines strategy as:

A plan, method, or series of manoeuvres or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.

For a strategy to be effective a basic requirement of many requirements is that a clear and highly specific end vision and/or goal, and/or result must be defined. Visions, goals or desired results are often vaguely defined because the often subconscious fear of clearly defining our failures by setting clear and measurable goals plagues us.

The mind struggles with finding solutions, answers and strategies when vague goals are set. It is also very hard to retain focus on anything that is very vague. As the importance of an effective plan to achieve your well defined Vision and goals cannot be overstated I strongly recommend getting expert help to facilitate a future session.

Once the desired end result, goals and vision is crystal clear we can ‘reverse engineer’ an effective plan that can actualise our dreams. We need to create a metric system that constantly, consistently and visibly measures our progress and success of our plan. The metrics will notify us of challenges and will signal a need for adjustments within our strategy.

The very good news emanating from this article is that anyone can be a legendary leader should they not only sincerely wish to be a leader but also take effective action on becoming one. The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.

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