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Pre-Decisioning: Why it Trumps Motivation

I used to be a believer that a new year swept my slate clean and brought new tidings – renewed purpose, great work ethic, and luck to tip life in my favour. I used to look forward to the clock ticking midnight as we danced away the night with my crew.

Now, not so much.

I have come to see that it is only the dates that change on a new year. If I am not changing intrinsically, I’m carrying the person that I was in 2020 into 2021. Events don’t transform a person. But they can fuel a short-term change in attitude that results in sudden actions that tend positively to a meaningful objective.

And this is partly why I have been struggling to find an inspiring topic that goes with the New-Year-feel.

It dawned on me that Marvelous Helpers are often working from a place of commitment and rarely from the energy that comes from a motivational talk that they heard or the inspiring persona of their Number Ones.

External influences that excite our systems to perform extraordinary gymnastics that are not ingrained by habitual practices are often impermanent. They give us an inconsistent character. You know that person in your life that you say, ‘That person is so good at ABCD. However, you have to catch him/her at a good time.’

What does this ‘good time’ mean?

They are unpredictable. They are brilliant when high on energy and low when they run out. Unfortunately, when you are in a position to refer someone of this sort, you hesitate because you don’t want to chance that maybe, this is the time they are going to disappoint. Because inadvertently, the references you give tend to reflect on your person. Your word is your bond. Therefore, word of mouth remains to be the most powerful tool in marketing – a service, product, and in this case a person.

Introspectively, imagine that this person you’re viewing in this light, making calculated moves so that you don’t look bad is in fact YOU! (I can see you don’t like where this is headed…)

So let me give you a short story about me…

I used to be a very inconsistent person in regards to keeping my word where crowds were involved, until I met my husband – talk about straight up tough love.

I would promise to show up for an event, and my knowing (actually assuming) that others would be present, and thinking perhaps I’m not so significant in the equation, I would justify not showing up. I would sleep in and allow laziness to lie to me that I could get away with it (this is a series for another day).

Unconsciously, I was playing into the Bystander Effect. This is a psychological theory that states that in a group setting, we always assume that someone else is going to take the expected action. We remove ourselves as equal and capable candidates to intervene with the required action, hence no one takes action. In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell retells the dreadful story of Kitty Genovese who was murdered in Queens, New York as her neighbours looked on.

This diffusion of responsibility is what we are constantly playing into. It might not be in the same degree as watching someone lose their life as you do nothing, but it’s in the little and significant things. I say significant because our unconscious mind is always collecting data.

The next time someone will be in a position to promote you, but they will have a feeling about you. An uneasy feeling about you.

They asked for someone to sit with the Head of IT at your company and discuss with them technological improvements for your department; you never volunteered. You said, ‘That’s so and so’s responsibility.’ A colleague lost a loved one. Since the burial was on a weekend and it was a day’s journey, you felt it would inconvenience your birthday plans. Either way, you don’t have a close relationship with him/her. So you were not part of the 3 people sent to represent your division.

You get my drift…

A Marvelous Helper is a leader who goes above and beyond to lessen the burdens of others. This can only be done through pre-decisioning.

And it starts with small things. You have to decide that if someone is needed to clean the dishes after a day of indulgent feasting at your in-laws, you’ll be the one to do it. Yes, I know one of your relatives, the one who never seems to lift a finger should be forced to do the dishes. But that’s why you’re a leader. You gain respect by your works, not your ideas.

This year, you CAN go further with a decision and a commitment to that decision. Being over reliant on motivation and inspiration quotes will leave you where you were when the year began.

Like one of my mentors says, motivation is overrated!

The same way sportsmen build muscle memory to make their body responses effortless, you can build your ‘decisioning‘ muscle to work effortlessly for you, in following, serving, and leading even in these hard times.

Because there is always a need for Marvelous Helpers.

Thank you for all the comments and feedback on last year’s blog posts! I feel extremely grateful to have a community of avid and responsive readers. As always, I love hearing from you. Subscribe below so that you are notified of our blog posts whenever they are posted and do leave a comment.

 

My Story: Finding and Accepting Servanthood

I have always been that child that pulled crowds with me and was sort of the de facto leader in my age group (my mum tells me)… But let’s start from the beginning.

I am the firstborn in a family of 3 children. And the role of co-parenting – willingly taken on or somehow thrown at me – was part of my growing up. I always felt that I had to watch over my brother and sister, I had to ensure that I was being a role model, and holding fort for my parents, for whatever reason.

When I joined Primary School, I was chosen a prefect from Standard 2 (now Grade 2) till Standard 8 when I was chosen as the Head-girl. And it happened that I carried on into leadership positions in Secondary School and I was privileged to serve as the School Captain in my last 1.5 years in the school.

Why I’m I telling you this story?‘ you might be wondering?

For someone who has served most of her early life in leadership positions, I must have known the path that I wanted to take. I mean, the writing was always on the wall. My parents saw it, my teachers saw it and even my friends and schoolmates saw it.

Not true!

I had answered the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ so early in life. I wanted to be a Judge. Possibly because the TV show Judge Judy was so popular when growing up. Unfortunately, this sure confidence was chipped at the more I grew older. I became unsure, I changed my mind every other year or so. I doubted my ability to perform and pursue certain career paths because I met other people I thought were better than I. I guess this is the journey most of us take from childhood as we are exposed to more possibilities and our presuppositions are challenged by others.

In all this, I knew that there was something great I was supposed to do. But I didn’t know how or what. I had many interests and many abilities, yet, I did not have a This is IT thing. People will call it purpose, calling, vocation, way, path etc…

Have you ever seen the way that you should go and yet feel helplessly lost? As though you’ve seen the end from the beginning but don’t have the map to get there. That was me.

What happened between then and now? Where did I get back my sure confidence? What is the secret?

I found someone to serve.

I know. It’s too simple. It can’t possibly be the winning strategy for getting where you feel you need to be. I mean, you should be building and pouring your energy into your things. And so, I put forward the question that I asked myself, ‘How are you going to get the outcomes you wish for when you don’t know the formula of generating them?’ Will you be using trial and error to achieve your intended results or would you rather get a tried and proven methodology to arrive at your destination?

I have discovered that leadership is taught. You might have a natural ability to do it, but you might be a path that has no destination. I led but did not know where I was leading people to. I struggled to mentor and transfer my skills to another because I was untrained and was trying to take people on a road I had not travelled before.

You cannot lead without following. Following is the template that teaches you to lead. It builds your instinct and your emotional quotient. It prepares you for the different seasons you’ll go through as a leader. It gives you the map to where you want to go. It addresses the issue of personal potential remaining latent. You can never develop your own capacity. You need someone else to stretch you and point you in the right direction. Someone who is not enamored and star-struck by your charisma or abilities. Someone who can tell you to ‘Shut up’ and you do. Someone who can tell you to stay put and you do. This is someone you are wholeheartedly given to. This relationship must be exercised in proximity for it to be effective. It is not a celebrity-inspiration type of engagement.

One of the most important lessons I have and continue to learn about leading is the administration of your inner voice and your dream life. In Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Santiago learns to listen to his inner promptings and the omens he encounters in his fantastic journey. He meets many people who help him to interpret or give a different perspective on what he sees and feels.

Many people have been ruined by what they believed to be the way that they should go. They left a relationship too early, they invested in a promising business because the sales pitch was so great but they didn’t do their due diligence, they made a life-changing decision on a whim because the facts in front of them lined up and later regretted it… The list is endless.

Now, no one wants to put a damper on your grand dreams, but you need someone who has the experience to tell you – we have been down that road before, and it will not yield the return you expect. The lesson you learn here is the ability to restrain your appetites so that you can be sober to wait out the emotions that cloud your judgement.

Finally, service teaches you the secret of surrender. That you are no longer in control of who you feel you need to be, but you are malleable to take the form that is needful. Adaptability.

When I realized that I needed to surrender and forget my accomplishments and titles, something happened to me. I became free. I had the freedom to BECOME. I was so stuck in what I was I had been missing out on what I could BE. I was open to discover and to learn new things.

Control is a fallacy. We are truly not in control of what happens to us, only our reactions to events. The masters of the journey are those who are seasoned or those who have been given the templates by the seasoned.

So, I have a confession to make… I stopped looking and creating a vision, mission (and all those things that we do) of my own. For about 5 years, I have not had a vision that I call mine. My vision was the vision of the ones I served.

And in serving the vision of another, I have found my own purpose. I am a Marvelous Helper who builds the capacity of Number-Twos of high capacity leaders to be Number-Ones to their Number-One.

What experience or mindset is hindering you from serving and finding the path you’re meant to be on?

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The Secret of The Fool: How to Get Ahead of The Pack!

How is it possible that someone we often regard as low and of little standing, often because of their appearance, be a door to great lessons in leadership? Isn’t it interesting that the jester or the fool who had no blood relation to the royal family was a member of the high courts in medieval times? His only duty which was to entertain guests and the royal family gave him proximity and audience with the King, and influence over people’s perspective on diverse matters by getting them to laugh at themselves. The things we long for – POWER and SWAY.

There are a number of lessons that I gather from the fool. The first and most important, is being of no reputation.

Many of us are fighting to be recognized by our bosses and colleagues. We go to great lengths to obtain a title on the door and a name plate on a desk introducing us as Manager so and so. These things are not bad in themselves, however, they have a way of introducing barriers in our minds that tell us – I cannot do task X, Y or Z. That job is meant for so and so.

To be successful as a Helper, you have to strip yourself of your reputation. You will be asked to serve tea when there’s a tea-girl, you’ll be asked to run a personal errand when there’s a PA, you’ll be asked to carry someone’s bag when there is a porter. Why? Because narrow-minded people only do what concerns them, what is written on their job descriptions and what makes them look good. They are not team players, they do not like being inconvenienced, and they do not most of all work in back burners. They have to shine.

I have learnt to overcome my fear of what people will think of me. I remind myself that I do not owe it to anyone to conform to their expectation of who I should be. (This is a continual process.) And it has freed me. I purpose to be blind so that I can be single-minded in my pursuit of being a MARVELOUS Helper.

You will discover, that the voices of people in your head are from low achievers who are trying to pull you down to their level. They have a way of making you feel; you’re doing too much and you’re being paid too little. Therefore, you miss the greatest lessons that are learnt when doing the menial tasks. You fail to understand and learn the inner world and disciplines that make a Number One. You do not discern the test of trust being applied on you. Because the great know this; if you can’t be trusted with the small, you can’t handle the big. If you’re not sensitive with the minor, you will definitely be insensitive with the major.

I cannot over emphasize this enough. A successful Helper does not have a reputation to protect. This is an inward amour for you because no one can ever use your ego to play politics or remove you from your journey of learning. It will be hard for someone to gaslight you into changing your perception of your boss, and recruit you as an agent for betrayal.

Secondly, the fool fools everyone into thinking that they are fools. And therefore, many people assume them. Sometimes, it is better to play the fool because when you appear to be wise, you become a target. When you’re the fool, people will often reveal their true selves. In your presence, they feel they have nothing to lose. They will reveal their true intentions without the sugar-coating that comes when they think you’re someone of significance. This is a great tool of self-mastery because you have no need to correct their perception of you.

The gift of observance is critical. A fool could easily observe people when they were least guarded. When he was entertaining them. He would learn their strengths and weaknesses. He would then be able to know his boundaries and when not to push the envelope.

This brings me to my third extraction: the art of delivery and confrontation. Through many interactions with people of high standing, the fool learnt diplomacy. Delivering hard news tactfully and entertainingly. Otherwise his head would be in a platter by morning. High offices have a lot of bad news that need to be delivered. If you do not understand your Number One, you will not know the best time to deliver good news and bad news. This has repercussions because it might be a high day for the organization and you need your Number One in the best condition possible. You can destabilize a key person when his energy and leadership is needed the most.

By now, you realize that your boss is not a perfect man. That means that sometimes you will need to respectfully point out a wrong he or she has committed or it may be a matter of standing up for yourself. All these need a certain delicacy. Your need to gloat or appear as the better person in this relationship can cost you respect and high standing in the mind of your boss. It is usually when the tables are turned and you appear to have power over a person of higher rank that determines your flight or down fall. Choose the higher ground, always!

I acknowledge, confrontations are not easy, but they are part of leading. A Helper must learn to have difficult conversations with the top and the bottom. Remember, a Helper is a leader. You’re not just another sheep following along. You are interning for the big chair.

The secret to getting ahead is outlasting the pack. Outlasting necessitates great patience. Everyone wants to get ahead, but few are willing to pay the price. The wisdom in the fool is the ability to be adaptable. Adaptability sometimes seems as though you are retrogressing. However, just as a seed needs to be put into the ground with smelly manure to grow into a tree, so does a Helper need to get into the trenches before he or she can take a seat at the high table. You can only be adaptable if you’re not holding tightly onto one identity, but rather you’re ready to grow and evolve as you respond to changing needs.

On a new note…

A couple of weeks ago, I made acquaintance with one of my high school classmates and we had such refreshing conversations about business, relationships and career journeys. Being the direct person that Angie has always been, she gave me some feedback about my previous blog Leading ‘Number Twos’ to Pioneering Leaders. She told me that the statistical facts at the beginning of the blog for people who are not numbers people could put them off getting to the best parts that came much later in the article. (There are no statistical bombardments today.) She also said that my tone was quite somber, as I have always been since she knew me.

And I said I would try. And I have been thinking about it…

My intention with this platform is that I may enrich the lives of Helpers who serve high capacity leaders. These spaces are so rare to find. They come with high pressure, high politics and high expectations. They are not for everyone – unfortunately. There is not much room to keep making mindless mistakes. Everyday is a test of your attitude, culturing and ability to execute excellently. It is cut throat!

Leadership is so so heavy. For about two years now, it could be shorter, I have have not changed my WhatsApp status. It reads: Visions are heavy. They require MARVELOUS Helpers. This was a lesson that was taught once to me. It changed me forever! It has stayed with me since. It is hard to talk about leading and not be weighty about it.

As I brood over my language and disposition towards my Number Ones (the top) and the language and disposition towards the support teams I lead below them (the middle and bottom); uniformity and the tone, which often communicates the severity and speed of execution of an instruction, cannot be diluted to fit the personality of people. A change in tone and wording in communication leads to distortion of the message.

I have found that suggestive communication does not lead to intended outcomes. People come with different backgrounds and read everything differently, and therefore, it is your job as a leader to teach them your language, your way and set high demands so that there’s no room for mediocrity in your office.

So, I’m not promising that my writings on this particular subject will be light hearted and perhaps genial. But, I can promise you that it will be heartfelt, challenging and high-minded.

Looking forward to your feedback. Leave a comment and subscribe below.

As always, yours truly…

Leading ‘Number-Twos’ to Pioneering Leaders

Who are they?

Many of us are not natural Number One leaders. According to Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm, only one in ten people have this extraordinary quality to lead teams consistently to success. Most of us find that we possess some percentage of this trait that puts us ahead of the pack, however, we’ll most likely never find ourselves starting a venture that’s capital or time intensive. Often, we’ll work for someone or find ourselves having half successes managing a side hustle – or miserably failing at it.

Some people, know exactly what they are made of and know exactly where they need to be. The bigger percentage has to go on a journey of discovery. For those searching; at the core of the flailing attempts to find where we belong in the ecosystem, independent contractor come businessman versus employee of the year, is the existential question, ‘Who am I?’.

As you’re seeking to answer the question of who, you have internal wishes that you hope will be self-fulfilling. This consists of the desire to be part of something great that’s breaking boundaries, innovative, unpredictably exciting while at the same time has a level of stability. However, you’d like some autonomy, yet have someone – who’s not you – who the back stops at. This is a rare find. There’s high expectations to withdraw benefits from your benefactor with little will to give commensurate services with commitment and loyalty to the person and his or her cause. This is the exploitative mind that we come with into such a relationship. This is because we believe we are the next best thing since, the cliché, sliced bread. We have accolades from our academic background or by the sheer power of a winning personality, without tangible current constructions.

To gain a bird view perception of where you are so that you can map where you need to be, the first thing you need to acknowledge is that you’re not ready to take full responsibility of facing a cruel society that has no time to wait for you to know yourself. Secondly, you need to appreciate that you will be leveraging on someone’s blood and sweat to go through your learning curve – him or her, taking all the risk while you enjoy the security of a comeback from your mistakes.

Therefore, when you find opportunity to work under a visionary leader, to learn and sharpen your craft to possibly launch out on your own in the future, it is prudent that you endeavor to be a marvelous Helper.

A Helper is an empowered leader working with delegated authority to perform functional and ever-changing roles in the life of a Number One. It is a genderless role. A Helper is a persona. A character. Almost like a building that you create and set up with systems of operations. With this building, whatever problem you encounter, you can have a value proposition for it. It is a customizable improv character that you can carry with you wherever you go.

It sounds as though this “Helper-persona” is not you. Yes! It is not you – the natural you – but a cultivated version of you that you can work at until it becomes synonymous with you. Robert Greene, in his book The Laws of Human Nature says: we have two contrary selves within us – a lower and a higher. The lower is the [stronger] more animal and reactive side of our nature [while] the higher [which is weaker] is the truly human side of our nature that makes us thoughtful and self-aware. It requires effort to be a custom-built solution for another’s needs.

Because of our humanity, we tend to display what comes easiest to us. Anger. Disappointment. It’s laborious to continually enrich this character called Helper and to front him or her as the Standard Operating Persona. That you may be calm, controlled and conscientious at all times. Consequently, it becomes a daily goal to find ways to elevate the higher-self over the more demanding and rudimentary lower-self.

I have found, it is harder to find out who I am when I am not providing a service to others. There’s a formation that comes easily when you are constantly rubbing shoulders with clients and bosses. Your intuition and instinct is developed concerning people and opportunities – which are key elements of a thriving organization.

A Helper is a consortium that you build over time; embellished with virtues for the future that you want to serve. As you fine-tune yourself for a person or a position, these attributes remain with you for all-time. They will become what you look for in another Number Two when you become a Number One. It is in many ways true that you cannot demand from another what you are not. This identity that you create will refine and grow you, to be able to answer Who I’m I without the attachment of a title, office or the privileges of association because it becomes innate to you. External things do not equate us to the quotient of value we possess.

A Helper is a leader; in thought, initiative and discourse. Learning to lead yourself makes it easy to lead others. In leading you take up the burden to expand the amount of responsibility you can carry. And therefore develop excellence under pressure.

You will become when you decide to achieve this high stature. I have decided, have you?

 

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Continue reading “Leading ‘Number-Twos’ to Pioneering Leaders”

Marvelous Helpers

A Guide To…

Helpers are divine enablers. They are sent into people’s lives to make them better. To elevate their quality of life and to make things easy and light. If you’re a Helper in any capacity – an Executive Assistant, an Administrator, Supervisor, Manager… – I’d love to write and share my world with you as a fellow Helper to two exceptional and extraordinary leaders who I have the privilege of having in my life.

I hope to tackle subjects that deal with, but not limited to, perception and personal dispositions, decorum, protocols around leaders, discernment, loyalty, and general everyday issues in the life of a Helper. And because we are not isolated creatures, managing work and personal relationships will greatly feature in my writing. Generally, relationships – especially work relationships – are not easy. They require a certain delicacy and wit to navigate the good and the bad seasons that are inevitable in our human experience. We’ll find solutions on how to extract excellence from difficult people and perhaps how to boot them out of our lives if they are also toxic.

I’m no expert. Still in the journey of life-long learning. I invite you to this wonderful expedition as my learning partner and hopefully a great contributor to this work .

I’d love to know which subjects you’d like to see featured. Looking forward to reading your feedback.

Yours truly…