So what exactly is success? Is it driving a fancy car, living in a palace, spending inordinate amounts on ‘things’? Perhaps it’s a title? I remember driving home one night, almost 20 years ago, from an informal school reunion.
The drive was silent and very emotional for me as I reflected on the stories and updates of my school friends’ lives. It was this moment in time that I started to look at success in a different way.
It was the stories of survival and succeeding against our ‘past demons’ that struck me. That afternoon had nothing to do with money; it was about people succeeding against all the odds. It was the story of the single mother, who worked her heart out to put her daughter through school; the alcoholic father that caused severe distress at home; the pregnant matric student that hid her pregnancy thoughout our final matric exams and the story about the sisters that grew up on their own in a house down the road from ‘Joburg High School for Girls’.
We all had a story; we all had a past but the thing that struck me most that night was that each and every one of us was successful in our own right. We had survived to tell the story, and most importantly each, and every one of us had chosen to live life to the full, saw the glass ‘half full’ and had fun with everything we did. It was milestone moment, an ‘ah ha moment’ in my life, an experience that I often find myself pondering over and really being grateful for the grounding these school friends have provided me with. I have friendships where we are completely accepting of each other with zero judgment, together with an appreciation of who ‘you are’ and what you had become despite the challenges one experienced growing up.
It’s amazing how the impact of our school going years affects our future, and I suppose this is also true of the experiences at work. So, as we spend the many hours, upon hour in our jobs, do we walk away each day with a sense of achievement and a taste of success despite all odds? Many years ago I had the privilege of working with some of the most inspiring leaders I’ve ever met. It was a very successful SAP consulting business that took teams, potential, and personal growth to a totally new level. I walked into Ed’s office, our MD at the time, and as he leaned back into his chair with his arms outstretched behind his neck he said: “You know Ursh if you want to be the MD of this company you can. It’s a decision you make, to be successful, despite all odds and what’s set up against you. You can become anything you want to; you just need to decide.”
I can’t tell you the impact this conversation had in shaping me going forward and shaping my future career. The power of someone seeing the greatness in you, the potential that you sometimes don’t see yourself can have an astounding impact on people. That simple conversation changed my life forever. Ed’s words ignited a fire within me that no one can extinguish. He recognised greatness in me, and that was all I needed to catapult forward. I left the company a year later and entered the training market. I worked for a financial markets training company, and this was the beginning of a new leaf in my professional working career. It was actually that burning ‘fire’ inside of me that got me this job. I was at a baby shower, talking about that ‘next opportunity’ or the ‘break’ that I needed to make a difference. I was called on the Monday morning and asked: “When do you want to start”?
I can honestly say that good leadership and mentorship have had a significant impact on my life. Bringing the best out of staff, believing in them, encouraging them and taking a chance on them can really make a difference. This is also true of all the research we see today: emotional contracts with staff and employee engagement are of the essence in building a successful workforce today. A culture of honesty and transparency in the spirit of building people up is very important, particularly as we deal with more and more millennials each day. Our #feesmustfall campaign is another case in point.
So are you the ‘Ed’ that needs to say some pertinent things to a staff member, or the person that needs to give someone a ‘break’? It’s just those few sentences that are worth their weight in gold. They were my ‘gold’, and for this, I will always be grateful.
Please join me next week as the story continues to unfold…..
Follow Ursula on Twitter or email her on Ursula@talentalks.co.za