We had a lovely week away returning in time to vote in South Africa’s fifth democratic elections.
It had a special significance for me. In 1994 when I voted I was pregnant with my second child. And yesterday my son voted for the first time.
Our time away was spent exploring Gaberone and enjoying good food, wine and conversation, with old and new friends. On our way back from Botswana we spent two nights in The Marico.
I love experiencing new places and observing people and nature. It energises me and gets me thinking of the lessons to be learnt. I had so many thoughts that I am going to share some of them with you today.
Cooperation, Creativity & Contrasts
On our first day we visited the Three Dikgosi Monument. Our guide gave us a lesson in Botswana’s history. How I interpreted it was:
The path from British Protectorate to independent Republic was a long one. There were a number of attempts by Britain and South Africa to “take over” but the three main chiefs peacefully but determinedly worked to maintain a level of independence for the country.
They had a shared vision and they cooperated with each other. They listened and watched closely so as to pick up and act on each political shift that threatened the area’s status. And when they realised more action was needed they travelled to Britain seeking an audience with the government.
The government tried to fob them off but they had cultivated friendships in England. These friends assisted them to travel around the country drumming up support for their cause until the government was pressured into meeting with them. This began a process that would eventually lead to independence in 1966. That visit was a very well run PR campaign!
It sounds as though these three chiefs demonstrated excellent leadership.
Even the decision as to where the capital should be seems to have been solved in a mature manner. The original main place was Lobatse but being in a small bowl between the hills it was thought to be too small for a capital so Gaberone, 70km to the north, was chosen.
Gaberone is a very dry city, especially at the moment after a couple of years of drought. On the edge of town is a lovely small game reserve without natural water. But someone has come up with a creative solution. The reserve is integrated with the sewerage system. Underground pipes bring the sewer water to open ponds that apart from a slight smell, are just like small dams. We saw some lovely birds there, including an African Purple Swamphen.
A few blocks from where my friend lives we saw a strange sight – on the dusty sidewalk, a beautifully decorated table and chairs, under an awning, set for a celebration. Gwen explained that it belongs to a local lady, an event planner, who changes the colours and themes every week. What a wonderful example of creative advertising.
We also visited the brickfields down by the river where people hand make clay bricks and bake them in a homemade, communal kiln. I am sorry I didn’t take a photo. It was like a scene out of biblical times. And yet a couple of kilometres away was the neat, clean CBD with amazing, modern buildings.
For me these contrasts and the different ways of doing business are part of the “colour of Africa”. Something which is hard to explain. One needs to spend time in Africa to experience it. And then as my husband says, “Africa gets under your skin and it’s very difficult to leave.”
Next month, thoughts from The Marico.
© copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved
Quote of the Day
“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” ~ Bertrand Russel
My Little Black Book
Our host in Gaberone was Gwen Watkins, owner of a communications consultancy that operates across Southern Africa. Amongst her many PR talents is that of training event planners. Our holiday was like a well run event from the accommodation, to the food and beverages, to the guided tours. Gwen certainly walks the talk.
Apart from writing and editing she also offers practical, short courses that cover such fields as ‘Creating and implementing PR strategy for SMEs’, ‘Creating and managing practical & profitable events’, ‘Writing for internal & external stakeholders’, ‘Perfect PA events’ and others. www.freelancers.co.za
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And here we are at the second month of 2014. February always flies by. Those three days less seem to make a huge difference, especially with all the month end/year end type tasks.
I am looking forward to a busy month – we have a new corporate group starting their People Management workshop, last weekend was Round the Island at the Vaal Dam (the world’s largest inland sailing race), and this weekend is the Rocky Horror Picture Show – my rarely seen wild side is excited to be doing the whole dress up and audience participation thing – I am sure that surprised a few people!
And then it’s Valentine’s Day. I ordered a gourmet Valentine’s picnic hamper which I thought was a rather fun alternative to a crowded restaurant.
And the day after Valentine’s I will be donating alcohol infused platelets!
All of that in only the first half of the month. What do you have planned for this month of love? Loving everyone may sound a bit too much for many of us. Perhaps we could concentrate on appreciating ourselves and appreciating those around us?
At the end of January the Theatre on the Square was completely sold out for Anthony Yoko’s annual Jazz Showcase.
I am a relative newcomer to jazz appreciation so my opinion on the music isn’t reliable – I am just chuffed to be able to recognise some of the standards and know that the funny sounds the singer was making is called skat! But judging by the reactions of my husband and the rest of the audience it really was a very good show with really good musicians.
I did enjoy myself. And I got excited about the factors that I think were making it a successful jazz concert which are just as appropriate for a successful business unit.
The musicians had been brought together by Tony Yoko. He was the “owner” and initiator but he shared leadership throughout. A lot of the time the front man was the singer, Andrew Massey, but all the other musos also took turns to play solos or to lead a number.
I have it on good authority that each of the six musicians plus singer is accomplished. Each performing alone would have been good, but it requires the combination to really make the sound and energy great. Each person’s individual talents (strengths) were used in the most appropriate places to make the whole band (team) achieve more. And no-one’s ego got in the way of an integrated performance.
Jazz fascinates me as there is so much improvisation and spontaneity. It requires the musicians to be adaptive, flexible and on the ball. In today’s business world we also need to be able to create and adapt. We need everyone to feel free to contribute their ideas and yet we must remain cohesive to execute.
The musos were communicating with each other all the time – a word, a hand sign, a look and someone would take over with a solo, and then a change in pace or volume of their playing and the others would know to join back in.
For the Showcase Tony, who himself must be in sixties and is a great drummer / percussionist, had focused on giving exposure to young talent.
At the interval he bumped into an old (and apparently well known) saxophonist friend in the car park, who then joined them on stage for the second half. It was amazing to see how sensitively he slotted in. He would listen to a few notes, decide which of his two instruments to use, try a little bit softly and when it was blending he’d really come in and add to the production.
And the others loved it, they weren’t threatened, and they made way for him to do a few solos as well. (His second instrument was a soprano sax which I thought was a clarinet – okay I still have a lot to learn!)
Much of my enjoyment was seeing how much fun they were all having. They loved playing and being creative and there was a tangible air of appreciating each other.
They were all professionals motivated by the satisfaction of being able to do something well, for a purpose, connected to people they respect, and with freedom of choice.
© copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved
Quote of the Day
“Always look for opportunities to challenge your best people because many of them are like sticks of dynamite; the power’s on the inside, but nothing happens until the fuse gets lit.” ~ Mac Anderson
My Little Black Book
If you would like to take up the challenge to focus on appreciating those around you, a great book to read is “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” by Gary Chapman and Paul White.
If you like jazz or blues in Johannesburg you can get updates on forthcoming productions by signing up to Tony’s mailing list (contact me for the address)
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