Give them a why (April 2015)



Its Friday again. Most people feel the year flies by but it’s particularly so at this time of the year in SA with all the public holidays. With a three day week at the end of the month I hear many bemoan how little work gets done. That is true in terms of working hours available but I encourage you to make the most of the long weekends for relaxation. And encourage people who work for you to do the same and even to take the three days leave so they get a lovely nine day break. There is plenty of research to show that we can all be much more productive and innovative in our working hours when we are healthy and refreshed.

Give them a why

What is the “why”? The “why” is the reason why we do something: why we do it at all, or why we do it at a particular time.


Two people interacted with me around the same time recently. They received very different responses from me. I found myself watching myself as though from the outside, intrigued by the difference in my responses.


A day before we were going camping for the Easter weekend I got a call from the supply chain department of a company I do work for. Let’s call him Jay. Jay introduced himself and asked if I would please send him my company profile. I replied that I was pretty sure I’d sent the profile when they first contracted with me a few years ago. He said yes but he thought it may have changed and they’d like an updated one. I agreed I would do so, took down his email address and continued with what I was doing which kept me busy for the rest of the day.


The next morning, before leaving for the weekend, we’d decided to go to one of the two pharmacies near us, where one can get the annual Vitality health screening done. At the first pharmacy we found a short but apparently slow moving queue. So my husband waited there and I went to see how it was going at the other pharmacy. I found the nursing sister had just arrived. On enquiring Sister B said she’d be about half an hour with the person before me and would then do my tests. I called my husband on his cell to see how it was going and he said he was next and things were moving quickly now. I returned to Sr B to say not to worry I’d go and join my husband as that would be quicker. She replied “Please don’t. I am behind this month and need to see more people. I won’t be long. Please wait for me.” I called my husband and said “I’m waiting here. The Sister has asked me so nicely. Join me when you are finished.”


After we returned from the weekend I got a reminder from Jay asking for the updated profile. I thanked him for the reminder and said I’d probably be doing it during that week. He replied, by email, “I’d hoped to have it this afternoon.” I just smiled to myself.


He wanted me to prioritise my day to suit his priorities. He didn’t want the profile in order to procure new work from me, he just wanted his records up to date. There was nothing in it for me right now: no reason for me to put checking, and possibly updating, the profile ahead of other tasks I had; tasks that were earning me income right now and in the following month. Neither had he connected with me in a way that might have appealed to my soft side to help him out in completing his task.


The Vitality health checks were something we wanted to do. The results are a confirmation to us of our health status and the Vitality points earned translate into significant cost savings during the year. And Sr B appealed to my considerate side to help her. There are three “whys” in that.


Jay eventually got the updated profile, when it fitted into my prioritised work tasks. I was pleased to have had a reason to update it in line with some pretty recent changes in my thinking. Its “why” had now become apparent and it had come into its appropriate timing.


Could Jay have influenced my response? Could he have encouraged me to get the profile to him sooner?

I think he could have. He could have given me a bigger “why”, a more urgent “why”.


Do you share the “why” when you ask for something? When you delegate work? It is essential.

Kind Regards



Alison Gitelson, Management Growth Enabler, enabling you to do business better.

© copyright 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Story of the Day

We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ‘I know why.’

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, ‘People are born so that they can learn how to live a good Life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?’ The six-year-old continued, ‘Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.’ – Author unknown

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Trust & Respect – Golden keys (April 2014)



Here in South Africa April is the month the school children love and the business owners rue.

It is a month of public holidays, school holidays and mild, sunny autumnal days. Very challenging if you want to get a lot of work finished. However there is plenty of research to show that we are much more productive when we take regular breaks so perhaps we can make this a month of revitalising long weekends and still complete the work?

Later in the month we are off to south east Botswana returning via Herman Charles Bosman country. I have never been to Gaberone nor Groot Marico before, so any advice for what not to miss will be appreciated.

Trust & Respect – Golden keys

One day my daughter commented that she was lucky that I trusted her. My response was that I trusted her because she had never given me a reason not to do so. So it was she who had created her “luck”!

Being respected and trusted are golden keys for leader-managers to be able to help their people to achieve extraordinary results. But I think they are just as important in all our relationships.

One of the most robust discussions I have facilitated in a Conversation that Matters was between around 25 employees of a business unit discussing whether respect was automatically given or had to be earned. There were strong proponents for both extremes and then some who felt it should initially be given by default but the subsequent behaviour would determine whether or not it continued.

It is almost impossible for me to trust someone without respecting them, and vice versa, so I prefer to keep the two terms together.

On a recent programme I was facilitating with a great group of leader-managers, the talented Nikesh made some clever illustrations of the points his small group discussed as well as those from the feedback to the larger group. He was happy for me to share them with you. It is quite fun to work out the meaning of each. Like one of those puzzles in the Sunday paper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis first one was whilst answering the question “What actions/ behaviours breakdown respect &/or trust?” Which others can you think of?

No matter how well respected or trusted you are it takes very few “poor behaviours” to shatter it. It is a gift we need to treasure.



These next two illustrate suggestions made in answer to the question “What can you as a leader-manager do to earn the respect &/or trust of your team?” Have some fun seeing if you can work them out. And which others can you think of? Then test yourself as to how personally aligned you are to these actions or behaviours.












To what degree do others at work and home respect you? And trust you? If that is already high, well done! I hope you are using that wonderful foundation to build some really effective collaboration.

If it isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, no problem. Think about what behaviours you need to change in yourself and start work on them – one at a time. Bit by bit you’ll get there. At the same time look for people you can respect and trust. It’s a two way street.



© copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved

Quote of the Day

“Trust is the emotional glue that binds followers & leaders together. ~ Warren Bennis & Bert Nanus

My Little Black Book

This is for those of you near to Centurion. With all my family’s sport participation we have spent a lot of time at physios.

As each of the children moved away to study they reluctantly separated from our long time physio Wendy Viviers and found practitioners near to their place of study.

My daughter took ages to find anyone who could meet her high standards. Eventually she found Kobus Maree in Southdowns, Irene. She appreciated his knowledge and expertise as a physiotherapist as well as his genuine concern for his client’s well being.

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Overlooking the Gold (March 2014)




As I write this there are some welcome patches of blue in the sky and a glimmer of sunlight. I have lost track of how many days of almost continuous rain and grey skies we have had. This last summer the unusual has become almost the usual. I really don’t like it but I tell myself that we need to be adaptable in all aspects of our lives. And I am learning to be more grateful for the warm and sunny weather on the days when we do still get it!

Overlooking the Gold

I received a call from a managing director (call him Jim) who was genuinely concerned that one of his good, bright, middle managers (call him Ted) lacked confidence and was too timid and shy, and as a result would not get promoted higher up the managerial ladder.


Ted was happy to be offered some time to focus on his professional development so we met. I found him intelligent and ambitious, quiet and thoughtful. I probed all the areas where a lack of confidence would be revealed and we discussed how he interacted with others, especially in meetings. He admitted to being quiet much of the time but was adamant that he spoke up and held his ground, when necessary. He expressed bewilderment that a colleague had been promoted over him.


Ted asked if I was going to get input from his colleagues as well. So after discussion with Jim it was agreed that we would do a robust 360 degree online assessment of his capabilities as a manager as well as his company culture fit. (360 degree means input from the client, direct reports, colleagues and management above.)


The results were very interesting. The colleagues (large sample) and all the direct reports had a pretty similar view of Ted to what he had of himself. There were some specific aspects of management that he could improve upon but overall he fitted into the company well, was good at his work and a confident, reliable person who they liked to work for.

The three managers above, including Jim, had a significantly different view. They saw Ted as fitting in with the company and technically good but thought he lacked confidence in himself and needed to be more assertive in every respect. Skills such as ‘encourages team members to voice their opinions’ was seen as strong by colleagues and direct reports, but as weak by senior management.


Most of the colleagues who participated were managers themselves. So here is the crunch. Why did they see Ted as confident and capable but the more senior managers saw him differently?


IntrovertVsExtrovertI have a hypothesis which I’ve suggested to Jim.
‘Within the company there is another sub culture for senior management. And that culture is one of extrovert, assertive managers. Only people whose style is similar, get promoted to this level.’

Jim is thinking about this and I am hoping we’ll get to test the hypothesis. And then if it proves to be true we’ll get to work on changing it.


Why would I want it to change?

  • Having people who are too alike leads to group think which decreases innovation.
  • Assertive extroverts, without the balance of others, tend towards more risky decisions.
  • There are a number of successful styles of leader-management. An effective leader-manager needs to be flexible and adapt to the different needs of their staff.
  • 50% of the potential leader-management talent in the company is being ignored.
  • Those who are ambitious and capable, but are being overlooked, will leave. And that is exactly what has happened. Ted left for a competitor who he presumably thinks appreciates him more.


This week a person in my mastermind group spoke passionately about the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. And it struck me that it is so pertinent to what I suspect is happening at my client’s firm.


In the book Susan Cain suggests our world has moved to one that praises extrovert qualities and views the traits of introverts as inferior. She makes a case for the great value that introverts do in fact bring to the world, and to business. For a taster watch her TED talk or read about her here.


If you yourself are more extroverted are you tending to overlook the gold in the introverts around you, at work or at home? Are you mistaking a different way of doing things, for a lack of ability?
If you are a more introverted person could you gain some courage from Susan’s story and open up a conversation around ‘different’ having value?




© copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved

Quote of the Day

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly.”   ~Jim Rohn

My Little Black Book

A few of my friends in Joburg have had bats take refuge in their homes in the evenings and then not known what to do about them. I have referred them to Erna Balona of the Bat Interest Group.

If you are interested to know more about bats get hold of the group near you. They arrange fascinating bat walks at the botanical gardens.

We went some years ago and had the opportunity to see our various bat species up close and to identify their calls as they hunted for insects in the dark. (links on the site to the KZN and Cape groups as well)

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Slow it Down (Dec 2013)


BBI_beeOn Friday afternoon my husband said “Should I take you for a pizza tonight?” My younger self would have replied “Don’t worry I have already worked out what we are eating for supper.”

My older, wiser self said “Thank you that sounds great!” And so we enjoyed a lovely evening at an Italian restaurant that someone had recommended just the day before.

The gap between my younger and older selves has been filled with e-mail and Facebook circulated prose reminding us to eat ice cream and wear the fancy lingerie stored in tissue paper at the bottom of the drawer. It has been punctuated by the very real experiences of losing friends and loved ones, reinforcing how unpredictable life is. So nowadays I try to be more flexible, to accept gifts in all forms and to grab opportunities as they arise.

I just wish I’d learned sooner. So I could now be wearing that beautiful tanzanite stone hubby wanted to buy me at the very beginning of our relationship!

Stop the Headlong Race to Year End

Since October I hear people saying things like ‘there’s less than three months to Christmas’, ‘now the crazy season begins’, ‘I have only ten days till we close’. I hate that way of speaking. I try to avoid hearing or reading it. It serves no positive purpose. It creates stress and makes people feel overwhelmed. And whilst we talk about having so little time, time marches on. As our stress levels rise we become more disorganised, less focused and less and less gets done … and time marches on.

The irony is that the more we talk and stress about having little time, the less we enjoy what we do have, and the faster it seems to go by. It wastes our life. No matter what we do time keeps moving but we have the choice to have each minute be full and meaningful.

Even if you are counting down the days to going on holiday you are still wasting the days between now and the holiday. If you knew you only had a few days left to live would you be as careless with them?

Like everything there is a balance. If you live only in the moment you would find yourself “on holiday” but with nowhere to stay, or in a meeting without your documents. Things that require some advance actions require planning for. But once we have planned when to do the preparation we can let go of it and focus on what we are doing right now. And try to find joy in whatever that may be.

Do the same if you are on holiday. Appreciate each moment and each day without thinking about the end of the holiday.

We only have 525 600 minutes in each year. Let’s enjoy each one we have, with whoever we are fortunate enough to have in our lives.
Carpe Diem.

I wish all of you a joyful and healthy festive season and great new beginnings for 2014.



© copyright 2013 – All Rights Reserved

Quote of the Day

“‎There is one thing we can do, and the happiest people are those who can do it to the limit of their ability. We can be completely present. We can be all here. We can give all our attention to the opportunity before us.” Mark van Doren

My Little Black Book

To get your technical problems / queries resolved try Neville van Deutekom from Techie-day. Techie-day helps you to resolve your technical problems whilst teaching you what to do, so that you can become better at solving the easier things yourself. Neville is a techie of note with a huge amount of experience and a great willingness to help his clients – 076 813 0670.

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Focusing Where it Matters (July 2013)


BBI_beeIt has been a while since my last newsletter. At least no one can complain that I am flooding their inbox! Here in Joburg we have passed the longest night but are entering what is usually the coldest month. The last few months have been a time of change for myself and my husband as we moved house (and office) at the end of May but could only move into the new house (and office) on 1 July. For the time in between we put almost everything into storage and stayed at a good friend.

This time has given me the opportunity to reflect once more on the challenges and joys of change. The uncertainties re where to move to and when, and the packing of well over a hundred boxes weren’t much fun, but the decluttering and donating of unneeded items to charities were. I discovered that as much as I could rationalise things for myself, my body’s physical responses were a little behind. But the moment when the team of removals guys cleared the first room of all its furniture my spirits lifted  and I was swept up in the excitement of moving forward to a new adventure.

The first stage of that adventure is now over and as you read this we will be unpacking. It will be fun to reconnect with everything and to turn the new space into home! (To celebrate the new office and consulting room I have a special offer for you for July and August which is explained further down.)

Focusing where it matters

During our packing up exercise I made a trip to Westpack to buy extra boxes. These are stored up on a mezzanine level so I had to look for a shop assistant to get them down. The first lady I asked smiled and said “not a problem I will be with you in a moment”. Whilst I waited she spotted another assistant and called to her, she then turned to me to explain that this person would now be helping me. The new lady walked energetically towards me with a smile on her face as she greeted me and asked what I needed. She found everything, arranged a trolley and steered it over to a till for me. It was such a pleasure to deal with both these people and has ensured that Westpack becomes a store of choice for me. I doubt it was accidental that they were both friendly and willing to help. I expect that the store manager is working towards a culture of customer service with a smile. Probably not everyone will have got it as well as these two ladies have, but they alone are making a difference.

Last weekend we tried out a new Japanese restaurant in Rosebank. My friend had been there during the week and enjoyed the “two for one” sushi special. It turned out that this wasn’t available on a Saturday evening so we were teasing the waitress that this was no good. Whilst we were still deciding on our orders she reappeared with a plate of croquettes, compliments of the manager, to make up for missing the special!

On Monday night I attended a GIBS forum on customer centricity during which the presenter made the point that it is almost the only way left for businesses to differentiate themselves. I agree that it makes an enormous difference and in this age of ‘high tech’, ‘high touch’ becomes even more important. As humans we are craving more connection, to be recognised as an individual, not just a number, and to be shown some caring. But there is an even more important step for companies before focusing on customer centricity, and that is employee centricity.

The differentiator of excellent service is delivered by people, by employees. Whether they interact face to face with the customer or whether they perform background functions, they all contribute to the customer enjoying a good experience. If the employee doesn’t feel appreciated, doesn’t identify with a purpose and doesn’t have a sense of control, they will struggle to deliver that special customer experience. has a culture of happiness and a tagline of “powered by service”. Founder Tony Hsieh says “In nine-years we have gone from zero to $1 billion in gross merchandise sales. And the No. 1 driver of that growth has been repeat customers and word-of-mouth … I think that happier employees lead to happier customers, and happier customers lead to better business overall.”

Which South African companies do you think are getting this? What can you do to help yours to get it?



© copyright 2013 – All Rights Reserved

Happiness at Work assessment and focus session – special offer for July and August

If you are one of those people who feel that you aren’t as happy at work as you could be, you may like to explore this further with me. On the ground research shows that if you are really happy at work you are over 400% more energised than if you are the least happy!

I am accredited as a Science of Happiness at WorkTM coach practitioner which means that you can now complete an online questionnaire to identify what is or isn’t bringing you happiness (satisfaction) at work and then we can explore ways of increasing your happiness (satisfaction) at work. To complete the questionnaire, receive a ten page report, and have a one hour focus session with me, costs R1400.00. For the months of July and August I am offering this at the special rate of R880.00. Call me to book your appointment and access the questionnaire.

Research shows that people who are happiest at work spend twice as much time doing their job well than those who are the least happy. This translates into an extra 100 days of work by each staff member per year!

I have some great new, practical, diagnostic tools to help identify the most important areas for us to work on within your company as well as to be able to track the ROI on the chosen interventions. If you would like the staff in your workplace to be more productive and effective give me a call.

Quote of the Day
“‎And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”   Anais Nin

My Little Black Book

I have two recommendations for today.

I was having problems with my car’s central locking not responding to the remote. At first I thought it was being jammed but then realised it was my car and not the car guard! A mechanic recommended I see Chris Bussey of Gemtron in Randburg. He was fabulous. I love meeting someone who really knows their field. Chris carefully identified the true problem and then efficiently fixed it – all in just over half an hour. If you have any vehicle security needs – remotes, alarms, trackers, immobilisers … call Chris on 011 793 5639 / 083 375 7549

Recently we went into Davenports (Craighall) to buy a new tumble drier. Over the years we have bought new and reconditioned items from them as well as had appliances repaired. We enjoy dealing with them because they give sound, expert advice. This time they told us we were better off having our old machine repaired. So for 20% of the cost of a new machine the old one is going great again!

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