Making winning easier (May 2015)



I am writing this a little earlier this month as I am off to Cape Town to visit my son and have a couple of meetings.

I am also looking forward to trying out the parkrun route at Big Bay. I’ll have the perfect excuse to keep stopping to catch my breath so I can soak up the views of the sea and that picture postcard view of Table Mountain!

Making winning easier

Chatting with a friend whose children had played water polo in high school, the conversation moved to coaches. We have both watched matches where the coach has shouted abuse at the players all match long. This seems to be very common in at least boy’s water polo. Surprisingly the teams often still do pretty well. And the boys are prepared to suck it up and accept it for the honour of playing for the team.


Both of my friend’s children are really strong players so they played first team pretty much throughout high school. The teams they played for were in the top rankings of SA schools’ teams. The difference is in how they get there and how they experience the sport. And in those years the girls’ team took home more big trophies than the boys’ team did.


My friend’s son is also an observer and a thinker. In previous years he’d watched his older sister and her team mates have a ball in and out of the pool – work hard and play hard. He saw how they knew each other, respected each other and played as a team. Their coach created an environment in which they could learn, grow, have fun and win.

He contrasted this with how his team were treated – shouted and sworn at, insulted and degraded, and he decided it was no longer worth it. He demoted himself to the second team and played his last school season for the sheer fun of it.

His sister on the other hand played for both school and province through to the end of matric. And then went on to play at university and to contribute as a coach at a local high school.


In our working world leader-managers create the environment and culture – from the top downwards. Many companies don’t really appreciate their staff. They consider them a rather costly and difficult resource. Communication isn’t great and systems and processes not all that enabling. But the work mostly does get done. So one might ask why things should be any different.


If the leader-managers create an environment of trust and respect, with great communication, a sense of belonging and systems that enable, then the work gets done better and easier. People respond to the environment with energy, show initiative, reduce wastage, care for customers and take responsibility for doing their job the very best that they can.

And more of the great players stay to be part of the team.

And the team has what it needs to win the bigger trophies.

Kind Regards



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

© copyright 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Quote of the Day

Last Sunday another friend’s son used this quote to honour his mother. I thought it was a beautiful choice.

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing holding the universe together” – J.D Salinger

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In the zone (March 2015)



I often have lots of thoughts when I’m showering. This morning my mind jumped to things people complain about in SA and then onto the news reports that I see from elsewhere in the world. I thought about how there are problems everywhere – economic, social, political, wars, terrorism – only the details change.

I was reminded of that story about a group of people who all had pretty big problems in their lives. They were invited to swop their problem for someone else’s. Each person wrote their problem on a piece of paper and put it on a table. Then one-by-one they came to the table and picked up a piece of paper (and problem) to take home.

It turned out that all had chosen their own original problem! For the most part we learn how to live with our own problems, whether we resolve them or not.


We are enjoying lovely weather in Joburg at the moment and we have been invited to join friends in big 5 country for the weekend. My closing shower thought was, “there is a lot I’m prepared to put up with in exchange for our weather, wide open spaces, beautiful wildlife, natural scenery, colourful people and minimal incidence of natural disasters!”

In the zone

A few weeks ago I was watching a bit of the Cricket World Cup. AB de Villiers and Rossouw were batting against West Indies. At that moment de Villiers hit a six – slow, steady, watch, wait, hit, follow with eye. He hit the ball so smoothly, with quiet confidence, making it look effortless.

That was the day the score went from 146 for 3 to 408 for 5 with AB scoring his final 50 runs off just 12 balls.

I just love to watch any top class sportsman on a good day – it’s poetry in motion – awesome – so exciting to the maximizer in me.

And what a difference it makes to the score when a few players are in that space on the day.


What enables a player like AB de Villiers to play like that?

I haven’t interviewed him but from my understanding of human behaviour and performance I believe it is firstly because he is working with his talents. Then he has put in lots of practise to create the right pathways in the brain to turn his talents into strengths. He doesn’t mind putting in the practise because he is doing what he enjoys and feeling a sense of mastery. Then he feels well rewarded whether that is through money or recognition. And he has the support of a team that is collectively in the right space.

In sport it is sometimes referred to as being in the zone. The result of both physical and mental preparation.


Interestingly in an interview after the match de Villiers shared the role that Rossouw and the rest of the team had played in his achieving his great result.

The sheer range of shots he played on Friday was breathtaking but he admitted to feeling out of sorts when he came out to join Rilee Rossouw in the middle with his side becalmed at 146-3.

“Rilee played a big part in me getting off my feet today,” he said.

“I didn’t feel too well going out to the wicket, a bit flat. He had a lot energy about him, a lot of intensity, getting into a lot of good positions, making it look flat out there.

“We were getting a lot of momentum behind us at a really quick pace. We’re both really aggressive players, we ran a lot of twos, and all of that together helped in me having a go.”

“I really thought the guys were motivated today to play some good cricket,” he said.

“It’s great to see the team like that, hustling around. You could see their eyes were open, ready to fight. It’s a great turnaround after loss at the MCG.”


I am writing this just hours before the Proteas play Sri Lanka in the quarter finals. I hope the team is again in the right space and that there are enough key players in the zone.


Imagine if everyone working for you, or around you, was in the zone. Imagine the results (the score) that you could collectively achieve.

It can be done. If you create an environment which makes it easier for people to be self motivated, one in which they have a degree of autonomy, can experience a sense of mastery and see a purpose in what they do. If you collect people together with a variety of strengths and match those strengths appropriately to the roles needed. And if you reward fairly and show appreciation in the language (manner) in which each individual needs to receive it.

And then you help those individuals to collaborate as a team. To appreciate each other’s strengths, to accept the imperfections, to communicate, to trust and to respect each other.


How much more would you achieve each day? How much more profitable would you be? How much higher would the quality of goods or services be?

Kind Regards



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

© copyright 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Quote of the Day

“Excellence can be attained if you Care more than what others think is wise, Risk more than what others think is safe, Dream more than what others think is practical and Expect more than what others think is possible.” – Unknown

My Little Black Book

This is for those in Johannesburg who enjoy theatre. Have you been to Foxwood Theatre in Houghton? We discovered it a couple of years ago. The shows range from revues to comedy to the thought provoking – mostly in English but some in Afrikaans. And there is an excellent restaurant for pre show dinners. You can sign up to their newsletter and watch out for the next show that interests you.

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Life and Business Lessons from The Marico (June 2014)



Every winter I get a shock when the first cold front arrives, as it did on Friday here in Johannesburg. One would think after all these years that I could remember how cold it would be! What I do remember is how in 1981 the cold fronts always arrived just in time for the weekend. I wonder if that is going to be the pattern this year?
Anyhow I understand the cold should get rid of lots of bacteria, viruses and pests so helping us and the plants remain healthy. And it is a lovely opportunity to wear all the beautifully coloured silk scarves I have been making.

Life and business lessons from The Marico

Last month I said I would be sharing thoughts and lessons from our time in The Marico. It was our first visit and delivered more than we expected.
That is already a reminder of an old maxim – “under promise and over deliver”. Such a simple concept and yet one that few people practise in their work. One can also apply it to how we give customers (internal or external) an indication of delivery or completion dates.


Groot Marico village itself is small and dusty but there are real gems in the form of beautiful places to stay, fascinating salt of the earth
people to meet, culture and history to connect with, and delicious cordon bleu dinners at the local restaurant.



This is Die Oog, or The Eye, of the Marico – the origin of the river. As you walk out from the high reed beds into this special space it feels as though you’ve arrived on a movie set. The water tastes delicious and is crystal clear. I had no idea it was ~15m deep. Apparently it is a great scuba diving spot hence the structures on the right.
When we asked for directions at the information office Santa explained that we would be entering through a lesser known access point. The official marked entrance, where I believe an entrance fee is charged, she said was owned by a not so friendly landowner. Another lesson – be very careful of unnecessarily irritating a person of influence.
We struggled a little to find the farm entrance until a rough looking, kindly man hailed us asking if we were lost. He says he redirects about 30 people a month.

Once we reached the alternate access point we found that this landowner is so friendly that he not only freely allows visitors entrance to his farm but he has also laid a walkway through the reed beds and even provided a clean long drop toilet cubicle where one parks. Both men were such beautiful examples of generosity of spirit.


In the village Santa gave us a tour of the Herman Charles Bosman Living Museum.

Some years ago a small group of people formed a Literary Society to preserve Bosman’s writings and to create a museum. The first few years were spent clearing a piece of land that had been a dumping ground. They then built a perfect replica of the school house where Bosman lived and worked.

After this they turned to the Batswana people to ask them what they would like to build to represent their part of the history. Black and white worked together to build huts and learn how to plaster them with mud and cow dung.

Today individuals and groups visit the museum where readings and music evenings take place. School children come to learn folk dances of the Afrikaner and the Batswana and how to use medicinal plants. These individuals working together, old and young, black and white, with little resources, have built a legacy.


The day we were returning home we were already 20km out of the village on a dirt road at Die Oog so rather than back track to the main N4 road we set out to find a route on the roads less travelled. What a pleasure. The roads were in good condition and took us through interesting hamlets.
Whilst still on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere we stumbled across this monument erected by the local farmers in 1938.


When we rush through life on the main highway we miss opportunities to make special memories.


Working out our route home was interesting. Looking at the GPS we had too narrow a view to make a decision as to whether continuing on the dirt roads could take us in the right direction. We needed to bring out our map to get a better, bigger view.

That big picture enabled us to create a strategy which connected where we were to where we needed to be, home – our goal.

Then we looked at the routes the GPS was suggesting when set for either fastest or shortest route. Combining the GPS and the map we were able to find an optimised route which fitted with our vision of a more interesting drive.

When we combine big picture thinking with detail we can achieve the best outcome.



© copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved

Quote of the Day

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” ~ von Goethe

My Little Black Book

On a recent Friday afternoon I took a parcel to Postnet Greenside to be wrapped and couriered. The driver was about to leave the shop with all the parcels and I was too late. However he offered to wait for mine.

That was excellent service and the staff are great. Postnet Greenside is at 139 Greenway with parking in Gleneagles Rd. Call them for directions 011 027 8434

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Making Jazz (Feb 2014)



BBI_beeAnd 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?

Making Jazz

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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