Thursday, 21 July 2016

Real leaders focus on personal development



Most of our studies and career development course focus on the specific knowledge and skills we need to do our work. There has always been a very strong emphasis on these so-called "hard skills", and with good reason - these skills are paramount if we're to do our jobs properly.

In recent years, however, there has been more of a recognition that we need all manner of other skills to work effectively, perform optimally and get satisfaction from our jobs. These are the "soft skills", like interpersonal relationships, for example - how well we work with our colleagues.

As a result of this recognition, it has now become virtually par for the course that the development of soft skills is an important part of grooming future leaders. They need to have the skills to deal effectively deal with the people who they manage. Not only this, but they need to pass on these skills to others so that everyone in the organisation can benefit.

The importance of balance

Whereas previous incarnations of our societies didn't pay much attention to the so-called "touchy-feely" side of work, we have now realised that we also need to consider these aspects when striving for a healthy work-life balance.

If we don't create a proper balance in our work lives we run the risk of becoming less and less productive. That's why organisations place such an emphasis on the softer skills.

It's the responsibility of leaders to teach those they work with about personal development and how to deal with life issues and the work-life balance.

Career growth requires personal growth

Have you ever noticed that most of the people who seem to cope with work without breaking a sweat, who never seem stressed and who always seem to have enough time to get everything done are the most experienced people in the organisation?

That's because they have learned - often through trial and error - how to work efficiently. They have developed personal characteristics that allow them to perform well under pressure, without suffering in their personal capacity.

This means that in order to do our work as effectively as possible - both for the company that employs us and in order to be healthy and happy - we need to develop specific skills. Among them are perseverance, calmness, patience and empathy.

In short, to grow in our careers we need to grow as people too.

What organisations and leaders can do

Good leaders are able to teach these life skills to the people, both by mentoring them and by being observable examples. Companies that are seeking sustainability and growth need to put in place formal structures that allow leaders to accomplish this.

The next generation of leaders needs to be identified early so that they can be put onto a company programme of personal development and growth, facilitated by the company leaders. Leaders themselves should be trained to be constantly cognisant of the importance of this personal development mentorship so that they are able to take advantage of opportunities to pass personal skills on at any point in their interactions with the people they manage.

We have seen time and again that the most worthwhile investment an organisation can make is in the development of its people - to the extent that it becomes a no-brainer. It is the leadership that needs to drive this.


What do you think leaders should teach? Share it with us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Real leaders create other leaders

An old Japanese proverb holds that the mark of a master is how many other masters he creates.

There are lots of cliches about leadership. We hear that the best leaders lead from the front. That they lead by example. However, perhaps the most important role that leaders can play when it comes to creating sustainability, consistency, and growth in society is captured in Tom Peters' now famous quote: "Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders".

The importance of continuity

Society needs continuity. Its policies, projects, initiatives, businesses - even its norms and values - need to be carried through from one generation to the next. If this doesn't happen, there is too much volatility for society to bear. We won't be able to sustain anything. We won't be able to think and act in a long-term fashion. We won't be able apply planning. We'll effectively be winging it from one generation to the next.

This is why it's so important for each generation of leaders to identify and nurture the next wave of leadership. The next group of people who will lead their companies, teams, schools, universities, communities and the country, building on what has been created before. The baton needs to be passed if we are to avoid stagnation, and grow to our full potential as communities, economies, and countries.

How do we create leaders?

There are many ways in which we can inculcate leadership - advanced education, training programmes, skills development initiatives and the like. However, there remains an age-old method that is still highly effective. In fact, it could be argued that this is the most important factor in creating true leaders. This is mentorship.

Mentorship is how we have traditionally created leaders in our societies, although we used to call it an apprenticeship. From ancient tribal customs to the most modern leadership development approaches; this has been the common thread.
Leaders will take selected people under their wings, so to speak, mentoring and grooming them to take over leadership positions one day. Knowledge and wisdom are passed on, and skills and expertise are taught. The apprentice is shown how to think like a leader. How to develop a leadership psychology. This can really only happen through interpersonal contact - working closely together in a mentor-mentee scenario.

Future leaders also need to gain as much hands-on experience as they can. It's a big step to take from only having to be responsible for your own work to being responsible for the output of others. This means giving your future leaders as many opportunities as possible to practise and develop their leadership skills.

Most important is the leadership mindset. Leadership requires a very different mental attitude. Future leaders need to learn that it is necessary to accept accountability - even if they are not directly responsible for something. They need to develop an attitude of "the buck stops here".

This is quite possibly the most important aspect of leadership that we need in this country at the moment. It's the attitude we need in our leaders if we are to face our challenges successfully - nothing ever gets done properly if everyone passes the buck. A strong leader doesn't do this.

Do you think we do enough to develop leadership? Share it with us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Have you thought about your tertiary education?


If you're entering your last couple of years of school or are already in Matric, chances are you'll have given some thought to what you want to do after school, in terms of a career or studying further.

Some people are lucky in that they have had lifelong career ambitions; they know exactly what they want to become and what to study to achieve this. However, most of us enter our final years of school not quite knowing what career we want.

How are you feeling about your own future? Here are some things to consider when planning your education.

Get career advice

The smartest thing to do is to match your studies to your career ambitions. Of course, to do this you need to decide what career you want to follow.

One of the best ways of doing this is to attend any career functions that your school organises. They usually bring in different career professionals to talk about what they do and advise you on what to study.

Your other option is to go for some kind of career guidance counselling. There are plenty of people who specialise in exactly this, so it's simply a matter of making an appointment. You'll typically fill in some aptitude questionnaires and have a short interview, after which you'll be given a report on the kind of careers that would suit you best.

If you still have no idea what career you wish to follow, getting a tertiary education is still important, as it creates a solid basis on which to build any career, and any further studies you may want to pursue. Try to choose a course that will leave you with options, like a general degree in communications, for example. The idea is to keep as many career doors open as possible.

Do your research

Whether you know exactly what career you want or only have a vague idea, you need research the courses that you could study in order to prepare yourself.

Some careers have well-defined educational paths, so one simply follows the curriculum as it is set out. These are usually the professional careers, like those in engineering or the legal world. If you decide on a career like this, your educational path will be clearly set out for you.

If you want to pursue a career that doesn't have such a clearly defined study curriculum, it's a case of choosing a course that will teach you the theory and nitty-gritty of the career arena that you want to enter. So, for example, if you want to become a media entrepreneur, you can choose courses from a wide range that will give you a solid basis. This could include topics like communication, media studies and politics, depending on your particular field of interest.

Speak to people who are already pursuing the careers you are interested in - find out what they studied, or what they would recommend that you study. Research courses online, to find out which ones will best further your career ambitions.

Plan an educational path

Now that you have an idea of what type of studies to pursue, you can start to plan your actual courses. You may want to start with a short introductory course to get the feel for the subject, in case you're still not entirely sure what you want to do with your life.

Once you've orientated yourself to the study direction you want, you should plan what your main qualification will be, to begin with. Do you want to study for a university degree, or will you only need a college certificate? Can you do some sort of mentorship that will lead to you studying for a tertiary qualification?

In other words, you need to get a clear idea of what qualifications or certifications you will need in your chosen career. Build up a view of all the possible education options that relate to this career, and create an educational plan for yourself. You don't have to do it all at once - you may find that it will be best to get a basic qualification, then get some work experience before studying further.

Remember, you can control your career through your educational choices. Put a plan in place for how you will get the qualifications you need and you'll find that your career path will be all that much smoother.


Do you have a plan for your education? Share it with us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA

Thursday, 23 June 2016

How to use good debt rather than bad debt

Unless you're very fortunate, debt is something you will have to contend with during your life. You may already have some form of debt, possibly a student loan or, on a smaller scale, a clothing or book store account.

While debt is so difficult to avoid, we're usually advised to try and steer clear of it, and to eliminate it as soon as possible if we absolutely have to borrow money. So the idea that there is such a thing as good debt may come as a surprise to you.

Knowing the difference between good and bad debt in the context of an overall financial strategy is an important part of reaching financial stability or generating wealth.

What is bad debt?


Bad debt comes in a few forms. The most basic form of bad debt is money you borrow that you can't afford to pay back. We usually incur these debts when we make impulse purchases or buy something that we know we shouldn't, but can't resist.

Another common form of bad debt, which emerges particularly when times are tough, is the buying of consumable items like food or disposable products using a credit card. The problem here is that you're paying a high interest rate for non-durable goods, and unless you pay back the debt within the allotted time, your cost of living will shoot up, as you are paying so much more for the everyday basics.

One of the most popular forms of debt is, unfortunately, also bad debt - our credit account at our favourite clothing store. This is another example of borrowing money at interest to buy things that don't hold their value and end up disposable.

So what is good debt?

Types of good debt

Good debt is money that you borrow in order to generate wealth - to make more money. It is the type of debt that builds wealth over the long run, leaving you better off than you were. It is effectively an investment.

The most important aspect of a good debt, therefore, is that it must generate some sort of value. This can be tangible, in the case of a profit made, or less measurable, like the benefits of an education.

There are several types of debt that we generate wealth or serve as an investment.

Education

The first and arguably the most beneficial form of good debt is educational debt, in the form of money you borrow to pay for an education. The reason why this is a good debt is that the education will most likely allow you to generate more income than the value of the loan. In other words, you'll make a profit, if we measure it only in financial terms. Of course, education has plenty of other benefits, which further increase its value and make it a good debt.

Property

A house bond is another form of good debt. It is a straightforward investment in something that increases in value over time: property. The vast majority of home owners sell their properties for more than what they paid, making this form of debt a solid investment. The other benefit of having a house bond is that it allows you to borrow further money against it, which increases your financial flexibility - as long as the other debt you incur is also good debt, of course.

Debt consolidation

Yet another type of good debt that can improve your financial status is refinancing. If you are paying off a number of different debts at relatively high interest rates, it will become a lot cheaper if you are able to borrow a single sum at a lower interest rate, with which you can pay off the rest and only have a single source of debt.

Learning the good debt lesson


Now that you understand the difference between good debt and bad debt, and how good debt can be used to create wealth, you'll be able to make smarter financial decisions.

Start by reviewing your current debt - are you paying off a lot of different debts? Are some of the interest rates really high, compared to others or to the prime interest rate? If so, it might be worthwhile approaching a financial institution for a consolidating loan at a better interest rate, to end up with a single loan that will cost you less.

Next, look at your future plans and how you intend to fund them. Look at the all of the things that you will need to go into debt to achieve, and check whether they will cause good debt or bad debt. If the latter, try to find a different way to reach your goal.

And don't forget to look for opportunities. For instance, you might not have yet considered buying property, because you're scared of the debt. Now that you know this is good debt, you can take it on with more confidence, knowing that it will actually make you money.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Successful young South Africans on the world stage




As part of celebrating Youth month, it's opportune to pause and recognise young South Africans who are making their mark on the world. While they're excellent role models for all of us, we've chosen most of them, especially for their entrepreneurial characteristics. Starting businesses is one of the most important things that we need to do in this country, both to stimulate economic growth and to create jobs.

So let's look at a few South Africans who have shown special entrepreneurial flair and achieved international success. Then as a bonus, there's an inspirational sports story.

Vinny Lingham - Gyft

Vinny Lingham worked for a few companies in Johannesburg before getting the idea of starting his own business to provide digital gift cards for corporates and other organisations. He named his company Gyft.

Gyft grew to be so successful that it made a serious impression internationally, leading to Lingham selling it to the largest credit card processing company in the USA, First Data, apparently making him a millionaire in the process.

As usual, his wasn't an overnight success. He had previously founded and run a website building company, Yola, and a search engine optimisation company, Clicks2Customers.

Khanyi Dhlomo - Ndalo Media

Khanyi Dhlomo began a career in the media industry when she was 20 years old and since then has built a media company that has seen her recognised by Forbes magazine as one of Africa's most successful women.

She was an early developer, becoming editor of True Love magazine at the age of only 22. After several successful years in this position, she spent some time overseas, working and studying. She returned to South Africa armed with an MBA and some strong ideas. She founded Ndalo Media, which now publishes the enormously successful magazines, Destiny and Destiny Man. 

Bheki Kunene - Mind Trix Media

Bheki Kunene's story can certainly serve as an inspiration for all of us, which you'll soon see when you read what he has had to overcome. All of us appreciate the trials and tribulations we will have to go through when we start a business, but Kunene has had more than his fair share of adversity.

Shortly after founding Mind Trix Media, Kunene was falsely accused of murder and had to spend a week in police custody before being released - with an apology, at least. Undeterred he continued to build his business, before another disaster struck, in the form a fast-moving car that fractured his skull.

With characteristic determination, Kunene has bounced back from this setback as well, and his company has flourished. It now deals with large corporations all over the globe, from Africa to Europe and Asia.

Gift Ngoepe - Pittsburgh Pirates

Gift's story is a true fairy tale. Born and raised in a sports clubhouse in Randburg, Johannesburg, he is now poised to enter the very highest level of baseball in the USA - the Major League, what the Americans call "The Show".

To South Africans raised on a diet of soccer, cricket, and rugby, this might not seem like a big deal, but consider this: last year over 72-million people physically attended baseball games in the US. On any given Saturday, more than 2-million people watch Major League baseball on TV.

Baseball was the sport played at his clubhouse, so Gift began playing when he was very young. He was chosen to play for South Africa at the World Championships and earned a place at an academy in Italy. Here he was noticed by a representative of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a Major League team. He signed a professional contract and has spent the last few years playing in lower leagues.

The exciting news is that Gift has now made his way close to the top and has been selected to the Major League squad. If he is selected for the team itself he will become the first black African to play Major League baseball in the USA.


Which successful young South Africans inspire you? Tell us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA

Thursday, 9 June 2016

It’s Youth Month – the focus is on you

There are many ways in which we celebrate Youth Month in South Africa. The government has announced plenty of events across the country, ranging from memorials to lectures to concerts. Private organisations are doing similar things.

So why is there all this attention on youth at this time of year?

Obviously, it’s all centred around Youth Day itself, on 16 June. This commemorates the 1976 Students’ Uprising, most visibly associated with the famous picture of Hector Pieterson.

So there is a good deal of gravity to the focus, and an emphasis on the freedoms that have since been won for the youth of the country, as well as on the lessons that have been learned and the values that we all want our society to be based on, now and in the future.

The importance of Youth Day

The students who risked their lives in the Students’ Uprising were protesting against being forced to receive their education in Afrikaans. Of course, this issue was just one aspect of a broader system of oppression, which is ultimately why they were marching in Soweto on that day in 1976.

The peaceful protest turned violent, resulting in death and injury, and sparking much wider and intensified action. Youth Day, by commemorating these events, reminds us of the price that a previous generation of people our age – and even younger – paid for the freedoms we enjoy today.

How can we mark Youth Month?


Probably the most important thing we can do to mark Youth Month is to remember the events of 1976 and acknowledge the brave and principled stand that the youth took.

We should also learn lessons from them – for instance, that although we have rights, we should not take them for granted; they were hard-earned.

It doesn’t have to be all about sombre reflection, though. We should also celebrate our freedom – and the mere fact that we are young. It is, after all, a time of our lives brimming with potential, when the world lies open before us. So we should enjoy ourselves during Youth Month – attending concerts and participating in other social events.

Youth Month celebration ideas

If you’re wanting to mark Youth Day or do something to participate in Youth Month this year, we’ve collected some ideas for you.

Those of you in Cape Town can take part in the Miles For Smiles Beach Walk on 16 June, organised by Operation Smile.

Music lovers can head for the Silver Mountain Music Festival, which runs from 16 to 19 June in the Langeberg Mountains.

At the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, there will be a full programme of classical music for those so inclined.

For those wanting a more immediate experience, the Metro Walk in Soweto allows participants to retrace the steps of the youth on that fateful day in 1976.


What are your ideas for commemorating or celebrating Youth Month? Tell us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Africa Vision 2063 – where will we be?

Africa 2063. You might not think that a vision so far into the future applies to you. After all, if you’re a student or young professional, you’ll be in your mid-sixties by then, ready to retire. Which means that we belong to the building generation. The ones who will spend our lives making this vision for Africa a reality for those who come after us.

Let’s ask ourselves then, when we get to 2063 and look back, what are the things we will want to have achieved?

Sustainability

Sustainability isn’t only important from the point of view of preserving our planet and its environment. It’s also a crucial part of any development plans that we make for our own continent. With so many African economies either in early stages of economic development or extremely vulnerable to cost increases, it’s important that the products, processes and models we adopt can be sustained. In other words, that we can afford them in the long-term.

Of course, we also need to start managing natural resources more carefully, and developing alternative sources of energy, if we are to leave a world that offers next generations a lifestyle that is at least comparable to ours – ideally better. On a continent so blessed with daylight hours and other alternative energy production methods, we should hope to be world leaders in sustainability by 2063.

Strong identity, values and ethics

A common culture is one of the things that most strongly binds people together in large communities. If we think of some of the most successful countries in the world we find that a distinguishing feature is that they all have relatively homogenous cultural values. They have a shared culture that the vast majority of people are part of.

One of the big challenges we need to overcome in Africa is the tendency for cultural differences to be divisive. We only need to think of the many civil wars that occur to realise this. This places an exceptionally strong onus on us to work together towards a continent where we celebrate the vast majority of things that we share, rather than allowing our differences to divide us.

Unlocking the potential of women

It’s an unfortunate historical truth that centuries of patriarchy have shaped the world in ways that pose unique challenges for women to overcome. As the world thankfully becomes more egalitarian in gender terms, Africa has its own challenges to overcome, including removing the restrictions that women still face, both regulatory and psychologically.

There are many women’s’ organisations and initiatives that are vitally committed to ensuring that gender inequality disappears from all strata of African society, from the most basic level of healthcare to the highest offices of the land. These organisations are having an increasingly powerful impact on our societies, which bodes well for a future where African men and women live on equal terms.

Good governance and the rule of law

This is an area that Africa needs to focus on if it is to become a place that its inhabitants can really call a mother. The days of corrupt governments diverting resources that people really need must come to an end.

There are encouraging signs that a new generation of leadership is taking this very seriously. The so-called “Millennials” have a well-developed sense of social consciousness and, as they come to dominate the worlds of business and politics, they will hopefully transform these in ways that will serve the people of the continent more fruitfully.


What kind of Africa would you like to leave for your children one day? Tell us here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA