By Ian Fuhr
January is always a time of reflection and introspection. We set goals for ourselves, we plan how we will grow our businesses and we focus on making the year at hand our best year yet. Given the past two years, there’s an even greater sense of urgency this year in terms of improving ourselves and our businesses. The question is, where do we begin?
At the Hatch Institute, our mantra is transformation: Transforming people, mindsets, businesses and, ultimately, our country.
The key to macro transformation, however, is that it all begins with the individual. As a business leader, transforming yourself will ultimately transform your business.
Yesterday I thought I was clever, so I tried to change other people
But today, I became wise and I tried to change myself – Rumi
Here’s how to get started.
1. Transform yourself and earn the moral authority to lead
I believe that the purpose of our life’s journey is to become an exceptional human being who will positively influence the lives of all the people we interact with. When I work with leaders and individuals across organisations, this is always where we begin.
To become an effective leader of people, and to earn the moral authority to lead, you must first embark on a journey of personal growth and transformation. You cannot hope to change people and transform business cultures if you have not demonstrated your own ability to transform yourself.
To earn the moral authority, you will need to do the following:
- Earn the trust and respect of your people
- Create a sense of belonging and common purpose
- Show a genuine concern for the well-being of people
- Be totally committed to their growth and development
- Create a place of safety in which people feel free to speak without fear
2. Ensure that your personal reason for being aligns with that of the company
Be crystal clear on your own reason for being. What drives you, what inspires you, what are you passionate about and what are your strengths. Then make sure that you are totally aligned with the company’s reason for being. For example, the Hatch Institute’s reason for being is ‘Transforming Mindsets’ and my personal reason for being is ‘To inspire people to make a positive impact on the world’.
Importantly, your reason for being must always be based on the service of others. As soon as you are the beneficiary of your own purpose, you have become an ‘I Specialist’ and you have lost the moral authority to lead.
3. Discover how you are standing in your own way
Consider an egg. When you break the shell from the outside, life ends, but when it is broken from the inside, the chick is born, and life begins. Change always begins from the inside – Jim Kwik
Change begins inside your heart and your mind. Uncover your own paradigms, stereotypes, and prejudices and determine how they are blocking your way forward.
The blockers that could be holding you back include ego, fear, blind spots, shame, guilt, weaknesses, self-doubt, lack of self-confidence, and many more. On your journey of self-discovery, identify your blockers, understand where they come from and move out of your comfort zone in order to overcome them. Nothing ever changes in your comfort zone.
4. Discover your personal biases and overcome paradigm paralysis
We make biased decisions and choices all day long because most of our normal activities involve bias. Do I want tea or coffee? Do I want warm or light clothes today? Do I want a walk or a run?
Then there are more far-reaching biases, such as biases on diversity, which dictate our behaviour when confronted by people who are different to us. We tend to be unconsciously biased about the way people look, the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they behave and the way they show affiliation to a certain race, religion or culture. Possessing bias is part and parcel of the human condition and it is not always negative – it can be positive or neutral. However, when it’s the reason why a manager hires someone who looks and sounds like him, and enjoys the same sports, without realising that this is why he is drawn to one candidate over another, it can be very destructive.
The more we think we are immune to it, the greater the likelihood that our biases will be invisible or unconscious to us. To create a truly safe and respectful workplace – one where there is a sense of belonging, where everyone can be themselves and genuinely buy into your purpose without feeling they must ignore their culture – it is critical to first address your own personal biases.
In today’s socio-political and economic environment, transforming mindsets is no longer a requirement; it is a moral duty and an obligation to the upliftment of our country. The status quo is not sustainable, and the only way forward is to transform mindsets and become flexible with our paradigms. Even if it’s one mindset at a time. It’s okay to have strong beliefs, but hold them loosely.
5. Address racial polarisation
If we accept that none of us are immune to unconscious bias, the next step is to admit that racism is still deeply engrained in South Africa. If we truly want to transform our mindsets in 2022, we have to stop hiding from our unconscious biases and the racial polarisation we are facing as a nation. Businesses need to have the tough conversations and address our unconscious biases in an empathetic and transparent way.
It’s important to get everyone involved, from top leadership through to the entire organisation. As a business, you can choose to ignore race relations within your organisation, or you can step out of the comfort zone. If your find the courage to explore our differences and understand the mindsets of others, you will not only build a business on the foundations of tolerance and respect, but you will build a strong culture which will boost productivity and customer service. Then you will build a truly diverse company that can rise to the occasion of meeting South Africa’s needs and challenges.
Challenging your own paradigms about race is not without effort. It’s a clear and deliberate attempt to let go of years of conditioning and apathy. There is no better time to start than now.
Embrace transformation through Cultureneering
In 2022, South Africa requires a new breed of business leader. A leader that has developed the cultureneering skills to build a culture of service in a polarised workforce; a leader who has earned the moral authority to lead by earning the trust and respect of employees and has created a sense of belonging for all people regardless of race.
This type of leader first grows within themselves. They embrace change and take the hard road. They accept that they must first be uncomfortable in order to ultimately walk a better path to becoming a great Culture-Driven leader.