Lovely ideas

Mondays are a great time to make positive changes!

Posted in Uncategorized

What to ask in a job interview

The part of the job interview where the prospective employer gives you an opportunity to ask questions is one of the most significant opportunities for you to differentiate yourself.

Here are some hints:

  • Don’t ask anything you could have found on their website or with the use of your friend Google. That will come across as sloppy preparation. Know as much as possible about what the company does.
  • Don’t use the interview as an opportunity to negotiate the job function, salary or possibilities of promotion.
  • DO ask questions that reveal your knowledge of their company. For example: “ When researching, I noticed that your company has gone through significant growth over the last year. Do you expect that growth to continue?”
  • This is the time for you to check if the job is a good fit for you. If you prefer to work on your own and the position requires you to be part of a team, you may have trouble fitting in. Ask questions that will help clarify your non-negotiable expectations.
  • Use strong questions and beware of coming across as desperate or needy. If you find that you are very nervous in interviews, it can be useful to practice these questions with a friend before the day.

Examples of questions you could ask:

  •  What would a typical work day look like?
  • What are the most important skills and qualities required for this role?
  • Who would I be reporting to?
  • Can you tell me a bit about the company’s culture and management style?
  • Does this position offer an opportunity for growth and/ or advancement? What is the typical career path for someone in this position?
  • Can you give me an example of the tasks or projects I will be working on?
  • Is this a new position? If not, what did the previous employee go on to do?
  • If you don’t have references in your CV, you might ask whether they would like a list of references.
  • Does the organization offer development and educational opportunities such as training?
  • If you offer me the position, when would l need to start?
  • Does the position involve overtime, relocation, or travel?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?

A few well considered questions will make a great impression.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

How much should you earn?

How much should you earn?

I’m giving my blogging series on corporate animals a rest. I promise there will be more on the animals, but I read this and found it very interesting. Having been a business owner, employer and employee at different times of my life, I find the diferent perspectives on this debate interesting.

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

The corporate animal – 4 – The Elephant

This post is dedicated  to Ajabu, an orphan elephant who died recently

This post is dedicated to little Ajabu, an orphan elephant who died recently.

I became an foster mommy to a new born baby elephant that was found alone in the African bush in April this year. It was with sadness that I heard last week that little Ajabu had died. I dedicate this post on corporate animals to elephants.

Ellies inspire respect. Elephants are the largest land animals. We cant help but be impressed by their size. The beauty is that they don’t needlessly use their size in order to dominate. Corporate elephants don’t need to be bullies to get their way. They influence by their charisma.

In the wild elephants are very social and have very distinct relationships. Being part of a group and  being clear about their place is absolutely essential to them. Your ellie at work will care about the interpersonal relationships in the team and most likely be one of your most loyal employees.

Ellies in the wild or captivity often work together to achieve goals they are not able to accomplish on their own.  At work,  elephants are great team players.

So, how to manage the elephants in your office?

elephant herd on the bank of the crocodile river - july 2013

elephant herd on the banks of the crocodile river – july 2013

  • Try not to be frustrated by their slow and deliberate pace. Tasks do get completed – it just takes the ellie a bit longer, because they need to spend some of their time on social interaction in order to be completely happy.
  • Forget about using force or punishment to change the behaviour of your corporate ellie. Elephants respond very well to rewards and positive reinforcement. (And they can be very scary when they are angry!)
  • You may find it frustrating that your ellie spends so much time socializing. Remember that relationships are important to them and use the corporate elephants as part of functional teams.
  • Corporate elephants are keen observers. They gather and remember all kinds of useful information. If you want to find out about the underlying issues in a team, ask the ellie! Elephants never forget.
  • Set very clear roles and goals for ellie employees. They function best when they know where they fit and what is expected of them.
  • In English we use the metaphor “an elephant in the room” to indicate an obvious matter that is being ignored. Remember not to ignore the elephant in the office!

young elephant bull in the kruger national park

My previous few posts have been about some other corporate animals. You can view them here:

  •  The croc:
  •  The kingfisher:
  •  The owls:

As always I welcome hearing from you!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Corporate Animals, Uncategorized

The corporate animal – 3 – The Owl

Eagle owls in KNPDuring a recent drive in the african bush we were lucky enough to spot a pair of giant eagle owls. These owls are the largest owls in south africa and are regognisable by their bright pink eyelids. (Aren’t they gorgeous?) They are not easy to spot in the wild, but let’s see if you can identify corporate owls in your workplace.

In the West owls are seen as a symbol of wisdom. There is an image of the “wise old owl” that has it’s origin in ancient Greece. However in some African and other cultures, the owl is sometimes seen as an omen of death or darkness.

To spot the owls in your organisation, look for the team member who is a bit of a loner with an unique perspective and strong work ethic.

Owls are nocturnal animals and your corporate owl may very well do their best work outside of office hours. Owls really appreciate the benefits of flexi time. They like to come in a bit earlier or leave a bit later in order to be able to get their work done without distractions. Owls usually prefer to work independently, but are also able to share tasks. Interestingly, in the wild, owl couples share  time equally to sit on their eggs to hatch the little owlets.

Corporate owls are often not interested in the emotional issues or dramas of the workplace, prefering to focus on facts rather than rumours or feelings. They are observant, have a sharp eye for detail. Because of their capacity to focus they can easily analyze complicated data and forecast tricky trends. Owls are able to rotate their heads 240 degrees!  This gives them the unique capacity to see things from a completely different angle.

At work owls offer intelligent and creative contributions. Because of their keen observation skills they bring great insights, but often need to be encouraged to offer their views. They dont contribute readily in meetings. Where other animals may try to draw attention to their ideas, owls are never show offs.

Dealing with the owls 

eagle owls 2

  •  Owls are far sighted. Use your owls in discussions about strategy. They will often communicate more openly in small meetings or one on one situations. If you are a talkative manager, you need to make sure that you are truly making the time to listen to your owl.
  • Because of their great observation skills, owls may sometimes be able to warn you of potential problem areas before they arise. Be aware that their quiet wisdom can be a great asset.
  • Offer owls the opportunity to work independently and according to their own time schedules. They will reward you with loyalty and commitment.
  • Because of their unique combination of analytical capacity and creative insight, when given the opportunity, owls may bring brilliant new ideas. (What else would you expect from someone wearing such intense eye shadow?)
  • Don’t expect them to become excited or emotional about issues at work. In time you will learn to appreciate their solid calm approach to even the most stressful situation.

As always I welcome your questions or comments about the animals you work with!

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Corporate Animals

The corporate animal – 2 – The Kingfisher

Not only the crocodile impressed me from the wooden enclosure of the bird hide. A tiny kingfisher put on a delightful show and taught me a lot about perseverance.

IMG_0921That little guy sat quietly staring at the water for a v.e.r.y long time, waiting for the ideal opportunity to catch a snack. When he dove head first into the water, he moved so quickly, it was impossible to catch him in the camera’s viewfinder. When he emerged from the water, he had managed to catch a fish almost as large as his feathery little body and definitely too big to chew up.

I was fascinated. For the first 15 minutes after catching his comparatively massive prey he seemed to be trying to get it to die. With his ittty bitty little beak  clenched firmly around the waist of the fish, he repeatedly smashed the his prey against the branch. After five minutes of this violent smashing I was convinced the fish must surely be dead, but the kingfisher didn’t stop.

I turned to the little ladies with the thick reading glasses, binoculars and impressive bird book. They were happy to tell me that he was “pulverizing” his prey. Apparently kingfishers smash their prey not only to kill it, but to liquidise it for easier swallowing.

How to spot the kingfisher in your office:


  • Kingfishers  bite off more than they can chew. This enthusiasm can be endearing, but also quite frustrating. The kingfisher tackles massive tasks and then become overwhelmed. They don’t know the phrase “I need help” as they take on the near impossible.
  • They often put stress on the office ecosystem by appearing to be overworked and desperate. They seem to be struggling with a massive workload and others may be concerned that the task will never get completed or deadlines may be missed. Fortunately they eventually “get it done”.
  • Kingfishers pulverise their projects by paying exhaustingly perfectionistic attention to detail. Sometimes it’s simply overkill. Perfectionism can be a huge time waster!
  • Kingfishers persevere even when the task at hand seems impossible.

How to manage your corporate kingfisher?


  • Protect their enthusiasm and motivation. If you give me the choice to manage someone with great enthusiasm, or someone with great planning skills, I will opt for the enthusiastic employee. Often new employees and trainees play the role of the office kingfisher and all that positive beginners energy can easily be directed in a constructive way.
  • Offer training and development opportunities. Planning and time management can be learnt. Skills are infinitely easier to develop than motivation.
  • Teach the value of “good enough” rather than perfect. An extra week spent making something that is already absolutely fine absolutely perfect, is time wasted. Reward the realistically well done.
  • Give lots of positive feedback for tasks completed! Be sparing with criticism. Criticism crushes enthusiasm.

Finally he swallows!

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Corporate Animals, Uncategorized

The corporate animal – 1 – mr/ms croc


mr crocodile as seen from the bird hide

I recently spent a few days in the African bush. One of the pleasures of having a base in Johannesburg is easy access to the Kruger National Park.  KNP is a beautiful natural environment larger than the entire country Israel.

One of our drives out into the wild led to a bird hide on the bank of the Sabie river. The sightings at the bird hide got me thinking about ecology and the ecology of the workplace. A bird hide allows people to sit quietly and unobserved while they watch animals in a natural environment. Through a long horizontal slit in the side of the structure we could watch the activity in this natural lake. It took some time to take in all that was visible.

Over the next few posts I will play with the idea of corporate “animals” that we encounter regularly. This is also an opportunity for me to put up a few of my photographs! Maybe  you can recognise some of your colleagues over the next few posts. Who are the hippos, the herons, the kingfishers, elephants, zebra, and of course the endearing warthogs?

But let’s start with the crocodile. On the small sunny sand bank there was an old crocodile lying motionless.  Around him there were many different types of birds. I’m not much of a birder, so I’m not able to list all the species. By the excited oo’s and aah’s that came from the two older women who were flicking through their bird books – all the while moving excitedly between reading glasses and binoculars – there were quite a few rare sightings. Old mr crocodile really didn’t seem to care about any of this. He may as well have been dead.

At one point one of the hippos who had been wallowing in the shallow water made his way onto the sand bank and almost stepped on the sleeping mr croc. Mr croc really just lay there looking ferocious.

A while later he opened his mouth in an impressively slow and lazy way. There is a myth that crocodiles sleep with their mouths open so that birds will come to clean their teeth. I didn’t see that happening, but he looked like he was waiting for some edible morsel to jump into his mouth.

The croc has an uncanny capacity to survive. No matter what has happened on this planet since prehistoric times crocs remain – they have been on this planet since the dinosaurs. The corporate crocodile might have made it through restructures, mergers and new managers without needing to move. Crocs know the ropes. Minimal energy expenditure for maximum result.

As a manager you might be on the verge of taking action to manage their performance and find yourself surprised at their sudden level of impressive activity. Crocs can laze around for four months without eating and then suddenly turn into fast ferocious killing machines.

Crocs know how to stay comfortable. They regulate their body temperature by staying close to the water so that they can cool down easily. In the same way your corporate croc will never be found far from the coffee machine or break room for long. If someone is complaining about the quality of the office chairs, you can bet it’s the office croc.

You may have heard the term crocodile tears. Of course crocodiles don’t really cry. Their eyes produce liquid when their jaws are busy munching on their prey. The corporate croc shows extreme remorse when confronted about their performance or lack there of. Apologies and long faces will mask the croc’s true understanding of the situation.

Crocs can move about incredibly silently. Hippo’s make a lot of noise and the corporate hippo is full of complaints, but the corporate croc is the silent, but slow type. Not very verbose, but also not very productive. Because they don’t draw a lot of attention by making noises, they can be ignored for long periods of time.

Managing a croc:

moving slowly

moving slowly

  • The sense of safety and being in a comfort zone is important to your croc. They are happy to hide and underperform. Challenge the croc with new goals and activities and monitor them with awareness.
  • Don’t be manipulated by crocodile tears. A true croc has it figured out and will appear to be the victim while devouring your attempts at management. Be firm and clear about your expectations. Show empathy, but don’t be manipulated.
  • Don’t be fooled by passivity. Even though they seem incredibly passive, they are ferocious predators. Set high, but realistic expectations for their performance. The challenge here is to understand that they can and do perform if they want to. You need work on their willingness!
  • Get them on your side. Crocs are the most caring of reptilian parents. (Crocodiles are known to care for their young long after they have hatched.) Get your croc to feel that they need to care for the company values and for you. Even though crocs are masters at appearing like they don’t care, having a croc on your side can be an wonderful asset.
  • Look out for my post about the kingfisher next!




I would love to hear about the animals in your office 🙂 … Leave a comment or send me a mail!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Corporate Animals, Uncategorized

The art of procrastination


Procrastination is an old friend. I can find numerous ways to procrastinate. When some work on my thesis is due, I can rather write a blog post. When a blog post is due I can find myself suddenly fascinated by my research. I know I’m not the only one.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the word procrastination originated in the 1540s, from the Latin procrastinationem “a putting off,” noun of action from procrastinare “put off till tomorrow,” from pro- “forward” + crastinus “belonging to tomorrow,” from cras “tomorrow”

Modern technology makes it much easier to procrastinate. Do you recognize any of these in yourself?

  • Sitting down to do what needs doing and then finding yourself hours later clicking through the baby pictures of your best friend from school that you haven’t had a real conversation with in years.
  • Letting yourself play “one” quick game before getting on with what needs to be done. And then compulsively trying to beat your best score – as if humanity’s survival on this planet depends on it.
  • Feeling a sudden and compulsive urge to clear out your inbox and file. Along the way you are waylaid and start reading newsletters you are not really interested in, but suddenly find fascinating.
  • By 2.30 in the afternoon you decide that whatever you were planning to do will be better done tomorrow. Wash, rinse, repeat the next day.

Here are some hints:

  1. Break large and complex tasks into bite size pieces. Like the old joke – How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Do one small thing that makes a difference. It’s easier to find 30 minutes in your day to do that one bite than to find a block of five hours.
  2. Get an early start on the big things. Delay some of your low energy morning tasks like checking emails until you have done at least a part of the big thing.
  3. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. Assume that you will not be able to do everything that needs to be done and then do what is most important.
  4. Be realistic about time. I once had a colleague who thought that one hour was three hours long. I found it frustrating to watch him chase his own tail to make deadlines. Don’t make agreements that cant be kept.
  5. Get real! Don’t pretend you will do things that you wont. It wastes space in your mind as well as on your to do list. Diarise it, delegate it, do it or delete and drop it.
  6. Get out of the victim mentality about time. You and I and Bill Gates and Richard Branson have been given the same amount of time to spend every day. Time has not chosen you as a special target. I sometimes ask people to write a letter to time as if time was a person. It’s always interesting to see how we use blaming language when we talk to time.
  7. Luxuriate in it for a while. If it really is a crisis, you wouldn’t be procrastinating. Having the time to put things of can be a great luxury!  Give yourself a set time to continue procrastinating and a deadline for starting. Resisting what is already happening does not make it stop. Accept, adjust, take action.
  8. Sometimes procrastination is soul time. Something is growing and like a seed, it needs a time of dormancy before bursting forth with full on energy. Ideas and inspiration can be like that. They need some time to brew and stew, before being set into action.

Do you have a procrastination habit? I would love to hear about it!

image from :

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Time Management, Uncategorized

Are you funny peculiar or funny ha-ha?


Ever done a presentation with a piece of spinach blacking out your tooth? I have. And worse – no one in the audience told me, or even pointed at their teeth to give me a hint. Worst part? I thought they were absolutely fascinated by what I was presenting. It was like Wimbledon in that room – heads moving to follow my every move. The more they stared, the more animated I became. Only after the delegates had left and I gave myself the victory smile in the ladies’ room, did I see the huge piece of vegetable. It wiggled every time I spoke.

When I teach Presentation Skills, people share with me their terror of making fools of themselves. They fear being unintentionally funny, or trying to be funny and getting no response.

I’ve done both. And it’s my capacity to laugh at myself that has helped me overcome the fear. Or, to realise that I didn’t die, even when I have wished the earth would swallow me whole.

Like the time early on in my career when I still power dressed for meetings. It was a warm summer day and we were sitting outside so I slipped my jacket off. After the meeting the very important (and rather sexy) client walked me down to the car park. It was quite a long walk and I continued my impressively professional conversation. Finally, reaching our cars, we shook hands. That’s when I spotted something white bouncing up and down on my shoulder. It was the 90’s. Shoulder pads were “in”. And my jacket was on inside out.

Or the time when I wore a slightly too long dress to a very formal speaking engagement and offered an unexpected introduction. I still remember the sound of the 1000 people in the audience catching their breath as I landed flat on my belly. My dress, the pointy shoes and the top step lacked some coordination. Thankfully my face was turned away so I didn’t need to see their faces. I was only sixteen and wanted to run away. It was really a moment of choice.

Sometimes participants share their stories with me. One young woman landed a plum position with a brilliant company. They invited her to a cocktail evening a week before she was about to start. She wasn’t used to drinking and it ended in the worst possible way. She vomited on her new CEO’s suede shoes.

There are more – like the time my favourite over-worn pants split in front of a group…

So, are you funny-haha, or funny-peculiar? All of us are funny. There is no doubt about that. But, to be laughed at, to be found “funny” when we are not intentionally seeking a laugh can be terrifying.

Here are hints for dealing with the fear of being laughed at:

Get over yourself

Statistically, 25% of people you meet will not like you. Hoping that everyone thinks you are great is an unrealistic expectation and creates anxiety. You can please some of the people some of the time.

Remember the worst

We often try to forget our embarrassing moments. I suggest you do the opposite. Remember them and use them as inoculation against you fears. You survived, didn’t you? Even the girl who threw up on the boss’ shoes survived to tell the tale.

Laugh at yourself

Success in business requires confidence. Are you confident enough to laugh at yourself? Emotional Intelligence implies that we face our fears. The difference between being laughed at and laughing with people is whether you are laughing or not!

I would love to hear your funny stories and embarrassing moments!

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

Is that an immovable obstacle?

Photo on 7-15-13 at 7.32 PM

I’m becoming used to blogging with this obstacle. This “obstacle” is an elderly cat. She’s a bit of a dame, 19 years old and too accustomed to her soft food to do anything about the nest of rats that have taken up residence in my roof. She used to be a proud huntress, but now seems to have entered that horrible stage of old age called learnt helplessness.

The moment I sit down to write, she wedges herself between the computer screen and I. Immovable object. Irritation. Enter all manner of attempts at removing the object.

I’ve tried the lot. Nice and not nice. Stroke her a while and then gently place on the floor. She responds with the evil cat look and then replaces herself in the twenty centimeters between me and the keyboard.  Following her lead I give her bad, bad vibes. She responds by purring. I have tried to beg, plead threaten. None of it works. She wants to be in that space.

Yes, I can put her outside, but she has a loud voice and pays no heed to the fact that the complaints department is closed. Few things are worse than the sound of an indignant cat.

Sometimes the only way I can continue to work is to hug her firmly in my left arm while typing with the right. This satisfies her. It slows down my already slow typing, but it allows me to continue.

This has led me to think about obstacles. Here are some ideas about dealing with some of your obstacles – both at home and in the workplace.

Is it real?

Sometimes ignoring an obstacle can miraculously cause it to melt away. Depends on the obstacle. Sometimes, just sometimes, it goes away by itself. Investing too much energy into something that will go away by itself, is wasteful time spending. As Peter Drucker suggests, you may never actually catch up on everything that needs to be done. If that is true, it’s important to know which problems to attend to and which to ignore.

The obstacle is just doing what its doing

It is as it is. Pontificating about how it “should be” ties all your energy into the problem. Acceptance always works. By acceptance I don’t mean saying that the obstacle or problem is OK. But, if I am putting all my energy into complaining or whining about the obstacle, I have no energy left to creatively solve it.

 Love it – I mean it!

How would I approach my difficulties if I loved them? We know that there is a lesson in every problem. Most people will admit that the times of their greatest growth were also the times when they faced the greatest challenges. We admire those who have overcome obstacles. They have a light that shines through. Hold it tight – Obstacles, like our enemies make us stronger.

Work around it

Don’t occupy all your attention on the obstacle. Keep your eye on the outcomes. Remain flexible. External changes sometimes require a change on your part. I now type pretty well with one hand.

Is this just another excuse to procrastinate?

If you are a procrastinator, you might find this a bit hard on the ear. But, sometimes we will use all kinds of minute obstacles as excuses for not getting on and doing the task at hand. If you recognize this in yourself, take some questions into your thinking time. What is so terrifying about getting this task completed? What would I need to face next, and why is dealing with an obstacle preferable to that?


Sometimes you need to pay attention to the obstacle before anything else. Know when that is. Sometimes you need to work around it, even if your capacity is diminished. But don’t underestimate the value of taking a break. Take that time out to reflect. Sometimes the problem is a sign that we need to get out of our perpetual doing, and simply take a moment to be, to watch, to witness.

Finding the creative solution

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. So much has been written and spoken about creativity in the workplace and in our lives. At times the meaning of this for me has been to pick up my laptop and go work in a coffee shop. Simply moving myself gives me a new way of looking.

What do I need to learn from this obstacle?

Well, what the heck can I learn from this old lady on my lap? Well, once I get past the ridiculousness of the notion, I realise she has a lot to teach me personally. There is a lesson about being dependent and trusting that someone will take care of my next meal. And then, a valuable lesson that there is always time for a cuddle. There is enough time to lie in the sun. Making a lot of noise to get what you want can work very well. Be willing to speak up! And, of course that certain amount of stubborn hard headedness gets you what you want.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Time Management, Uncategorized
Recent Posts