By Koketso Mamabolo
Please tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?
My career has not been a traditional one. I started in Human Resources in South Africa before moving to the UK in 1998, initially for two years. It turned into ten, during which time I joined the Royal Bank of Scotland on the trading floor, stepping out of my comfort zone and accelerating my learning of the financial markets. In 2007 I was approached to set up a media and communications company in Hong Kong with oversight of delivering multiple projects in multiple countries across Australasia and the UK. I returned to South Africa in 2014 and joined the Instinctif Partners Africa business.
What drives you?
I love working as part of a team invested in creating insightful and exceptional solutions for clients. The world is changing at such a pace, and we need to constantly learn and adapt to stay abreast with the pace of change. The team’s diversity allows us to learn from shared experiences and challenge our thinking and approach. Embracing curiosity is essential to ensure that we are moving forward in ways that make a difference to our employees, our clients, and the communities we serve. I am incredibly passionate about talent and leadership development and have had the privilege of mentoring and coaching some incredible talent over the years. A year after joining, we implemented a bursary and internship programme I am incredibly proud of and have onboarded several talented individuals from the programme into our business.
Why do you believe it is essential to share your knowledge with others?
I have always believed that sharing and learning from lived experience is richer and more relatable than what we extract from books. During my career, I have benefited from the experience of some incredible mentors who have taken the time to share their knowledge and experience with me in a way that has challenged and stretched me personally beyond what was required of me. This has shaped my thinking, and I believe it is incumbent on all of us to be willing to share our knowledge, empower those around us to be the best they can be, and learn from our mistakes. If we listen closely, we will also be able to learn from the shared knowledge of talented individuals across our organisations.
How does an organisation go about changing its culture?
Changing an organisation’s culture is not an easy process because it is often embedded in how people behave in an organisation. Firstly, to change a culture starts with getting input from individuals across the organisation about what works, what doesn’t and what they want to see change. Without employees’ buy-in to the culture change, the change will not be successfully implemented or, worse, discarded. So, understanding key stakeholders’, including employees (present and future), is critical in implementing any well-considered culture change management programme. Secondly, for cultural change to occur, it needs to be implemented top-down and bottom-up, it needs to be measured, and successes celebrated. And it requires a change in the way the organisation communicates and behaves. Thirdly, it needs to review how well the culture change is being implemented over time and adjust the programme where necessary. Meaningful culture change takes time, but if we don’t focus on it, talk about it or measure it, we will revert to the comfort of the status quo.
What does it take to build a great team?
To build a great team starts with building a solid foundation of trust, respect and accountability. As a team, we need to clearly understand what success looks like, what is expected of us and our role in delivering that mandate. We need to know that we can depend on our team to play their part and count on them to support us during difficult times. We all have good and bad days. How we respond to them separates good teams from great teams. It is also critical to be accountable for our performance. I believe great teams must get to know each other as human beings – we are more than what we do at work and understanding helps bring the best out in each of us.
What are the essential tools for communication, and how can we use them better?
While there are many communication tools, it is essential to use the tool that best suits the audience and the message at that time. The tool is simply the platform across which the message is relayed. I would propose that we focus much more on ensuring that the message being communicated is clearly crafted and authentic to ensure that it can achieve its objective whether it is to educate, entertain, or engage the audience. As leaders and communicators, we are responsible for ensuring that we are communicating factually and responsibly. We need to encourage our employees to be curious, informed and avoid taking information at face value.
What are the qualities you believe make for a great business leader?
A great business leader is expected to be many things: Solution driven, compassionate, excellent communicator, listens profoundly and applies themselves in every situation; trusts their team to deliver, provides mentorship when required and knows when not to take themselves too seriously. A great business leader also recognises the weaker areas and builds a diverse team accordingly because diversity builds for better thinking and better solutions.
How does one attract talent, retain that talent and use it effectively?
That is the most critical question any organisation can ask of itself. Organisations need to raise their profile in meaningful ways to attract talent. Talent is becoming more selective towards organisations they want to work for, whether it be increased focus on sustainability and purpose; a commitment towards training and education; transformation, diversity and inclusion; organisational culture; and reputation. Internship and learnership programmes are essential to attracting talent to an organisation. However, that is only the start of the journey. Retaining talent requires a myriad of considerations that strengthen and deepen their identity with the organisation’s brand, values, and ambition. These include coaching and mentoring, exposure to interesting and challenging work, recognition and a clear career path with critical and appropriate support to assist them in their achievements.
What are your plans for the future?
I remain committed to captaining the Instinctif Partners Africa team. We are ambitious and excited about what 2022 holds for us. We are so proud of the talent across the business.
I look forward to mentoring and coaching talent now and into the future and learning how to bring some balance to work and life.
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