Mandela Day is special to all of us who work at WDB. This year it feels particularly meaningful in that our work relates directly to the theme #ActionAgainstPoverty.
As many of you know, our organisation has been taking action against poverty for over 25 years and what is so heart-warming about the Madiba centenary is that everyone will be pulling together to make a difference in the lives of those so much less fortunate than us.
What is really important is that we don’t just focus on Madiba’s birthday to do some good deeds and then go back to our everyday lives and forget that, in fact, half of the South African population lives below the bread line.
The face of poverty in our country continues to be women (and children), and now is the time to really mobilise all the forces we have – whether it’s government, the private sector or individuals – to work together to make a difference to uplifting those who so desperately need it. The time has come to stop waiting for someone else to do it – and to take action wherever we can.
A time for reflection
As Mandela Day approaches, the occasion also got me thinking about how I can personally take action to make a difference, not only to my colleagues, and my corporate community – but also with regard to how I live my own life.
All too often we hear that women in the workplace aren’t supportive of each other, and I think it’s really important that we address this where possible. We absolutely need to stand together, whether it’s in our boardrooms or out in the field – wherever that may be.
We need to acknowledge each other’s successes and lend a hand when self-doubt comes knocking. And it will.
So much is said these days about empathy in the workplace and I think it’s really important to make the time to be supportive and caring as part of our business ethic. Yes, sometimes it’s strategic to be cut-throat in the world of business, but if we are doing this at the cost of our own ethics and the wellbeing of others then the rewards certainly aren’t worth it. So that’s one of the things I want to pay attention to: how do I support others – particularly women – in the workplace. I want to ask, “How can I be of service?” I suppose one could say it’s an attitude of what can one give, rather what one can gain, that holds the true power.
One of the areas of “emotional poverty” we all experience is that no-one has enough time. We are all so busy at our jobs, careers, families and trying to juggle the challenges of everyday life that we don’t give much time to others AND we don’t give much time to ourselves.
How often do you hear “I am so busy” in the corporate space? I hear it all the time, very often from my own mouth. I think it’s really important to take a look at how we take our “culture of busyness” as the norm, or as something that should be considered a status symbol. We are all busy, but let’s not be too busy to check in with each other. Let’s not be too busy to take the time to look someone in the eye and ask how they really are. That colleague who isn’t saying much, but we know is battling – how can I give an extra few minutes of my time to let them know that I care and I have got their back?
This also comes down to mentorship. How many of us are surrounded by young, enthusiastic people who are so eager and willing to learn from us, yet we don’t have the time to teach or pass on information. Let’s just take five or ten minutes in our day or even in our week to sit down with someone who is keen to learn and pass on our experience, or have a meaningful discussion. Let’s not just talk about mentorship because it sounds good and we all know that young South Africans need jobs – let’s give of our own time to add to their learning experience and to investing in their future.
We may even be surprised at how giving of our time and energy replenishes our much needed emotional energy supplies. It’s definitely worth a try.
Another area that I know I neglect and I know some of my colleagues neglect as well is giving ourselves the time and space to just be. While our giving of self might seem endless – to work, to our colleagues, to family – we need to make ourselves part of this equation. How can I be kind to myself, even if it’s a few minutes every day? How can I stock up on my energy reserves? We need to ask what actions make us feel better and energise us, and do those! It may be going for a run, meditating for a few minutes, going to a yoga session or just having coffee with a dearly loved friend who makes us laugh. Make the time – life is not a dress rehearsal and sometimes we really need to be the star in our own movies.
It’s also important that we consider our families and our loved ones as we consider taking action to bless our own lives. Being fully present with our families and loved ones and making time to find out how things are going can only enhance our relationships and our lives. While making a real difference to the lives of many people out there may be key priorities for those of us who are lucky enough to work at a cause-driven company like WDB, let’s not neglect those right in front of us. Sometimes going into “survival mode” or “automatic pilot” just to get through the day really hurts those closest to us – so let’s practise being mindful and caring and always make space for laughter, fun and a bit of lightness of being.
At this time, I can really draw inspiration from Madiba – those close to him always say that although he had a healthy ego, he was always looking for ways to be better and for ways to improve himself. He transcended so much hatred and so much of the bad things that came his way, and I am so inspired by his fortitude and strength of spirit. Just by reflecting on Madiba and his incredible legacy, I am inspired to become the best version of me I can become. I hope you’ll join me.
CEO WDB Investment Holdings.