A Conversation with Alois Nyadore – Operations Analyst, Cash Shared Services.
AN: Compliments of the new year, hope you are well rested and ready for the year ahead.
LM: Thank you My Leader, the year has started on a hectic note, I look forward to a great year.
AN: Your current role is very demanding, delivering to shareholders and fulfilling Card & Emerging Payments mandate for the group, travelling for work commitments and family responsibilities and you “seem” to have it all under control. What are some of the leadership lessons you have learnt over the years on your previous and current role in ensuring a work/ life balance and can you share some tips for young people?
LM: I have tried to live my life to the fullest, giving my energy, passion, love and commitment to all aspects of my life. This is driven by a lifelong commitment to make a difference in my family, community, work environment and in the broader society. In each of these spheres of my life, I have to “ show up” with passion, love and enthusiasm regardless of the challenges I may face in other spheres. To give you an example: I may be going through huge challenges at work, but to my wife and children, I can only be the loving husband and father they deserve and not someone who brings work baggage and frustrations home. Equally, I may be going through financial difficulties at home, but my colleagues at work deserve to interact with a leader who is positive, engaging, enthusiastic, friendly and approachable. The key tips I can give are:
• manage your emotions, do not allow setbacks to define your mood or attitude;
• make sure that you have alternative methods to blow off steam;
• visits to clients, provinces or different countries must leave those being visited with the most beautiful memories of one’s visits.
• visits to different teams, to frontline teams must be done with energy and passion that will inspire the teams to do even much better;
• any opportunity to engage with any staff member or a group of staff members is a platform to positively influence our staff towards great results, that positive sentiment should last much longer after the engagement.
• our business is scattered across many countries, each of those colleagues want to feel that they matter, and that their contribution is appreciated, so my work involved travelling long distances to meet these colleagues, their clients and stakeholders.
• Attending school events for my children, being present in family functions such as weddings and funerals is part of who I am.
• I also have very special friends, some of whom we have been together for more than 35 years. We have special times when we get together, we support each other and our families and we have a lot of events that we attend together.
• We have also carved time in our marriage for time together, romantic getaways and holidays and long weekends with the kids;
• I try and be involved as possible in the lives of my children, to show them love and appreciation and to always give them support.
• I am one of the leaders of my broader family, this involves playing the role of an elder, uncle, advisor and being involved in family functions, cultural events and promoting the success and welfare of our family through education and culture.
• I am heavily involved in the development of young leaders, and I have a lot of dedicated time to the coaching and mentoring of young leaders; and finally
• I am highly invested in my community, through financially supporting the schools where I studied, providing financial support to needy students, running a rugby and a cricket tournament and providing basic food to children in the community where I grew up.
This might sound like a lot, but it is how I was brought up, my father did similar things in his time, and still had time to raise us, get involved in community projects, lead the broader Mali family and be involved in sports and cultural activities. In my case, this is all possible because of three key factors :
• The partnership and strong bond I have with my wife, Sva, her meticulous planning enables me to be “ present “ in our marriage and to be available to my children, my broader family and the community at large;
• My wife runs our finances, I think that the budgeting process in our home is as tough as that of the bank sometimes. In this way, we are able to allocate our resources to good causes and be able to build a future for our family and for those less fortunate;
• I have always been blessed to work with amazing people, I strongly believe in empowerment, so I am able to do more whilst people in my team are able to do their work, reach their goals and they can also have a more balanced life;
• I am blessed to have Deena Harvey as my Executive Assistant and Agnes Nkosi as my Business Manager, they do an incredible job to manage the business and help me to do more in 24hours.
AN: What have been some of your challenges you have experienced in your leadership in trying to maintain this balanced lifestyle?
LM: Much earlier in my career, I experienced the joys, the thrill and the excitement of high performance, reward and recognition. It felt good to be seen as a a star, a top performer, and I became addicted to the adulation, admiration and appreciation from so many quarters. At that same time, i was reaching out to so many people, so many customers and staff members across the length and breadth of South Africa. Through all of this I knew that I loved my family, and I would do everything for them, but in reality, I was more addicted to the adulation of my colleagues, the high reward and remuneration and a feeling of success as I climbed the corporate leader. I was jolted from this by a seminal lecture, delivered by Prof Clay Christensen at the Harvard Business School. He asked the deeply penetration question, “ How will you measure your life ?” He told the story of his friends and former class mates, with lots of money, great job titles, and who had run successful businesses, but were lonely, miserable, and totally unhappy. Many of them had been divorced, estranged from their children, while some were involved in corporate scandal. I remembered how my late father had been present through all of my life, I struggled to answer the question of whether I was fully present in the lives of my children as I could and should. That is when I started a journey to rebalance my life. The challenges you face in doing this is that, there is always a strong force pulling you towards the corporate rat race; the changes to your lifestyle are difficult and painful; reimmersing yourself fully back into your family’s life is not easy as they have established their own patterns and habits; moving away from the adulation of others to focus on the adulation of your family is not easy; and there are always good reasons and excuses to go back to your unbalanced life.
The results are not easy to see, there is no income statement or balance sheet of life, but there is a balanced scorecard, I can look back now with deep satisfaction about the choices I have made. Those who I blindly devote themselves to their job, or a business, or a project may get satisfaction and fulfilment, but the key question, is at what price, and who pays that price? I have seen people who make a lot of money, retire and are ready to enjoy life, but find they have no family or friends; I know of people who collapse with a stroke and regret all the time they spent away from their loved ones; I also know of people who die suddenly and the family and loved ones have missed out on the best years.
I am happy that I still work as hard, I still travel as much, and still contribute to bigger causes, but now I do it with more joy, love and satisfaction, with my marriage stronger, children happy, colleagues satisfied and my communities engaged. In a sense my scorecard in more balanced.
AN: In your leadership journey I believe you have come across leaders who have really excelled up the corporate ladder at the expense of their spouses and children. What advice from your leadership journey can you give to young career driven leaders who find themselves absorbed in the career advancement and abdicating family responsibilities along the way?
LM: There are moments in life where your life is unbalanced. This is when the pursuit of a goal, a career, a deal or a position is all consuming. During this time you are on adrenaline, you are obsessed with the outcomes you desire. You rationalise your actions with words such as, “ if I only can get this job, then all will be well”; If I could just get this promotion, then I can do a lot for my children”; “ I know I’m neglecting my family, but I’m doing it for them”, “ Why should my family complain, I am able to get them the best things because of my hard work” or “ my family does not appreciate the sacrifices I make for them to live this kind of life”.
In most instances, these statements are self serving and selfish, we have not truly asked our loved ones whether they desire this life or not. If they have a choice, and are consciously content with our absence, then this would be legitimate- the problem is that we are consumed by the purpose and we forget what’s most important.
I have gone down this path, my health was unbalanced; my finances were unbalanced and my family life was unbalanced. My family was not asking me to change jobs, nor to shelve my dreams, they were not unappreciative of the sacrifices required; they were asking for 3 key things:
• When you are at home, be present and fully engaged, it is understandable that there will be days when you are busy or distracted, but you can’t daily be physically present but mentally and emotionally absent, consumed by your job or your passion.
• your health is part of our life, if you truly love us as your family, you have to ensure that you are healthy and remain alive to see your children reach their dreams. Combining a stressful job with an unhealthy life is selfish and short sighted, you have to change your lifestyle to avoid health challenges.
• your diary should reflect your priorities in life, what will you spend your time on, who will you spend your time on. Does your diary match your words? If family is important in your life, how much does it feature in your diary – is it lower than your hobbies, time with friends, work etc.
This was an awesome awakening for me, it’s been a wonderful journey of working towards that balance. Where I have faltered my family has held me to account, I have had to make lots of changes to my lifestyle, my work schedule, my diet, my physical activity etc. When I celebrated being 50 years old, and 20 years in a happy marriage and 17 years working for one organisation, and as I celebrate the growth and development of my children, I’m at peace with myself, content with my circumstances and at peace with the world. Each person has to find that balance, I do wish I had got it much earlier in my life, but I’m making the best out of it. I now enjoy, in equal measure watching my wife enjoy her life, my children blossoming into your adults, my colleagues exceeding their own expectations, and my community projects reaching key milestone.
AN: How will you as a leader create a corporate culture and environment, advocating and encouraging dialogue amongst young leaders with the heightened awareness that in as much careers are important, young leaders starting off in the careers should integrate and balance work commitments, make time for themselves and their families.
LM: This has been one of the key talking points in my engagement with young leaders. I emphasise this matter in my talks to young people, in my Blogs on my leadership page, in my mentorship sessions and in my counselling sessions. It’s a very difficult message to land, because some of the guys argue:
* That my situation was not that bad, so they do not think that I should have had problems;
* They can’t get ahead unless they totally devote themselves to their work;
* Their families understand and have no problems with work/life balance;
* Their line managers believe that work/life balance is a myth; and
* They will get better when they get older like I did
Although this is a difficult conversation, it is a conversation to be had, and we have to persevere and ensure that we get people to have much more balanced scorecards in terms of:
* Their health
* Their relationships or marriages
* Their work results
* Their finances
* Their contributions to their communities
* Their relationship with their children
* Their contribution to the environment, and
* Their role in creating a more peaceful, equitable, just and fairer society.
AN: Young leaders find themselves in a web and need of achieving success within the corporate context, what are some of the warning, myths that young people should be wary of on their career journeys?
LM: We live in a context of instant gratification, social media presence, conspicuous consumption, and sometimes the accumulation of wealth by all means. In this context, certain myths have developed and have become gospel to many young people, we must present the alternative narrative and challenges these myths. Here are some of the myths:
* The corporate world is ruthless, so you must do whatever you need to do to get ahead – Those of us who have followed a different path beg to differ, yes corporate life is tough and sometimes very difficult, but to be evil is a choice, there are many successful people who have succeeded without destroying others in the process;
* The end justifies the means – this means that we seek results and success and therefore we should not concern ourselves with behaviours – the harsh reality is that society is increasingly demanding greater accountability from executives and corporates about conduct and behavior. It’s important to reward both the results achieved and the behaviours exhibited on the journey towards success.
* Success is defined only in terms of only material possessions, wealth accumulated, status in life, positions held and the size of your bank balance – time has shown that success is defined more broader, by how one is perceived by their peers, respected by your colleagues, loved by your team and the contribution you have made in your family, community and society at large.
* The more money one earns, the more deals one is involved in and the higher one in the corporate hierarchy, the more joy they will have.
The millennials have turned this debate on its head, they are demanding more than, work-life balance, they seek work-life integration. So in the end, it all goes to the individual, what is important to you, what will you prioritise, and how will you measure your life?Life is a series of trade offs between your personal and professional priorities, the key is making sure that you are actively and consciously doing the trade off. In those cases where its possible, we must have the work flexibility that will enable work-life integration.
So in the end, it’s not about work or life; its work and life; not about work or family is work and family; not about the personal or the professional, it is the personal and personal in an integrated way, with differing priorities and timeframes, but throughout you have to be conscious and alert about the choices you are making and the price you are paying and the sacrifices you are making.
AN: Thank you for the opportunity to engage with you on this platform and once again all the best for the year ahead and looking forward to more engagement in the future on this leadership journey.
LM: I should thank you Alois, your challenging and engaging questions will surely enrich many conversations among young leaders as each one of them examines their own personal and professional journey.