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Meet Dr Charl Coetzer

How is a leadership role different in start-ups vs well-established companies?

In well-established companies, leadership seems to be more focused and organised. The leadership role in such organisations is often focused on setting a new compelling vision, mission, and strategy, suited for the current and future predicted context and embedding that vision and strategy in the organisation. Leaders thereafter serve employees by means of aligning employee talent to the higher purpose organisational vision; by creating an effective organisational climate and culture to engage employees, and empower them with the skills and competencies to achieve this vision. Much of this work is done through policies, systems, procedures, interventions, and communication platforms.

In a start-up, smaller organisations, leadership seems to be more hands-on, more interactive with employees. In such organisations, leaders can influence employees directly as they have personal contact with employees on a day-to-day basis. Leadership is focused on building effective relationships with employees, coaching employees, removing obstacles for employees, and serving employees with support and guidance to achieve the higher purpose vision of the organisation.

Any tips or advice for those looking to study the Leadership course?

Leadership development is not a short-lived event, but rather a lifetime journey. The USB-ED Leadership course provides practical principles and practices to become an effective leader but requires continuous application thereof to change behaviour. It is important to make leadership development a lifestyle.

What is the highlight of your career?

The two major highlights in my career were: (1) being invited to provide psychological fitness assessments to the Springbok Rugby team and Coaching staff in 2010 and (2) presenting a new leadership framework at an international leadership conference in Iceland in 2017, and as a result, publishing a book chapter explaining this framework in an international leadership book.

What books are you currently reading?

The two books I am currently reading are:
Servant leadership in action: How you can achieve great relationships and results, by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell (editors).
PostCapitalism: A guide to our future, by Paul Mason.

And finally, what is the one thing you can tell us about yourself that we won’t find on your resume?

I consider my life purpose to be the following: change the world to the betterment of all – one leader, one organisation at a time.

_ _ _

Dr Charl Coetzer is a registered industrial psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), a Master HR professional in Organisational Development with the South African Board of People Practices (SABPP), and a certified Neuroleadership coach. He has more than 14 years’ experience in organisational development, human resources management, talent management, coaching, and leadership development.

He is currently the Managing Director of a research and development company named Wisdomy (Pty) Ltd and a part-time lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch Business School for Executive Development. Charl is currently working towards a PhD in leadership.

Charl presented several papers at national and international conferences and published articles in various scientific and non-scientific journals and online platforms. Charl also published a chapter in an international leadership book.

The ins and outs of leadership

leadership qualities

How does a leader look at the world, and why is it so important that leaders conduct themselves thoughtfully in business? Our own Dr Charl Coetzer, expert faculty member on the USB-ED leadership course immediately sprang to mind, and why not? Charl is an industrial psychologist registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and boasts more than 14 years’ experience in organisational development, human resources management, and leadership development. Charl is passionate about leadership development in Africa, so we knew we were talking to the right person to help inspire budding leaders in Africa.

We asked Charl a few questions in the hope of discovering some pearls of wisdom on the secrets behind effective leadership.

People have all sorts of ideas about what it means to lead. In your many years as a thought leader, coaching people to become effective communicators, employers and employees, what do you think it means to lead?

To lead others means to activate and empower others to achieve a compelling, higher purpose vision that creates value for multiple stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, broader society, and the environment). The first role of a leader is to set direction, in other words, to set a higher purpose vision (that goes beyond profit) to create meaningful value for multiple stakeholders. The second role of a leader is to serve and help others achieve that higher purpose vision. This means that they should activate individual talent and serve followers to accomplish the higher purpose vision.

We’ve probably all testify to the problems that arise when your leader is absent or neglectful. What do you think distinguishes a business with strong leadership from one lacking in leadership?

A business with an effective (servant) leader will show high-performance outcome and make a long-lasting positive impact on society. Such an organisation will show sustainable performance over the long term and will leave a positive legacy in society.

A business with an ineffective (self-serving) leader will focus mainly on making more profit and dominating the market to the detriment of customers, employees, suppliers, the society, and the environment. Such an organisation is not sustainable in the long term, as a business works much like an ecosystem. Society needs businesses to survive and business needs society to survive.  

Many people feel they were born to lead, while others believe they will never achieve the status of a leader. Are we born leaders? And if so, what does that mean for the rest of us that deeply aspire to become leaders?

New neuroscience studies have shown that any person can reform their brain to become more effective. This process is called ‘neuroplasticity’. It is, therefore, possible for anyone to learn the skills, habits, and behaviour to become a leader. However, I do believe that some people are born with the talent of leadership, which makes them more probable to become effective leaders.

Charl, you’ve dedicated your career to activating the leader in all of us. Can you tell us a little bit about what it is that fascinates you about the topic of leadership? And why is it that you study leadership?

The study of leadership is fascinating as each and every person is different. There is no one person on earth alike. Research has shown, similarly, that no one brain is alike. The neuropaths in each person’s brain is unique, therefore, their mind-frame and perspective towards life is unique. All of us also have different life experiences, situations, personalities, talents, values, and life purposes. Although we are different, we are also the same. Some natural leadership principles apply to all people, irrespective of any human complexity. It is thus important to study and learn these principles of leadership to lead people and organisations effectively. One needs to understand the natural laws of leadership to be successful in any leadership position.  

In light of your many years studying the subject, I have to ask, if you could condense your knowledge of leadership into a single piece of advice, what would it be?

Leadership starts with the heart. The main difference between an effective (servant) and ineffective (self-serving) leader is not technical ability, personality, talents, of intelligence. It is the leader’s heart. When leaders lead from a heart of pride or fear, they will apply their technical ability, personality, ability, and intelligence for selfish interests. However, when leaders lead from a heart of love, they will apply their technical ability, personality, ability, and intelligence to make a positive difference to the benefit of others. The most effective leaders lead from a loving and serving heart.   

You’ve already explained the difference between strong and poor leadership in a business, so tell us how exactly it is we can identify if a leader is misleading us? How do we know if our leader isn’t interested in our success?

By looking at the leader’s intent – the reason why he or she leads. In other words, when someone leads others to achieve a narrow, self-centred goal, then the leader is using others for self-interest. They will then most probably misuse people and misuse organisational resources. It is important to always evaluate a leader’s intent and focus.

It’s important to remember that no leader is perfect. We all make mistakes, but there is a bit more at stake for a leader who is responsible for a team of other people. What should a leader do if they make a mistake?

Apologise and ask for forgiveness. It takes courage, self-confidence, and humility to admit a mistake. It is then also important not to make that mistake again as it will break down trust in followers.   

A daily dose of news can be quite a shock. We are reminded of the immense problems facing society with little insight into the solutions. Africa is no stranger to criticism, so how might better leadership, generally speaking, make a difference in Africa?

Africa is in desperate need of good leadership. Fraud, corruption, poor economic conditions, unemployment, poverty, and dictatorship are all symptoms of poor leaders. Effective leadership will promote socio-economic development, improve economic stability, and create a quality life for all people living on the continent.  Effective leaders will empower people, build effective organisations, and create a humane society for all.

leadership tips

How your body language may shape who you are

body language insights

Social Psychologist, Amy Cuddy, shares her studies on the effects of non-verbal behaviour (body language signs) and snap judgments in varied environments, from the classroom to the boardroom. Her research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions and perhaps even our own body chemistry simply by adjusting body positions.

Body language in business

The manner in which you communicate with your employees, clients and others is not just about the words you use. Body language plays a major role. In fact, body language can undermine what you are communicating verbally. Leaders, established and aspiring, need to take note of the body language they’re conveying. Trying to tell someone that they are doing a good job while displaying negative types of body language, like avoiding eye contact, checking your watch or crossing your arms, can nullify the impact of that message.

You don’t even have to be talking for negative body language to undermine what you’re trying to do. For example, an employee sits down in your office to talk about a problem they’re having. You could actually be listening, but because you’re slumped in your chair, the employee might think that you’re uninterested in what they have to say.

Body language is not a hard concept to grasp, and can positively improve your interactions in business. Moreover, it can help you clarify difficult situations and could possibly be that ace up your sleeve in negotiations.

A balanced life: work and study

work life balance

As people, we have an innate drive within us to succeed and better ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to our career. Whether you are looking to study to get that promotion or secure your next job, increase your earning potential or job security, a balance of work and study is key.

But we are often stuck when it comes to the conundrum of how do I study to develop the skills needed to remain relevant and keep the job that supports me and/or my family. While studying part-time at an institution might give you that flexibility; studying part-time online, through a recognised online education provider like MasterStart, allows you more flexibility and freedom. You decided where your study room is and you are not locked into study times. People in Africa are recognising this and taking steps towards upskilling themselves. The Ambient Insight report – “The Africa Market for Self-paced eLearning Products and Services: 2011-2016 Forecast and Analysis.” recognises Africa as the most self-motivated eLearning market in the world.

4 tips to balance work and study

We have come up with 4 tips to help you balance it all because as Henry Ford once said “Whether you think you can or can’t… you are right”

  • Develop a plan of attack

Are you the type of person who completes studies as soon as you can or do you believe slow and steady wins the race? The great thing about online is that you know the course length and have the coursework. Assess how many free hours you have in a day/week against how many hours a week you will need to complete the course.

  • Set deadlines

Draw up a calendar and update it first with your work deadlines then add the deadlines, as outlined by your course modules. With your calendar in front of you. You can move around deadlines that are more flexible in accordance with your work commitments and your hours per day/week you can afford to study.

  • Don’t forget to work smart, not just hard

When completing assignments think of your real-world work examples and take advantage of this, as it will flow naturally from you. Write little study notes or placards and take them along with you for short study intervals instead of long study sessions. Another great trick is to record yourself saying your notes and listening to them while working.

  • Sacrifice

Hobbies and free weekends may have to take a back step to your commitment to self-growth, at first this may be hard. Yet, it is important to remember why you are doing this. It can become overwhelming at times but you need to focus on your goals and deadlines. You wouldn’t be working and studying simultaneously if you did not have good reasons.

MasterStart offers great short courses aimed at developing you and your career.

Visit www.masterstart.com to realise the leader within you.

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

master procrastinator

Tim Urban, co-founder of Wait but Why blog, explains why procrastinators procrastinate.
Tim takes us on an amusing yet engaging talk on procrastination and the many inevitable “YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window”.

Procrastination As Second Nature

Like Beauty and the Beast, delaying, avoiding, and procrastinating on issues that matter to us is a tale as old as time and really the perfect analogy. The beauty of procrastination can be summed up by Tim’s depiction of the Dark Playground. A place he says that “all of you procrastinators out there know very well’. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. However, it’s completely unearned, and the air is filled with guilt, dread, anxiety, self-hatred Tim explains or in the case of this analogy “The Beast” of procrastination.

Many, may we say all of us, have at some point experienced that deadline-induced panic. Some of us thrive on this and often produce our best work but these people often prove to be the exception, rather than the rule.

Watch this insightful Ted talk and get to know the different characters or role players in your mind. The instant gratification monkey, the panic monster and the mistreated and often booed rational thinker.

Meet the faculty: MC Botha

Who is MC Botha?

MC Botha is the Director of the Centre for Business Management of Projects at USB-ED, and holds an MBA with a specialisation in project management, and has over three decades of experience across the private, government and academic sectors. He is also the programme coordinator of the Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management, which is hosted by University of Stellenbosch Business School.

“This is the point of departure…”

How is Project Management different in start-ups vs well- established companies?

Let me answer in the inverse. Established companies will typically have a higher project management maturity level and have established methodologies. Start-ups will most probably embrace progressive elaboration in their project execution, hence the increase in the popularity of Agile as a methodology. The latter alternative is exciting and dynamic

Any tips or advice for those looking to study Project Management?

My immediate advice is to start with your studies as soon as possible. I agree with a statement by Fortune Magazine when they reported that Project Management is the number one career choice. Project management is more than a skill set, it is a frame of mind and a paradigm. Good project managers have the ability to see the holistic picture and to contextualise, and must be systematic thinkers. Therefore, if you can further your studies in project management, embrace the opportunity. Studies are not always easy, but always rewarding!

An HR dilemma: hiring the perfect candidate or upskilling an existing employee?

hiring the perfect candidate

As a manager, at some point, you may have thought to yourself  “I have a great performing team, but they lack the level of expertise we require to grow”. In such instances, conducting a skills assessment of your current staff complement can be beneficial. Perhaps you need to hire new employees or upskill existing ones. Upskilling employees is definitely the better way to go as they become greater assets to your organisation.

Conducting a skills gap analysis will not only help you identify these and other imbalances in your company, it will identify current employees with the potential and necessary skills required to fill a role. Recognising potential is key, as an employee may not have all the desired attributes to adequately fill the role, but with some level of upskilling, it’s possible they can become a success. At some point, you will have to answer the question: “Do I choose to hire the perfect candidate or upskill an existing employee?”.

Benefits of upskilling

It can be very beneficial for an organisation to have employees that have the ability to wear many hats. This is especially true in smaller companies, where there may not even be an HR department responsible for the hiring and administration of staff. Having a key employee with formal HR training can also ensure that you are covered for HR-related situations. Another great example would be managers and supervisors who are tasked with recruiting. Often, managers and supervisors are not adept at recruiting as they may not have the necessary training to conduct such a task. Enrol in a course to learn new skills that can help your organisation overcome these issues.

A recent Randstad (2017) study showed that 75% of global respondents feel they need more training and/or education to stay up to date.  71% are looking for more vocational training and 49% for the training of personal skills. The study also showed the disconnect between employers and employees in attitudes towards upskilling. The Randstad study further stated that 80% of companies feel they have a responsibility to upskill but have no plans or programmes in place.

Recognition breeds productivity

Like Uncle Ben said: “With great power comes great responsibility” and this is what employees are seeking. They are not looking to upskill themselves merely to improve their circumstance. An employee that feels engaged is critical to a productive and efficient organisation.

There is the fear that an upskilled employee will at some point recognise that they have a desired or marketable skill, and would want to leave your organisation.  The truth is that this is always a risk but by recognising their potential and investing in them you will inspire loyalty and their long term personal investment in your organisation.

The most important lesson I learnt in HR

lesson in hr

‘People are our greatest asset’, is a phrase that can be loudly heard from the sky’s of high-rise glass boardrooms to the canals of mine-shafts beneath the earth’s surface. Conglomerates to small enterprises, sole proprietors to corporations, ‘people first’ is the vision, mission statement and goal of most businesses. Especially when you play in a field like Human Resource Management, you need to value people. 

People first

Learning how to manage and lead people is a daunting task. You will win some and lose some. You will have those that will walk the line with you and those who will cross the line. Most of us move from subordinate to superior positions based on knowledge and expertise in our field of work. Rarely, is it based on our people skills or the ability to oversee fellow colleagues.

So why is it then, that certain businesses put so much emphasis on ‘people first’. Simple answer: as a human being, it is taken for granted that you should just be able to manage other humans because you are a nice person, or you get along with everyone. Well, manager or not, we know it is just not that easy – help is required.

Listening to understand

As a manager, you need never forget that the only way you can own this title is if you have people to manage. It is imperative that you keep your people content, thus allowing you to keep your position.

So how do you keep your staff working to the best of their ability? In my opinion – understand them. Delve into their environment, culture, and learn what makes them who they are. It’s something we shouldn’t take for granted in a country like South Africa, where cultures differ in unique and meaningful ways.

From experience, people want to talk about themselves; they want to be heard, so allow them. This will give you a more intimate understanding of what makes them tick, and allow you to build on their strengths. I learnt this through many years of formal education and leadership experience. HRM (Human Resource Management), is a subject that takes a lot of experience and self-reflection in order to put people first.

Don’t wait till you’re on the top

Junior and middle management have or want to enhance their knowledge of Human Resources. They want to be able to lead successfully, however, it should be a global top-down approach. Big shot CEO’s, Board Members, everyone in their ivory tower, should harness the expertise of human resource management because we forget, they manage people, too. How do we trust a manager when he/she doesn’t have the knowledge to manage the company’s greatest resource – Human beings?

It starts, not when you are in a position of power, but when you want to begin the journey to become powerful. Knowing how to manage the people in your work circle is not only going to make doing your job rewarding, it’s going to springboard you to the next level of success.

The Human Resource Management short course for non-HR managers, coupled with your own experience in management, will consolidate what you know as a manager, but it will also give you the confidence to lead your organisation, so you can make the claim honestly, ‘I put people first!’.

by Nolen Naidoo, Former Head of Sales – MasterStart

Nolen Naidoo – Passionate about Business Management, with a particular focus on Operations and Human Resources. Nolen functioned as the Head of Sales at MasterStart, training and assisting his team in enhancing their sales and operational skills.

Nolen previously lead the outbound sales division for large corporations in South Africa and the United Kingdom, consisting of a staff complement of over 300 sales agents and management personnel. He boasts an impressive breadth of sales experience in markets as diverse as UK, Australia, America and South Africa.

Motivating people to excellence

motivating your team

Employee motivation is important when management is looking to meet the company’s goals. This is especially important when wanting to achieve higher levels of output. Watch an enthralling talk by Cheryl Ferguson, music clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor, on motivating people to excellence. Delivered with great energy and passion and filled with insights that you can easily translate into work and life. But don’t just take our word for it, give the video below a watch and get ready to be inspired. We were so inspired, we developed 4 steps you can build on to create your own personalised strategy to motivate your employees.

Step 1: Define a vision

People can accomplish amazing things when they have a clearly defined vision. With vision, people are able to put into place exact steps to take in order to reach their goal. Without this clarity, people will venture aimlessly not knowing whether they are making any progress and, therefore, slowly lose motivation and feel that the task is hopeless.

Step 2: Give employees the resources they want and need

You wouldn’t eat your soup with a fork, so why would you expect an under-resourced employee to perform? Lack of resources is a common and often overseen, barrier to progress. Resources could be money, personnel, time and support. If you are unsure about what you’re lacking, don’t be afraid to ask your employees.

Step 3: Communicate effectively

Often when communicating, something goes wrong. We say one thing which gets misinterpreted, leading to misunderstandings, frustrations and conflict. What you need to consider is the intentions and emotions behind the shared information, as people tend to pick up on non-verbal messages. One also needs to listen in a way that ensures the person speaking feels that they were heard and understood or validated. Effective communication goes beyond the mere act of exchanging information.

Step 4: Recognise progress

Don’t just extend hollow gestures of recognition, like “good job” or “nice work on that task”. Be specific with your compliments. It can give more depth to them and make employees feel that you truly recognise their efforts.

In the talk below on motivation, Cheryl Ferguson provides the perfect anecdote in her talk that sums this idea up, “… if you say something like the way you played that note at the end of the second movement made my heart flutter and it took me back to the moment I saw my son, Nate, for the first time. Their eyes get wide and they say: well, thank you, excellent!”

Understanding and implementing these steps in your organisation can help you deepen your employees’ connection to your business as well as build greater mutual trust and respect.


What makes a great business leader?

what makes a great leader

Leadership can be defined as:

The action of leading a group of people or an organisation.” but there are considerably more aspects to consider.

There is an old adage that says that great leaders are born, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We live in more complex times and in a world that is becoming increasingly digitised. Thus, making constant connect a new way of life.

So, while many may believe that leadership is innate, it is important to remember that it is also a skill, and like any other skills, it can be developed through determination, training, practice and experience, and eventually, perfected over time.

One of the greatest leaders in recent business, co-founder of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs. Didn’t succeed as a leader until his second bite at the Apple. When he first occupied the role of CEO, he was abrasive and intolerant of anything he viewed as a failure. It wasn’t until his second term, that recent biographies tell us of him reining-in his “negative traits and adopting a more mature management style.”  

Leadership expert and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, Roselinde Torres, explains that, “In a 21st-century world, which is more global, digitally enabled and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation, and where nothing big gets done without some kind of a complex matrix, relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader.”