Reset your Compass

Reset your Compass

None of us, not one single one, ZERO, have been here before. Ever. We’re making it up as we go, and that’s fine. Admit it and you’ll feel a whole heap better.

There is too much information, too many moving parts, too little certainty, and too much ambiguity. To make predictions with even mild conviction is an indicator of insanity or stupidity.

But here are a few certainties;

  • The lockdown will end.
  • You will go back to work.
  • You will need to pick up the pieces.
  • It will not be the same as when you left – not for you, not for your staff, not for your suppliers, customers, or your competitors.

Under these circumstances, whatever they might be, you will need to lead. You will need to lead in the biggest modern-day crisis the global world and your organisation has faced.

Your first priorities must be to revisit your strategic plan and conduct a complete organisational review ASAP.

We strongly advise that the day the lockdown ends, you invite your executive to a full organisational review to determine whether your business is fit for purpose. The business environment has changed significantly, not only do you need to reset your compass but you’ve got to find where the new true north is. Not only has someone changed the playing field, they’ve moved us to a new stadium. And remember, what got you “here” may not get you “there”. In any event, now’s the time to find out where “there” is.

For many companies the virus has simply exposed fault-lines as the fissures, chasms, canyons that they are. Take this opportunity to have a full service rather than kick the tyres. A full review must look at both the internal and external landscapes with the intent of creating a future fit organisation.

  • Can staff work remotely? If so who? How much office space does this free up? Do you still need all that floorspace and four floors of parking?
  • Do you need to strengthen your IT systems to accommodate increased numbers of virtual meetings? I was advised today that senior buyers at a major retailer will no longer be seeing sales people at their offices – ever, the new normal is an email followed by a Zoom call. Is your IT posed to cope?
  • How have your customers changed? Do you still have the same target market? How many of your customers have shifted to online buying? How many of them have stopped eating out? What is the impact of lower incomes on your target markets purchasing power? How does this effect you?
  • Do your numbers have integrity and are they real time? Do you have a dashboard for executives that measures liquidity accurately and swiftly? Do your numbers have integrity?
  • What opportunities exist for your company? Where are you vulnerable? And most importantly can you answer this one really important question, “what will success look like for us?”. What must we do to achieve this? Who will be doing it? How will we measure it?

The support services, the administrative services can all be outsourced. Now’s the time to look at your organogram. Review each each job, do a job analysis, see who can be outsourced. What options are there? Should you pay a fulltime employee as a fixed cost? Or pay a team with a proven track record – as and when you need them?

Saige has performed a number of successful organisational reviews restructuring them to ensure they fit for purpose, click on the link for testimonials Saige has also completed a number of successful business turnarounds which have included repositioning, developing strategy, restructuring, and repurposing – using the effective, proven Saige Activation Model, for more information click on the link

Crucially, Saige has positioned itself to operate in the Gig Economy offering tailormade solutions for businesses. This allows organisations to focus on their core business. If you’re a school – educate. If you’re a manufacturer – manufacture. If you’re in financial services – look after your client’s finance.

One of the most powerful things a leader can say is, “I don’t know”.

Right now many of us are feeling a touch vulnerable and bewildered – if you’re feeling like this, you really need to partner with a team whose track-record of excellence and success speaks for itself – contact





Trust, trust, trust me on this – HOPE is the single most critical component for a content and fulfilled life.

  • HOPE is the yeast in our daily bread.
  • HOPE is our innate ability to trump despair with drive, doubt with belief, apathy with conviction, disinterest with desire, uncertainty with assurance, and hesitation with confidence.
  • HOPE is resistance and resilience in the face of adversity.
  • HOPE causes us to set the alarm at night. HOPE gets us out of bed in the morning. Again, and again, and again.
  • HOPE is the most important foundation upon which we build meaningful lives.

Without HOPE we are hopeless. When we lose HOPE, we create a vacuum which is quickly filled with hopelessness, despondence, despair, and depression.

Can we avoid this?

Victor Fraenkel taught us how, when everything had been removed from inmates in Auschwitz, they were still left with the option to choose. No one can ever, ever, ever take that from you. The survivors chose HOPE. We can too.

As I write we are in an extended lock-down in response to the Corona Virus. People are being infected. Tragically, many are dying. Businesses are filing for insolvency. Staff are being retrenched. SMEs are closing their doors, many for the final time. Landlords are terminating leases. Tenants face homelessness. On Friday, with impeccable timing, Moody’s downgraded the country to junk status. The Finance Minister informed us that the country has run out of money. The Reserve Bank began buying the government bonds no one else wants. It is an extraordinary time. A time which threatens to drown us in despair. The best antidote is HOPE.

  • HOPE is the belief that tomorrow will be better than today, that the rest of our lives will be better than what we have already lived.
  • HOPE is the most effective currency leaders have to deal with the current situation. Leaders have the choice to create a vision, desire, and dream of what our future is going to look like.


Leaders must start by caring for their people. With the wind at our backs we can all be great leaders; bullish and buoyed with bluster and hubris. Now with a force-ten gale head-on; we get to see who can lead in adversity – leaders who deal in HOPE.

So how do we use HOPE as a strategy? 

Whether you are a parent, a sole proprietor, or CEO of a listed company – be kind, be considerate, be compassionate. Now is the time to look after and out for people.

Yes, revenue streams are important, liquidity is critical, as is surviving an extended lockdown and managing a slow, protracted recovery. Do all this but first put people at the centre of the process.

Think about it, where does your money come from? Your customers – take care of them. Nothing happens in business until someone sells something, who does this? Your sales team – take care of them. Who manages the cash flowing in and out of your business? Your administration department – take care of them.

By now you’re getting the idea.

The businesses that survive and go on to thrive will be the ones with people-centred leadership. Your staff don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show them how much you care.

Your people are panic stricken and afraid. Keep in contact and reassure them by speaking frequently and honestly using tone, language and intent that are positive, optimistic, reassuring – in short hopeful. You are their umbilical cord of HOPE that we will get through this.

When the President sent the armed forces into our communities, he urged them to, “be kind and take care of our people”. How much better than the Minister of Defence who answered a question with, “there is no skop, skiet and donder – yet”. Words are important they can inspire or demotivate – use them carefully.

As parents at home you need to be the reassuring hand in the back, the tranquillity, and the reassurance. As you and your family try and make sense of this unusual time in history be kind, breathe slowly and deeply. Be hopeful – it’s infectious.

Should you wish to consult us with regards to developing a strategy, coaching, mentoring, business development based on assertive enquiry and positive psychology email to set up a free zoom session to learn more.

Surviving in the DIY Economy

Surviving in the DIY Economy

by Brian Robertson

In my last article I examined a number of options for organisations responding to the Corona Virus. Since then, events have moved at an astonishing speed, and we now live in a state of emergency. I’ve had calls from clients ranging from requests for information on, whether to pay an employee who is quarantined because their spouse was in contact with a person diagnosed at his workplace, to if I consult to my client via Zoom, can I still charge my normal hourly rate or must I discount?

Technology influence

Here’s the thing, the world has changed forever and with it the nature of the workplace. Technology has made the notion of place irrelevant for most skilled jobs – one can just as easily access communication, resources and information from the slope of Mount Everest as in the office. You can draft your strategic marketing plan, complete an excel budget and communicate this with the team instantly. But still we cling to the standard employment relationship – sign a letter of employment, agree to comply with working hours and get measured by how frequently you are at your desk.

Well the most progressive, efficient companies I know have loosened their grip on the employment relationship. Much of their work is now being done by individuals other than full-time employees. Think about it, does it make sense to go through an expensive recruitment process, induction, training and have a fixed cost when you can pay a contractor or consultant an hourly rate for the best possible advice, assistance as if they were on your payroll. The beauty is no laborious labour disputes IR difficulties managing industrial relations, pay disputes, poor discipline and poor performance. You simply have a 24-hour termination clause.

Over the years as a consultant I’ve worked in a wide variety of industries at every level from middle-management to board level. It allows me to work from wherever it is I choose to be. If I’m on holiday and you desperately need a disciplinary hearing chaired, we do it via Zoom. It gives me increased flexibility, the ability to craft my life as I see fit and the freedom to choose the “gigs” that give me pleasure, reward and satisfaction. For your business, it allows you to draw on a global pool of talent and experience when you need it, rather than an under-resourced talent in your office daily, weekly, monthly, annually, forever.

Technology has created incredible opportunities for both business and those looking for an alternative to fulltime employment. The cloud, mobile apps, collaboration platform, collaborative workplaces provide just about every type of business function needed to provide an excellent service to clients at virtually no cost. And to business, the cost is an hourly rate that can be negotiated and capped allowing you to budget accordingly.

But it’s not just in organisations I’ve experienced this phenomenon. If you ever have the joy of organising a mass participation event, you will experience the many moving parts that come together to prepare and host the event disband and move on just as quickly. From fencing companies, road signage, outdoor marketing, traffic control, disaster management they are paid for the event. Now imagine if it was your business and you had the employees for 12 months of the year?

As one of my favourite authors Mark Manson explains it,

“Throughout history, the biggest and most necessary changes typically come in the wake of crises, much like our most important personal changes often come in the wake of our traumas. There’s always growth in pain. And there’s always opportunity for creation in destruction.”

Here’s your chance to do the things you’ve wanted to do but couldn’t find the urgency to do. Any significant change in my life has usually been preceded by an unexpected significant event.

For further insights and consultation contact us at

Serious opportunities lie in the Corona Chaos

Serious opportunities lie in the Corona Chaos

There seems to be a crisis epidemic.
I know that’s how I, and many of my clients feel. I love them. I love nothing more than creating something positive out of something dire.

Rham’s Rule

The first thought that comes to mind when dealing with a crisis is, “what would Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff to President Obama, Rham Emanuel do if he was me?”

Emanuel developed the philosophy now referred to as Rham’s Rule;

“You never let a serious crisis to go to waste,” he said. Why? Because “it’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.”

The Corona Virus is a crisis. It’s impossible to believe otherwise. The negative news is multiplying almost as fast as the virus itself. But there are opportunities. Many of which I shared with a client today. It is a very progressive independent school.

During the Fees Must Fall Crisis, UCT sent students home. I know, one was sitting in my house. Lectures were conducted via podcasts and social media. Online chat-rooms served as tutorial groups. Students could download the material at their convenience and as many times as they wished. Exams were written online. Marks were posted – online. Out of this difficult period came many positive opportunities. Universities have had to cope with regular student protest by providing content online. But it is not limited to universities.

One of the pioneers of UCTs online learning program Get Smarter was Robert Paddock who recently established an online school called the Valenture Institute. More and more people I speak to are schooling their children at home using online platforms. Sport and extra-murals are done through clubs and societies.

Education is being disrupted. This is not new; Clayton Christensen wrote a book Disrupting Class in 2008 (updated in 2017) much of what he predicted is currently happening. The notion that schools or universities are a cluster of buildings, a set of pupils and teachers for a fixed period is over. Done. Dusted. Gone. And Corona is facilitating this change at a frightening speed. Corona is closing down academic institutions. This provides the opportunity to modernise and democratise education.

Imagine online learning by not just any teacher of varying ability but the very best teacher in the world on a given subject on your child’s tablet in your house. Think about this; learning is a hit and miss affair, imagine your child is taught maths by a teacher who has never studied maths? Yes, it does and is happening. Yet technology makes it possible for every child to receive the best possible tuition.

Is Corona the opportunity we need to shift a system suited to perpetuate the status quo?

Another opportunity technology provides us with is the ability to “learn for life”. The year after my daughter completed her accounting articles, an online accounting program Xero shifted the needle in the industry a full 360 degrees. The credit crunch and state capture heightened the need for an ethics course – something previously thought of as an anathema to accountants. She estimates that within 18 months much of the curriculum was obsolete. If you do not continue to learn throughout your life you too will become obsolete.

Google “online courses” and you will find every reputable global university offering courses presented by the leading names in their field. Just think of it, you can graduate from Oxford sipping cortado in your local coffee shop.

And the workplace? From the first client, a school, to the second – a manufacturing and retail company. An HR Department clinging to the Victorian “time and attendance” mentality. They measure staff on the hours they spend at work. Little do they know their staff are on social media and taking private calls most of the time. They don’t understand that being there is not the same as being effective. “If I can see you, I can manage you”. Really, in 2020? There is NO USE measuring the wrong things. Their attendance is awful, as the pile of leave forms and sick leave forms on the HR Managers test indicates.

The HR Manager asked me to, “help us draft some guidelines to manage corona”. “You don’t need a list, you need common-sense, it’s really very simple”, I replied, “manage everyone as if they’re one of your sales reps.”

Agile Work Force

Over twenty years ago I introduced a concept called the “Agile Work Force”.

The first step was for the board to have a clear detailed strategic plan that is known to everybody, has clear metrics, and is used to direct all the company’s attention, energy and effort. I use John Doerrs OKRs. In all the companies I consult to, the two-day Stratplan session is the most important day on the calendar. Get this right and you win. Trust me. Polony, Day Zero, Corona or not.

Next manage your staff based on outcomes. Measure them on what they need to deliver, not how are they delivering it. Oh yes, get rid of those awkward performance review systems, no one likes them and no one understands them. Gone, we’re adults now.

A sales rep is measured on their sales against budget. There is no place to hide. You hit target or you don’t. Period. And there are agreed upon consequences set out in the incentive scheme. To a good manager, it shouldn’t matter an iota whether the rep achieves budget by making calls while watching cage fighting or while nursing a sick child. You should be managing the outcome. The End. Personally, I don’t care if Tiger Woods hits the ball out of bounds more than any other golfer, as long as he wins tournaments. That’s how we should treat staff. Instead we measure them on the amount of balls they lose. I know of an auditing firm that has appearance as a key metric – one-page dress code for male and eleven for female. Gumf. Who does this?

A young engineer told me he commutes for an hour to work and an hour back to sit in an office and design a bridge across the Red Sea. If he were to work at home, he would add 10 hours of productivity to his week and deliver the project a month earlier. But guess what? He’s measured on his time and attendance… honestly. Ten hours a week is forty hours a month or 480 a year. If he worked remote, his employer would get an extra 54 days a year productivity. Are you measuring the right metrics?

If you are an executive or business owner, draft up a list of positions that can work flexible hours or even agile. Then get their manager to draft a contract with them of the times they need contact, meetings, presentation etc. some can be done by Zoom others require people present – when you work out the amount of time this is, I’d be surprised if it is 10%.

We allowed most of the workforce to work agile and guess what? Productivity soared, profit soared and we attracted the most incredible talent way above what an enterprise like ours deserved or could pay for – a manufacturing part in the industrial wasteland of Stikland – between the graveyard and the used car lot. Why did we attract such talent? People want flexibility. People want a say in how they live their lives. People are adults. These people are your staff. Think about them – they are like you. They want to avoid time consuming commutes. You might have noticed the roads are gridlocked, the trains unreliable, while the buses under siege from taxi operators. Your staff, like you, want to drop children at school. Have coffee with their spouse and occasionally exercise. Yet you cling fast to your clock-card system, biometric system whatever, whatever developed in the industrial revolution. It’s dead. Yes. Sorry to break it to you.

What to do?  Apply Rham’s Rule and don’t let this serious crisis go to waste, because it just might be that opportunity to do things you could not do before.

If you need advice from someone who went to the edge, took the plunge and flew, contact Saige Business Consulting for advice on implementing talent management programs, retention programs, flexitime, agile and remote work. Contact us at




Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived a number of concentration camps including Auschwitz. During this time, he paid close attention to the behaviour of both the inmates and the wardens. He recorded and analysed their behaviour in detail. In doing so he developed a simple hypothesis. While the answer to the question, “what is the meaning of life” might be simple, the way we pose the question is problematic.

You see, it is not us who get to demand of the world, “What is the meaning of life”, Rather life is demanding that we answer the question with the actions and decisions we make. We create meaning in our choices and our beliefs”.

The fact that the meaning of life is our responsibility and that we get to decide based on our choices and beliefs might seem overwhelming, but it is also truly liberating. If it’s to be, it’s up to me – no one else. I cannot abdicate responsibility for the meaning I give to my life. When we realise this, we realise how important it is to choose the life that we will find meaningful.

When we have a clear set of beliefs it leads to the improved quality of choices. This in turn leads to decisions and actions that are driven with intent and purpose. It is said that first we make our choices and then our choices make us. In essence we give our life meaning by having a well-defined purpose – a why, a clear set of beliefs that guide our choices.

In the 1980s one of the most original thinkers in South Africa was philosopher Professor Martin Versveld. After a lifetime dedicated to studying the human condition, wrote in his book Sum. Selected Works,

Life has no meaning; we give it meaning by how we treat other people”.

Let’s pause and reflect on this simple but powerful thought. It leads credence to Frankl’s premise that we should answer the question “what is the meaning of life” through our actions and deeds. And in this instance by how we treat others. As I mentioned I could only begin to change mothers and an entire company once I had made the choice to change myself.

Can there be any greater action we commit than out interaction with others? Love, peace, hatred, war, respect, jealousy – the whole human condition is premised on the quality of our relations with others. The quality of our life is relative to how we interact with others. John Donne knew that no man is an island, and Nelson Mandela believed that we are who we are because of other people.

Wine-lovers will know that the Hermit of Hermitage was an exception to this rule. Returning exhausted from the Crusades, Knight Henry Gaspard eschewed a life of waging war, witnessing brutality and death on an industrial scale. He headed off up the hill of Hermitage where he built a Chapel surrounded by vineyards. He avoided any form of contact with other human. Perhaps if my wines were this good I would too. It was Gaspard’s way of dealing with trauma to simply remove himself from it and who can blame him? Today it is infinitely more difficult. As an introvert who prefers to sit at home with my family and dogs to attending any number of functions, I have learned to be in crowds and not of crowds. By this I mean I have developed a set of skills that allow me to interact but enough time to recharge myself before the next event. I did this courtesy of Susan Cain’s remarkable book Quiet. But I certainly could not live in isolation. Nor I suspect could any of us.

In Auschwitz Frankl made the following insightful observation: prisoners who grew hopeless and gave up on life, those who had lost all hope for their future, were inevitably the first to die. They died less from lack of food or lack of medicine than from lack of hope. Lack of something to live for. Lack of something to look forward to. And a lack of something to love. Their lives had simply lost meaning. They were living without hope.

When we understand this, we begin to understand the importance of living with hope. Hope is the sap in the vine, the acid in the wine – hope is our elixir of life. Fortunately hope can be understood and developed, if like Frankl we believe that life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as his fellow Austrian Freud believed. Nor is it a quest for power as Alfred Adler taught. Life for Frankl was a quest for meaning. The great task for man is to find his meaning in his life – his purpose. His reason for existing. And this is where the pyramid of purpose, meaning and hope intersect.

Frankl listed the following activities as sources of purpose and meaning:

  • Work: In particular doing something significant, something bigger than ourselves. A passion, project, hobby, interest that is an integral part of your life. Look to see where it intersects with your career and how you can incorporate them.
  • Love: Frankl saw this as a generous agape form of love. It may be that generous unconditional love for a spouse. Or it might be the love for all the children in an orphanage like Dr Wilbur Larch in the Cider House Rules. Can you list another person or people you care about deeply enough to make your life worth living and fighting for?
  •  Suffering: We give suffering meaning by how we respond to it. When we recall a time we have suffered mentally, physically, spiritually, how we dealt with it and what we learned about our self and others. This form of introspection helps us to place suffering in perspective. Vipassana meditation teaches us how to avoid suffering by controlling our thoughts and responses to it. We’ll deal with some of these techniques later.

As we begin to get a clearer understanding of our WHY, so we importantly understand that hope is the source of our optimism for the future, even during times of adversity. Or as Nietzsche put it,

He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any How”.

Find your purpose, it’s important enough to take time and agonise over it, find assistance, read, ask questions and get it down – this is the first step in planning the rest of your life. To building hope in your life and those you lead.

Mentoring – why?

What is Mentoring, and what can I expect to gain?


“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”

— Oprah Winfrey

Mentoring is not a mystery. Nor is it new. We are all mentors. We all, to a larger or lesser degree learn by observing others. A mother smiling at her new born baby until it learns to smile back is a mentor. A child in the playground looking intently at his peers on the jungle-gym before copying them is learning from others. Teachers, lecturers, parents, business leaders, leaders in society, politicians, sports coaches, music teachers – we are all either showing someone how to do something or learning how to do something.

Mentoring is important because “every day is a school day”, meaning every day we wake up we have an opportunity to teach someone, and to learn from someone. Every encounter with another person is an opportunity to co-create learning, to share ideas, thoughts, and information through the critical art of conversation. We all do it, but many of us are either not aware or we are frightened away by the notion that it requires a range of complex skills.

Life is the simple evolution of thoughts and consequent behaviours, the distilled wisdom of the ages that is transferred from one generation to the next. Historically wisdom was passed on orally through song and dialogue. As mankind mastered the art of writing and recorded values, principles, norms, policies and procedures – these were then passed on to the next generation in text form. Scriptures, philosophy, law and even cookery books give us a glimpse into life before the common era. As we evolve as a civilisation we simply continue to place stone after stone on the cairn began all those years ago.

Mentoring simply brings the distilled knowledge of the ages together with personal experience in a practical manner that makes it relevant to the mentee.

Is it really just as simple as reading a few books and having a couple of discussions that constitutes mentoring? Yes, it is both of these, but for mentoring to be effective and meaningful, we need to co-create a structured program that suits the needs of the mentee. This is important as we need to manage expectations as well as to define what mentoring is not.

What is mentoring not?

A recent meeting with the head of student affairs at a local university highlighted just how misunderstood the notion of mentoring is. I was part of a team establishing a mentoring program for the universities alumni department wanting to create a platform for alumni to share their skills, experience and wisdom with fellow alumni and current students.

I was extremely positive about the initiative as I had recently implemented a similar program where the impact was enormous. An institution which was largely separated into current students and old boys was united by the simple process of creating a platform for skilful, wise, experienced and connected persons become energised by spending time with eager, enthusiastic and energetic young students.

The program had many benefits. Most importantly it created an environment where individuals with a single purpose forged relationship across generations, races, creeds, cultures, genders and professions. These co-created relationships were of mutual benefits as the student might learn about the complexities of corporate governance whilst the mentor learns about social media.

The head of student affairs, a psychologist, was horrified, “never, these “so called” mentors are not trained therapists, we could soon be dealing with depression and suicides on an unprecedented scale.” The program was not implemented.

Her response was not unexpected as the process of mentoring is not fully understood. At best it is confused with formalised coaching and at worst with therapy which are both important and both have a place – but they are not mentoring.

The need for mentoring is even greater today!

My experience in business as well as in life generally has taught me that mentoring is the single most important factor for leading a successful, fulfilled life. I say business and life because when mentoring, I see no difference between the boardroom and the bedroom – it’s the same person who simply has a life divided into portfolios: spouse, parent, employee and more.

When I began working there was very little business literature. Businesses developed their own unique structure, systems and culture. The result was in order to replicate the DNA of the business you needed to develop your own training programs and train staff “in-house”.

If you left school and wanted to be a sales representative in FMCG, you joined a company as an assistant merchandiser. The merchandiser would show you where the stores in your cycle were. He/she would introduce you to the store manager. Show you were the goods receiving was. Where your products were stored. Guide you through the first daunting sales meetings at head office. Teach the basic skills of merchandising: eye level is buy level, category management, how to fight for shelf space, what products never to go out of stock on, what a promotion was, what a gondola end was and how to treat the staff instore to make your job easier. If you were successful, you were appointed to the permanent staff and the training wheels came off. After some time in this position he would be promoted through the ranks of junior sales representative, sales representative, regional sales manager, and if good enough the national sales. This process was common across all job functions. We can call it in-house training, apprenticeship, traineeship and more – but the truth is it was simply a transfer of knowledge, information and experience – mentoring. And it took time and patience.

Think of it this way, the day you left school you had certain knowledge but very little experience. By experience I mean the kind of experience one cannot gain through reading books or looking it up on google. Many people I mentor comment, “if only I had a person I could speak to, someone who had experience in the situations I faced whilst at school I would have avoided so many elementary mistakes, done so many things differently and saved a lot of time and wasted emotional energy. How can we avoid this?

By sharing our insight with young people or those moving into the professions and trades. One well thought out idea or well-made choice is worth years of wasted time and regrets. This is all the more necessary given the skills shortage that sees young graduates assuming more and more responsibility before they are ready. Furthermore, these same young graduates come with heightened expectations. The notion of building a career entails does not mean a “job for life” and slowly progressing through the ranks. They are a brand of one wanting as many different experiences on their CV as possible. Their careers are like their email addresses rather than their post-box number, they move around to develop themselves rather than waiting in one place for things to improve.

In my experience the best institutions achieve the greatest return on their human capital when they establish a formal and/or informal mentoring program. Naturally these must be tailored to suit the needs of each institution as well as those of the individual.

As each company requires mentoring aligned with its needs and culture, so too will the individual require a wide variety of choices: first time employment requires the employee to adjust to the workplace – meetings, politics, change, their relationship management, workplace etiquette and more. Mentoring executives means providing a more strategic insight. Whilst business training for small, medium enterprises requires a broad spectrum of skills including moving from start-up by establishing policies and procedures without using the entrepreneurial spirit. Career mentoring and life skill mentoring mean less of a focus on technical skills and more on general career development. In some instances, it can be one or many of the above depending on the needs of the mentee.

If mentoring appears to benefit so many, why did the head of student affairs have such an aversion to establishing a mentoring system? It can’t be that it is a novel idea?

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”— John Crosby


Snakes in Suits

Snakes in Suits

Recruitment: notes learned from Snakes in Suits by Psychologists Babiat & Hare

As a recruiter, I battled to understand how from time to time I misread an individual completely. I kept fastidious records and began looking for trends. At this time, I looked at the leadership within the organisation. Looking at where there was a steady turnover of staff, low levels of engagement, poor attendance and high levels of disciplinary and grievance issues.

There was a consistent style of leadership and leader. A colleague recommended I read Snakes in Suits. The book linked all the dots. What follows is a brief synopsis.

The authors suggest recruiters look for the following traits which suggest they may be recruiting a sociopath at best or a psychopath at worst.

Some traits include

The fact that they appear affable displaying a superficial charm.

They are insincere and rarely display any form of empathy or sympathy for others.

Their brains simply lack the circuitry to process such emotions.

This allows them to betray people, threaten people or harm people without giving it a second thought.

They pursue any action that serves their own self-interest even if it seriously harms others.

They are delusional lacking a clear understanding of the world around them and their relation to it.

They have a distorted image of their ability often claiming to have skills that they don’t, their CVs are rarely a true reflection of who they are and what they have achieved.

They wildly exaggerate things to the point of absurdity, but when they describe it to you in a storytelling format, for some reason it sounds believable at the time.

They are unreliable and totally self-absorbed, if it doesn’t suit them it doesn’t happen. They have a tendency to distort the truth to suit their own cause and make themselves look good at the expense of others.

They will spread lies and rumors about others in order to make themselves appear better and to manipulate the people they want to control.

There is a complete lack of any remorse, guilt and shame.

They are never wrong. NEVER. If they are unable to distort or obscure the facts they respond in one of two ways: blame others for their misfortune or play a victim card. The facts are never addressed.

Sociopaths are delusional and literally believe that what they say becomes truthmerely because they say it!

They possess poor judgment when assessing individuals, trusting them implicitly only to be deceived.

They have no ability to think strategically and make no long term plans. They treat their money similarly.

They fail to learn by experience, their inability to accept responsibility when something goes wrong means they never believe they have to learn from a mistake – they simply never make them – even when driving.

They are never wrong. They never feel guilt. They can never apologize. Even if shown proof that they were wrong, they will refuse to apologize and instead go on the attack.

Sociopaths never apologize, they cannot bring themselves to say the words, “I am sorry”, and don’t see the need to as they are never wrong.


Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, they have few friends as their ability to communicate and show emotions is absent. There is often a disregard for laws and social mores, anyone in authority from teachers and referees to politicians are viewed with suspicion.

They possess an equal disregard for the rights of others and will simply ignore the fact that their actions might impact negatively on someone else, even those close to them.

They hate to lose any argument or fight and will viciously defend their web of lies, even to the point of logical absurdity. They cannot distinguish between their opinion and the truth. Their opinion is the truth and they will argue as such.

Sociopaths are incapable of loveand are entirely self-serving. They may feign love or compassion calling others dear, darling and honey, complimenting them in order to get what they want, but they don’t actually FEEL love in the way that you or I do.

Sociopaths are masters are presenting themselves as heroes with high morals and philosophy, yet underneath it they are the true criminal minds in society who steal, undermine, deceive, and often incite emotional chaos among families, the workplace and even entire communities. They are masters at turning one group of people against another group while proclaiming themselves to be the one true savior. Wherever they go, they create strife, argument and hatred, yet they utterly fail to see their own role in creating it. They are delusional at so many levels that their brains defy logical reasoning.
You cannot reason with a sociopath.Attempting to do so only wastes your time and annoys the sociopath.

Tips when interviewing sociopaths:

One simple method for dispelling sociopathic delusion is to start fact checking their claims. Do any of their claims actually check out? If you start digging, you will usually find a pattern of frequent inconsistencies. Confront the suspected sociopath with an inconsistency and see what happens: Most sociopaths will become angry or aggressive when their integrity is questioned, whereas a sane person would simply be happy to help clear up any misinformation or misunderstanding.

Beware of fact-checking the sociopath by asking other people under his or her influence. A sociopath will usually have a small group of followers, even family members, who not only believe their fictional tales, but who actually internalize those fictionsto the point where they rewrite their own memories to be consistent with them. If a sociopath talks about his rugby career over and over again, some of his believers will sooner or later start to form false memories. So if you ask those people, “Did you actually ever see this person play rugby?” They will enthusiastically say, “Yes!” Because in their own minds, that illusion has become something indistinguishable from a vivid memory.

Another very valuable red flag to recognize when trying to spot a sociopath is to see how they deal with attacks on their own integrity. If a sociopath is presented with a collection of facts, documents and evidence showing that he lied or deceived, he will refuse to address the evidence and, instead, attack the messenger!

If you really try to nail a sociopath down to answering a documented allegation, they will quickly turn on you, denounce you, and declare that you too are secretly plotting against them. Anyone who does not fall for the brainwashing of the sociopath is sooner or later kicked out of the circle and then wildly disparaged by the remaining members of his/her group.

Once you are able to detect these traits in an individual, you are better able to avoid the trap of recruiting them. Even better to avoid them at all costs. If you are to work with them on some project you are at least armed to protect yourself.

Have a look at any number of state or corporate failures in recent years and see if you can determine some of the traits displayed by those implicated.

Why We Need Goals in Our Lives


There are two truism that apply to goals and planning: “if you don’t plan your life, somebody else will” and, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of a clear, simple achievable plan for you to give effect to your dreams and achieve your full potential.

The Saige Goals Workshop focuses on firstly developing personal goals that equip the individual with the skills to achieve their full potential. Goal setting is an effective tool for making progress on a personal level towards a specific or desired outcome.

The process I use when setting goals is to establish SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bounded objectives) in the following areas of an individual’s life:

Definition of areas of self-development: 5 Ps

Personal: Values, purpose, family, home [me & others]

Professional: financial, career [me & others]

Physical: health, wellness, fitness [me & others]

Psychological: Mental educational, spiritual, ethical

Pastoral: Hobbies, interests, social, cultural, charity

We then assist the individual in aligning their personal goals with the organisation’s strategic objectives. A comprehensive talent management program is then drafted with the organisations HR Department.

The Saige Goal Workshop ensures that individual employee goals and objectives align with the vision and strategic goals of the entire organization. Goal-management provides organizations with a mechanism to effectively communicate corporate goals and strategic objectives to each person across the entire organization. The key consists of having a centralised strategy (we recommend the Saige SCORER process) and providing each person with a clear, consistent organizational-goal message so that every employee understands how their efforts contribute to an enterprise’s success.

Critical Need for a Team Strategy


“Perfection is spelled paralysis”


The greatest gift any CEO, Owner, MD, Consultant can give an organisation is to give it a simple set of marching orders – a strategy. No strategy means no vision, no goals no direction and eventually poorly directed inertia. The Saige Scorer established a simple, clear unambiguous strategy with a clear set of objectives to EXECUTE the strategy. The failure of organisations is not that they lack strategic direction, but they have no idea as to how to implement it. After the strategic session, they place the file on the shelf and go back to managing their day-to-day activities.

Over many years of working with good and great organisations, we have developed a simple easy to use system that not only provides clear direction for the organisation, but also measures the organisation on a constant basis, builds in excellence, instant self-correction, pulls organisations together, breaks down SILOs, and in our experience is the single biggest factor for moving from Good to Great.

If the question is, “how to I move my organisation form good to GREAT”?, then the answer is:


  • SCORER is the Swiss Army Knife of business management. A MacGyver tool that can be adapted and adopted to suit to any team or business.
  • With business experiencing constant change and disruption, SCORER is a simple effective system that cuts through the clutter and gets things done. If we all agree that leadership is all about energy, all about movement, all about action, then SCORER provides us with the perfect system for developing strategy and executing our objectives.
  • SCORER develops a crystal clear unambiguous set of “marching orders”.
  • SCORER creates a shared language for execution.
  • SCORER clarifies expectations. It simply says, “what do we need to get done (and fast), and who is working on it”?
  • SCORER keeps employees united and aligned vertically and horizontally.
  • SCORER demolishes silos, cultivates cross-team connections, highlights concerns early on, holds the entire team accountable and up to date.

The Saige SCORER is tried and tested, our many successful clients are proof of this.

How to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Alumni Department (Part 1)


It is my experience that irrespective of the nature of the organisation, the successful ones are remarkably similar. They are [to paraphrase the first line in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina],

“happy organisations are alike; while each unhappy organisation is unhappy in its own way”.

I have been fortunate to work in wide variety of industries, private enterprises, family businesses, independent schools, universities, listed entities, charities, and more. Without exception the successful ones share the following characteristics.

They have a compelling direction; a clear vision, purpose and strategy. Their leaders are committed to and live this vision. They use the vision to trade in hope and create the image of what the future will look like.

They are serious about talent; they recruit the best possible people for each position and empower them – they attract, train and retain talent. As Jim Collins commented, “people are not your greatest asset, the right people are”. Great organisations get the right people on the bus and hold them accountable.

They have an appropriate structure; their form fits the function. They constantly perform “paper audits” to ensure the organisation is fit for purpose, flat, efficient and functional.

They have clear roles and responsibilities; job descriptions are clear, concise, and relevant so staff know exactly what to do. These roles are directly linked to the strategic objectives of the organisation.

They have effective measurement and feedback systems and processes; these are built in as part of a continuous improvement, growth and development, and striving for excellence process rather than a “surveillance and annual tick box exercise”. Staff know at what level they are required to operate. KPIs are one thing, but having OKRs is critical.

They celebrate their successes; when you measure success, you can celebrate it. This creates a culture of positive reinforcement and an environment where employees become ‘winners in the workplace”.

They have enabling environments; with high levels of emotional intelligence where staff are mentored by senior staff and encouraged; what I call HERO environments where the leaders create a culture of Hope, Effectiveness, Resilience and Optimism.

They encourage and respect multipliers people who perform above the requirements of their job functions. People I refer to as valuable citizens, people who possess good sound values. These are staff who continually check in on their colleagues, who support them, who are loyal to the organisation, who are team players, and create positive work environments. They deal in the intangibles, building relations, developing communities building within the organisation and outside. They are the ones who steer the organisations moral compass. They are the ones who allow stakeholders and shareholders to sleep at night.

With reference back to Anna Karenina, what are the traits of an “unhappy” organisation?

When I perform an organisational effectiveness survey, it always the case that one, a combination of, or all six of the abovementioned characteristics are absent.

The most common one in alumni organisations (as it is in schools) is the absence of effective measurement and feedback system.

I conducted an audit at an independent school recently and began by saying, “why is it that the quickest way to empty a staffroom is to talk about appraisal/performance review systems”?

Staff went swiftly on the defensive, “because we fear the commoditisation of education”, came one answer. “We have no control over the calibre of student we receive”, came another. “Some of our greatest successes come from getting the most difficult student to simply pass”.

There were many other reasons given. I responded by asking the question, “do you measure your students?”, “yes of course”, came the answer, “why” I asked. “So, we can evaluate their performance, give them positive feedback in the areas where they are doing well, asses areas for improvement and put in place measures to help them develop to their full potential”. The school has a comprehensive record of every intervention, every test, every exam and every assessment with a pupil that follows the progress of the student through the school.

“Well it may surprise you that this is exactly what an effective staff review system entails”, I replied, you measure the aspects of your job that are within your control. You do not measure the “uncontrollable”.

The purpose of an effective set of key performance areas is in order to assist the employee in performing their function optimally, provide the support they require, the assistance in terms of mentoring and training to do so, and the opportunity to receive what I call “feed-forward”. A concept based on Marshall Goldsmiths concept of always looking forward in an attempt to become the best version of ourselves we can become. It has a strong element of mentoring and is a co-created, collaborative relationship.

In short, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. The best organisations build the striving for excellence into the DNA of the organisation. It becomes built into the processes and policies. It becomes more than just an outcome, it is a way of working.

My experience of having worked in and evaluating alumni departments leads me to believe that the successful ones are successful because they are run along the lines of successful organisations.

Where they are unique is in that they operate in an environment where there are multiple stakeholders – the university [including current staff and students], the alumni [who range from last years graduate to a 99-year-old farmer in the Karoo], donors, and future alumni.

Furthermore, they have had to evolve rapidly [as Robert Forman commented], from “ex-coaches who are good at golf, fine story-tellers, and know lots of people to professionals required to operate in a highly competitive field of work as executors of strategy, event coordination, liaising between the various constituencies and delivering on strategy. How one measures them is critical to the success of the organisation.”

As Bill Gates who battled initially when establishing the Gates Foundation commented, “In philanthropy I see people confusing objectives with missions all the time. A mission is directional. An objective has a set of concrete steps that you are intentionally engaged in and actually trying to go for. Its fine to have ambitious objectives, but how do you scale it? How do you measure it? I think its getting better though. Philanthropy is bringing in more people from high performance business environments, and they are tilting the culture.”

When we measure the effectiveness of an alumni relations department, we look at the following:

Is there a purpose or a vision? Is there a clear concise strategy to achieve the support the purpose and achieve the vision? Is this known to employees? Are employees absolutely clear as to what their roles and responsibilities are in delivering the strategy? Are there a clear set of metrics to measure an evaluate progress and performance of employees in achieving delivering on the strategy? It is this final point I wish to elaborate on as it is the single biggest short-coming in alumni relations organisations.