As we celebrate Nelson Mandela Day, it’s a perfect time to learn from his ability to achieve goals in the face of impossible odds. Mandela is admired for his impressive ability to change minds and bring people together. In what most considered daunting circumstances, he communicated his message of peace and respect for all people and persuaded an entire nation to set aside their disagreements and come together. He clearly understood the power of respect in effectively setting and achieving an objective. Adopting valuable bits of wisdom from his famous quotes, we can learn from his method of facing challenges and managing people.
“I never lose. I either win or learn.” Nelson Mandela never let his defeats stop him from pursuing his goals. He had enormous setbacks, including a life sentence in prison. He was actually confined for 27 years, but through it all he continued to work on his goal to abolish apartheid in South Africa. His philosophy was simple: he viewed a problem as a temporary setback, not a loss. He learned from his setbacks and used that knowledge to improve his strategy for achieving his objectives.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” As a business manager you face constant challenges such as increasing competition, supply line disruptions, regulations, human resource issues and more. When confronted with problems that seem impossible, we sometimes have managers share stories about how they overcame great obstacles in their business. These stories often provide insight about how they successfully navigated through seemingly insurmountable odds and managed to find a solution. As Mandela observed, it shows that a goal can seem impossible until it’s done. Using information from past challenges can light the path to finding the solution to your current problem.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” The importance of education and training cannot be overstated. Our years of experience show us that most people want to do a good job but often lack the training to do so. Enduring institutions such as the U.S. Military, McDonalds, Amazon and AT&T credit employee and manager training to much of their success. Training does not have to be formal, but it must be relevant, consistent and respectful. Proper training can change an average employee into a superstar and it can change a manager into a true leader.
“When you want to make peace with your enemy you must work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Dealing with adversarial relationships is one of the great challenges of business. Whether it’s staff, unions or suppliers, doing battle with someone who is important to your success requires a clear head and an open heart. Mandela taught us that you can always find common ground and often it is outside the business context. He famously took a first step by joining his adversaries in support of a Rugby team. He publicly wore the team colors and cheered their victories. It was the first step in uniting a nation. We often recommend that managers who are caught in an adversarial situation look outside of business matters to find a bit of common ground. Once that has been established you have the opportunity to find agreement on much more.
“Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you” This is not just good advice for the workplace but for life as well. Treating everyone with respect pays great dividends. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Treating everyone with respect shows others around you that they can expect to be treated fairly even in situations when they are not important to your success. It inspires confidence in you and your organization. People who have been treated respectfully are far more likely to step up to help the company when they are needed.
At Experts in HOW we focus on the Power of Respect in Business. This is emphasized by this final quote from Nelson Mandela, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”