What I learned from F. W. De Klerk

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One of the amazing things about my career is that I have the privilege to meet amazing people – and recently I got to not only shake hands but listen to a great speech on change management from the Nobel Peace Prize Winner and architect of the end of apartheid in South Africa, and of course the person that freed Nelson Mandela, former President F. W. De Klerk.


You can’t imagine change bigger than moving from a separated society and international isolation than to that of one man one vote, but with the application of just 6 key principles when you are facing change in your organisation you can help guide it through what are normally challenging times.


So as evolving and non-static enterprises you will be involved in a lot of change management – particularly as you scale your business – the jump from £1m to £10m is huge – and I guess our next leap to £100m will be as challenging – and I found these lessons really helpful to keep it in perspective – after all I am just trying to change a company – Mr. De Klerk was changing a whole country and indeed a culture.


It starts with introspection – a thorough self-analysis of where you are, where you need to be and the many people involved in the process.  Obviously, in change management, there will be a lot of people involved and that will mean you have to be cautious of inhibiting role fear that may have in the progress.


That introspective process will enable you to see if the organisation or infrastructure is relevant or indeed defunct.  In our instance logistics is going to change radically over the next 10 years and it’s about being an innovative in that space. If the industry or infrastructure is found to be defunct then only abolition will do.


The second step is articulating a clear and achievable vision. Clearly, with multiple stakeholders you need to be able to clearly outline the problem, the vision and the steps to resolving it.


The third step is communicating that vision to all stakeholders – in a persuasive and inclusive way that gets as many people to consider it as possible.


The fourth point is watching and waiting or preparing with action plans in mind for the right time. President. De Klerk spoke about understanding the tides and currents and the mood and acting at a time whereby you’d get the maximum buy-in from participants – a skillful mix of politics no doubt all of us in business need to play.


Of course none of this change could have been facilitated without the final points about powerful leadership – leadership that once they’d monitored the tide for change would then be either ready to ride the wave of opportunity and or batten down the hatches of a storm – and look at the calculated risks – yes the may have been trepidatious times but was it worth navigating those for what the end result would be.  Strong leadership evaluates this and decides to take that risk (or indeed not take it if the timings are not right).


This is just my notes I took of President. De Klerk’s speech.  I would say if you ever get the chance to hear him speak or get him to speak at an event do so – it’s was one of the most powerful events I had ever been to. Really thought provoking.


It really is moments like this – like when I heard Bill Clinton speak, or F.W. De Klerk that I do thank the universe for the opportunity to learn from these people.


I do hope sharing this helps you – wherever you are steering your businesses this month.


Take care.