Make a positive impact on the world around you and the economy, top regional banker says
A top regional banker urged her audience of more than 300 businesswomen to “put up their hands and contribute” to the economy at the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s annual women’s breakfast on Friday at Slipperfields on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth.
Absa provincial managing executive for the Southern and Eastern Cape Tshiwela Mhlantla stood in at the last minute as the guest speaker when television personality Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa was unable to attend due to an international flight delay.
The Herald deputy editor Nwabisa Makunga was the MC for the event.
Mhlantla, who is a member of the chamber’s board, spoke of the many hats women wore – their roles.
“Hats come in different shapes and we need to uncover this and have a conversation around the core of who we are,” she said.
Each of these myriad roles came with responsibilities, Mhlantla said, highlighting the influence of world leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister Theresa May and US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“When I think of these women, the point strikes me that these are large economies, and they own their platform through sheer determination, underpinned by a sense of responsibility,” she said.
Along with this, it was crucial to acknowledge that “if things are not going the way they are supposed to, I will lift up my hand and contribute”.
“We just need to unlock synergistic engagement so that we have a positive impact on the world around us.”
Mhlantla admitted that, despite running an asset portfolio worth R46-billion at Absa, “I’d be lying if I told you I know everything about them”.
She said leaders needed to be comfortable with not knowing all the answers and instead surround themselves with a strong team, and then give them a “strategic steer”.
Mhlantla’s message included several nuggets of hard-earned business wisdom, like:
Depending on where you sit, the number six can also be read as a nine, she said in highlighting the value of being open to opposing viewpoints.
“When you are in leadership, or a relationship, there has to come a point even when you know factually it is a 6 you must allow a 9 view.”
This did not mean capitulating, however, instead it meant recognising the value of others’ points of view.
Mhlantla warned women against getting lost in the details, and said during “Calmette moments” – those overwhelming times when criticism was severe and plans were not working out – they needed to step back, slow down and take a deep breath before moving forward.
“You have to be in charge of your emotions. You can never be strategic if you don’t see the detail – but you cannot be strategic if you stay in the detail.”
Do not add a “two cents contribution”.
“Own your conversation as a woman. Who wants to listen to a two-cent conversation? And why is your comment little? When we use these words, we start undermining ourselves and this gives others the right to undermine you.”
Be aware of your “point of inflection”. Mhlantla said life consisted of peaks and troughs where you are faced with two decisions – go on or get out.
It was vital to approach this point-of-inflection moment with a clear head, as your decision could lead either to a spiral downwards, or to a metamorphosis where you had the chance to reinvent yourself.
Build your independence: “You need to really dig and know your stories.”
Look after your health and emotions. “If you don’t look after yourself as a leader, you have nothing to give and you are not able to make impactful decisions. We are human beings with body, soul and spirit and you cannot just deal with the one part and not the other.
“I can never balance 100%, but I can be present where I am. It’s a sad day when you are an exceptional performer at work and a less than impressive performer at home.”
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