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Chief Vision Officer

By Nicholas Carter

Your "typical" business leader is changing.

Achievement used to be the name of the game.  And if you were a typical CEO, you took pride in achieving the next objective that the company had set, breaking into a new market, seeing the value of the share price increase.

It must have been thrilling.

So why the change? It's not that much of a mystery.

There's so much complexity in the world today, markets are fast-changing, and staff turnover is so high that it's becoming more difficult for a CEO to achieve the next objective. We can no longer "wash, rinse, repeat".

That must be quite the existential crisis for someone used to consistently achieving business success.  "Why is this no longer working?"

The focus is turning to the culture of a company.  You see this in jobs being posted on LinkedIn: where companies not only detail the service they provide and what is expected from the advertised role, but also the atmosphere of the culture and how staff are treated.  The message is clear: companies are valuing their employees.

Why? Are people more productive in a supportive environment?  Is retention rate increasing?  Is there something more than productivity being measured?  What else is being taken into account?

It’s the employees themselves.  They're not just a resource to fulfil a certain role within a business.  It turns out, they have achievable goals, too.  And if they achieve them within the business, that's better for the business.

This might not be music to the ears of an achievement-oriented CEO.  For them, taking people into account is a nuisance. "You mean I have to listen to them?  That'd slow me way down!  I've got goals to achieve here!"

And the unfortunate truth is that, at least initially, they're right.

When people are first taken into account within a business, productivity will likely drop.  Meetings will take a little longer.  Internal goals and goals for stakeholders will take longer to achieve, because intimacy with people takes a strong focus.  And this is the last thing an achiever wants to hear.

So, are we doomed to have to work through this clunky sluggish phase of grumbling stakeholders and shareholders, while we learn to manage and harness the input of our surprisingly brilliant staff? Is there a more efficient way?

Dilley Naidoo, Founder and CEO of Madala & Associates, is one such person who has achieved this dream.  Madala & Associates is called such because the meaning of “Madala” refers to an elder – typically wise and well-respected. In local traditions, the Madala is usually the last to speak at gatherings, wanting to glean insights from all contributors before tainting their mindsets with his own ideas. This way, all ideas can be considered, and are considered valuable contributions.

Dilley has achieved this so well that other companies - in local and global spheres - are asking what he's been taking.

A healthy dose of vision is the answer.  So much so that he's rebranded himself Chief Vision Officer, which to Dilley means attending to more than market cap and share price (which can be inflated).

He says this visionary approach allows him to develop new business models that can cater to changing customer behaviour, product mix, and customer expectation in changing markets.

When asking Dilley about vision, even though there is an emphasis on listening to staff, he was clear that this did not mean losing sight of the essentials.  Service delivery to clients, bottom line results and a strong work ethic were clearly still part and parcel of this new visionary approach.  In fact, coupling listening to staff with a strong work ethic is what makes his company more adaptive.

Dilley said that when listening to staff, vulnerability, transparency and empathy are key factors.  When he is willing to open up to what's happening in his own life, including the impact of Covid, his staff feel safe enough to do the same.  Dilley looks at these day-to-day and global challenges from various viewpoints, such as the physiological, emotional, mental, social and financial impacts on his employees.

Along with the various aspects of their lives, employees are also encouraged to share their personal purpose and values, which allows their ideas to be taken into consideration and often implemented as a necessary part of business operations.

With this approach, employees feel more fulfilled and valued as human beings, which leads to mitigated risk due to higher staff retention, and a more personally vested interest in the success of the business, given that their aspirations are aligned with those of the business – it’s a win-win.

Dilley makes a point of not treating his staff like commodities, which the term Human Resources implies.  He says that HR needs a shift in focus to Enterprise Risk Management, focusing on skill shortage, talent retention, and being a magnet for new talent.

Another major element of the visionary approach is a focus on how companies are affecting the socio-economic landscape around them.  If a business is operating in a certain sector like mining, for instance, families of miners and their environments are being taken into account.  This allows for a much bigger impact on the world around us, while still having a solid bottom line.

What would the world look like if this new visionary approach were to be more widely adopted?  What if the major metric being measured was not share price, but vision?  Instead of Fortune 500 companies, what about Vision 500 companies? The kind that inspires values, vision and the behaviours to support bottom line with collective drive…


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