Stella BIDA, in conversation with Robin BOOTH, Global Entrepreneurial Coach, 2018 Investor of the Year South Africa, 2017 Mega Entrepreneur of the Year South Africa
Summarised conversation transcript
This is a summary version of the conversation. More details, stories, and amazing insights are mentioned in the video!
Robin BOOTH is a highly successful entrepreneur, and recognized Global Entrepreneurial Coach. Robin is the winner of the South African Real Estate Investor of the Year Award 2018. In 2017, he won the International Mega Entrepreneur Award in Los Angeles, California.
STELLA BIDA: Hi everyone and welcome to this new Conversation of Excellence! I have a very special guest today, Robin Booth. Robin is a dear friend of mine. He is a Serial Entrepreneur, Investor of the Year 2018 in South Africa. He is also The Mega Entrepreneur of the Year 2017. He is just so much more than that! I am so delighted to discover more about him with you in the next minutes. Robin, welcome!
ROBIN BOOTH: Thanks! These are the kind of conversations that we want to be having with ourselves, with our clients, with our families, with our colleagues, with our friends. This is what can really uplift ourselves to a whole new level! I'm really excited to be able to share this with you!
STELLA BIDA: Excited too, Robin! First of all, is there anything that I’ve forgotten to mention about you, as an introduction?
ROBIN BOOTH: You did mention about me being a Serial Entrepreneur - but I could only claim that as a title once I consciously became aware that this was what I was doing. Although I currently work with, and coach, global entrepreneurs and business owners, I also have a background in education, was South Africa's first male pre-school teacher. I started my own school - a primary school. I was a landscaper, I’ve built my own house. I also have online courses around the world with over 20,000 students enrolled. As you mentioned, I invest in property, both in South Africa and in the US. I’ve lived in many different countries, South America, Europe, Italy.
This is going to be a great conversation to look at what makes excellence, what makes good leaders, what makes people live the lives that they want to create. That's one of my real passions!
STELLA BIDA: I never told you about this - one of my favorite quotes on your website is related to all of the different careers that you had in your life: "We are beyond the era of choosing a single career for life". Why was it important for you to bring up that quote?
ROBIN BOOTH: From my experience of being a conscious adult, I've asked myself questions such as: “What does it mean to be human?” or “What does it mean to live these meaningful lives that are important to us?”. Another fundamental relates to an education system that tells us that there is one single correct path. There's an assumption that we come out of school and that we need to learn to choose a career, that we're literally going to be in until we eventually retired. And only then, somehow we begin to live our lives at retirement.
I think that if we maintain that belief, or believe it's true for ourselves that we have only one path, then we're going to remain in something that we're currently involved in, which may not really be fulfilling for us. We're going to limit ourselves, and decrease our opportunities. I think we aren't in that era anymore. The moment that we start to see that we are more than just the sum of one choice of a career, then new opportunities open up.
I'm a great fan of creating opportunities and moving into the world of possibility, not just opportunities. An opportunity is what we see that's in front of us, therefore we just have a choice. But a possibility opens up as a creation of something that exists beyond opportunity. The moment we're looking to what's possible, then we're not even limited by just what we know is in front of us!
So we're beyond that era that there's just one possibility for us or just one option. We're continuously in a space of reassessing, reevaluating, rediscovering - of who we are and who we want to be. That is flexible. And when that happens, really great things start to emerge.
STELLA BIDA: You really seem to be convinced of what you're saying, and I guess that there have been different stages for you to arrive to this state. How does this way of thinking impact the choices that you make for yourself today?
ROBIN BOOTH: You definitely go through different stages - in getting to the point that I've described earlier, that point that feels really true for you.
I think that the first stage is realizing that sometimes, the limits that we set to ourselves are actually greater than the limits that anyone else sets in ourselves. When you begin to realize that the possibility exists that you can create more possibilities, it becomes actually quite daunting, because suddenly there's a multitude of options opening up for you. That space is really something quite exciting, exhilarating and scary! It means that every day could actually be a totally different day than before! There's nothing holding me back.
The moment we step into that space, everyday can be a total rediscovering or recreating of yourself. That's a bold space to be in! This then impacts everything. Now it's just for you to choose what you want to do with that.
STELLA BIDA: You work today as a Leader of Excellence, with different types of leaders across the world. I guess that you are helping them to enter into that space that you've just described. What is the greatest myth that you think people have, that holds them them back from getting into that space of recreating and rediscovering themselves?
ROBIN BOOTH: The myth is that there is one right answer, and someone has to keep searching until they're going to find what it is. Once we believe that, then it feels like we're always trying to compare ourselves to an ultimate - as opposed to realizing that there could be a recreation in many ways. That recreation occurs in realizing that you are going to be the judge of what is important, that you are going to be the judge to decide what the meaning is.
What is going to hold most people back is that they're going to be comparing themselves or the choices they're making. This is done against this belief that they have of the existence of a correct pathway, or a correct route that they have to follow. I think that when you take down those judgments and comparisons, then every day becomes an opening of exciting opportunities!
Then it's about discovery and about curiosity. That's what I loved most about being a preschool teacher. The children don't have yet these fixed beliefs about how the world is or should be. The moment you shift their viewpoint on a on a certain topic or open up the possibility for them, you see that wonder in their eyes! And that's what I actually enjoyed most about working with young children - that total openness! Conversations of Excellence and leadership actually begin right down at that level. It's not only for the CEOs, founders and directors.
STELLA BIDA: What is the one greatest tool that you have used in your career in education, that you also use with the leaders and entrepreneurs that you are helping today?
ROBIN BOOTH: There were two main skills - techniques if you want to call them. They involve communication. "Communication" is a tool to communicate what we are experiencing, such that we want the other person to understand, integrate, and experience what we are. When we realize that communication can be upskilled, we realize that we can improve the connectedness or the well-being of our relationships to a whole new level. If we want to improve our communication, we need to improve our consciousness of what is happening and what we're saying, which means we need to be more aware of what's going on inside of us.
The two skills are actually the skills of acknowledgement or the skills of empowerment. In other words, helping someone to create an authentic fulfilling self-esteem. It is about creating the sense of possible within themselves. How does myself as a leader convey that to a child or a staff member, so that they can see that potential for themselves? It's not about giving fake praise, it's not about giving something that's inauthentic – “good job”, “well done”, “you saved us a lot of money”, “you completed that project on time”, ... That for me is one of the most powerful tools that I first learned.
The most powerful one is problem solving. It is the absolute skill in being able to meet with a group of people, who appear to be in conflict. It consists in being able to unlock that conflict, in such a way that everyone feels that something special is happening, and that they are all moving closer to something that is important for them.
I often say that the master of all skills is conflict resolution or problem-solving skills. That is how we really come to understand another person's point of view, work with it, share our own point of view in a non-threatening or non-undermining way. That’s when we can creatively come together and find a solution.
Often people go into conflict resolution for the purpose of finding a solution. Actually, the real power of problem solving is going in to hear what the other person has to say, to understand it from their perspective, and to be in that space such as a natural solution emerges - but it's not the goal of the conversation. And the moment we switch that around, then we find that there are many solutions for us - as opposed to thinking that there is only one unique way.
I've got so many other skills! How to get people to cooperate, how to get the best out of them, how to actually bring their leadership personalities out, how to give compliments that make others and teams feel empowered, … All these are different skills which will produce back more into the company.
These skills are currently termed as “soft skills”. I actually think that they are the most important skills!
STELLA BIDA: It's very subtle what you talked about, and this is why I qualify you as a Leader of Excellence. You have that capacity to go beyond just the “doing”, you go beyond the hard skills.
I know you're the right person to ask my next question to. I work with organizations and teams, for which the challenge is often about dealing with unexpected, or even planned change. What is according to you one of the main skills that leaders within organizations need to use, in order to cope with the changes that they have to undergo with their teams?
ROBIN BOOTH: Although there may be change, what I want to keep in place is the sense of connectedness and the sense of belonging. So although there's change, I'm wanting my staff members to feel that they still belong in this company. It’s important that they feel that the company still has their best interest at heart, even though there are changes that are happening. When connectedness and belonging are still in place, my employees are going to remain committed to finding a solution, and to seeing how to make things work. Change is very difficult to bring about if people have given up that there is a future possibility, that there is something positive that can come out of it.
In problem solving - which is another form of change - we're setting a conversation about how we bring about this change. When our employees feel that we as the leaders are committed to that - not just in words, but in all of our actions and our real intentions - they will stay on board and present to helping us find that solution.
As a school principal, many years back, we had many really difficult situations. The most empowering process was having conversations with the staff members, and then with the parents. It was clear that what we wanted as the outcome was to create something that's really special for us. In which no one feels that we are ignoring or undermining their point of view. We may not agree on it, but we're not undermining it.
The moment you go into that kind of space, then people still feel connected, they still feel that this is a place they want to be in, even if they're not sure where it's going. That's the most important part. They often say: "Get the right people on the bus, and then decide where you want to go" - as opposed to choosing where you want to go and then trying to find people to join. So getting the right people for me is about getting the right conversation frameworks in place. Once those are in place, then actually change is an exciting process!
STELLA BIDA: Knowing you, I’ve realized that adventure seems to occupy a very important place in your life. What do you find attractive in it?
ROBIN BOOTH: This is more of a personal conversation, because I don’t think that we can generalize adventure as something everyone wants to do, or that adventure looks the same for every person. This is why I would want to just preface this by saying that this is my experience of adventure and why it's important for me. Adventure for me falls under different categories.
The first one is that throughout my life, there were books, stories, movies, where I heard about people doing amazing things! They've pushed themselves beyond their limits, they've set a goal and worked hard to achieve it - whether it's going to the South Pole in a boat, whether it's climbing Everest, whether it's going through the jungle, whether it's just climbing their local mountain. These are people who are wanting to create or do something in their lives that is bigger than just an everyday process.
That was a really important part for me, because adventure is in my world defined as doing something that is not ordinary in my life. It is about doing something that is bigger than I probably would have done if it was there everyday. In that space, adventure actually taps into something which is exciting for me. Whether it's climbing a high mountain, or sailing in a tall ship to the Antarctica - which I've done – or whether crossing deserts, or whether it's kite surfing long distances… For me it's around an experience! Every time I'm in an adventure, I feel incredibly alive!
Some people don’t like adventure, and for others, adventure is a way more extreme than I'm wanting the adventure to be.
I think this underpins one of my favorite quotes, which is really about creating the life that I love to live. That’s what adventure is about for me – Is what I'm doing today going to move me forward into creating the life that I love to live?
STELLA BIDA: You talk a lot about creating that life that you love to live. I know that today many people don't always stand in the position of being able to create their own lives. What is for you the first step to go towards that creation? What would be your advice for that?
ROBIN BOOTH: Creating the life that I love to live comes from a privilege that I have choice. It’s not just about getting food on the table for the family, or getting a roof over the heads, or just surviving in an environment. That's really not conducive to my well-being. I would like to think that's it's an aspiration that we as human beings can live towards.
The first part about it is seeing that it is a viewpoint of the world. Then it's about how we deal with all the factors that are preventing, blocking or holding us back to do that. The starting point is getting clear on what is it that you're wanting out of your life, and what you are willing to do to take the little steps to get there. Then it’s about seeing who can help you along the way to get there.
STELLA BIDA: If you could have the privilege of having a conversation with yourself, Robin Booth of 10 years old, what would you tell him?
ROBIN BOOTH: That's a challenging question, because from how I see things and how it unfolds for me, every part of what happens to us helps shape who we are today. My mom died when I was 7, my father died a few years after, I had a step family experience. Do I go back and somehow console myself or tell myself something different? Or give myself some piece of advice, which may actually change who I am today? I don't know if I want to do that. I don't know if I want to go and change something that could change who I am today.
I would prefer just to go and observe. Watch and trust that that 10 year old self is going to do what needs to be done to get me to where I am now. I'm incredibly grateful to be where I am now, and I want to make sure I get back here!
STELLA BIDA: Before we end, is there any question that I've not asked you that you would have loved to bring forward and share about?
ROBIN BOOTH: My biggest passion is in the understanding and the creation of synergies! It's about synergetic relationships - that incredible feeling of creating something with other people that is greater than the sum of just the individual parts of the people coming together. The definition of synergy is in the fact that the result is greater than the sum of the individual parts. No surprise that my school was called Synergy Schooling!
All the skills that I look at, and when I'm working with leaders from around the world - around creating companies of excellence, staff experiences of excellence - that sense of connectedness actually stem out of creating synergetics, as opposed to just hoping we find the right people.
That's where I probably spend most of my time: thinking, creating, looking, discovering, rediscovering, unpacking, unlocking - is that formula about synergy. It's such an incredible experience for me to define how we create synergies in our marital relationships, in our companies, in our countries, ... It's an exciting space to work in!
STELLA BIDA: Thank you so much for sharing about that! We're already at the end of our conversation. How can people follow you, or get in touch and work with you?
ROBIN BOOTH: A great way to reach out is through my website which is: http://meetrobinbooth.com. They can also find me on Facebook. If you look up my name on Google, it might come up if information on parenting, teaching, education, schooling, property investing, … These are the best channels!
STELLA BIDA: Thank you so much for these precious minutes with us! I'm so happy that other people will have the opportunity to experience you.
ROBIN BOOTH: You're welcome, Thanks Stella.
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