White men can jump - if they choose to

The need for change is often discussed, but the reality is that change does not come easily. The difficulty lies in the fact that change challenges world views which shape people`s identities and value systems.
Read time 5min 40sec

While change is often feared, it is one of the few constants in life. Historic circumstances in our country have bred complacency and a false sense of security in the hearts and minds of many. With the exception of extreme and militant radicals, there are few people who would contest the unacceptable negative social and economic impacts of the apartheid era, during which imbalance was the order of the day. Subsequent to Nelson Mandela`s release and the demise of the previous administration, huge steps have been taken to correct these imbalances.

As is often the case when significant disparities and inequalities prevail, the scales temporarily tip in the opposite direction. The current legislated process of black economic empowerment (BEE) and employment equity has created challenges and opportunities for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and people too are faced with having to change their approach to professional status and positioning.

While companies strive towards establishing black empowerment and simultaneously complying with the requirements for diversity in management and staff, previously advantaged people are, in many instances, seemingly at risk. While these remedial steps may cause reverse discrimination, this is more the exception than the rule.

It is imperative that people spend as little time as possible debating the merits or demerits of the current legislated system, as opinions and views will not change it, or add any value.

More importantly, if the true goals and objectives of BEE initiatives are pursued and met, the result will be a greater gross domestic product, a reduction in poverty, and a significant increase in the wealth and livelihood of the man in the street. If more and more people are uplifted and skilled such that they can earn meaningful incomes, there is huge potential for a reduction in crime and poverty.

Embracing new opportunities

The white male is perceived to be an endangered species today, particularly the older version.

Bryan Hattingh, CEO, Cycan.

Alcoholics Anonymous` Serenity Prayer is worth considering: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

The white male is perceived to be an endangered species today, particularly the older version. While some of his fears are authentic and real, they need not be embraced. Big corporates are under pressure to change the demographics of their management and staff to reflect those of the country, but this is creating new opportunities for white males, which are less obvious.

The delightful book "Who Moved my Cheese" by Spencer Johnson is required reading for any white male. When the goalposts have been shifted to the extent to which they have, we have to review our vantage point and the lenses through which we see the world.

People seldom perform a self-audit to assess their conscious and unconscious competencies, their emotional intelligence, and the soft skills which they have developed and extended as a consequence of what they do.

Furthermore, inordinately tiny samples of working people ever conduct meaningful life and career planning. All too often decisions are made without clearly defined life purpose and pursuits.

It starts with whether you see a glass as half-empty or half-full, and whether you seek to assign blame rather than taking responsibility. The greatest opportunity for growth and upliftment in this country - and for white males to continue to develop and grow their competencies, capabilities and capacities to provide meaningful service and work effort - is in the informal and SMME sectors. Here in turn lies the opportunity for small business to play its part in eradicating poverty through skills transfer, skills development and opportunity creation.

For the person who is prepared to take risks in a well orchestrated and managed fashion, BEE can in fact prove to be a superb opportunity for growth.

There is now and will be over the next years the opportunity for white leaders in business at all levels to transfer much of their insight and expertise to up and coming leaders from various ethnic groups.

This could prove rewarding in terms of financial compensation, and would also have a significant impact on self-perception and personal fulfilment.

In addition, it would be a means for people with significant commercial and life experience to make a meaningful contribution to the setting of direction in business and society at large.

Bemoaning the unfairness of life, BEE legislation and the system at large will only lead to inertia, procrastination and diminished self-confidence and levels of energy.

Life is not fair

We have yet to see any religious, spiritual or philosophical text that suggests life is fair. On the contrary, we are always reminded that life is far from fair, and that the only true opportunity for achieving a fair deal lies in our hands.

Attitude is perhaps the most important ingredient for success: a willingness to dare to dream and to act on those dreams and to confront your fears is of the utmost value and importance.

It is vital that we all contribute to the building of a growing and sustaining economy in which our children and their descendants can enjoy fulfilling and rewarding lives. Attitudes are infectious, so we must ensure that ours is worth catching. Starting to assess and implement the necessary changes and steps to create career positioning within the framework of these unusual and unique times will not only bring about the desired result of gainful employment on a long-term basis, but will also engender a sense of fulfilment in having made it happen for yourself.

Vitally important is that you prevent corridor talk, rumour-mongering and executive bashing from influencing your thinking and view of things. If you do not, you will invariably become de-energised and performance will be diminished. In this state, you are most certainly not an ideal candidate for engagement, regardless of BEE.

Remaining energised, applying your best effort and delivering optimal outcomes will ensure your mobility and marketability at all times.

All too often the thought of jumping is much worse than the act itself, so take a deep breath, close your eyes and take a leap of faith.

Bryan Hattingh

Bryan Hattingh is the founder and CEO of the Bryan Hattingh Group.

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