What Does It Mean to be a Leader in Business?

Leadership is a huge bone of contention in South Africa at the moment as the nation begs for a strong leader going forward. In any situation strong leadership makes all of the difference and the business sector is no exception.

What does it mean to be a leader in business? There are so many definitions of leadership today that I wont attempt to make yet another definition, however here are a few traits that would cause me to follow someone in business:

  • Someone who is flexible, yet firm
  • Someone who communicates well
  • Someone who persists when things are tough and inspires me to do so too
  • Someone who is confident, yet humble
  • Someone who takes on responsibility
  • Someone who has vision and gives direction
  • Someone who empowers
  • Someone who mentors
  • Someone who is courteous and caring
  • Someone who loves what they does
  • Someone who makes me excited about work

I would happily work alongside and support such a leader in business. What traits inspire you in leaders and what do you think it takes to be a leader in business?


By Karen Lancaster

Tips to Better Business Relationships

Better business relationships

Seeing that we spend most of our lives at work, better business relationships are surely an important goal in our lives. In honour of the month of love, I am taking a look at my working relationships in Network Explosion and what makes us work well together as a team.

I started out alone, and then joined a team of four others and we are now employing another three, and all seems to be going well. Here are a few tips from one who is still on the learning curve of building better business relationships.

  • Honesty – We are a bunch who are mostly older and no longer bother to play any of the power games, which is liberating and makes it easier for us all to be completely open with each other. We may  sometimes argue over points for endless hours on end, but we know where everyone stands on different viewpoints.
  • Dreamers – We regularly dream together. Where do we want to go to as a business? What do we all want to be freed up to pursue more in the business?
  • Diversity – We are a mixed bunch. Each of us have slightly different passions in our industry and we individually work on those strengths and encourage each other in them.
  • Lifelong Learning – We keep learning and strive to keep abreast of today’s technology. In fact, we find it highly exciting and keep sharing new things with each other.
  • Respect – We respect each other’s values and opinions and accept each other’s flaws. We give each other space to express ourselves and we try to listen to each other’s points of view. Sometimes it is a little more rowdy than others.
  • Fun – We work together because we like each other and we have fun doing our jobs together.

I’m sure that there is so much more and would love to hear some of your tips for better business relationships.


By Karen Petersen Lancaster

Productivity 101


We all yearn to be productive, yet the majority of us run around like the proverbial headless chicken. Busy as bees, but not accomplishing half as much. Starting a business has taught me the necessity of achieving much during the course of each day and I am slowly learning to be more productive and less busy.

The following pointers have worked well for me, although I will admit that there is still much room for much improvement.

  • Make lists – everyone seems to use lists in a different way, so make the lists that work best for you. There is a great sense of achievement when you cross items off your list. I like the good old “to-do” list in order of priority, adding any appointments on the side.
  • Be ruthless about not multitasking – I tend to have attention deficit disorder tendencies and am constantly interrupting myself to do other tasks and land up never finishing many of them. Loads of half finished jobs that all need to be tended to. When I start with my list and work through it systematically I always get more done.
  • Eating healthier – I started a healthy eating program to get rid of excess weight and found the benefits of a clearer mind. So much of the junk that we eat hinders our productivity due to sugar lows and tiredness. A healthy mind gets far more done, with the added bonus of looking better.
  • Exercise – My program also got me active as exercise was part of the deal. It is an amazing way of eliminating stress and giving back energy. Try it.
  • Just do it – Say no to procrastination. Do the things that you keep putting off and get them out of the way.

I’d love to hear some of your pointers.


By Karen Lancaster

#FeesMustFall – a Cry of Our Nation

Karen Lancaster

The other day while driving back to the office after a meeting I was listening to Redi Tlhabi’s show on the radio discussing #FeesMustFall. I was excited about how this was history in the making and decided impulsively to head on over to Wits and see what was going on and get some footage on Periscope, my latest social media love.

I parked my car in Braamfontein and walked to the gates at Wits where I encountered a few peaceful looking students. I asked them where all the action was and they told me to head down to Yale Road. As I walked down the road I came across groups of students milling around and so I started interviewing them on Periscope. I must say that the students that I spoke to were calm and thoughtful, not the rabble-rousing hooligans that I had been reading about in the media.

By this stage there was much activity, singing and chanting down the road, so I walked over to take a look. Students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) had initiated a march from Braamfontein to the UJ campus in Kingsway Road. They were encouraging the Wits students  to join in. I decided to join them and “scope” the proceedings.

The march took place with hundreds of students and the mood was festive with lots of singing and placards. There was a small police presence who walked along with the students. The only time I saw any animosity was when we marched next to the student digs and campuses. The marchers saw students who were not participating and jeered at them, yet others called out to them urging them to participate. Absolutely no violence was evident.

We finally arrived at UJ six hot kilometres later to find that the marchers were locked off the campus. The students inside the gates were watching the action from the bridge that spans Kingsway Road. UJ’s private security company were watching the proceedings as students sang and chanted, “Fees must fall!”

A lively student managed to climb up on the slab over the campus turnstiles, waving his flag vigorously and causing the students to cheer loudly.  I was watching all of this through a fence on Kingsway Road. The next minute chaos erupted and students started running and screaming. The security were directly ahead of me and I clearly saw them picking up bricks and hurling them at the students, within the campus and outside of the gates. It was mayhem. It seemed that tear gas was released somewhere because my eyes started watering and we started coughing as we breathed in something foreign.

A few of the students were incensed and started throwing the bricks back at the security. Myself and other onlookers quickly took cover under the bridge.

Eventually it calmed down and I managed to run out from under the bridge and away from all the action, watching from further away. Some of the students were shouting at others, “No violence!” Others continued chanting. I could see that things were going to continue for a while and I needed to get back to work, so I decided to make my way back to my car – all the way in Braamfontein.

The very next day the protest at the Union Buildings took place with all of it’s drama.

So, what do we make of all of this?

Well, for the first time in ages, I feel a stirring of hope for our beloved nation. It’s great to feel respect for our youth, apart from the few who apparently  took part in acts of hooliganism. It made me wish I was young again. We need the youth of South Africa and we need them to speak out loudly. May the rest of us who complain daily of the corruption in our leadership also find a voice and join the next march against corruption.

It has made each of us look at where we stand in the necessary transformation of South Africa. Words like “privilege” have been highlighted causing questions from every spectrum of society. Many white people have been offended by it and many “born-frees” have misinterpreted it, however the best explanation I have managed to find is found on this video and is well worth taking the time to view.

I believe that #FeesMustFall is about way more than the tuition fees, although it is vitally important to make education accessible to all in some creative and constructive way, it is actually about the mismanagement of our beautiful nation. The youth have been gutsy enough to take the government on and make a stand. Our own mini “Africa Spring.” However, surely it is time for the rest of us to take up the call?




How Important is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

It has been said that EQ is even more important than IQ when it comes to success in life and in business. Emotional intelligence helps to nurture close, healthy relationships, which are a key to growth in business. It helps how we are seen and responded to socially. EQ points to improved decision making processes and is a strong forecaster of success in business. It also develops our self- expression.

Fortunately we can develop and improve our emotional intelligence in the following ways:

  • Become aware of our thoughts and feelings – Being aware of our thoughts and feelings as they happen allows us to assess them and act intentionally, rather than reactively or from habit. Work out what triggered our emotions, then try breathing deeply to focus on our feelings. Once identified, accept those emotions and take control of them. Our thoughts induce feelings, which give us important information for our emotional intelligence.
  • Observe our behaviour – The more aware we are of our behaviour, the more we can notify our behaviour to act and meet our needs. We begin to act more appropriately and positively in different situations. Let’s take a moment each day to observe our reactions and responses.
  • Take Responsibility – We need to take control of our emotions. We cannot change others actions, but we can change how we respond. We also need to eliminate blame and excuses from our lives. It is helpful to listen to constructive feedback from a trusted other.
  • Respond, rather than react – We should slow down to assess the situation in order to respond appropriately. This is a form of managing stress. Be mindful by watching ourselves in situations that could be upsetting. Pay attention to how we think. Then pause. We can watch our initial reaction, then let it subside. Then respond.
  • Be Empathic – Reading people and situations. Understand why people react the way they do and show them that we understand. Think of others. Suspend our judgements. Give attention to others. Listen more. Always treat others with dignity and respect.
  • Connect – Make an effort to understand the person and encourage a connection. Be interested, accessible and responsive. Look at things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Understand what’s behind our anger
- Anger is rooted in other emotions, such as shame or insecurity. When angry, we need to focus on what we’re feeling and thinking. Deal with it by using some of the old tricks, such as counting to 10, taking deep breaths and dealing with the matter when we have calmed down.

Pic by Cara Lancaster 


By Karen Lancaster

The Business of Bungee and the Bungee of Business

The business of bungee

I recently had the privilege of being invited to bungee jump at the new Play at Heights Skybar in Pineslopes. Being somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, I simply could not turn down the offer, but as the hours drew near to the allotted time slot, my nerves of steel disintegrated into nerves of candy floss.

I was most impressed with the process. The staff were well trained and professional, encouraging me all the way through and being firm at the last moment, when I decided that this was no longer a good idea. The attitude they displayed was fantastic.

My bravado in the queue while I was being hooked up soon turned to a pathetic pleading as I stood on that ledge with nothing between me and the ground so very far below. I felt terror in every ounce of my being and simply refused to let go of the pole on one side and the man on the other side of me.

“I can’t do it!”

“Yes, you can, Karen, and you are going to jump right now.” He answered as he gently pried my fingers loose, placed his hand on my back and began the countdown.

“5, 4…”

Time seemed to slow down as I shakily put my arms out in front of me, terror engulfing me.

“3, 2..”

Shit, this was the point of no return. What was I thinking?

“1, bungee.” He gently nudged me forward.

Oh my frikking hell!

A scream poured out of me as I plunged at one heck of a speed groundward towards a pathetic little square of astroturf. As if that is going to help if anything goes wrong.

Before I knew it I was bouncing up again, fully alive with blood pounding through my veins. Oh, this is living! Adrenalin coursed through my body making me drunk with excitement.

What a rush the business of bungee is. Now, how about the bungee of business. The rush of new ventures, new relationships and new ideas in established businesses.

Just like bungee, business is an adventurous risk, however the risk needs to be an informed one. I jumped because I knew that the staff were trained, experienced and professional and that they would not let me down (excuse the pun).  They encouraged me and talked me through the process and were firm when they had to be. Find someone to coach or mentor you in your business who will guide you through the processes and gently nudge you over the edge when it is time. Don’t be like the onlookers, loving the show, but missing the exhilaration of facing and overcoming fears. The bungee of business, the informed risks and getting things done, makes it all worthwhile.

the bungee of business

By Karen Lancaster

Digital Media Coach, Social Media Marketer & Periscoper

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