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Neliswa Nkani’s success creed ‘Be True to Yourself’

#Know Your Leader. Today’s Traveller Know Your Leader motivational initiative invites inspiring Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – MEISEA, South African Tourism to share her experiences, her journey, and some unknown facts about her that keep her going.

This, in turn, will motivate teams to delve into themselves and bring out their lesser-known selves.

Even though a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes the right words are just what you need to make it through the day, to inspire your team or to change your perspective.

Neliswa Nkani

Today’s Traveller: How do you keep up your team’s morale? `

Neliswa Nkani: Over the years I have learnt that honest, transparent communication – across all hierarchical levels – is key to building a team that is efficient and motivated. Simple steps like communicating frequently, intentionally acknowledging efforts and acting on feedback, makes the team feel valued, creates a sense of true belonging and motivates a positive working environment – thus optimizing morale. I am grateful to have a bunch of optimists for a team.

 However, through the course of the pandemic, the one thing we all missed was human interaction, making it imperative to hold everybody together via virtual calls and meetings.

Little things matter, and we learnt that it was important to reach out to our colleagues and immediate teams with empathy. It could be as simple as asking them how they are, or just talking about their day, and actively listening to what they have to say.

I also make sure to enquire about their families and loved ones and celebrate little milestones with them. At the end of the day when it comes to my team – people that matter to them also matter to me, because my team matters to me.

 Today’s Traveller: A major milestone that shaped you as a Leader

Neliswa Nkani: As surprising as it may sound, motherhood made me a far more empathetic, disciplined and resilient leader. Being a parent meant that I was completely responsible for another life and that my time had to be managed intentionally; it taught me to stay grounded, focused and determined.

Understanding my son’s uniqueness and individual strengths, values and passions, helped me recognize, draw out and utilize talents across my team.

Children are never predictable, that meant having to learn to be extremely agile and adaptable. It also taught me when to be persistent, and when to allow space to grow and make mistakes. Mothers naturally develop instincts that help them be more detail-oriented and make people-centric, empathetic decisions.

These are qualities that build good leaders, by allowing them to preempt challenges and inspire teams to rise to the occasion.

Today’s Traveller: How do you approach a challenge?

Neliswa Nkani: Challenges excite me! They are what make my job fun and contribute in a large way to the satisfaction I derive out of my work. I believe that most challenges can be overcome by logical and creative thinking and basic common sense. I write down my goal – however unrealistic it seems at the time – and then detail out practical steps to get there.

This one thing I know for sure – in the end, the only thing that holds us back is fear. Some risks may be greater than others, but all things that matter usually come at a cost. So, step away from fear – be fearless. At the end of the day, fear is nothing but the unknown. Put in the research, the time and the groundwork, and watch solutions emerge! Anything that does not speak is not a challenge.

Today’s Traveller: What is that one thing that you have learnt during Covid-19 Pandemic?

Neliswa Nkani: The lockdown provided a lot more time and fodder for introspection. I realized that we lose alignment in the daily hustle-bustle of life. I was able to reorient and focus on all dimensions of personal wellness – physical, spiritual, mental and emotional.

This means that I make conscious efforts to meditate, exercise more often, be mindful of my diet, read voraciously and spend quality time with friends and family. I have also learnt to look within – we can only give what we have, so to make an impact on society we must first work on ourselves.

Happiness is not too complicated or aspirational, and joy can be found in the smallest of things if we remain purposeful and positive. Your mind is your only home – so keep feeding it with all things good!

Today’s Traveller: What is that one thing that you cannot miss?

 Neliswa Nkani: Having at least one meal a day with my son – this could either be breakfast or dinner, coupled with hearty conversation. His smile is the one thing I cannot do without.

Today’s Traveller: Which non-professional activities give you energy and satisfaction.

Neliswa Nkani: At the end of a long day, I make sure to de-stress. De-stressing, for me, is an internal process. I usually journal and put things down on paper to get more clarity and clear my mind – plus I believe that writing always lends a different perspective.

Long walks through serene and tranquil paths surrounded by nature also help. Through the years, I have realized that sounds play an important role in calming me down – the gentle crashing of waves and the chirping of birds are almost therapeutic.

During the lockdown, I revisited by enthusiasm for physical activities; I continue to enjoy skipping, cardio, swimming, running and lots of laughter! A simple intentional smile or uncontrollable, wholehearted laughter – both go a long way in enhancing the ‘feel-good factor’.

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