Heartlines, the Centre for Values Promotion and Heartlines Consulting are making sure it’s not business as usual in South Africa’s corporate spaces.
In an unconventional meeting held at GIBS Business School in Johannesburg, it was the attendees who were in the spotlight more than the speakers as they took time to get to know each other as part of the What’s Your Story? campaign.
Heartlines Consulting is fulfilling its mandate of changing how ordinary South Africans working in business spaces relate to one another, in order to find common ground, foster good working relations, and ultimately impact the performance of the business.
More than just knowing each other’s CV
Speaking to attendees, Heartlines CEO Dr Garth Japhet explained how the What’s Your Story? campaign in the workplace is creating a culture change — where knowing each other’s story allows employees to connect more than just knowing each other’s CV.
“Our key issue is that in our county and all around the world, we ‘other’ each other, without really knowing one another. Whether it’s in America with the Republicans vs the Democrats, or whites and blacks, Muslims and Christians, you name it, we live in a world where people are increasingly moving into their silos,” he said.
“We started this initiative because we wanted to bring better understanding, because if I understand you, you become more human to me and not just a stereotype.”
In exactly one year since its launch event in November 2017, the What’s Your Story? campaign in the business sector has impacted the lives of over 1 500 people, has had close to 100 engagements and has engaged 15 customers.
Heartlines Consulting CEO, Quinton Pretorius, drew a link between the workplace What’s Your Story? campaign and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), where astronauts are tasked to trust one another with their lives.
“At NASA, they build trust between astronauts by having deep dives because they know that trust does not come without vulnerability and vulnerability comes before trust,” he said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work around building trust. We want organisations to feel like astronauts, so that colleagues can trust one another implicitly with their lives. For us to do that, we have to do deeper work to make sure that organisations are strong and resilient, and connecting with one another is how you do that.”
Jay Naidoo, a life of servitude
Perhaps the most anticipated story for the day was that of honoured guest speaker, Jay Naidoo, who has made an impact in SA history as a political activist, founding secretary general of Cosatu and minister in former President Nelson Mandela’s cabinet.
Jay shared his story about how his family had been evicted from their home when he was a child.
Feeling displaced and angered by the actions of the apartheid government, it was when he was a teenager in the Lutheran church that a visit from political activist Steve Biko inspired him to follow his own calling as a political activist.
He also shared intimate knowledge of former President Nelson Mandela based on their friendship and the challenges they faced bringing about political and societal change.
Of his time as secretary general at Cosatu, Jay said it was the stories of the workers that channelled him into a life of servitude.
“That’s when I began to understand that there is a tremendous difference between education and information as well as knowledge and wisdom … Storytelling is a fundamental process that takes place within us and between us that helps us tackle systematic issues and build bridges between us for a new nation,” he said.
“Part of our challenge as a nation, today, is that we don’t know where we come from or understand our roots; that’s why storytelling is important because we have a wound in this country that needs to be healed.”