how to … use your fighting spirit

by 16 Oct 2007

Reality TV fans will be familiar with the spectacle of chef Gordon Ramsay transforming even the most dismal of restaurants into a triumphant and sophisticated dining experience.

Frances Nwofor, former captain of the Great Britain karate team, claims he does for ailing organisations what Ramsay does for floundering eateries. Nwofor believes he can turn any company around and lead them to success by using his martial arts knowledge to craft winning strategies that will get noticed at boardroom level.

Achieving self-mastery

Mastering the art of karate requires dedication to develop your sense of character and desire to excel.

“Having competed at the top level in my career, I’ve learned to acknowledge my sense of self and what drives me to want to be the best,” says Nwofor. “Once you have learned this about yourself, you can adapt your fighting style to help you progress further and influence your colleagues to become better at what they do.”

Get to know yourself and question how you might be perceived by your colleagues. As a leader, you need to win the hearts as well as the trust of your team and business partners.

Before you can adopt the right techniques to push yourself and your team to their full potential, you need to fully understand everyone on your team. Only by being open and honest with yourself can you truly be accepted and respected by others, says Nwofor.

Martial arts philosophy

Karate instructors also need to learn how to draw out their students’ strengths to help them reach their goals. Nwofor says that in the office environment you can apply the same karate principles to combat negative feelings in the office.

“Find out what makes your staff tick, where their abilities lie, and what they fear,” he says. “Then you can start to formulate strong working relationships, resulting in a productive and happy working environment, as well as driving up profits.”

Combating clashes

As karate is used for self-defence, you have to be able to outwit your enemies so neither of you gets hurt. Nwofor believes that employee clashes in the office are often caused by misinterpretation due to lack of awareness of contrasting belief systems and values.

He argues that employees are often afraid to find the root causes of major problems because of their desire for job security and not wanting to be seen as troublemakers for fear it may affect their career progression. Some simply have a ‘not my problem’mentality. Your work culture may not permit or empower your colleagues to go beyond their limits, so there may be feelings of lack of self–worth.

“Gaining knowledge and insight into your employees’ beliefs, passions, internal motivators and ways of thinking gives you the control to overcome conflict immediately,” explains Nwofor. “If you allow tension to persist, the matter will escalate and create office tension, which will affect overall performance.”

Let it all out

Nwofor recommends holding regular meetings on a one-to-one or group basis to give your staff the chance to voice any issues without worrying about the repercussions.

If you’re able to identify and address problems immediately in the office, this shows that you have an interest in the wellbeing of your team and the business.

By providing regular feedback, you are opening up the lines of communication, making it clear to yourself and employees what your vision is, and constantly reinforcing positive working relationships, while inspiring everyone to discover their hidden talents.

Second opinion on positive manoeuvres

By Frances Nwofor, former captain, Great Britain karate team

How do you tackle a failing business?

Look at the current situation and ask yourself what's going wrong. Acknowledge the problem, then ask yourself how you, your team or the board got into this situation. Once you get to grips with the root cause, you will be able develop the appropriate moves to overcome the danger.

How can you lead your company to success?

Personal motivation in most companies is normally considered important, but not necessarily viewed as urgent, compared to hitting quarterly sales targets, cutting costs, or implementing a new process to achieve zero-level defects. You first need to change ingrained habits and mindsets, or rebuild trust if trust has been broken. Set aside a period of six to 12 months to review measures already in place, which will help to decrease absenteeism and increase employee output.

What makes a winning strategy?

Good leadership skills are essential for creating good energy and dynamics, so always recognise and reward talent. We all like to win and get a buzz out of being successful, so always celebrate a victory to sustain high-level performance and continue to raise standards.

For more information

Are You Ready to Succeed? Unconventional strategies for achieving personal mastery in business and in life,

by Srikumar Rao, Rider & Co, 2007, ISBN 1846040507

By Amanda Lovell. Courtesy of Personnel Today magazine.