Emerging HR Practices

What would make your employees’ souls smile?

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Brett Shuttleworth has done it all: he’s kept company with some of the most glamorous people in the world as a model for the likes of Ralph Lauren, Versace and Calvin Klein, as an actor in Hollywood blockbusters, a provincial sportsman and a successful businessman. However, he’s found his niche in motivational speaking and making people’s souls smile. I recently spoke with him to find out how companies can keep their employees’ souls smiling.

As I usually do before any interview, I did a bit of research into Brett’s background to find out what really makes this man tick.
And while I was researching, I came across a You Tube video on his website called: “What makes your soul smile?” In it, Brett and his colleague Bert Corsius travel around India, with no money, to see how far they can travel based on people’s goodwill.

The sceptic in me thought this video was too good to be true but when I spoke to Brett, and asked him about the video, he said that they actually managedto travel around the country with no money based on the goodwill of the people they met along the way. In other words, how they made other people’s souls smile.

What does “make your soul smile” mean?

When I posed this question to Brett, he told me that before he came up with this concept, he had gone on a journey of self-discovery, searching for what really made him happy. What he came to realise is that it’s not your external trappings – what you surround yourself with – that will make you happy; it’s what is on the inside that makes the difference. If your “soul is smiling”, you will be happy.

This is a great concept from a personal growth point of view, I thought, but I wanted to delve into how making one’s soul smile can benefit your organisation.

How do you make your employees’ souls smile?

At an ACMP networking event, which took place in Johannesburg in February 2013, Richard Hawkey, the author of Life Less Lived, presented a set of shocking statistics that served as a huge wake-up call:
• More than 50% of employees are demotivated,
• An average of 54% does not get enough sleep,
• Thirty-eight per cent is simply exhausted and will avoid taking on extra or new tasks,
• A further 38% suffers from low immunity and severe allergies, and
• Twenty-three per cent experiences isolation and goes into withdrawal.

The question that naturally follows is this: if more than 50% of employees are physiologically and physically dysfunctional, how can you expect them to function at work? And, more importantly, how can you help them so that they are able to perform at their best? I decided to ask Brett this question.

I sketched a scenario and asked how he would handle it:
“If you went back to being the CEO of a company, how would you make your employees’ souls smile and in turn motivate them to do their jobs at 110% of their ability?”

Brett gave me the following answer: “You first need to create a single, unified purpose that your company stands for, via your company vision and mission. Once you’ve united all your employees under one common banner, you need to lead from love and human emotion, not discipline. You need to concentrate on your employees and listen to them.”

“Steve Jobs said that the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it,” he ended off.

Wise words Brett – something that we can all learn from.


Lia Marus is the editor of HR Pulse, which is an online HR publication published by ITWeb. She has a BA in French, Italian and Linguistics from UCT, an MA in translation from Wits and a Postgraduate Diploma in Management from the Wits Business School. She is currently studying towards her LLB through Unisa. Lia started her career off in corporate communications, where she worked as a sub-editor, researcher and marketing coordinator. She then heeded the call of the publishing world and went into the business-to-business publishing field where she worked as a sub-editor as well as a chief sub-editor. Before joining ITWeb, Lia managed an HR guidebook at a leading international publishing company.

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