Monday, September 19, 2011

Leading with integrity: Hannah Samuel

“A reputation, once broken, may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep its eyes on the spot where the crack was”.  Joseph Hall

Hannah Samuell wanted to be an altar girl.
“My older brother had been an altar-boy,” Hannah told me over hot chocolate, as we took refuge from a cold winter afternoon in a local cafe.

Gender discrimination at an early age did not dampen Hannah’s spirit at all – if anything it encouraged her to find out how people could authentically express themselves, personally and professionally, whilst also understanding they would be judged.
“I realised from a very early age – probably around 6 or 7 – that reputation rules,” Hannah said.
“I discovered everyone makes judgements about others whether or not those judgments may be fair or accurate. As I moved through school and into my adult life it became really clear how the school we went to, the suburb we lived in, the company we kept, the qualifications we gained and the career we chose, for example, opened doors or slammed them shut. ”

It can be slightly unnerving to meet someone who is considered a reputation expert.  All the usual pre-meeting worries surrounding ‘how do I look?’, ‘what do they know about me?’ seem to take on a new importance.  Even ‘how do I smell?’ -  after all do you want  a reputation champion going away from a meeting thinking “whoo – have they never heard of deodorant?”
So it is somewhat reassuring to meet the successful author and speaker and discover she is not only very nice - one of those people you like instantly - she doesn’t seem even remotely interested in your presentation.  Or how you smell.

A successful career in business development in both the UK and New Zealand allowed Hannah to experience first-hand how many businesses attract  high-value, loyal customers and clients by delivering on their promises and managing expectations.  Conversely says Hannah, others make a ‘quick win’ but failed to have lasting success by failing to treat their teams, their customers and those around them with integrity.
“My focus on reputation branding came about as a result of bringing these experiences together. When we understand how reputation is formed, and how it influences virtually every decision that’s made, we can make informed choices and decisions about how to live our lives and run our businesses and it’s this that drives me.”

Casting a ‘reputation lens’ over the lives and work of clients enables them to be become more informed about the choices they make, but Hannah is quick to point out this is not about telling people how to live their lives.
“I’m not the morality police. It’s not my place to tell someone what they should, or shouldn’t do. What I can do, however, is give them information and tools to make their own choices and have a fair idea of what the consequences may be.”

Encouraged as a child to  become informed and express her  opinion Hannah had forged a career as writer, speaker and consultant on the importance of reputation.  Her books include the very successful Reputation Branding: How to grow your business without spending a cent and The Integrity Factor
“‘Robust’ discussions around the dinner table in our house were a big part of growing up! As a young adult, because I was willing to express my opinion I was frequently asked to contribute to debates and speak on a topic. I also had roles as a trainer or facilitator and regularly wrote for business newspapers and magazines on issues around business development.”
It’s easy to see how her path led her to being an in demand speaker and  National President of the National Speakers Association of New Zealand (NSANZ).
“I’ve always enjoyed speaking in front of an audience and really engaging with people and found myself doing more of this, alongside more writing around reputation, trust and integrity specifically.”
Reputation Branding – How To Grow Your Business Without Spending A Cent – came about as a result of audience members asking Hannah if she had written a book and where they could buy it.
The Integrity Factor: Why Reputation Rules In Business And Life – which was co-authored with Ricky Nowak, came about as a result of Ricky and me deciding to collaborate on paper on the importance of integrity in our professional lives – specifically focusing on leaders and the responsibilities they have for their organisations and those around them.”

Hannah’s books are easy to read and echo her speaking style.  She uses real-life examples and case-studies to remind us everything we do impacts on how others perceive us.
People do business, and engage with, people and organisations they trust says Hannah which is why it is so important we develop and maintain, high-trust and high-value relationships.  In doing so we are more likely to have doors open for us than slammed in our face.
“We can also sleep well at night knowing whatever we may be accused of, of challenged on, we will be able to explain our actions honestly. Acting with integrity is one of the best stress-relievers there is!”

Hannah repeats that her job isn’t to dictate other people’s behaviour.  Integrity she says firmly is about accepting personal responsibility for our actions and the consequences of the choices we make. It is about the alignment of every part of our being – what we say and do, how we choose to behave and act.
“As part of my work I’m blessed to be able to meet, and engage with, people from all walks of life which enriches my experience and understanding, and I enjoy educating and informing, through my speaking and writing, in an entertaining and memorable way.”

It’s not unusual for people to give Hannah feedback via email, phone or via Twitter or Facebook, saying they  are now thinking differently about the consequences of their actions in a more personally-responsible way and making informed choices in the way they are living their lives or running their business.
“It’s easy to judge, criticise, bleat, blame, moan and whinge. I’m tickled-pink when someone lets me know they’re choosing the arguably harder path of being objective, accepting, nurturing, supportive and responsible instead.”

Hannah doesn’t spend her entire working day examining reputations though.  She is equally vigilant in the quest for fairness and equity – ensuring people are given  a genuine opportunity and are not discriminated against, or disadvantaged.
It is also important, she says with a grin, to have fun.

This of course begs the question how does somebody who is so aware of other people’s perceptions and interpretation have fun.   Hannah is not at all put off by the question .
“I love spending time with interesting people with wonderful life experiences of any age.   I enjoy reading – mostly biographies and non-fiction, music (anything from Gorillaz to Pucini), dancing and skating.  I also recharge by walking in the bush with my dogs or on the beach on a cold winter’s day, rugged up against the weather! One of these day’s I’ll become a proper gardener – I’m good at pulling out weeds – and I enjoy playing around with colours and fabrics quilting.”

Hannah credits a lot of her success to her parents who supported and encouraged her.  She admired their work ethic and was inspired to work with integrity rather than ‘win at all costs’. Success was never defined in monetary terms, but in lifestyle terms and the ability to make choices with time, money and other resources.
“My husband, too, continues to encourage and inspire me with his generous spirit, wonderful sense of humour and honourable work-life ethic.  One of my dreams is to take a vacation driving through the Swiss Alps in an open-top Aston Martin or MGB GT with Garry.”

Although Hannah does not believe she has the right, or the obligation, to help people make good choices, she is always thrilled to learn she has been instrumental in helping someone to succeed.
“By accepting personal responsibility and making informed decisions each and every one of us has the opportunity to influence and shape our lives, and society in general, for our own benefit, and the benefit of those around us. “

So what are the three vital ingredients in Hannah’s recipe for success?
The first is no surprise to learn - other people’s opinions count and it’s important to never forget that.  However, Hannah adds, it’s more important, to  feel good about, and be truly happy with, the life you are living.
“If you’re not,  be honest with yourself about what changes may need to be made, and make them.”
Modest self-appreciation is next on the list.  It can boost your spirits, and help remind you of the unique qualities and gifts you bring to the world. Every so often remind yourself:
I’m good at …
I’m loved and appreciated by …
I make a difference to …
And finally?
“If you  can help people feel good about themselves, and also feel good about dealing with you, you’ll never be short of money or opportunities. “

Download Hannah's fabulous free e-book 'Pocket Book Of Women's Wisdom Volume 1'. Words of Support And Encouragement From Women For Women. Compiled in support of global charity ‘Dress For Success’, this ebook is a compilation of original thoughts, sayings and quotations from everyday New Zealand and Australian women willing to share with, and encourage, other women in an uplifting way. Ideal when you’d like a boost of inspiration and encouragement here

©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.  

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