Ben Shaw: Associate, EXEO Capital
Dealing with stress, using mentors to manage ups and downs, and the importance of contextualizing leadership and business advice
About our Guest
This episode’s conversation is with Ben Shaw from South Africa. Ben is an Allan Gray Fellow, ex investment-banker and the founder of HouseME, a prop-tech company which for several years was ranked as the most innovative property venture in Africa. After building the start-up, Ben served as Chief Commercial Officer for a rental payments platform, and is now a Senior Associate at EXEO Capital, an Africa-focused private equity firm, where he is leading the charge on two new funds to be unveiled in 2023. Ben studied in Cape Town, includes computer gaming and VR as areas of keen interest, and is happily married to Carla.
Everyday Leadership in Action
Here are a few highlights from the conversation with Ben:
Mentors and advisors can play a stabilizing role during ups and downs: Ben has developed a network of mentors and advisors over the years, in part through his participation as a Fellow with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation over the past 12 years. He has found that mentors can provide the right balance of support to pull you up during difficult down period, and also keep your ego in check during high moments, by bringing in a rational voice from an outside perspective.
Resilience requires compartmentalizing specific challenges and sources of stress: During his time as Founder and CEO of HouseME, his company went through various forms of bankruptcy on a number of occasions. The first time was extremely stressful, but each subsequent time the experience became more manageable as he was able to “fail forward” and learn from the previous times. He would separate out each problem into bite-sized issues that needed addressing rather than combining them all into one big scary problem that would seem insurmountable looking at it collectively.
Leaders are responsible for contextualizing the advice and frameworks they come across: At HouseME, their first piece of office furniture was a bookshelf for their leadership library. Ben has read many books, listened to many podcasts and spoken to many mentors throughout his career so far. While he and his teams often were inspired by such content, he also recognized that the content alone is not enough and won’t apply word-for-word to their own business. The content requires a leader and managers to identify the core elements of the frameworks and concepts, and match them with how they can be applied within the specific context of their market or team. Once, a mentor of his illustrated this point by sharing a helpful perspective that often advice is given to you by someone who has thought about your problem for 10 minutes, while you have likely been grappling with that problem for 10 months, so you’ll always need to do the work of taking their advice and fitting into the details of your situation.
The Everyday Leader is a podcast featuring conversations with leaders from across Africa’s companies, organizations, and governments about their experience managing teams and projects throughout their careers.
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