Tessa Plen

Tessa Plen is a highly accomplished global change-agent for growth and development of individuals, companies and products. She has worked in senior positions at blue-chip multinationals like Colgate Palmolive (associate Director of Innovation) and Unilever in South Africa, Paris, London, Sydney and New York before recently returning to South Africa. She has implemented growth and change systems and practices that brought about lasting improvements and twice doubled operating profit at Colgate in a 2-year period. She now works with ambitious individuals and CEO’s using her strategic nous to set strategic personal and career goals, and then coaching and training the skills and tools that bring about their successful transition to the next level in their careers, companies, and how they operate as people.

My Definition Of Success | My view of success has changed somewhat, although not completely. In the first half, it was to feel a sense of achievement- reaching goals, particularly career wise and getting results. I thought happiness would follow. It doesn’t. Now, squarely facing my second half, success means feeling successful (a process) rather than ‘achieving’ success (a result). It means living with a sense of success – feeling good enough, living a meaningful life, and feeling joy as I go through each day on the way to new achievements.

I Am Driven By | The need to make the most of my life – to grow into my full potential and not to waste my life, or the gifts and talents that have been given to me or that I have worked to achieve. Sometimes this drive is too strong, sometimes it comes at the cost of self acceptance, acceptance of being flawed. I just don’t want to wake up one day on the other side and go… what a waste – look at all those opportunities frittered away. More and more, I am also driven by the need to simply survive. Knowing I cannot let myself stay stuck or I will literally perish. I have to be proactive, I know that it is up to me, my thougths, beliefs, emotions and environment I dwell in- and ultimately, my actions. I cannot rely on or blame others (much as life sometimes seems unfair) because no other person is going to ‘save’ or rescue me. I have proven that! 

The Magic in me may originate from | A sense of fun and wonderment at the world. My child-like enthusiasm for possibilities and potential in all things and in all situations. That’s when my eyes light up and my heart opens. I get a kind of vision of the possible future and it really excites me and this infectious spirit connects people. I get a sense that we all have such powerful potential, and how much more collective possibility there is if we just share and help each other. Imparting and Infusing that sense of what is possible in others through new ideas and adding the creativity and magic to logical growth planning, that really fires me up.

The Difference Between good And Great | So many things. First, its believing in yourself, believing that you have the ability and CAN make a difference. And more than that, its doing things that are meaningful or purposeful, that also in some way thrills you and gives you a ‘kick’. For some that’s negotiating or wining a deal- that sense of competitive accomplishment, and for others it’s a sense of making a difference in the world by giving back- by making this world a slightly better place as a result of what you do. Ultimately its doing what you feel is important, which you feel makes a difference, some call, being aligned to your values.

A Key Talent | Balancing apparent opposites – bringing seemingly disparate things together to create a better whole. So combining strong intuition with rational logic. And combining Logic with creativity. Big picture with detail thinking. This last one is what others ‘see’ most. They say I “Demystifying the complex” and I can empower growth in others and in their businesses through ‘big picture’ vision combined with breaking things down into logical implementable, practical steps (the detail). I am able to imparting logical thinking to others, and not just advise, but teach people HOW to think, and how to join the dots to make another picture… to infuse that thinking with creativity. I been told I have a gift of getting quickly to the nub of detailed complex issues within the bigger picture and find chains of cause and effect- or structure. For my clients and friends, this makes what can seem like an impossible mountain to climb, quite possible and do-able, and brings a huge sense of relief and hope to people, giving them the impetus and momentum to move forward with confidence. I have always been able to empower others who want to learn and grow with the understanding and cricitical thinking skills to reach their next level. (Even school mates who could never study and were clocking E’s managed to get at least a B average simply by understanding the material and being able to think it through rather than learn off by heart.)

Principles I Live By | Without doubt, I believe in being authentic and genuine. I simply cannot be another way because I wear my heart on my sleeve and don’t have the ability to wear a mask. It’s gotten me into a lot of trouble on the one hand, but I believe in this strongly. When someone knows you are authentic and genuine, they also know they can trust you. Next, I believe in and try my best to live by the value of being honest and fair in business and in life. Not “schnying” the next person. Rewarding people fairly for what they do.
With that goes transparency, open-ness, sharing and a mindset that there is enough to share. I’ve been known to offer people more than they asked for if I believe they are selling themselves short. It can be a little difficult though as the rest of the world do not always operate this way and for me, its actually been hard to even logically fathom the games and schemes and politics and elaborate constructs they operate within. Often to my own detriment. “Do the right thing”- a principle I hold dear is that its very important to me to ‘do unto others as I would like done to myself’. I am by no means perfect! And I can do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing in the name of honesty…. even when I should have known better. But I never knowingly hurt someone else in order to put my own selfish interests first. In fact, to a fault- sometimes I could do with being a little more selfish in my choices.

Lessons I Have Learnt | Achievement isn’t everything. Don’t just go after Results- it can blindsight you into wasting the potentially joyful moments in the present. Its like driving too fast, travelling too fast in trying to ‘get there’ creates a scenary that’s simply a blur… and it can lead to accidents! I remember a dream I once had, a very powerful message that consisted of just words repeated over and over in my head: “its not about the work, its about the people”. As an over-achiever, this has been a tough lesson for me. I just wanted everyone else to ‘get there’ too, because I could ‘just see’ it would help them too. But not everyone is in the same place, or with the same desires or has the same fears or drives. And what I want, is no more true than what they want. Hard work is not the “B” all and end all. I have had to learn not to leave “my (whole) self” at home when I work, not to just perform, perform, but to bring my private self with me. The only way I have found myself able to do this is when I feel real love for myself. That’s when I am able to put myself (ie my own joy and happiness) above performing or ‘proving’ myself to others. THEN I am able be present with others, beginning where they are at, not where I think I know they could or should be. Another biggie is this: responsibility is not fault. In the past, think I have gotten caught up in making myself wrong for anything that went wrong. Feeling at fault for everything doesn’t put me in a position from which I can make too many positive new starts.It just places me under a huge pile of slippery brown stuff. So I have learned that responsibility simply means look at it squarely, take on the responsibilty for fixing it… and if that means fixing something I am doing wrong, then do that. But it’s not always. Sometimes its just life and other’s stuff. I am learning to trust myself to know the difference
Dealing With Doubt | I often doubt myself. And because my mind is strong, my doubts and fears, when they come, can be devastating and almost literally blow me over for a while. To fix anything, one has to find the root cause. So I had to ask myself…why do my doubts arise in the first place? It’s a causal chain and I had to get to the root cause. For me, the fears come creaping in when I have not been paying attention. Or when I give other’s more power or importance than myself. They also come creeping in whenever I feel rejected. It’s the ‘here we go again’. But at the root of it, most of all, my fears are caused when I am not consciously feeling love in my heart for own self, when I am taking myself (and hence, the world and others) for granted. For me the only way to chase away fear STARTS through love and appreciation. And that in itself, does not always magically occur, although when it does hallelulya. No, that, like most things in life, is a discipline of thinking the right way consciously over and over and doing the right thing conssciously over and over. They do a magical dance and reinforce each other. You can start anywhere, but must do both.
Thinking the right thing- changing habitual limiting beliefs, most importantly those that begin with my worth and value of being loved and loveable. On a consious level, consciously choosing thoughts is very difficult if not impossible without also working on the subconscious (through hypnosis, creative visualisation, meditation, prayer), which is something like 40 times more powerful and fast moving. Working only on the conscious alone to rid fear is like letting out gas to counter the heavenly thunder. There are various techniques that work for me at some more than others at different times including affirmations, chakra meditation chanting, exercise, healing music vibrations. Doing the right thing…: learning, then practicising the skills of emotional regulation self control, diplomacy, contribution, being with others rather than isolating. Day after day after day: using diary cards, groups, even ‘rituals’ to remind us. How quickly we forget when times get better… only to have those doubts return.

My Future Dreams And Ambitions | Not having to choose. Help myself and others achieve outer success AND joyful happiness. Prosperity with heart. This is Success-ness. Living each day with a sense of fullness and success.


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