Focus on one thing at a time until you master it or get it done.
Since 2011, Diana has been pursuing one objective; to provide elite tools to the masses. Once reserved for the executive class, leadership development has become commonplace among university students, young high potentials and entrepreneurs. While individuals, coaches and university professors struggled to find affordable online solutions for their leadership development programs, SelfStir came to life with one mission; bringing 360 degree feedback to everyone. With 20,000 users actively developing, SelfStir has become the go-to cloud platform to develop self-awareness and build leadership competencies at all levels of one’s career.
Diana has over 25 years of work experience, including 13 years experience in Organizational Development. She helps organizations become effective at all three levels: organization-wide level, the team level & the Individual level. Having transformed a vision and mission into a business, Diana is now focused on translating offline tools to cloud solutions where organizations can carry out Organizational Development interventions online and where data outcomes and diagnosis are correlated, providing insightful and easy to understand results to help drive a company forward.
While the journey is long and challenging, it is one that Diana has been enjoying with her team and can’t see herself doing anything else. Helping people and organizations grow is a passion that feeds her persistence and determination.
Where did the idea for SelfStir come from?
When I was working as an organizational development consultant for an international consulting firm, I was assigned to a client in Nigeria for a year and a half and saw so much untapped potential all around me. While so many people needed development, only the corporate elite would be provided with the tools and the opportunities. I needed to build a platform to help individuals develop leadership competencies with the power of 360 degree feedback and coaching. I reached out to a friend and suggested we invest money in building a tool that would not provide us with any monetary return or investment but would impact humanity. She loved the idea. In my head, the platform needed have two important elements, it needed to be completely free and it needed to be highly effective. SelfStir was not started as a business; it was built to provide individuals access to executive tools to develop leadership competencies at any level of their career or life situation. After our launch and with an increase in demand from businesses, we added a business solution while maintaining the free individual solution. Not only do our business clients sustain our free solution for individuals, but it has become a profitable endeavor. As it turns out, our paying clients, knowingly or not knowingly, are doing a great service to humankind.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have no ‘typical day’. Sometimes I wish I did. I try to focus on the tasks at hand. I go through my list of hundreds of todo’s and prioritize by importance. But as always, things come up and I adjust, I feel I am prioritizing at every moment and it’s not always to my advantage, but I know people are relying on me to complete their work effectively. I know that I can’t always be highly productive and I have learned to embrace that. It gives me time to go out for a walk, read something interesting or have some great conversations with people around me. Once recharged, I get back to work. If I feel burnt from a tough assignment, once finished, I close up early for the day and have no regrets. To keep myself going for years to come and with such high levels of responsibilities, I have learnt to let go and relax.
How do you bring ideas to life?
At SelfStir, we hardly need to have brainstorming sessions, ideas are always flowing and we discuss them immediately, even if its a few minutes to test its sanity. The idea, with some details then goes into our backlog and are prioritized for development by our Product Owner (That’s still one of my roles). We may not be able to build it today, but it sits there until we are able to build it or find that it is not feasible/applicable anymore. In summary, once an idea is planned out and is assigned to a milestone, the whole team participates in carrying it out to fruition. Being an agile team, we need to produce a viable product at the end of each sprint, and many times we iterate ideas until we, or the client are satisfied with the end result.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Organizational culture is what is attracting talent these days, not the money, not the prestige, but the environment the company provides is what gets and keeps the right people. When Executive teams make questionable decisions that do not match individual’s values, talent will leave in herds. The ones that remain are those that have nowhere else to go. This keeps the executives in check. We are seeing Organizations becoming more democratic and consultative decision making becoming a norm. Maybe one day we’ll see a company vote for who their next CEO will be.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I don’t think I have any habits that make me more productive. I don’t necessarily believe in productivity. It’s more about being effective. Effectiveness comes from being engaged in what I am doing, why I am doing it and the impact it will have over my life and those around me. I never feel that I am working or doing a job, I feel that I am achieving something for something that is bigger than me. Being engaged allows me to do things that I would otherwise find difficult to do, which as an entrepreneur, we all know, that accounts for at least 50% of our responsibilities.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Focus on one thing at a time until you master it or get it done. Don’t get burnt out, there are too many things that need to be achieved and be authentic; when you don’t care what others think, they will think more highly of you.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
If you believe in something enough, it will happen. If what you want isn’t happening, then you don’t believe or care enough. You only have yourself to blame when you don’t achieve what you want to achieve.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep dialogue flowing in your company, talk about anything and everything with your team. Take responsibility for your failures, people will respect you more and learn from you.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Listen to the customer, and if the customer does not say anything, they don’t care enough about you or your product/service. The more critical feedback that you get, the more you know that things will be ok. But acting on the feedback is the most important thing. The client needs to know that you are listening, and your team needs to know that you are not driven by your ego.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There are too many to mention. But the failures that hurt me the most are when we let our clients down. Once they put their trust in our software, it needs to do exactly what we said it can do. When things go wrong, as with most technology products out there, we take responsibility for our mistake, we fix the issues even if we have to stay up all night and we apologize publicly to the whole client team, up to the CEO if we have to and finally we accept all consequences. This teaches us to be more diligent in our work and careful with our level of quality control.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’d like to see a platform where musicians from all over the world can collaborate together to create music. One user logs in and adds melody, another adds percussion, another adds vocals or a traditional instrument. Contributions can be accepted or rejected. Once it’s complete, all the contributors take credit. On a personal note, the only thing I can play is the radio, but I love to listen to music and the potential for great music and song is out there, from all over the world.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Paying for Internet. I grew up before the internet was mainstream. I know what it was like before and I never want to go back. I’m not really referring to social media, I’m talking about knowledge and all the tools available to us; on our computers, our mobiles, out household appliances and soon our wearables. It’s just mind blowing how much value you get for every dollar you spend paying for internet.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Assembla is our go-to software for everything. Many times we work remotely, and assembla for us is our office space, our organization history, our meeting rooms, our to-do lists, our discussion platform and, keeping our code safe.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
There is no “One ring to rule them all” in my book list to others, we need to do a lot of reading to capture the knowledge needed to be a successful entrepreneur. “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson would be the book I would read if I didn’t have time to read anything else. Every chapter in the book applies to the entrepreneurs’ journey but more importantly, for young people, this book will help you learn what took others decades to realize on their own.
What is your favorite quote?
“Just keep swimming” – Dory
- Keep swimming. You won’t fail if you don’t give up
- Don’t be shy to pay for internet, it’s worth every penny
- If you can’t play an instrument, play the radio
- Listen to the customer
- Own your failures
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.