Interrogate your own beliefs, says Vusi Thembekwayo

Scores of HR professionals gathered to listen to Vusi who, true to form, was as charming as he was captivating.

“Over the past decade I’ve become really good at putting together well thought out presentations supported by research and wonderful slides, but today I want to have a conversation that is a little bit more authentic. I think South Africa needs that at the moment… I am actually really insecure. I have a voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough. I still remember the day when I was 22 years old in the world public speaking competition, where I set the current record for the five-minute format, which still stands. That voice that told me, ‘you are not good enough. They see through you.’ The one thing you can do in that situation is find a little corner and hide in it so that your perceptions and views of the world won’t be heard and therefore can’t be challenged. I would venture to say, that 90 percent of the people in this room feel the same way.”

Scores of HR professionals gathered to listen to world renowned public speaker Vusi Thembekwayo at the inaugural HR Indaba on 4 October 2018. Central to his presentation was the idea that it is important to challenge one’s own beliefs. He said HR practioners are in a unique position to make a different kind of impact than any other profession, because their work is about far more than recruiting people, paying salaries and handling employee relations. They have an opportunity to directly affect people’s lives. And that is why it is important to be cognisant of one’s conscious and subconscious believes.



“Beliefs are embedded in self. So if there is no evidence to support a particular belief, discard it. So recognise when your have beliefs about others that not only hold you back but can also shape the trajectories of those people,” he said.

He explained that when people harbour beliefs along the lines of x people do or don’t do y, they have formed ideas that unjustly presuppose the identities of people that they have never met. Because, in reality, it is never the demographic markers like age, race or gender, but rather the collection of experiences that define people.

Vusi grew up in a traditional Zulu family wherein there were some things that women were not allowed to do. When he first started working in corporate, there were some jobs that women were not allowed to have. And because of that, he admitted to being socialised to become a misogynist. 

“Not in the extreme like the Donald Trumps of this world. I am the misogynist that will hold the door for a woman, because I have been conditioned to think she shouldn’t do it for herself.  I’m the politically correct, well-spoken mysoginist.” 

He added people should do with their beliefs what they do with their mobile phones – upgrade them. A phone, on its own is an empty vessel than becomes useful because of the operating systems and the applications that are installed and discarded based on how useful they are. That software is upgraded.

“People never upgrade their software. They would rather upgrade the hardware. The material things around them, but never the operating system,” he said, adding that the best thing one can do to break down the power of their beliefs is to first acknowledge them.