Stef du Plessis

Stef Du PlessisStef du Plessis is a speaker, facilitator, workshop leader and
team-builder. He grows people and organisations by focusing on
self-mastery, teamwork, and leadership at all levels. He also heads up
Stef du Plessis and Associates, a people development consultancy with
offices in Johannesburg and Sydney.

Stef du Plessis now holds a Masters degree in Leadership but insists that this isn’t nearly as important as the education that he’s gotten on his own.

Once a near school dropout who was working as a gate guard at a dog food factory by his mid-twenties, he was redeemed, he also insists, by his wife, Maureen. She, on the other hand, had just qualified as a medical doctor.

Maureen says that she saw a hint of greatness in him (she says she still does, even if only occasionally…), and committed to a lifetime together shortly after he quit the gate. They swapped vows while he was still unemployed, and she the primary breadwinner. Others scoffed… but only until her relentless and unwavering belief in him undid the programming that took nine different schools to instill in him… namely, that he was the dumbest kid in the class. By far. The simple truth is that, back then, his teachers just weren’t equipped to deal with either his dyslexia or his ADHD… then a curse, now a blessing, he yet again insists, having matured into fully-fledged, stark-raving AADHD… although he still can’t spell.

Over the next 25 years, he carved out three very different, but equally remarkable careers. In the first, he became a decorated soldier, making the rank of Lieutenant Colonel… and retiring as the Commanding Officer of an elite Parachute Battalion.

In the next, he became a sales manager with South Africa’s largest financial services company in record time… only to give in to his entrepreneurial gene and return to full time sales… to become a top-producing financial services broker… qualify for both an IQA and for MDRT membership (and later “Court of the Table”) every year for more than a decade… and build an award-winning brokerage… while also serving as a regional chair of the LUA of South Africa.

An invitation to speak at the MRF, South Africa’s premier financial services convention in the early 90’s gave birth to his third, and final career: the standing ovation brought the realisation that there was nothing he wanted to do rather than speak and teach…. apart from being a husband, and a father, that is. On that note… Maureen continued practicing as a doctor – one that is adored by her patients – until the injuries she sustained from a serious accident halted her career (temporarily, they hope!) late in 2007. They continue to live in Johannesburg with their daughters, Dani and Jessi… both of whom Stef delivered!

In 1999, only a few short years after turning to full-time speaking, came his first invitation to speak at the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) in New Orleans in the USA (attended annually by just shy of 10,000 delegates from 50 nations, the MDRT is arguably the world’s most coveted platform for professional speakers). And then, another few short years later, came the call-back… Stef was invited back to the MDRT for the 2004 meeting – held in Anaheim, California – as a main platform speaker.

His decade-and-a-half long career as a speaker has been remarkable: South African President Thabo Mbeki has recognised the “nation building potential” of Stef’s work… and he has been acclaimed as “one of South Africa’s most influential motivators” by the Council on Education in Management. After that, it wasn’t long before he was speaking internationally, and hailed as “one of the world’s leading practitioners when it comes to teams and team leadership” by the Dubai based Institute for International Research. Next, he found himself lecturing on postgraduate university programmes – even though he still lacked any formal qualification of his own. It was only after he’d turned 40, and based entirely on his own self-taught knowledge, that he was invited to complete a Masters degree in Leadership at the University of Johannesburg, one of South Africa’s top universities. No longer the dumbest kid in the class, he graduated cum-laude, top of his class. Then went on to contract, as associates, his professor and a number of fellow Masters graduates…

He is the founder, and was the first president of the National Speakers Association of South Africa, which is now a full member of the International Federation For Professional Speakers. Stef now enjoys peer recognition at the highest level globally… in 2007 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Speaking Excellence – voted for by his peers from throughout the South African speaking profession. During the same year he was a finalist for the Speaker of the Year Award, and he was the first recipient of the NSASA Award – South Africa’s highest award for professional speaking. He is one of only a handful of speakers in the world to have been invited to address his peers at professional speaker’s conventions globally – at home in South Africa, twice in the USA, in New Zealand, the UK, Singapore, Dubai, and twice in Australia.

Stef has paddled South Africa’s longest river, and is a qualified rescue diver (as was Jessi long before her 18th birthday… Dani is a qualified diver too… but finds all things under water “too wet”!). He has been a guest on radio and TV, and been the “mind-coach” for the South African Olympic Soccer Team and for the South African Athletics Team. He is a committed philanthropist… he has cycled solo across South Africa to raise money for orphans… and gives away a share of all that he earns – preferring to do so without fanfare. A recent letter of thanks from the headmaster of Boys Town – Stef’s favorite cause… a home for troubled boys where he was himself once interviewed for attendance but never enrolled – summed it up best when he wrote to applaud Stef for the “no-fuss” manner in which he always gives.

Today, Stef is probably South Africa’s most booked speaker, worldwide. He also heads up Stef du Plessis and Associates – a people development organisation where the focus is on growing people at all levels, through self-mastery, teamwork, and leadership. Now a team of ten, each of his facilitators hold at least a Masters Degree (remember those class mates?) – also boasting among them a number of PhD’s and two professors.

He has delivered more than 2 500 paid presentations on self-mastery,
lifestyle management, leadership, and change management across five
continents over the past decade. Internationally recognized both as a
master storyteller and as a specialist in the field of understanding
and stimulating human potential, his high-energy presentations are
always humorous and entertaining, while striking at the very core of
our being. Stef enthralls audiences with profound African wisdom,
learned at the feet of his guide, Masiwa, while spending time in the
bush as a wildlife photographer. But he is much more than just a word
weaver: with a Masters degree in personal and professional leadership,
his presentations are rich in content. And his broad experience ensures
that his presentations are also jam-packed with real-world know how,
equipping his audience with tried and tested tips, tools and techniques
ready for immediate application. Through the skilful use of every
conceivable facet of multi-media, he brings to life the African bush
with sights and sounds that will be remembered long after the curtain
has come down. Delegates from around the globe consistently rate him as
the top speaker at conferences, and describe his presentations as
refreshing, unique, captivating… and life changing!

As a strategic facilitator, he has helped to shape the destiny of many
leading organisations and he has a track record that is littered with
success stories from the boardrooms and workshop floors of top
companies around the globe.

Exactly a year has passed since the strategic planning session you
facilitated for our directors. Looking back, you were the catalyst who
enabled our top echelon to identify the real issues and problems. Your
intervention was highly successful for both the company and us
personally, and it will continue to influence our strategies in the
— Peter Squires, MD, Ellerine Holdings Limited

As a mediating facilitator his deep sensitivity and almost uncanny
insight, together with the knack to use the appropriate humor in just
the right dose at just the right time gives him a remarkable ability to
defuse potentially explosive situations and find common ground, in the
pursuit of true collaboration. His unquestionably impeccable
credibility means that he is in high demand with both management and
organized labor alike.

Stef stretched both management and unions to go beyond the
boundaries of traditional approach. Our attitude towards our workforce
will never be the same again. There is no other facilitator like Stef
du Plessis.
— Rickson Mboweni, Manager Labour Relations, Iscor

Stef transforms workgroups into closely-knit, high performance teams,
able to achieve common goals, built on a foundation of mutual trust and
respect. Skillfully creating a non-threatening environment, he helps
teams to discover whether they are pulling together or pulling apart.
They will identify common goals; discover single-minded purpose; and
design an actionable game plan. Team members will get to understand
each other, and they will allocate Team Positions through role
clarification. They will have fun while being equipped with Team Tools
– learning how to cash in on change, communicate more effectively; make
better decisions; solve problems and get things done; deal with
conflict in a constructive manner, and benefit from diversity. Stef can
work with teams of any size.


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