Being a boss babe leader and managing others is not easy.  I remember when I was first starting off as a manager, and I had to make my first hires.

I overthought everything.  

I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the same time, I wanted to get the most out of the people I hired. 

Here are three basic statements I kept in mind when reflecting on my ability to engage and mobilize anyone working with me.  

They are useful to think about whether you manage one intern or twenty individuals.

1. Understand the goals and aspirations of each member of your team.

I used to think that I had to approach each member of my team the same.  I would provide them the same information and respond to them in similar ways, expecting the same output from each. It did not get me very far.  

Each person needs to be treated as an individual. Understanding how each member of your team ticks will help you get the most out of them.

If you know how to acknowledge and recognize each member, you will know how best to motivate and communicate with them.  

With just a bit of work and understanding, you can get a lot more out of a team member, because you will be speaking their language. No two people are motivated the same way, so you cannot always expect the same result from different individuals.

If you are an employee…

  • Tell your manager what motivates you.
  • Tell them what you want to get out of your experience working with them and how you prefer to be approached.
  • If you are confused about your role or objectives, ask or show them what you think they should be.

They might not always listen, but you can at least demonstrate how self-aware you are. Some managers will appreciate it.

Those who don’t probably shouldn’t be managers.

2. Each member of your team knows what you expect, and where they are in terms of performance

I was notorious and continued to have issues with communicating what I want from others.  Even when we think we have done an excellent job, we usually have not.

Making sure each member of your team understands their place (even if it changes monthly) is key to making sure you are getting the most out of them.  

They should be getting feedback from you regularly, and you should periodically inquire about making sure they are on the right track.

If they are not, its either you haven’t done an excellent job being explicit or the role does not suit them.

If you are an employee and your company has a formal performance review process, nothing your manager says during the performance review process should come as a surprise.

  • Ask for regular feedback and make sure you get clarity if you are confused.
  • Send your manager an email with what you discussed, even if its feedback, to make sure you both are on the same page.

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3. You actively act on advice and feedback on how you come across to your team, and how you can be a more motivating leader

No one is perfect but spending a few hours a week on seeking and receiving feedback can make you a more effective leader.  

You can ask for input in various ways: informally at group meetings or formally through surveys. Take some time to read about different approaches to leadership and reflect on who you admire as a manager.

Write down the traits and feedback you want to embody and try them out. Want to check how you are doing? Continue to ask for feedback over time.

If you are an employee…

  • Ask your manager if you can give them constructive feedback.  
  • Think about what you can learn from your manager and make the best of the situation.
  • If there is something that doesn’t sit well with you, keep it in mind for when you have a chance to manage others.

How can you use these statements to make a change or move forward?

With each element, try to rate yourself.  I would suggest on a scale from 1 to 10. 1 meaning disagree strongly and 10, strongly agree.

Ask your teammates for feedback to help you decide where you stand.

For the statements you rate less than 5, you might want to spend some time thinking through how to bridge the gap.  You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Where do you want to be?
  • What is the first thing you can do to make progress in that particular element?

That one small step you take can help you get closer to the leader you want to be and get even more out of your team.

This month of July, we’re telling stories about boss ladies breaking boundaries, and how you also can hit your #BossLadyGoals. Got a boss lady story to share with us? Click here.

Adelaide Odhiambo: The experience I gained as an employee has helped me run my own business

If sitting at your desk, working on the same thing month after month year after year, chips at your soul, it can feel like Lingchi, the Chinese form of murder where 1000 small cuts are made all over someone’s body over a period of time, a very slow painful demise.

Or perhaps, your job is constantly threatened and you are not sure if you will survive the next decimation. In the face of all this, it is tempting to dump it, take a leap and start a business.

As you contemplate becoming self-employed, read how Adelaide Odhiambo, left a prominent position to start Bluewave Insurance.

In just two years, this firm, in partnership with Kenya’s biggest insurance company, has launched Imarisha Jamii a micro insurance product targeting low-income earners.  

On taking the leap…

Taking the leap is not easy it means coming out of your comfort zone and forging into the unknown. What ‘would-be’ entrepreneurs do is, they toy with the idea and talk about it endlessly to everybody and anybody.

They never move to conceptualization mainly out of fear. Jim Carrey in his commencement speech of 2014 said, “we choose fear disguised as practicality. We think what we want is impossible to reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never ask.”

That is the tragedy of ‘would-be’ entrepreneurs, they see the leap as one move which increases their fear, understandably, because of the risk. Instead of thinking of the leap as one massive move to launch the business, it could be several baby-steps made over a period of time that finally realizes the dream.

As Adelaide was studying actuarial science at Nairobi University, and even after getting her first job, she dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur.

“Jubilee insurance asked us to come up with ideas that could improve the insurance space, I immediately started thinking and begun to notice problems in the insurance industry. We were using an archaic system that still relied on people working the back office to manually key information into the computer.

Then driving to and from work I noticed how poor people were the most vulnerable yet could not afford insurance.”

Then the idea hit her, to use technology, to provide cost-effective insurance for the poor. “I decided, instead of submitting the idea, to develop it.” It would take 15 years for the business to take off.

On gaining experience

“The experience I gained as an employee has helped me run the business. At Jubilee Insurance, I was shadowing two CEO’s so every time they went for a strategic meeting I would be with them.

It demystified running an organization, for instance, I realized that simple decisions were sometimes sufficient to move forward the largest insurance company in the country.”

After a while, Adelaide went to Apollo worked as head of products then landed a prestigious position with Microensure as country manager.

“Microensure was an eye opener because they do insurance in the most unconventional way. While working there I would give my spouse, who was a software developer, concepts to develop,” she said

But her employment history was not without its challenges…

“When I was put in a hostile environment, I just saw the good side. So I absorbed everything and learned as fast as possible,” she continued

Then when she realized she was not growing and the environment became untenable. so she left to start Blue Wave insurance.

“The most valuable experience I ever got as an employee was to cultivate confidence. Because when running your own outfit, at some point you may feel like you are bullshitting but I have learned to be bold despite this feeling.

The most valuable experience I ever got as an employee was to cultivate confidence - @AdelaideOdhiamb Click To Tweet

When I was employed, I remember I went for a meeting with executives of a leading telecom company. I sat in the room listening as everyone was speaking jargon, like whole sentences in abbreviations.

Truth is that I had no clue what they were saying. Then, they turned to me, as the insurance expert, because no one in the room had any idea. I spoke confidently and it was okay.

So that’s how I approach business meetings with boldness because whatever I know is of value to someone in that room, there is that one thing you know and they do not.”

On getting the business up and running in a short timeline

It is said fortune favors the prepared mind which is true for Adelaide. Because she had been working on the business, little by little, days after leaving Microensure, she was already working on a website and reaching out to past clients, relationships she had formed as an employee.

“I left paid employment with a lot of drive, and hunger to make it. I was scheduling meetings and even got a contract from one of the old customers that paid me fifty thousand.”

Building a successful business takes time and multi-billion deals don’t happen overnight, so Adelaide celebrates the small victories.

“I celebrated surviving a whole month without a salary. Celebrated the website going up. I celebrated sending 10 emails and receiving 2 responses, out of my sheer hard work.

Infact, I even celebrated that I was doing what I wanted, that was a success to me. I did not set high expectations. When people do not meet their high expectations, they get upset”. 

I did not have that ‘fear of failure’ because failure would have been not following my dream - @AdelaideOdhiamb Click To Tweet

Lean startup

Although Adelaide had an insurance background, she needed a developer to set up the enterprise.

“My husband who is a programmer, and entrepreneur, encouraged me to design the user experience, which is the initial part of programming. I learned through Google but I am still learning because every solution is different.”

The first time she put the lessons to work, fired by the drive to succeed, she did it overnight…

“I remember my husband telling me all the different elements he needed to begin programming and it sounded like Greek. So I put the kids to bed at 10 pm and I started conceptualizing the program, I slept at 3 am, it was the best night of my life.!”

On developing products on a shoestring budget…

Short of money Adelaide did what all entrepreneurs do, develop cost-saving techniques, “I had to do programming at night and business development during the day.

I was trying to do as much as possible to save. I only hired an administrative assistant who only helped out occasionally. So one needs to gauge the amount of work they can do alone but still remain sane.”

She applied the same system when testing the product, “I looked for 10 university graduates and gave them a small stipend to go out with their phone and ask people to test the product.

I would give them money for lunch, transport and paid them if they hit specific targets.  

On staying learning

All entrepreneurs have an insatiable quest for knowledge. They are consistently trying to acquire information that will grow their business,

“I love criticism. I listen, reflect and if I realize there is a problem, I change. Also, I have been part of some very interesting programs that have helped me along my entrepreneurial journey like the destruction camp at IHub incubation center where I got a mentor in the telecom field who helped me think through some ideas.

Then I have been part of GrowthAfrica hub acceleration program that taught me how to, literally, ran a business, they helped me voice out the things I had in my head.

I also got an angel investor who has been in the Telecom space for 17 years, who can be difficult to manage, but I know when I am done with him my business will be at a very different place.”

On dealing with copy cats…

Tech entrepreneurs became popular after the Global Entrepreneurs Summit was hosted in Nairobi in 2015. Many innovative solutions were created, scaled up and consequently improved lives because of an influx of funds that came as a result of the summit.

But as many innovative solutions as were created an equal number of copy cats begun flooding the market hoping to make a killing.  

“Do not let copy cats physically and mentally consume you because it can stifle your progress. But do not ignore them either. Know what is going on and strategically change. The copy cats are there to make you better because you realize that you are not in a safe space and need to work harder and move faster.”

On finding a balance

One of the hardest things for any startup entrepreneur is to take time out, since there is always something that needs to be sorted, yet it is necessary because if one collapses so does the business.

When faced with an overwhelming problem Adelaide has discovered one thing that never fails, “there is a night I slept with so much pressure because something had happened in the business that was making it very shaky.

I did not sleep pondering the situation, then I woke up feeling burdened. So I decided to pray then I felt so happy and eventually found a solution.”

Like any girl, Adelaide has that one girlfriend who supports her through thick and thin…

“I just walk to her house, anytime, for a chat. She spoils me. I am always trying to solve other people’s problems: clients, kids, husband’s, but when I go to her house she makes me feel like a child, which is nice.”

Instead of grumbling to your friends about how bad your job is, start mapping out your exit strategy - @AdelaideOdhiamb Click To Tweet

Like Hillel, first-century Jewish scholar, said, “If not now, when?”

 How are you growing and glowing this month? We want to share your story! Click here to share.

Living Life with a Full-Time Job and multiple Side Gigs: 4 Commandments to adopt

6 months ago, I decided I needed to get a day job.

The decision came after I had run my fashion design business and realized I needed firsthand experience running the kind of business I wanted. I got a job as a Personal Assistant in a big manufacturing company. The role is combined with several other unofficial roles.

6 months down the line, I can safely say I am not so over my head as was 2 months ago.

Between this full-time job, running my fashion design business on a small scale and freelance writing, it is safe to say I had no “me” time. I had no life outside of work.

I had finally done two things I dreaded: living for the weekend and working hard without being productive.

Two months ago, I told myself that this had to stop.

I finally came up with a routine that helped me do all I wanted realistically and still have a life.

Here are my four quick tips for having a life with a full job and side gigs.

Balancing two or more responsibilities with self-care is hard but not impossible. Here are the 4 commandments to follow: Click To Tweet

1. Thou shall keep a To-Do list and use it.

I found out that having a to-do list keeps me organized. With so much to do at work and in my side jobs, I find myself running around a lot and doing nothing much.

My daily To-do list is organized the night before. I factor prayer, working out, my main job, my writing, my sewing in the evening into the list.

I make sure I leave blocks of time to accommodate the unforeseen jobs that will come up at work. This is a daily occurrence.

The To-Do list increased my productivity by 50%.

2. Thou shall set realistic targets

3 months into the job I developed stress belly and added weight. My face broke out and I started to wear wigs, leaving my natural hair matted under the wigs. Forget mani-pedi.  That was gone.

When I took the decision to get my life together, the first thing I did was set goals.

Safe to say the targets were pretty high and I gave up.

I went back to the board and re-drew the plan.

Work out thrice a week as opposed to every day. Drink water, get my nails done bi-monthly. Braid my hair once a month and wear wigs for the other days of the month.

2 months in, my stress belly has reduced and I still maintain my hair and nails routine.

3. Thou shall factor in “You” time

I love going to the movies, green tea, and red wines. One of the first things I stopped doing was going to the movies. Weekends were tight. No more tea time and wine time.

I now find time on Sundays to savor a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Most importantly I fix movie dates so I will have to make time for them. This means I must close out official work by Friday and put extra time into the writing.  It is worth it.

Relate each work experience to your business. This way your work and life is balanced emotionally. Click To Tweet

4. Thou shall find a purpose in what you do.

If your job pays a bit low like mine, you might grow resentful over time. This will definitely affect your work-life balance. For someone who wants the experience, this will make a terrible experience.

One way I have managed to balance myself emotionally is to relate each work experience to my business.

One thing I have learned to do is to be grateful and positive. It gives more light to the work I do. I make the choice to cut back when I can.

Balancing two or more responsibilities with self-care is hard but not impossible and we are getting there.

Till next time. For now, drink a glass of wine or cradle a cup of tea and take care of you!

 Interested in contributing for She Leads Africa? Click here.

Your very first steps to becoming a CEO

Life doesn’t get better by chance but by change!

We all know the job business goals aren’t the easiest feat to accomplish. We may feel as though we are simply just pawns in an older generation’s game of chess, but what we must learn is that it is truly about how you play the game.

Being able to control your own fate will ultimately lead you to what you want. Here are some things to realize and ways that you can market yourself to others.

Enough Excuses. Build your Image. Life is a business and you are your own CEO! Click To Tweet

Be your own brand

Be unique, create an image that identifies you and differentiates you from others. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction.

Know how to sell the best version of yourself and position your image that will be favorable to all.

Know yourself.

Get feedback from others and learn as much as you can about how you come across. Then you can accurately target how you appear in a crowd and what you need to work.


Stand Out From The Crowd

Our differences are what make us unique. How we discipline our self is very important, and those who understand and practice the art of discipline can channel impulses into something of substance.

Embrace Knowledge.

A wise man once said knowledge is power, more powerful than physical strength There is no end to knowledge. There is no limit to what a person can learn. Even big problems can be solved if we have the knowledge of solving it.

By knowledge, it opens us up to possibilities and you will learn to realize that those possibilities that once seemed so far away are actually attainable and endless.

Be confident.

Believe in yourself it boost, only when you believe it you can do it,

When you truly believe you can create what you envision, when you’re not afraid of the obstacles, that confidence will automatically make you stand out from the rest.Love yourself. It has nothing to do with ego, but a confidence within you that elevates your relationships with everything else. You’ll stand out by being modest but happy with who you are.


Try not to Fake it till you make it

Never disconnect with who you truly are. It is easy to do things when you are your true self. 

Most people know when someone is being fake, even from a first impression. It’s almost like speaking to a person and even though they’re wide-eyed and smiley, you know they’re not listening to one damn thing you say or care about what you have to offer and instead are only thinking about their own personal benefits.

Love yourself. It has nothing to do with ego, but a confidence within you that elevates your relationships with everything else. You’ll stand out by being modest but happy with who you are.

Cultivate emotional intelligence.

A lot of smart people don’t know how to manage their emotions or relate well to others.

Emotional intelligence attracts people who are looking to connect with someone who has their act together and who’s competent and capable.to work toward a deep understanding and hear what’s being said beyond the words.

You will stand out in any situation if you become a person who listens from the heart.

Take A Chance

Often, we know what it is we want to do, but we still don’t do it. Why?

We are innately risk averse and afraid of putting our vulnerability on the line. Risk-taking is the ultimate way that marketer achieves success. Products go through a life cycle and that first innovation stage is important and involves risk-taking.

Be prepared. When an opportunity turns up, the person who is ready and able to be part whatever needs to happen will always stand out.


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Aisha Akiti: Your hard work can put you anywhere in the world

The best way you can predict your future is to create it - Aisha Akiti Click To Tweet

Meet Aisha Akiti, CEO of  Missashleybakes and Eventbyashley, a baking and events planning company. This business was founded a year ago after graduating from her degree. Being a mother of two kids there was no luck finding a job so Aisha decided to create one for herself.

In fact, by the age of 10, Aisha was already selling candy, biscuits and doughnuts to her family and friends. Aisha’s favourite part of the business is that she is able to put her passion into reality. She also loves the daily interaction with clients as she helps them choose cakes and styles that match their personalities with the event.

The bubbly entrepreneur from Tema, Greater Accra region of Ghana says even though she has had her business for a year she is still excited about it. We interviewed Aisha Akiti and here is what she had to say….

What do you bring into baking and styling that makes your business unique?

I provide each client with signature designs and taste, I also treat clients like friends and let them get to know me.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

My greatest achievement so far is that I’m able to create a job for myself. After graduating from university, I had no hope finding a good job.

In addition, I am proud of the fact that I’m able to provide short-term job opportunities to other young people as and when my business allows.

How do you plan on taking your business to the next level?

I intend to take my business to the next level by introducing new products and services and hiring a social media manager to build my online reputation and engaging customers.

Getting a mentor, someone who’s been there, done that and learned lessons the hard way is indispensable. Also important is having a good team, providing them with good working environment and training. I believe when the people around you improve, your business will improve.

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What four qualities do you think every young entrepreneur in your industry should have?

I believe every young entrepreneur in my industry must possess these qualities:

  • Passion and leadership skills: Your passion will drive you to turn your ideas into reality.
  • Good numerical skills: You will need to measure ingredients and other basic items.
  • Creativity: Anyone can bake but to stand out from your competition the element of creativity is necessary. With creativity, you’re able to offer something different from the crowd.
  • You must be able to work under pressure. Baking is a lot about timing and it’s important to grasp the right time that may cause unnecessary stress. You’ll also need the ability to face the immense amount of stress when the end product does not turn out as expected.
  • Teamwork is also extremely important in a kitchen. You need to be able to work with other people to make beautiful creations on a large scale.

What has been your overall experience in this industry?

My overall experience in this industry is that the best people, no matter who they are, who they know or where they are on the ladder can succeed with their work being recognised.

Your hard work can put you anywhere in the world. Fear must be removed and you must focus on getting to where you want to be as fast as possible.

No matter who you are, you can succeed with your work being recognised Click To Tweet

If it takes one skill to be the best, what skill would you choose? Why?

I would choose communication skills because having a good ability to communicate will help you to build up relationships, present ideas and most importantly make you a better leader.

With good communication skills, you will be confident to talk and present your thoughts in public thus boosting your chances of success when you have to negotiate or persuade a client. A good leader is not the most intelligent one but the one who can inspire everybody the most. And how can you motivate people around you? Mostly using your words by communicating with them.                                      15801906_1903469049876219_6773135323820982272_n

What do you think other young women can learn from your start-up story?

Young women can benefit from my start-up story knowing that in life you don’t have to depend on anyone, you can create your future.

The best way you can predict your future is to create it. You are your own boss knowing how to bake, design and style an event with confidence, you can be anything you desire with hard work and determination.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here