How do you get that schmoney and manage difficult clients without losing your mind?
Apply some Emotional Intelligence!
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand other people’s emotions, empathize with them and respond to them appropriately.
Here are 3 tips to help you manage tough clients using Emotional Intelligence:
1. Be self-aware
The first step to empathizing with your difficult clients is evaluating yourself.
Think about how you communicate with your clients – are you showing them that you care? If you are a manager or business owner, is your company encouraging a culture of empathy for clients?
2. Listen Intelligently
Just like your personal relationships, listening is an important part of maintaining positive client relationships.
Sometimes, clients are difficult because they don’t feel heard. Consider what your clients might want from you, even if they haven’t expressed it. Listen actively by noting pain points, asking follow up questions and keeping the lines of communication open.
3. Understand your clients’ personalities
Clients are people too. When you manage people, it’s important to understand their temperaments.
Cholerics tend to be logical and use focus on facts. Stay proactive and result-oriented with choleric clients. Melancholics pay attention close to details. You must your processes for efficiency with them.
Phlegmatics can be indecisive. Be patient and helping them understand the information they need to make a decision. Sanguines tend to be carefree and impulsive, so you might consider keeping communication informal to keep their attention.
I’ve called 2019 the year of global distinction, and I believe we are in the most exciting period in recent history. In fact, I’ve called this the era of creative distinction knowing to birth and leading with your innovation is a key to global distinction.
One of the things which distinguish the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Facebook is their local influence and global impact. So, as an entrepreneur, leader or employee who now has to be entrepreneurial minded, how can your distinction be felt locally as well as globally?
From my message of Cutting Edge Distinction, I combined excellence and branding then created my 3 V’s of branding. So from now, anytime you see the word excellence, it actually represents your vision, your values, and your voice.
What are you going to do in the next seven days that will cause your vision to be recognized, respected and regarded locally and globally?
“Dear Entrepreneur. With the growth of social media and the global market now local, now is the time to grow your leadership brand. ~ Onyi Anyado”
In this era of creative distinction, social media now represents your personal brand, your CV, your business card, your website, and résumé too. So, with this truth, if I went to your Twitter account, do your last 20 tweets represent cutting edge leadership or blunt ended leaderSLIP?
One of the things which distinguish the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Facebook isthe constant sharing of their vision, values and voice across social media knowing if they’re not doing that, their competitors definitely are.
It is estimated that there are 7.7 billion people on planet earth. The components include different races, languages, cultures, and religions.
But, isn’t it fascinating that an entrepreneur in Madagascar and an employee in Malawi both have to use their iPhone to login to Facebook to discuss why there’s such an issue of ordering products from Amazon. (Did you catch the irony?)
So there you have it, we are now in the era of creative distinction, the global market is now local so, with this truth, how are you going to serve your vision, values, and voice with a global perspective? As a leadership speaker and workshop facilitator, there’s no way I’m not going to practice what I preach, speak and teach.
“Dear Entrepreneur, it’s time to wave goodbye to average and say hello to a new wave of distinction. ~ Onyi Anyado”.
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Every year for the last few years I’ve called a year a particular name. 2016 was called the year of outstanding distinction. 2017 the year of creative distinction, the year 2018 was the year of cutting edge distinction and 2019 I’ve called the year of global distinction.
There’s an unprecedented political, economic, socio-cultural and technological shift which involves easy access to fake news, fear news and forward-thinking news.
But, through it all, I truly believe we are in one of the most exciting times which I’ve called the era of creative distinction.
As an employee, know that the global market is now local, and the local market has gone global. And with the emergence of artificial intelligence, now is the time to lead with your distinction.
The first question is what actually is leadership?
In 2015 from my message of Cutting Edge Distinction, I penned the following quote,
As you see from my quote, it’s not about how old you are, how young you are, how long you’ve been in your job or industry, the essence of cutting edge leadership is simply the 3 I’s, influence, impact, and inspiration.
Question number 2, before you can serve and lead with your influence, impact, and inspiration, who is the first person you have to influence, impact, and inspire? That’s right, you got it, it’s you.
In this era of creative distinction, finding, developing and leveraging your distinction as an employee is key to your development and that of your department and organization as a whole.
So how should the 21st-century employee channel their leadership skills?
Lead with excellence
We’ve already established what the essence of cutting edge leadership is and from my message of cutting edge distinction, I’ve combined excellence and branding and created the 3 V’s of branding. Your vision, your values, and your voice.
The key to employee distinction is to be fully emerged with the vision, value, and voice of your organization, why?
If you’re not seeing, believing and saying what your organization is seeing, believing and saying, no distinction can be created in regards the prosperity, progress, and purpose of your organization.
Be a trailblazer and pioneer
On the image below I developed the 3 C’s of employee distinction. To lead with distinction in your chosen career, the 3 C’s have to be your way of life.
You’ve heard of thinking outside the box but in this era of creative distinction, using the ‘box’ as a stepping stone to save money, improve output and increase productivity is a key to leadership distinction.
Creativity is the new currency so regularly reading articles and watching TED Talks will, in my opinion, increase your creative awareness.
Once you achieved a task in work, actively look for other tasks to complete. If you find them hard, ask team members for assistance knowing not only does teamwork make the dream work, teamwork also makes you write, work and win with your leadership skills enhanced.
Bring constant change to your organization
With your understanding of what cutting edge leadership is all about, taking the lead to be known as a solution provider in your organization is a vital key to employee distinction.
Spending quality time to serve, showcase and speak your distinction will mean you sometimes being misunderstood but because you’ve integrated the 3 V’s of your organizations brand, any misunderstanding will mean you’ll eventually be understood as a leader who is a critical thinker and a problem solver.
For the next seven days spend time observing the challenges you face at work and how quickly you use critical thinking to gain a quicker result. It doesn’t matter if you are a junior staff or you’ve been in your organization for less than say 6 months.
Your leadership distinction will come from constantly applying the 3 M’s of time management which can be viewed on the quote below and also asking questions, looking for quicker solutions, working in the team to see and understand the future goal and understanding, applying and really celebrating your leadership distinction.
So there you have it, you’ve been given the essence of cutting edge leadership and who the 21st-century employee is. With organizations desperately looking for employees who are thought leaders in nature and results, now is the time for you as an employee to lead with your distinction.
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As a Boss Lady, I happen to have a lot of mentees and team members look up to me. And by all means, I want to inspire my team and bring out the best in them.
For one, I want to inspire them to keep putting out great work, and secondly, I want to remember that they are not tools for work but human beings. I have to be sensitive to them.
In my Boss Lady life, I have taken a few notes that I will like to share with other Boss Ladies to help them serve their team better. Here are seven ways to inspire your team this year. 😘😘
Don’t Talk Down On Your Team
So, remember we are raising leaders – people who can stand tall with us. The word superior mustn’t necessarily be taken literally in a way that it makes those who work with us feel the exact opposite of that word.
You always want to make your team feel respected as humans with differences. Don’t display any character that puts down people.
For example; Don’t make a joke about a team member’s religion. Everything is about inspiring confidence. Language tops it.
Always be polite even when you are giving criticism. Ever heard of commend and recommend? (Ask a Toastmaster 😉).
“How you show up and treat people means everything. Either you lift people up by respecting them, making them feel valued, appreciated, and heard or you hold people down by making them feel small, insulted, disregarded or excluded. And who you choose to mean everything”.
Show That You Want Them To Succeed
I know we say professionally, “don’t refer to yourselves in the workplace as a family” but to get people to grow an organization with you. You have to be all about the people who are all about your work.
The CEO of House of Tara – Tara Durotoye said she learned very early as an entrepreneur, that for the people who leave their homes every day to come to a workplace there has to be more.
She learned to stop referring to the company as ‘my company’ but ‘our company’.
You have to make people see a greater reason for coming to work. Make them buy into the vision, and show them that you care about their personal affairs.
Ever heard of Linkedin’s Tour of Duty? Where employees are moved up the ranks periodically depending on their career goals. That’s a way to identify with the needs of the team. Learn more in The Startup of You by Reid Hoffman.
Sir Richard Branson says, “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.
Always find ways to add value to your team.
Constantly Give Kudos For A Job Well Done
I read the One-minute Manager many years ago, about effective people management. How the one-minute-manager was able to, in one minute dish out praises, and just in the same vein dish out reprimands, – an intentional leadership style.
Team Leaders have to praise team members as a habit, not only reprimand them. It creates conditioning – that they are appreciated and valued, and reinforces learning.
Many times I have realized I hold the keys to many team members happiness and self-esteem, and the worst thing to do is abuse that privilege.
Many people are going through stuff or trying to believe in themselves. Realize they could use some hope from you.
The toastmaster’s sandwich method of ‘Commend and Recommend’ is the recommended feedback standard, especially when there’s a reprimand coming.
You have to always find the good in a team member’s work first, and commend it before reprimanding. Commend their good intentions, or make reference to their usual good works.
There has to be something to commend. Then move unto how they can do better. Notice I said ‘how they can do better’ not necessarily focusing on what they did wrong. Remember they have to feel good about themselves at all times.
Set High Standards For People Experience
I worked with a friend last year and was so impressed by her high standard of people experience. It inspires loyalty, as even I look forward to working with her again and again.
I like it that House of Tara refers to her HR Department as the People Experience Team because this aptly puts their job.
In fact, I was so impressed by this that at a Managers’ Training on Empathy and Emotional Intelligence I used HOT as a case study.
Now that we have established that incivility is a no-no! And that this whole article is about inspiring team members. We are well on our way to implementing a culture.
How do you mark the workers’ special days?
What are the benefits put in place?
Do you show interest in their work process or just the end result?
How do you react at a failed expectation?
Do they feel anxiety or inspiration towards work?
Do they feel treated better by other work teams/workplaces?
Do you deliberately paint them in a bad light before people?
It is when we can genuinely answer these questions as boss ladies, and take action to get our people to experience right, then we will be doing right by the people who work with us.
Don’t Set Unreasonable Goals
Ahan! So, there’s this impossibility fairy who told us doing the impossible means setting unreasonable goals.
The truth is being Miranda Priestly is no longer cool.
Of course, it turned Emily into a go-getter but wasn’t Miranda only trying to get Emily fired at first by driving her nuts with unbearable tasks?
Oh! look at me talking to only those who have seen ‘The Devil Wears Prada’
While we want to keep team members challenged, there is a difference between being motivated and being anxious. You want people to go out of their way but within reason.
Don’t push people.
Don’t set unrealistic timelines, or be overly ambitious, or set unbearable standards. We are all trying to do the impossible, however, let it be reasonably so.
If you put people on their toe all the time, definitely a burnout or rebellion is coming soon.
Teach Them To See Responsibility As Growth
So, we are still talking about inspiration, and growing people through responsibility is part of it.
While work must go on, let there be a growth consciousness. Does the work build capacity? Does it drive them to study and research? Embracing work as a challenge rather than ‘work’ serves as inspiration.
I was so pleased to hear one of my team members say that work means personal development for her. She said “I told myself I have not still attained my goals, so this year my goal for being here is personal development’.
Go for creating a work environment that is inspiring, and learn-by-doing. Don’t ever make people feel that it is all about ticking boxes on the to-do list.
Speaking of a work environment ‘empowered’ is a good word to think of. Here are some more questions for you to think of.
How are you empowering those who work with you?
Are you showing trust and not micromanaging?
Do you promote them and the work they do?
Do they have all the resources to work with? Do you support them to acquire skills or build the capacity needed for the work?
Do you inspire confidence?
Do you encourage openness?
Do you show empathy?
If you said yes to most or all of the questions then you have an empowered team already. Keep up the good work.
Here is to building people and inspirational leadership in 2019.
Can we go over the list again?
Don’t talk down to the team, show that you mean well for them, constantly dish out praises, set a high standard of people experiences, don’t set unreasonable goals, teach them to see responsibility as growth, and empower them.
This is reinforced learning for me too. I want to look at this list at the end of the year and it is all checked!
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Landing a meeting with a VIP in your field is always a win to celebrate.
When a person managing a multimillion dollar company, a government leader, a celebrity, or any other person you admire agrees to spend 30 minutes of their precious time with you, it presents an opportunity to accelerate your business growth or alter your career trajectory in major ways.
It goes without saying that meeting a busy, important person requires careful planning and strategic thinking.
You want to make sure that person feels like you can contribute to their own interests, whether it be their desire to publicize a certain initiative they are working on, mentor someone, learn something new, or even just to get an ego boost from a fan.
At the same time, you need to show them that you are valuable, and work to get the most out of their time to affect your bottom line. You should have clear goals in mind, and come up with a few intended meeting outcomes to measure your success.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to maximize the opportunity handed to you — and ensure that VIP remains open to continuing to collaborate.
1. Do:Ask smart questions and actively listen
While you probably want to show how amazing you are and what talents you have to offer this person, you must first find out more about who they are, what they need, and how they view business.
Jot down notes and react to their answers with insightful follow up questions to ensure you understand those needs.
Don’t: Ask dumb questions.
I usually say no question is dumb, but you should never ask a question that Google/social media can answer for you.
But also, you do not want to come off as too eager a stalker, so avoid questions that can be too personal, like their 2010 Facebook photo album of their family vacation.
2. Do:Prepare a list of speaking points
and three main messages you want to convey in your meeting. You should go into the meeting with well-researched, fleshed out ideas that will help you achieve your goals.
Prepare for different scenarios that may arise based on the questions you will ask.
Don’t: Be too rigid and don’t prepare a full speech.
You want the conversation to feel natural and you don’t want to appear completely rehearsed.
3. Do:Decide action points to follow up on and future communication norms.
Based on the interaction, you should push for some concrete actions you can take to further the relationship. Maybe it is to send or receive an interesting article or to share a relevant opportunity.
Maybe it is to follow up with a fleshed out business proposal. Either way, make sure you have action points that you can personally take the lead on, and establish how that person prefers you follow up.
In my experience, some people prefer WhatsApp/text to email, while others may always want you to correspond through an assistant.
Don’t: Immediately ask the VIP for a time-consuming or high-level service.
Just because you spent 30 minutes speaking to a former president doesn’t mean you deserve her recommendation for an ambassador position, nor should you ask a busy professor to review your 50-page honors thesis.
Make it easy and low-risk for them to help you.
4. Do: Follow up and highlight how you will complete your action points
After a day or so, follow up with an email thanking them for their time, summarizing the conversation, and stating clearly how you will act upon the agreed next steps.
Don’t: Immediately ask for something out of the scope of the conversation
or become a nuisance to them. Do not immediately reach out via text to tell them to check their email, or ask them to buy a product you are selling which you did not discuss.
5. Do: Stay in touch and remain relevant
Occasionally share interesting news or opportunities with the person that are of mutual interests. Share ideas that you have that may support their work, and show your value to them.
Don’t: Bombard them with nonsense
Don’t send them Buzzfeed quizzes about which cheese they are, or animated GIFs of puppies (unless somehow that came up as a mutual interest in the conversation).
You don’t want to end up on their blocked list.
Building relationships take time, so use the opportunity of your meeting to place foundational blocks which will set you up to take the relationship to the next level.
Set your intentions, and have an eye on the short term — and another on the long-term path you are taking.
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Eva Warigia is a jack of many trades with a passion for Africans and their economic advancement.
As one half of the executive directing team of the East Africa Venture Capitalists Association, representing over sixty firms, she uses her knowledge of finance and strategy to position East Africa as a thriving investment hub.
In this interview, she talks about her leadership position, and how she’s working with stakeholders to promote investment in East Africa.
At what point in your life did you first learn about your field of work and what drew you to it?
I probably came across private equity in 2011. At the time I worked for a technology and corporate advisory firm as a strategy analyst focusing on helping businesses fundraise.
It was there that I got to interact with the different structures of funding.
You are one of the two executive directors of the East African Venture Capitalists Association (EAVCA) what exactly do you do?
EAVCA is a member association for private equity and venture capital firms who are interested in deploying capital in East Africa.
As a trade organization, we represent the interests of member firms deploying private capital in the region, which constitutes Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
We are the interface between the region’s stakeholders, the general public and the investors.
Our activities largely involve advocacy for the private capital sector, research, and intelligence for investors considering the region for investment.
Being the foremost networking platform for East Africa to advance thought leadership in the PE and VC space, and finally, conducting training for the sector. We also nurture the local professionals, as well as building awareness with the sector stakeholders.
My docket as one half of the leadership of EAVCA is in leading the advocacy and intelligence. This entails working with the sector stakeholders to create partnerships that promote investment inflows in East Africa.Internationally, less than 10% of venture capital funds go to female entrepreneurs. Is this situation just as bleak in East Africa?
This is also the case in East Africa.
There was a time when female-led enterprises were not as visible as they are now, especially on the funding front. Emerging trends for conscious investment (particularly gender lens investing) mean that the tide is slowly turning to acknowledge that female-led enterprises are equally lucrative.
Furthermore, women are more deliberate in their business planning and less likely to take investment capital for personal use.
What does EAVCA do to ensure that besides women-owned businesses there is diversity in general in businesses being considered for funding?
From 2018, EAVCA became more deliberate in local engagement by working with trade associations, incubators and accelerators to grow local awareness of PE and VC as alternative sources of capital. We are also ensuring we carry out industry-specific research showcasing opportunities that exist in East Africa.
One such research was on the opportunities available for fin-tech investing in East Africa, which we launched in March this year. This allows investors deeper access to sectors that have probably been on their radar but whose information may be hard to come by.
What are some of the mistakes you have seen female entrepreneurs make while interacting with venture capitalists, and what can they do to better pitch their businesses to investors?
While I would not categorize this as a mistake, I think it is important for technical entrepreneurs to find partners who will help them with the business side of their enterprise or product.
Far too many entrepreneurs are struggling to raise capital by themselves without the tools or skills to approach this. Thankfully, there are programmes and incubators that equip entrepreneurs with the skills needed to begin thinking of their vision as a commercial venture.
There is quite an array of accelerators available for African entrepreneurs such as MEST Africa which is available in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Cote d’ Ivoire or Growth Africa for East Africans.
There are also institution backed programmes like the Trade and Investment Hub (the Hub) by USAID, which is available in East, West and South Africa, or the Stanford Seed Transformation Programme in Ghana and Kenya.
Finally, we have philanthropy backed incubators also committing to support the initiative by Africa’s entrepreneurs such as the Tony Elumelu Foundation or Africa Netpreneur Prize by the Jack Ma Foundation.
EAVCA has been led by women from its inception. Can we interpret that to mean Africa doesn’t share the same discouraging international statistics when it comes to women’s leadership in VC firms?
As an association, we are privileged to have women as the champions of the industry in East Africa. For the VC and PE funds, the bulk of fund managers are still led by men although we have a growing number of women taking up that space.
I believe it is important for women to support each other in male-dominated industries such as ours and share their journeys so that we can all learn from each other.
How has working at EAVCA changed your perception of Africa’s potential to be an economic and innovation hub in the future?
I have always been an Afro-optimist and firmly believe in Africa’s value and ability to influence the future! Working with EAVCA has furthered my confidence in our potential as a continent.
I interact each day with people who are as passionate about Africa as I am and who are effecting positive change within their different spheres.
I am able to see how it is all shaping out from my bird’s eye view at the Association and it just fuels me to want to do more!
What is the favorite part of your job?
Every day, I meet people that are clear about how they want to change the global narrative of Africa. Also, building a pension fund that will channel its funds towards a transformative development agenda, there are also regulators who are removing trade barriers and entrepreneurs that are innovating solutions to unique problems.
There are so many people who refuse to be distracted by the noise and get up every day determined to leave a mark, and it is an absolute honor to interact and work with them!
What is the first thing you do every day to start your day right?
Introspect. I Remind myself of what my dreams are, what my values are and commit to applying the most truthful version of myself that day.
Also, I listen to and recite the Desiderata every morning as a reminder that I am part of something greater than myself.
What do you tell yourself when you are afraid?
“It could have been worse”
What advice would you give other women that are interested in pursuing venture capital as a career?
Be patient and be ready to put in the work. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. Also, do not be afraid to speak up.
What are your tips for someone just joining the professional world looking to start an investment portfolio?
My advice would be to identify individuals with whom one shares goals and interests and pool funds which they can then use for their investment per the group’s shared objective.
In Kenya for instance, this has really taken off with the pooled funds “chamas” investing in real estate, equities, treasury bills etc.
I also know of a group of young university ladies who pooled funds and started lending these funds to their fellow students while charging interest, as an investment.
Be mindful of your network as it is the base of your success.
Spend more time listening to others in a similar position and take notes.
There will be hard days, but do not lose sight of what matters to you.
Above all and to the extent possible, try to have a purpose that is greater than yourself; therein lies true success.
We all have our unique fingerprint for the world and yours is equally important!
When all is said and done how will you know you’ve achieved your dreams?
When people are confident enough to pursue their vision due to the service I provided.
It would be a place where my work for Africa grows beyond personal responsibility when other people buy into my optimism and are able to stand for and contribute to the development of an inspiring Africa.
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The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has recently concluded a three-nation African tour. Setting Brexit issues aside for a moment, in both South Africa and Kenya she joined some youngsters in dance routines and well her dance moves, or rather lack of them, set the Internet ablaze.
A television host in the UK compared her dance moves when in Kenya to picking fruit from a tree. An ABC news article also compared her efforts to one trying to reach for groceries from a high shelf.
As Africans, we have been bestowed with the gift of rhythm and dance is one of our things. We can all agree that Ms. May is not gifted in that particular aspect.
While I can pull a few moves myself, I absolutely love and agree with Robert Davidson’s tweet on Ms. May’s moves:
“Good luck to her. Throw yourself at it knowing you’ll make a bit of a prune of yourself in front of the world’s media or sit on sidelines looking aloof. I say right decision@theresa_may – who cares what the haters say, strut your funky stuff”.
How true this is! Tell me, how often do we find ourselves sitting by the sidelines because we fear what people will say or think? How often do we wait for the perfect opportunity to come our way before we take the plunge?
Do we first seek validation from our friends and family before we garner the confidence to step out?
In the words of H. Jackson Brown Junior, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor”.
If you are on the sidelines, watching, criticizing, doing nothing about your circumstances, then nothing in your life is going to change for the better.
A Harvard Business Review article by Andromachi Athanasopolou, Amanda Moss Cowan, Michael Smets, and Timothy Morris on the outcome of a study of theleadership journey of twelve female Chief Executive Officers resonated with me a lot. It indicated the fact that as women and particularly with regard to leadership, we tend to play on the sidelines.
The study had five recommendations that women who want to scale the leadership ladder ought to take, and one in specific reverberated with me.
It is as simple as this, do not wait to be asked, ask for what you want. The words below from a male Chief Executive Officer who took part in a larger study on the same topic of leadership brought it all together for me.
“I was actually talking with a young woman who was asking me something about an opportunity, I mean I had never met her before….we were chatting about career advice and she said, you know, I’m just not sure I have all the skills they’re looking for, I don’t know if I should , you know, go for that or not. And I said, you know that’s the last thing in the world you should be worried about, don’t take yourself out of something before you’re even in it.”
When I read this, I was so saddened for the young lady in the story but upon further reflection, I realized that this is the story of my life and the lives of many other women across the world. How sad!
As women, we seek perfection before taking the plunge. But common sense should tell us that circumstances will never be completely perfect. It is okay to make a complete fool of yourself as you try out your newventure.
Whether it works out or not, you will have learned how to do it better the next time. It is okay to voice your opinion in that meeting, even if it’s contradictory and not so well put together. It may just be the solution that will move your company forward. But if you keep quiet and tell your colleagues later that you had an idea that could improve things, you are not helping anyone.
We have to get tired of wishing we were better, more courageous and that we could take morerisks. Let us stop wishing and startdoing! Really, what is the worst thing that could happen, if we dared more, if we risked more or if we tried more!
Despite the whole world poking fun at her, Ms. May remains the second most powerful woman in the world and from her response to all the jokes about her dancing, she is perfectly aware she cannot dance. She shook off the criticism saying “I think the chances of Strictly Come Dancing (the UK version of Dancing With the Stars) coming calling are pretty minimal”.
Our new mantra ought to be “Try Everything”. That is where the magic is, that is where the magic happens. In the discomfort of not knowing how things will turn out but with the exhilaration that we are slowly becoming the best version of ourselves.
Transcend to your next platform, queen. Dance like no one is watching!
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Ms. Ebba Kalondo is the spokesperson in the Chairperson’s office of the African Union Commission. Prior to that, she has held several senior positions in strategic and Risk Communications at the World Health Organization, Foundation Hirondelle, France24, and Reuters.
In this interview, Ms. Ebba talks about her work as a leader in the African Union Commission.
Growing up I read a lot and questioned everything around me. I was always inquisitive and analyzing the information presented to me with a desire to learn more. So upon reflection, I must say that my ambition was always to learn more.
Would you say your family environment/childhood shaped the person you are today?
My parents’ relationship which each other forged my personality. They were and remain a strong united front.
They had five daughters and a son. We were always allowed to ask questions and encouraged to read. My mother was soft-spoken but strong. She was a disciplinarian and my father taught us the importance of family.
Did you ever think you would end up in international affairs, or at the AU specifically?
Yes, I worked in international news and in development with a strong focus on security and the humanitarian industry.
With my desire to constantly learn, I grew a desire to ignore the headline and discover the more nuanced reality behind the story.
What was your path to working at the AU? What factors helped you along the way?
It is the people I met on this path that I walked and the rich experiences that brought me to where I am. I always knew that I wanted to be of service to my continent and I am very fortunate that I have been able to do so.
The AU is the platform to do this, and I will always be grateful for the call to be of service.
Can you compare the AU with other organizations you have worked with?
The AU is a microcosm of the state of its evolving Union – a 55-member Union of nations with different governance systems, varying levels of socio-economic development on a continent that is home to a third of humanity but that is still fighting for its rightful place in the world as a primary actor of its own development and indeed that of the world.
Born of a unique history of colonialism not seen in any other continental grouping in contemporary history, the African Union is also the largest intergovernmental in the world.
There is no other organization quite like it, that I know of.
The AU is currently undergoing a process of institutional and financial reform. Why is the reform of the AU essential?
Our continuing existence in the new world we live and engage with depends on making our Organization more fit for purpose to better serve the needs and aspirations of the people of the Continent.
This is not a choice, this is a stark existential reality and an obligation to the founding fathers of our Union.
Are the reform’s youth and women targets attainable by 2025? (35% of AU staff as a youth and 50% as women).
Why should they not be? Self-belief and the ambition we have set out for ourselves is key.
What do you say to critics of the AU who point to its bureaucracy and who doubt its capacity to change?
The AU Commission is a bureaucracy like other multilateral intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union Commission. And like all institutional bureaucracies, it is a slow-moving ship.
It is not as agile as say a start-up. This is not unique to the AUC. What is unique is that unlike the UN and the EU, the AUC has started to implement its reform agenda.
Who influenced you the most in your professional life?
Not one person in particular. There have been so many people who have, through their experiences, mentored and supported my journey.
Have you ever received a painful rejection in your career? How did you handle it?
Not rejection per se, but definitely some occasions where I could and should have acted differently. The first thing is taking responsibility and then fixing it and learning to do better.
Be the exception to the rule. Go to that meeting that no one invites you to, sit there like you belong and speak up. Your opinion matters. Even if there are other women there, and none are speaking up, be the one that does.
Stay informed about everything around and never take the bait of being treated as the “affirmative action” or “gender sensitive” presence. Your results will not be judged on your gender.
You got the job, not your gender, so do it. Never fear ridicule. Ever.
Have you undertaken any measures to support women in the professional workplace?
There is nothing I can teach, but I can share my experiences truthfully and what has worked for me, and what has not. I find that we support each other not so much by saying or doing, but by really being there for each other, making the time to listen without judgment and simply accompanying each other on our journeys.
That I do by instinct, not by obligation. Empowered women should empower women, through service and support. Always and without exception.
What’s your advice for fresh graduates looking to join the AU?
Don’t fear to start at the bottom, in fact, it is always instructive to see how those who think they have power treat those they think don’t have power.
Study by doing. Don’t fear failure. We are who we are despite it. And again, never fear ridicule. Those who laugh at you and make fun of you while you are learning will learn from your courage.
Even if they will never acknowledge it. And the job has nothing to do with your feelings. Do the job. Keep your feelings.
What do you struggle with, in the work environment?
I strongly believe that struggle is inevitable, and contrary to popular belief, I believe we hone our survival instincts through struggle. But the struggle to maintain a life-work balance is real, and it never gets easier.
What are some of the most challenging things in your current role?
That’s a tough one. But in a world where the everyday person doesn’t trust politics and politicians in general, it is important to stay honest and credible despite the challenges. And to be honest, it is the challenges that most attract me. No two days are the same.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment, both personal and professional?
My biggest personal accomplishments are my children. They have taught and continue to teach me some of my most important life lessons.
Professionally, I’m proud of where I am but the road ahead remains long and I’m still working at it.
Do you have any regrets?
Being far away from my family is not easy.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing today, what other career paths would you have taken?
I would have become a psychiatrist.
What is your dream destination?
As a child, I was fascinated by Genghis Khan, so Mongolia remains a mythical place for me. Samarkand, Timbuktu, Kano, and Isfahan are also cities that I dream of visiting.
What are you currently reading? What genre of books do you read?
I’m reading a few books simultaneously:
Eric Hobsbawm’s Age of Extremes
Rene Girard’s Violence and the Sacred
In French, I’m alternating between a book on mindfulness by Christophe Andre – a French psychiatrist, Alexandre Jollien – a Swiss philosopher, and Matthieu Ricard – a Buddhist monk, called ‘Trois amis en quete de sagesse”.
I just finished Behave by Robert Sapolsky and Aisha La Bienaimee du Prophete by Genevieve Chauvel.
What’s something your friends and family might not know about you?
I’m an open book to those who know me, so I would like to think that they know everything necessary to know. Those that don’t know me, probably don’t need to.
How do you stay motivated?
I am motivated by my desire to keep on learning, there is so much I don’t know. And working at the African Union, having a front row seat in the process of working towards the Africa we want, and it is within our reach, is enough motivation every day.
I am also motivated by my family.
What do you do in your down time?
I read. I read and reread. I buy and rebuy books.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?
I frankly don’t know, but what is certain is that challenges will remain. The important thing is to keep on going and that no one can make you feel illegitimate unless you allow it.
So it is our responsibility to focus on the solutions together, and work towards our goals and achieving our ambitions.
When we talk about Motherland Moguls and #BossGoals, Mrs Jane Karuku is the perfect definition of just that.
Currently sitting at the top of the corporate ladder as the Managing Director of Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL), Non-executive director of East African Breweries Limited (EABL) and Barclays Bank Kenya, and a member of prestigious boards such as the Global Sustainability Index board among others.
Mrs Jane Karuku has over 20 years of expert experience in the consumer-goods industry and is not looking to slow down anytime soon. Her passion and energy for great leadership tells an enticing story of grit, consistency and sheer hard work.
SLA contributor Diana Odero had a quick sit-down with Mrs Karuku to learn about her current role now and what keeps her going in the cut throat business world.
As an African woman with over two decades in corporate leadership, what does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is getting people to do what’s good for an organization and more importantly what’s good for them. Leadership is unleashing the potential of people.
Therefore you need to have great influencing skills for moving anything or anyone from point A to point B.
What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?
I don’t think there’s much of a misconception. For me, I have never seen myself as just a woman, I just see myself as a leader.
Once you see yourself as a leader, you get what you give. Within my job, my career, I consider myself a leader – I see myself as a woman in different places outside the professional aspect.
I always tell my fellow women – don’t look for favors because you are a woman and expect diversity to help you. Just turn up and do your job as a human being and you have a better chance to succeed.
Following the production of fake alcoholic products in the Kenyan market, how do you ensure that these illegitimate products do not get into the market especially working with a brand as big as EABL?
We try to work with government agencies, there’s no knowledge management because people don’t know. Also, we work very closely with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and with enforcement agencies just to educate them about our products and the systems we’ve put in place to make sure that these are legitimate products.
We also work with IT solutions, which are mobile based so you can check every brand online and see its legitimacy.
Our borders are very porous but in Kenya we have different classes. You can have a class of genuine products that come in with no duty paid, and that’s the bigger problem with our brands more than the fakes because we have very serious security features.
With lots of surveillance placed around, we can spot something that’s fake and sort it out before it gets to consumers.
The only challenge we’ve had so far is the imported products which belong to Diageo and are under-called in duty value therefore underpriced and not able to compete in the market and this in turn loses revenue so it’s quite a big challenge.
What do you think are Kenyan’s attitudes towards alcohol and alcohol production? How can we make these attitudes more positive?
Kenya is quite interesting in that we have a big population of religious people, both Muslim and Christians so there’s a lot of people who do not take alcohol based on their beliefs. There’s also a big proportion of women who just do not want to drink.
I would say that Kenyans are not the biggest consumers of alcohol per capita, we are actually behind other East African countries such Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. But in terms of responsible drinking, we do a lot of work on that.
One challenge we have is the presence of so much bad alcohol all over the place, therefore people consume or overuse alcohol which demonizes it.
We spend a lot of time on alcohol education, we call it drink IQ – how you should behave and drink responsibly, we press in our campaigns the importance of eating and then drinking, drinking a lot of water after indulging in some alcohol and drinking alcohol within the recommended portions.
We don’t advocate for binge drinking but we do advocate for responsible drinking.
What are some of your favorite products that you manufacture/market and why?
Tusker Cider would be on the top of my list, I think it’s a very good drink and in the spirits section – the Ron Zacapa Rum, it’s a very gentle nice rum.
What trends do you see within the East African region that you find interesting?
Some new trends would be the places that people drink at first of all. There’s a lot of innovation around bars, a lot of work is going into how bars look – we are starting to get very sophisticated for consumers.
Food and alcohol pairing is becoming a very big deal, it’s an enjoyable and social experience. This is mostly throughout Kenya, wherever you go you can find a nice location where you have a good meal and a drink with ease.
Another trend I have taken note of is the cocktail culture – it’s interesting to see the many new ways of taking alcohol. It’s exciting and different.
This is already a big global phenomenon, East Africa is quickly catching up on that trend. There’s also a lot of innovation in alcohol production with a lot of new alcohol products coming in, we are becoming very globalized which is good progress.
What do you think has been most difficult for you to deal with as a woman rising in a predominantly male industry such as manufacturing?
I wouldn’t say I’ve found much difficulty as a woman, I would say as a leader that any business is difficult. If you are working in the alcohol industry, it’s regulated and our biggest challenge is what the regulations will be tomorrow or the next day because it will hamper the business.
If you’re in a macro-economic environment, like any business, you are prone to changing that environment. For example, Kenya had a very tough year last year. There were too many elections, too many presidents, and we had a drought and flooding in the same year. That can be quite problematic for a business.
Competition of course is another challenge leaders have to deal with as well as choosing the right talent to bring in and retain to help you grow the business.
I’ve managed to overcome some of these challenges by first having the right people in place because they are the ones who will help you survive through the environment you may be in.
The people you hire are the ones who will help you get innovative and fight the competition, help in smooth distribution of products to the consumers in the most innovative way, they will drive sales for you and will help build relationships with all the stakeholders involved in your business.
The percentage of women working in the manufacturing industry is quite small, some companies having less than 10% women employed there. What can be done to counteract this ratio?
In corporate businesses, in middle management to be exact – women are really starting to be significant. I think the challenge comes with breaking in to the next level. Looking at boardrooms in Kenya, there’s a lot of change starting to happen.
People are driving diversity and companies are finally realizing that they have to have diversity in their businesses because diversity is strength.
Here at EABL we have a target of being 50% women and we are just shy of 30%, so we are working very hard to get to that halfway point. At Diageo globally, the target is 50% as well and at our board level we are doing much better than our local business.
For us as women, we have to define our own path. Not everybody wants to be a leader and you have to be true to yourself.
Once you decide you want to be in the corporate world then you need to map out your end game and once you have that, start working backwards to achieve what you want to achieve.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
Where do you want to work?
What skills do you need to have?
Do you need a mentor/coach which is quite important?
Do you have belief in yourself ?
Because at the end of the day you can have the best mentor, all the skills but if your own belief and your own energy doesn’t match up, you won’t get anywhere.
When people are interviewing the low level positions, they look at three things:
Does the person have the fabric, is that the right fabric for what you want?
Do you have high energy, do you have the drive needed?
Do you have good judgement and are you able to influence?
This is what I call the basic fabric and this then changes as you grow within the company.
Who are your role models?
One of my main role models is Nelson Mandela. He was such a big influencer and still is influencing a lot today after his passing.
His influence was on leadership. He influenced in prison, he influenced out of prison, he has even influenced upon death. That kind of power can influence anything.
Mandela has leadership qualities, compassion and was a mentor to many, all three things of which I embody today – he basically taught us how using your own skills to impart on other people so they can achieve better for themselves is important.
I do look up to him and the reason I want to work with people is because I want to be that voice that influences a huge population to move from one point to another even when I’m no longer here.
What values do you have that have contributed to your career and personal growth?
The first would be hard work. Nothing comes for free and nobody gives it to you on a platter. You have to be committed.
You also have to have belief and confidence because you don’t have to be the best person for the job but you can the person that has the highest hunger for it, don’t wait to be the perfect candidate for a job because your drive can help learn and grow along the way.
A good way to help with your confidence and self –esteem would be getting a good mentor and/or life coach, a mentor doesn’t need to be someone senior than you, sometimes I get brave from my own kids and the same young women you are writing for.
You can also have a multitude of mentors, it doesn’t have to be one person. Remember to read a lot. In reading you get the how-to in many things and unfortunately women don’t read a lot. I always tell women to read a lot, even the newspapers, read hard-core material that is good for your growth.
Read broadly because if you are sitting in a conversation and you are too narrow focused, you won’t be able to influence.
Perseverance Hadebe is the dynamic headmistress of King George VI in Bulawayo. This school is a revolutionary school that for 60 years has continued to break new grounds by providing a sterling education for learners and children in Zimbabwe with disabilities from kindergarten to the fourth form.
She is also a pastor at Apostolic Church Of Pentecost, which was founded 68 years ago as one of the first Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe. In this interview, we learn more about her passion for education.
Where did you get your passion for special education?
During my training to become a teacher, I requested a post at Sir Humphrey Gibbs, a local special school. It was then that I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I find special needs learners very inspiring.
It is so satisfying to see someone who at face value seems incapable of so many things and watch them grow from strength to strength and exceed all expectations. I have always been drawn to the downtrodden, the unwanted and the unloved.
At church as a pastor, I find myself reaching out to the disadvantaged there as well. I want to help them improve their lives and become successful in their own right.
What do you want people to understand about those who are different?
I want people first and foremost to look at them and see them as complete. They must be respected, loved and appreciated. We must look at them as equals and not assume we know better than them how things ought to be done. I would like people to give them a listening ear, really hear what they have to say, truly you’ll be amazed!
How do you keep the children of KGVI feeling empowered and confident in themselves?
We encourage and believe in them. We give them the opportunity to do various activities like drama and public speaking. In addition, we put a strong emphasis on how they should present themselves and how they should be groomed.
We even have slogans like- “Given an opportunity, what must we do?!” “We must take the shot!”
Why does KGVI have an inclusive policy?
We are an inclusive school. We have the physically challenged, deaf and non-disabled, with most of our non-disabled being vulnerable learners. Most of them have sad backgrounds and we feel they fit in extremely well here as the ethos of the school is one of respect and acceptance.
For example, I taught a little boy in kindergarten once who went home after his first day of school and asked for a ‘pram’. He didn’t realize his fellow pupils were disabled and in wheelchairs, he just wanted to fit in and be like his friends!
It would certainly be gratifying if the mainstream schools included children with special needs. However, it would need careful consideration and planning. Teachers and heads need to be well equipped to deal with the demands of special education. As children inherently lack prejudice, they can be taught to appreciate everyone from the beginning through inclusive education.
What setbacks have you faced while running the school?
We have limited resources. A number of parents are struggling to pay school fees (primary is $92 a term and secondary it’s $102.) The demands of a special school are diverse and the failure to pay school fees severely affects the smooth running of the school.
From simple things like detergents to keep the toilets clean, to the specific education materials needed to support our learners, there is a lot that is needed!
Do you feel the government is supportive enough of special education?
To a great extent, the government is supportive. They pay teachers and a huge number of our auxiliary stuff for which we are grateful. I would suggest that they take some time to come here to give themselves the opportunity to be able to identify our other needs and to see how they can best continue to support us.
As citizens, we can also do more to be supportive and inclusive. There are lots to be done to help the school and so we can’t rely on the government alone. Everything from sponsoring a student, to buying school uniforms or even donating food for the pupils will be appreciated.
What do you want every child to leave KGVI believing about themselves?
Our motto is never to give up! I want them to never give up on themselves; they must believe in themselves and know that they can do anything as long as they don’t give up. We make sure to equip them with various skills so they can earn a living.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the children?
I have learned that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God and that they are gifted in a manner which sometimes blows my mind. I remember once we had a brilliant student, she didn’t have her upper limbs so she used her foot for everything.
One time I walked into a fashion and fabrics class and she was threading a needle with her foot! I really saluted her that day. I was very impressed!
Ultimately what is your vision for KGVI? What do you want its legacy to be?
I would like us to expand to include a tertiary college. This would not only be a crucial complement to what we already teach but would also provide necessary employment opportunities for many of our students. I would also like to partner with companies and organizations that can engage our students after they are done being educated here.
Name an African woman (past/present) whom you admire. Why?
My provincial education director, Mrs. Kiara. Starting out as a primary school teacher, I really respect how she rose through the ranks. She is my mentor and she has to lead us exceptionally in the province.
I also love Maureen Shana, co-founder of World of Life Fellowship Church. I like her creativity and the way she comes up with unique projects such as Woman Unlimited which is an organization that builds women to be who God intended them to be.
What do you think the world needs more of?
Without a doubt, exceptional female leadership! Women who lead with integrity, excellent morals, and humility.
What is your proudest moment as the head?
My proudest moment so far was when our own Liyana band won an Oscar in 2010 for the best short documentary! It was a sterling performance and a very special moment for me.
How do you balance your two vocations being a pastor and being headmistress of KGVI?
As a leader, I try to lead an integrated life. I don’t have a life as a pastor and another as the head of KGVI. What I do is to play both roles wherever I am. While I am heading KGVI I am doing pastoral work because I deal with people with unique needs and have to help them to the best of my ability.
On the other side while as a pastor I draw from my leadership experiences at KGVI and apply them in assisting my church. I am grateful that God gives me the grace and wisdom to balance both roles with ease.
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