Lynda Aphing-Kouassi is a former banker and Founder and Director of Kaizene, a firm specializing in training, coaching and networking conferences. The process of creating African leaders and encouraging the inclusion of women is the core of her business which she tries to achieve by her coaching and training sessions.
Passionate and rigorous, Lynda has extensive experience in the management of companies and employees in the following sectors, portfolio management; training, coaching, and seminars; conferences organization for more than a decade.
For Lynda, the biggest resource a successful company should rely on is its workforce. Not being visible on the balance sheets it’s often relegated to the bottom rank. Via its various initiatives on leadership and training seminars organized, Kaizene accompanies multinationals and SME’s by reminding them of the best leadership techniques to use in order to enhance the skills, inspire the employees, create partnerships and synergies and ensure a stable and sustainable development.
“Our beautiful Africa is full of leaders we just have to accompany them to the best of our abilities, mentor them, remind them of their potential and reiterate to them the soundness of excellent leadership in order to give back to Africa the place that it should have: “the provider of excellence”.
You spent 19 years abroad, fill us in on your experience in a foreign land.
As a French speaker who disliked English at the time, living in London was a most difficult experience. My sister who was married to an Englishman lived in London already and they kindly allowed me to live with them. I soon found I could express my fears and got to speak English more often. My brother-in-law’s help was tremendous because he was patient and understanding despite the many mistakes that I made. I then started uni and work during which I experienced a lot of setbacks and a feeling of non-belonging as far as the lifestyle was concerned. It is at that time I realised that to belong you had to embrace the new culture. But I could see that others embraced it to the point of forgetting their own!
I then decided that the authenticity of my culture would take me far. So, while learning and understanding the lifestyle in the UK I was also bringing my own to the table. For example, I would make my country’s food during parties and lunches and wear my African print dresses as often as possible. I became an object of curiosity which brought people near me to try and understand where I was from and slowly the feeling of not belonging disappeared. I started to make real friends and began to really enjoy and understand the country. The UK became my home.
At work in a FTSE 100 company and being a black person, you can imagine that every disagreement or difference of opinion may well be perceived as aggression. I considered this as a form of bullying and refused to be bullied. I worked hard and developed this mindset of a winner where nothing was good enough until it was excellent. Also, I made sure that I was going to be accepted, not just tolerated. This is what you can do if you value and believe in yourself.
I learnt from this experience that only you have the answer to your own doubts and that the only judge is God. So, I have brought back with me this mindset of a winner and the power of excellence. My dream is to influence my peers with this belief so we can be proud individuals, strong, developed and authentic and to then become an example to others. I believe we can and will, with our young population and this mindset of confidence and excellence, have a better Africa.
Awesome! So what did you experience in terms of mindset and lifestyle that you wish to bring to your own country or Africa as a whole?
During my time in Europe, I found the development of infrastructure so important that it created a great communication between companies and people. The buildings are often rehabilitated and well maintained, communities put themselves together to ensure development and the cleanliness of their spaces in order to have a decent living environment.
Technology is well advanced allowing sustainable environment and every child understands the value of a prosperous technology. I truly wish we have the same type of developed infrastructure in Africa, and I am sure we will get there. All services ( water, electricity, transport etc) go through the infrastructure and ensure the development of the community. This prompted me to plan the organisation of a conference on infrastructure in October this year to discuss our lack of infrastructures and how to ensure a sustainable development for Sub-Saharan Africa.
What does a better Africa look like to you?
A better Africa to me is a stable Africa where we understand politics and don’t use it against ourselves. It is one where we realise that Africans have all the necessary tools to be excellent and should therefore collaborate. A better Africa is one where Africans can freely travel across Africa and use our own products, learn to transform our raw materials and understand our values.
A better Africa is one where one African can’t tolerate seeing another one begging but where possible help others and grow together. And most of all where we do not envy Europe and strive to be the best.
Walk us through the journey of starting up Kaizene.
Kaizene is a baby that was born on the underground in London whilst talking to a friend about setting a business. Then the idea was put to bed. I had a job opportunity in Abidjan and although I had never experienced the working life in Abidjan, I had a fantastic manager. There were some difficult moments of integration and being someone who has just returned from the Diaspora, the situation was somehow different and I was not fully assisted in terms of integration.
I felt that my Director could not do it all, it was also upon the team to open up. Alternatively, I had to adjust myself to our realities and accept the fact that I was back home. I was always in tears in my Director’s office because of the absence of integration. It was the most difficult experience and I felt that the training for staff was not sufficient and there was not enough autonomy or empowerment.
After a discussion with my Director, we decided to part ways. This experience was helpful for the successful creation of Kaizene. I will always thank my Director for his understanding, time and belief in me. I came back to London, opened the drawer that contained my business plan and knew that I wanted to set up a training company where I can use my experience to help develop talent and at the same time secure the development of the companies in Africa. Then came back to set up the company and started selling our services. It’s a rocky road but a passionate and truly rewarding one.
To this day we provide training, coaching, and organise various leadership and mentorship seminars to individuals and companies. We also organise conferences for the creation of partnership and synergies. To me, a true entrepreneur is the one who thinks of transferring some knowledge or skills to others before thinking of the cash advantage associated with it. Only with passion can we ensure the success of our enterprises, and being an entrepreneur is not all about success it comes with a lot of failures but the most important is what we learn from it and how we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off to carry on.
Kaizene is now two years old, almost three and we are known in the market. We have a good client base but we still need to carry on to ensure that we reach our main goal; which is putting training and education in the heart of everything we do to ensure a sustainable development and become role models for the younger generations.
So, after your experience in Abidjan what measures did you put in place in your own company that prevents other people from facing the same issues?
I have put in place a strong integration scheme in order to welcome all our newcomers. I also have a mentoring system where one is assigned to a mentor to assist them in their duties and also introduce them to the rest of the team in a better way.
This develops their team spirit and it automatically allows the individual to have a sense of belonging, therefore, increase productivity. To also assist companies that we collaborate with we also provide a tailor-made service based on their visions and objectives.
You also mentioned that you have a good client base, please advice the reader who might be struggling with creating trust relationships with their clients.
Honesty and passion are important in our company and we believe that our clients sense that we have their best interests at heart. To create this trust we have learned to know our clients and prospects, understand their vision and value, protect their brand in developing seminars and training that responds to their needs and objectives.
We have also learned to respect our deadlines and produced all our tasks with quality and efficiency.
What are your core values and what do they mean to you?
Authenticity, religion, integrity, honesty, passion, determination, discipline and hard work. They represent the defining point of my personality and Kaizene.
Those points must be followed at any given point to allow our development and the development of others. They represent my rule of life and my line of conduct.
What techniques can you give #MotherlandMoguls today to focus on to strengthen their internal teams?
- Strong Leadership and knowledge of their teams to define the type of leadership to apply to ensure success
In Africa sadly we realise that with strong management strong egos are also born. This prevents sometimes the effective and efficient leadership. We also work on coaching sessions in order to ensure that leaders are capable of empowering the younger generation and leave a legacy of development.
“If you want a career that fulfils you, you need to focus on your interests rather than your qualifications.” Why is this?
Your interests are part of your dreams and your being and as they say dream big and you will achieve it. Not only this but you have a passion and with passion long lasting great things are achieved.
In your interest, you also have the practical skills and the desire to excel and excelling make this interest a durable source of living which is also socially responsible.
For Kaizene, where do the great ideas come from?
I have a daughter and my ideas come with the need to be an inspiration for her and others. I also know that God plays a strong part in the generation of my ideas. As a team great ideas come from big dreams and passion, they also come from the kids we deal with in whom we can truly identify as a better Africa.
Our great ideas also come from experience and the way we wish to see our Africa and Africans. Mostly the Kaizene ideas come from the desire to positively impact and change the world. Our role is to develop the talents in Africa, create leaders and ensure that within our conferences great synergies and partnerships are created. With the talents have a more developed Africa well equipped to became the hub of humanity.
You also have leadership programs. What is the must-have trait for a powerful leader?
Although there are other important traits that make a powerful leader such as humility, self-assurance, social boldness, decisiveness, optimism, focus, and honesty.
For those who don’t have these traits, how can they also possess them?
Following our Leadership programme.😊
What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?
I must travel a lot for the business and the hardest thing that I had to do was to leave my daughter behind with her nanny for work reasons.
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