Tips from Shonda Rhimes on handling tough conversations

Fight your way through uncomfortable situations at work with these tips Click To Tweet

Raise your hand if you would rather avoid confrontation and addressing difficult conversations that make you uncomfortable at work? Not because you are slow and don’t know how to stand up for yourself. Instead, it just isn’t something that comes naturally to you. To some, this may seem like an absurd thing because, how hard can it be to articulate a fluent conversation that isn’t muffled by fear or anxiety?

All I can say from experience is these things happen. Long after the moment where you had the opportunity to speak up is gone, you find yourself considering all the smart things you should have said.

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If this sounds like you, rest assured that you are not alone. As big of an influencer Shonda Rhimes is, she had to fight her way through uncomfortable situations at work in as graceful of a manner as possible. She had to learn how to stop avoiding conversations she did not want to have. Chapter 8 of her book, Year of Yes details the struggle and importance of putting your fear aside and voicing your concerns.

If you have ever doubted yourself in the workplace or let fear get the best of you from saying the crucial things you really needed to, it’s time to take charge girl. Below are some useful tips from Shonda’s book to get you started on that journey.

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No is a complete sentence

Every now and again, you might be plagued by the constant need to explain yourself when you disagree with someone or when you simply can’t do something.

So much time and in some cases (money) is wasted beating around the bush when all you can do is just say no. No is a complete sentence and you don’t owe anybody an explanation.

Ask questions

Petty and nasty things will be said. A strategic way of dealing with this is asking “what did you mean by that?” Shonda explains that asking this question can be effective because too often, people are used to being spoken about not spoken TO.

Most people would rather bottle everything inside or worse off rant about what upset them to someone else. Next time you feel offended, always clarify by asking questions.

“When something wasn’t going well, when there was a conflict or someone was upset or being difficult, the more introverted me would flee and hope it all went away. The new me wades right into the deep end as asks, “What’s wrong?”
–Shonda Rhimes

Say yes to difficult conversations at work, it'll help you thrive in your career Click To Tweet

Say yes to difficult conversations

There is no easy fix or supplement you can take to make hard conversations any less daunting. The fear will always be there if you are not used to having them. With practice, it does get better and you will find your voice.

So if you take nothing else from this post, just remember to just say yes to difficult conversations. The more open you are to the idea; there more willing you’ll be to seek help and find ways to tackle those hard discussions and thrive in your career.

When competing with your male colleague goes wrong

Working hard almost cost me my life before I finally realized that I had limits Click To Tweet

I didn’t want to admit the sudden realization that my workplace had now become a war zone for me. More like, “A war that I am scared I may not win”. It felt as though I was losing to the battle —one of self-pride. Restlessness overwhelmed me each morning.

You see, I have this very intelligent colleague. He’s very charming and he knows this, clearly showed his abilities off as he’s quite good at his job. It gets annoying most times. Everybody loves and respects me at work and while I am grateful for that, I wanted more. I wanted more attention, and respect. Kinda felt I deserved it!

23ab44d7d32d4eab143834e0fd301d94 gifSoon, I made myself into believing that I could be better than my colleague, faster even and more appreciated. I had this insatiable appetite for success, and to achieve it; I wanted to do all the work by myself without him helping so he wouldn’t take all the glory —crazy, right?

I made myself into believing that I could be better than my male colleague Click To Tweet

Once, we had a workload to be executed by three people, one that was to be finished in a week! It was as if a spirit possessed me. I told myself, “no going home” and informed the rest of my colleagues that they needn’t worry. I was going do it all by myself and be through in two days. Their reply was as expected, they asked if I was sure I could do it. This angered me so I replied, “I am a woman not a weakling.”

I threw myself into it; I wanted to show the rest of the department that I was not as fragile as they had painted me, and I was stronger than I looked. I felt I needed to erase all doubt.

What I taught would take 2 days turned into a tiring and exhausting week. A part of me wanted to give up and and to ask my colleagues to finish up but, I didn’t want that. Once I finished the job , I had everybody’s attention as I intended. Yet, I had reached burn out. In my life, I had never felt so tired like I did after that week, I felt so drained.

cookie-sigh gifBut that was just the beginning, from then on my workload increased. In my head, I was screaming so hard but unfortunately, this became my new reality; heavy workload in very tight deadlines. I wasn’t prepared for that at all! All I wanted was a little attention and respect, I didn’t want to faint at the hallway.

What I didn’t realize was:

It was okay to ask and accept help

Asking for help doesn’t make you feel less of a person. It doesn’t reveal to the world that you are helpless, it shows that you are human, not a robot. Everybody has their breaking limit.

For me, it almost cost me my life before finally realizing that I had limits. Really, ask for that help, it won’t cost you anything, not even your pride or dignity.

It is better to be a team player

Team players never get too tired or exhausted. Do you know why? They work hand-in-hand with their subordinates. All you need is to be there and supervise the job; you don’t have to do it all.

Most people tend to have an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) when it comes to their jobs, they want everything perfect —which can be so amazing but still don’t overdo it, or else, you might break.

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Competition with a male counterpart is overrated

I know you are a strong and determined woman, there is no disputing that —but you don’t need to lose yourself in trying to prove to everybody that you are stronger than a man. There is no need!

Forget competing, just make sure you give your best shot at your job, that’s really all there is to it.

The 4 minute guide to SME marketing: Everything na packaging

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This article in the on-going series was largely borne out of a personal experience. Did I mention that I am testing the entrepreneurship waters myself? To digress a little, I think there is a side-gigging bug making the rounds, especially in the city of Lagos. Let’s do a quick poll if you currently work a 9-5 job but still want to take charge of your working life, do what you love and not be dictated to by corporate rule, say Aye!

Well, my business partner and I had a mini-debate about how products should be packaged for potential customers. My stance was a very practical and cost minimizing one seeing as ‘affordable’ was at the core of our proposition to customers. But she, on the other hand, believed in making an impression because from her perspective and quite truly, packaging can make all the difference!

Let me quickly explain why this is so. Remember that saying about dressing how you want to be addressed? The same can be said of product packaging. Humans are largely visual beings and can form lasting impressions based solely on what they see.  Also, seeing as we live in a cluttered world, you want to be able to, with your packaging, get people’s attention and inspire them to take action.

Now I am not going to over-flog the “Packaging Matters” discourse because I am almost certain that as a (potential) business owner this is something you are definitely aware of. But while you do the needful, there are 2 things I think you should keep in mind:

What’s your business model?

As a new business, especially, one playing in an already saturated field, one way to win would be through your pricing model. You should actually aspire to deliver the lowest cost to your customers in the form of lower prices. This can guarantee you a spot on customers’ purchase considerations. I mean who doesn’t want to pay the lowest price for the best quality, right?

If your promise is the lowest cost, perhaps you shouldn’t spend so much on the packaging of your product seeing as every cost you incur would have to be taken care of in your selling price. Of course, you should consider this if you intend to make a profit and remain in business.

Going minimalist (please do not read this as tacky!) with your product packaging shouldn’t bother you at all if your proposition to customers clearly explains why that is necessary. So for example, ever noticed the difference in packaging when you shop via Jumia or Konga (proposition: lowest price guaranteed) as against shopping at a Montaigne Place (proposition: luxury at its best)?

Packaging versus Product Quality

I am sure we’ve all had this experience before. You go to a fancy restaurant with the most fantastic ambience and the food turns out absolute crap. Mind you, this is after much pomp and pageantry. Or you pick a pack of biscuit off the supermarket shelf because of a package design too catchy to ignore and discover that it tastes like sawdust.

In both aforementioned instances, you’d have to be a masochist to want to relive that experience.

The learning, therefore, is this: you can inspire an action (purchase) with package design but if the product/service experience does not meet expectations, there would likely be no repeat purchase. More important than the package design is the product/service quality because that’s what ultimately delivers value.

There is the need to fully understand how your desired customers define value and give them that, else any other thing you do would be counter intuitive. So you start a hair salon business, what would your ideal customer appreciate more; gold-plated mirrors from Dubai or gifted and experienced hair stylists on your payroll?

This is the ideal process:

  1. Know your intended customers.
  2. Understand their needs.
  3. Create a product/service that fully satisfies those needs.
  4. Then properly package that product or service.

Do not attempt to prioritize no. 4 over no. 3. There’s so much more we can say about packaging but this is still the most important thing:

“Packaging is a substantive aspect of your marketing strategy that you should pay keen attention to ”.

Cheers!

 

Getting comfortable with feeling like a fraud

#WOCintech

Ever found yourself in the middle of a great moment a graduation, getting a promotion, being praised by someone you respect or creating something new and caught yourself feeling like you shouldn’t be there? Not in a nice, ‘Is this really happening?!’ kind of way. More like a, ‘I don’t deserve this, and I hope no notices I’m a fraud’ kind of way.

Shocked

Ironically, it is because of your greatness that you are more likely to experience feelings of being a ‘fraud’. This is commonly referred to as the ‘impostor syndrome’. Basically, if you attribute your success to everything except the fact that you really are that good, keep on reading.

Categorized as “the domain of the high achiever”, Clance and Imes first coined the phrase after a study they did of high achieving women. They described it as feelings of, “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement”. Instead of crediting success to ability, they attributed it to circumstances or charm. If you’re not sure if this relates to you, here’s a short test you can take to get a sense of where you lie on the spectrum.

The concept really hit home for me when I read a quote by Maya Angelou. She said: “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” Listen, if Maya-Freaking- Angelou can ‘fess up to feeling what I felt and still be great, then there is a way to succeed in spite of it.

So why is impostor syndrome so harmful? There are a few ways that this subtle form of fear could be holding you back from achieving career/business greatness:

You don’t shoot your shots, and if you do they are less than they could be

In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg noted that impostor syndrome made people evaluate their qualifications lower than they should. In the long run, you end up only taking low-risk opportunities, or worse not taking them at all.

raised_eyebrowIt affects how you communicate

Have you ever ended a well thought-out point with something like, “Does that make sense?” Or worse, do you find yourself apologizing all the time?

Seriously, why do you start with “Sorry…” or “I just…” when you speak in a meeting? In an attempt not to be outed as a fraud, you actually can come off sounding uncertain of yourself.

It affects your presence

In the words of Amy Cuddy, “Impostorism steals our power and suffocates our presence. If even you don’t believe you should be here, how will you convince anybody else?”

As with all questions of our ability, there’s no silver bullet to getting past it, but there are ways to not let it hold you back.

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Accept that you actually are a fraud

The only reason you are so aware of how much you fall short is because you are brilliant enough to calculate how much you lack. Be aware of the deficit, but act anyway. Apply anyway, pitch anyway, write anyway.

Everyone, brilliant or not, puts their best foot forward and there is nothing wrong with faking it a little before you make it. In the words of Queen Beyonce, “I have accomplished nothing without a little taste of fear in my mouth.”

Communicate power

Even if you aren’t completely comfortable with feeling like a fraud, at the very least stop sounding like one. Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big says, “I keep meeting brilliant women like you, with powerful ideas to contribute, important businesses and organizations to build, provocative questions to share. But so often, the way they communicate fails to command power. They equivocate, apologize, and look away as they speak.”

Be aware of how you communicate. While there is a lot I could add, my one piece of advice would be, watch your cadence and don’t present statements as questions.

Focus on delivering value

Understand the value that you can bring to the table. We often assume that the skills we really excel at come naturally to everyone because we do them so easily. This then allows us to focus on the things that we can’t do, as we don’t see our skill set as valuable.

Keep track of your strengths using tools like LinkedIn. But if you haven’t got it together like that (no judgement, I’m with you!), listen carefully to the feedback you get from colleagues.

“I DID that”

These three magic words, when said every time you do something awesome, are certain to gain you the respect of the only critic that counts, YOU.

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Stressed? 4 ingenuous habits that will make all the difference

stressed? 6 habits that will make a difference

Your head is aching, too many things to do in so little time…

You had so much work at your desk and had to skip lunch…

You can’t remember if you had water to drink all day…

It’s Friday but you can’t say TGIF because your side hustle for the weekend still has some loose ends to be tied up. Therefore, no gym this weekend…

Whew! So much stress, so little rest…

Hey Motherland Mogul!

 

We are all about your business and career success but we do not want you to pass out in the process…or develop poor health conditions.  The beauty of your hard work today is being able to inspire the younger generation years down the line when you’re grey. If you’re not here or in good health, who will?

We want to be a part of your success story and as such, your overall well-being is important to us. If you’re stressed, these daily habits could help. Your health doesn’t have to be a barrier to reaching that business goal.

Always have breakfast no matter how little.

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Research has shown that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and prevents unnecessary snacking. Also, avoid skipping meals and eat right. Take it easy on the carbs whilst increasing fruit and vegetable intake. Then make sure you drink water, lots of it.

Manage your time properly at work to boost effectiveness and reduce being stressed.

White Samsung Smartphone Beside Sunglasses,pen and White Notebook

This helps to boost effectiveness and reduce being stressed. Work time isn’t the time to engage in office gossip or be on social media so be warned. You should also always ensure that you finish one task before engaging in another

All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl

treat_yo_selfEngage in relaxing activities after work and during the weekend. Reading SLA articles perform the dual function of educating and entertaining you. Otherwise, you could go swimming, dancing, travelling or any other thing to take the edge off.

Exercise regularly

Free stock photo of sport, fitness, workout, gym

It does not have to be too intense, regular walks are good for reducing cholesterol levels. Take the stairs more and get involved in outdoor activities.

Starting and sustaining an NGO in Nigeria: 3 important things to consider

You can actually set up the next big NGO, and maybe win a Nobel prize for your wonderful contribution to the society. Isn’t that amazing? But wait! Before rehearsing your Nobel prize acceptance speech, have you given enough thought to the sine qua non of setting up and sustaining an NGO? No? It’s not too late. Let’s start with the basics.

A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), according to www.ngo.org, “is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.” In Nigeria, they play important roles, often filling gaps which the government is unable to while complementing existing government activities. These organizations, small or large, work in the health, civil society and other sectors of society. Individuals and groups often set up NGOs with altruistic motives, with the intention of impacting positive societal change.

Having worked for an NGO for several years, I know that most people assume that starting and sustaining one is a laid-back affair. On the contrary, it is in fact as critical as starting up a for-profit business. It really does not matter if it is on a small-scale basis, or whether you have vast amounts of cash, there are key guides to consider. Here’s what you need to know.

Legal requirements

A lot of times, enthusiastic newbies fail to consider the legal requirements of embarking on such a venture. Someone wakes up, scribbles an interesting name for a proposed NGO, then proceeds to print branded T-shirts. That’s not bad for effort, but you need a more structured process. For proper legal status, your NGO must be registered with the relevant body; the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Take ownership of the process, and as much as possible, avoid using a proxy. That way, you will be in possession of all necessary documents and minimize the chances of a disaster.

Now, you’ll need to establish the following:

  • The legal obligations it will be subject to.
  • Your goals and objectives.
  • The problems you intend to solve.

Equally important, you’ll need a lawyer during this process. Having a lawyer at your side will keep you updated on the rights and obligations of the registered NGO you’ll soon be running.

Acquiring and sustaining funds

When setting up an NGO, you must be very clear on the source and availability of funds. You can’t begin with the, ‘Well, I just started’ or ‘Let’s see how it goes’ attitude.

Having said that, let’s see if you can answer these questions:

  • Do I have funds for the activities I’d like my NGO to embark on?
  • Are there government or other organizations’ grants I can apply for?
  • Can the NGO sustain itself on a long-term basis?
  • Do I have an efficient structure?
  • What are my planned activities, and who will be responsible for each activity?

Run your NGO like you would run a business.

Look, I get it. The society seriously needs solutions and you’re revved up for the challenge. Your idea is the best, most unique and different one and you’re in line to becoming the next Mother Theresa. Listen though, other NGOs are profit-oriented and well, only focus on making profit. If you want your NGO to be around for a long time, you’ll need to integrate these profit-making elements to your operations:

  • Have a defined strategy for hiring, operations and other organizational processes.
  • Have a strong financial system.
  • Have a target audience? A robust marketing strategy will cater to them.
  • Have a marketing budget.
  • Decide on what strategy to apply. Person-to-person? Social media? Flyers and posters? Or a mix of different strategies?
  • How about record-keeping? Do you have a plan?
  • How often would you produce reports? Bi-monthly, quarterly or annually?

The above requirements are essential, especially if your NGO’s activities are grant-funded (which means you’ll have to submit regular reports to your handlers).  The sad reality is not everyone gets grants at the start, but proper record-keeping would prove very helpful should you decide to apply for funds in the future.

#MotherlandMoguls should know that NGOs are businesses too. Your profit is in the satisfaction of helping people in profound ways.

What they don’t tell you about your first job

So, you’ve survived unemployment like a boss, and now you’ve landed your first job. For some, this is a positive, life-affirming experience. For the rest of us, we need a support group or at the very least a few tips on how to deal. Don’t worry girl, I’ve got you!

indexThe general reason why many people do not enjoy their first job is typically because it just wasn’t what they expected. So if you are feeling like you are failing at adulting, relax, you aren’t alone. Here are a few ideas on how to tackle seven typical first job challenges, and come out strong.

1. So…is this it?

After the novelty of employment wears off, monotony can set in. You may find yourself a bit disillusioned with your job and asking yourself, is this it? The answer to this question will either prompt you to restart job hunting or help you to get your head back in the game. Either way, you can make the most of your time there. This is where you want to clarify your goals. What exactly is it that you ultimately want to do? Once you know that, decide how you can use the platform that your job provides to get closer to your goal.

There are very few skills in our increasingly interconnected world that are not transferable. You aren’t there just for the job, but also for the networks, the exposure to opportunity, insight into the industry, seeing how a business is run and scaled, tapping into the experience of your co-workers (potential mentors?) and to establish your name in that space.

In addition you can work to break the monotony of each day by:

  • Volunteering to help other departments out and diversifying your experience
  • Continually setting personal goals to excite you
  • Using your evenings and weekends to do more than watch series. Pursue your other interests and invest in a side hustle

2. Maintain relationships

The one thing many of us weren’t prepared for is just how much of succeeding in your first job revolves around your ability to work with people. It goes without saying, maintain a good attitude, don’t act like you know it all and avoid office politics. Your relationship with your boss, co-workers and clients all need to be managed as they each come with their own complexities.

Have frank conversations to make sure you clearly understand the expectations that the people you work with have of you. Ensure you aren’t part of the problem by understanding your own strengths and weaknesses as a co-worker by soliciting feedback from your peers to help you uncover any blind spots.

The bottom line is you will work with great people as well as the scum of the earth, be prepared for both. Even if you decide to leave, it is important not to burn any bridges. Stay professional until your very last day.

3. Speak up, take credit

I totally agree with the saying, “Hard work speaks for itself” but that shouldn’t stop you from speaking for yourself too. Being consistently passed over for opportunities can create a lot of dissatisfaction in your first job. You want better client visits, you want to go to that conference, you want in on that project, that’s all great, but have you asked? Remember you are largely responsible for how much you will get out of your work experience and so take charge of it.

Mindfulness Coach Jeena Cho puts it this way: “If I could encourage women to do one thing, it would be to ask for what you want. Stop overthinking every simple (and not so simple) request, and just ask! Ask without apology. Ask despite your inner critic. Ask when you fear you’ll be seen as pushy…Ask when you fear you don’t deserve it. Ask when you feel you do.”

Another thing that will help all of your hard work ‘speak’ is actually being comfortable taking credit for your work. Keeping a record of your accomplishments will also help in pay negotiations and asking for promotions.

4. Skills versus titles

So, you didn’t take the time to scan through the companies’ organogram before you signed the contract. Now you realise you are stuck in a dead-end job with no chance of advancement. This may not be a total waste of your time. You may not get a fancy title but you can still ensure that your CV looks attractive.

Be deliberate about honing marketable skills. Each year many industries publish ‘hottest skills’ lists, take time to identify the skills that your job is helping you develop and indicate them clearly on your CV.

 #WOCinTech Chat
Photo credit: #WOCinTech Chat

5. Calculate the cost of compromise

Part of the anxiety you feel in your first job is when you settle in and begin to evaluate whether the job you took was worth the compromise you made. A survey done by PWC revealed that 72% of millenials made some form of compromise to get a job.

Some of the compromises we make to get off of our relatives’ couches are probably harmless, like getting a job in a dodgy part of town or being hired by our second choice company. Others however, may have serious long term effects on the trajectory of your career. For example, not negotiating your pay could negatively affect long term earnings. Accepting a job you are overqualified for may be the most practical thing to do right now, but it may your impact career development.

The question you want to ask is, will this have any serious long term effect on my ultimate goal? This should help you get over any petty hang-ups, or leave if necessary.

6. The diversity issue

Depending on your industry, you may find yourself being the only woman or African or person of colour (or all of the above) in your workplace. This may mean you’ll need to speak up to represent a perspective your co-workers may not have thought of. Remember your delivery is just as important as the message. As Ariel Investments’ Melody Hobson explains framing the conversation by asking questions may help take the edge off.

7. Get Support to build confidence

Mentors, sponsors and peer support groups will help you navigate your uncertainties and help you keep perspective. Few people felt 100% confident in their first job, it’s a learning curve and learning from others who’ve been there before you will make the journey easier.

I hope this helps!

Be your own cheerleader: Why women need to PR their own PR

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. “Confidence smiles while arrogance smirks”, they say. Women often shy away from listing their accomplishments for fear of being seen as the latter. However, who will voice it out for you if you don’t PR your own PR? It’s time to start tooting your own horn and getting comfortable with the idea of self-promotion.

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“Unfortunately, we live in a culture where competence and likability have an inverse relationship for a woman,” says Tara Sophia Mohr. Women who are sharp shooters and do not readily display more ‘feminine’ traits are seen as aggressive or bossy. Add to that, a woman who speaks her mind and doesn’t shy away from broadcasting her achievements, but instead proudly states her role is seen as arrogant and pompous. Women are therefore penalised for displaying characteristics that are contrary to gender stereotypes.

Be your own cheerleader

Even though it might be perceived as flaunting, no one will be your biggest cheerleader except yourself. You know best how hard you worked to get where you are. The benefits of making your achievements known far outweigh the negatives. Pr-ing your own PR doesn’t mean boasting mindlessly. Rather it requires calling attention to your successes and receiving credit for them. This way you can be seen as first choice for the next assignment, raise or speaking engagement. It makes you visible and helps advance your career, leading to better compensation, more high profile projects and career building assignments.

To move on, “working women should continue to ensure that their managers are aware of their accomplishments, seek feedback and credit as appropriate, and ask for promotions when they are deserved, just as the high-potential women we’ve followed have been doing. Helping others recognize their contributions will help women get ahead further and faster.”

Grow your career by doing your own PR

Women who self-promote and network in influential circles achieve more career success. Unfortunately, doing good work isn’t enough. Your visibility gives you space for recognition. Being proactive in linking up with people who you admire and aspire to be like within your industry helps advance your career and ensures that your reputation precedes you. This earns you the recognition you so rightfully deserve.

Self-promotion also needn’t be in just traditional means, especially in this age of digital media. You can have speaking engagements, attend networking sessions, write a blog or publish a paper about a subject you’re well-versed in. This positions you as an expert in your field.  Being active on social media is also a great way to expand your audience and get maximum reach.

However, don’t let it stop there. As you rise up the ranks of the corporate ladder, leverage that newfound confidence and pass it on to young women within your circles or organisation.  Being empathetic and patient towards young minds will help them reach inside themselves and excel. Women can also nurture other women better, partly because we’ve been down that road and can steer others in the right direction. Passing on the baton is the only way we’ll see more women at the top, realising their dreams and living up to their potential.

Slash your Way to Career Diversity: 4 Tips on WHEN to turn that ‘side hustle’ into a full time gig whilst keeping your full time gig

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‘Just because you love doing something doesn’t mean it’s wise to do it all day long. I love coaching but the intensity of personal connection also makes it quite draining for me. I find writing extremely fulfilling but as an extrovert I need to balance it with human interaction and external stimulation. Speeches and interviews are a joy, but after a certain number of hours on stage I have nothing left! I couldn’t do any of these things as solitary endeavour, but when I combine them in the right proportions each enables the others.’

– Michela Lecher career coach/writer/speaker

Last time, I tried to provide some guidance on embracing your slash life by looking at the questions, What and Why? What does one slash and why would one choose to do so? Hopefully you found the insight helpful and are fully ready and positioned to embrace the slash life that awaits you.

In continuation, today I want to discuss the ‘When’. As Motherland Moguls I’m sure you are all used to your passionate mothers saying over and over again that, timing is everything. Yup, Mama knows best! This is a crucial concept when it comes to the slash life. The timing of your slash is enough to make or break it. I believe having the correct strategy is half the battle won, and a big part of strategy is timing.

The first question you need address is: What is my anchor slash at this point in my life? The reason I say this is simply because it is not possible to add a slash to something that is not there.

Take this simple visualisation of a slash life, ‘A/B’. If the ‘A’ was unstable or not present then it will read ‘/B’ which is not a slash life at all. The first part of the slash has to be stable for you to ‘add on’.

So that been said ladies let’s get in formation! Here are 4 tips on when to embrace your sLASH (in other words that other thing you do)…

1. The Anchor vs Orbiter Dynamic

Spend some time making sure that that the ‘anchor’ is solid before you add anything else to it. Any good career adviser will tell you that to get a new job, you need to be killing it at your current job. This demonstrates the capacity to do something well. For your slash life, it is the same. Invest the time in getting your ‘anchor’ slash correct before moving on to embracing something new. I really think this is crucial.

For me, my anchor slash is my job in finance. The moment that begins to slip, everything else slips as well. This is simply because this aspect of my life currently takes up most of my time, so the longer it takes for me to sort that out, the less time and energy I can give to my slashes. Think of it as solidifying the base and creating a pretty strong platform for the other skills to nicely orbit around.

2. Have Clear Goals

A slash is not something that you just pick up randomly. You have to make a slash goal. Now guys, this language around ‘slashing’ is just a mechanism for you to address a process I believe is very natural to all of us. In other words, it is nothing new. A good slash is a well thought out slash. Before I knew what job I would do, I always knew I wanted to write and speak. The wisdom is not in knowing what your talents are and planning for them, it is knowing WHEN it is the right time to do so.

For some of you this is the time to begin to plan your future slash once your anchor is solid. For some, it is time to put those very detailed plans into action and ‘work smart’, for some it is time to reduce the amount of time your anchor slash takes because it has achieved its goals and begin to actively develop your slash. Everyone is different. The key here is to understand where you personally are on the journey, and do not compare! The only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday.

3. Double or Triple Time

Okay so let’s assume you are a total badass at this and your anchor is solid and strong and you have taken up a slash. How much time should you spend on each? I put it to you ladies that it is not really about the amount of time you put it, but the amount of energy and focus it extracts from you. If you have three slashes, your energy and strategic efforts should be divided amongst the three equally, even if your time is not.

So for example, I have three slashes currently. Work, my website (a platform for guidance and inspiration) and my charity. They all take up the same amount of energy, even though they occupy different amounts of time. A slash should be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with another one in terms of your commitment to it. If it cannot, then please down grade it to a side gig or side hustle which you can start and stop at any time.

4. Seasons of Life

One of my most treasured books in the world explains how there is a time for everything. A time to slash and a time to wait. A time to let an old slash go and a time to embrace a new one. I really believe this is true. Sometimes a slash is not meant to be for the long haul -some slashes are seasonal. It may have seemed like the best idea to start a company when you were younger, and now it looks like the vision has evolved and you need to re-brand it. That’s fine. Or, your company might be going through downtime, which means you need to increase your independent income, time to dust off those slash skills and put them into work. What is my point here? Be flexible! Resilience is key to make sure you can adapt to the times.

So LADIES! Think hard and long about when to take something else on fully and as I always say, superwoman your way to total Badassery! You can do it!

Navigating cross-cultural relationships in the workplace

she hive nairobi

After years living in France and the United States, Aminatou, an experienced business development consultant, arrived in Abidjan to work for a local social enterprise. Despite the logistical hiccups of working on the continent, she didn’t think the transition would be that much of a problem. After all, she grew up in Saint-Louis, Senegal, and spoke fluent French. She’d worked across Africa for leading multinationals and smaller start-ups for the better part of a decade. But after a few months, she was struggling with her team and considering returning to her job in Paris. What was the problem?

Cross-cultural training isn’t just for the West. As many young African professionals contemplate moving back to the continent —to their home country or somewhere else in the region, they can suffer from the shock of navigating cross-cultural dynamics in the workplace. It’s no secret that business leaders need to understand the cultural nuances of the different regions where their business operates. Yet, aspiring Motherland Moguls returning home might underestimate the need to orient themselves to the minutiae of workplace dynamics across Africa, especially as the continent rapidly transforms. The Ghana, Kenya, or Zimbabwe of 2008 doesn’t look the same in 2016.

Avoid clichés

Clichés and stereotypes can lead to faulty assumptions. While generalizations can be useful, culture is complicated and can’t be measured by one or two factors. Individual people might not fit these generalizations. Even as we advocate for pan-Africanism, we should recognize that each country or region is unique.

For example, there is a prevailing stereotype that Africa is a sexist place and that men will be condescending to women in the workplace. This is not always the case. Assume best intent until proven otherwise, and ask questions to immediately clear up miscommunication. Overemphasizing stereotypes can have a real cost — misplaced fear of encountering workplace sexism may scare talented female professionals from taking positions in Africa.

As you enter the workplace, you might encounter differences along these four major areas:

1. Different Communication Styles

Across cultures, people communicate differently when it comes to verbal and non-verbal communication. Messages aren’t always explicit — more often than not, you’ll have to read between the lines.

Words and phrases that are common in one place might leave people looking at you in confusion in another. In some countries, there might be more of an emphasis on hierarchy than in others. In Francophone Africa, for example, there is more of an emphasis on formality than in Anglophone parts of the continent.

2. Different Conflict Resolution Styles

Not everyone always gets along. Some cultures approach conflict directly while in other cultures differences are worked out quietly. Feedback might be frank or more diplomatic.

3. Different Approaches to Time Management

Some countries, like Germany and Switzerland, are famous for their strict adherence to clocks. However, in most non-Western cultures, time is better viewed as a polite suggestion. Nevertheless, time management views can defer depending on the situation. People tend to have short-term or long-term orientation when comes to time. In parts of Southern Africa, for example, some people differentiate regarding the urgency of a project by saying “now” (sometime soon) vs. “now now” (right this minute).

4. Different Decision-Making Styles

A cultural frame of reference often shapes expectations about how to make a decision. Does what the boss says go? Is there room for dialogue? The roles individuals play in decision-making can depend on the egalitarian or hierarchical nature of a culture. This determines whether or not decisions are made unilaterally or by consensus.

To successfully navigate cultural differences, follow the three L’s:

  • Listen actively and empathetically to assume best intent,
  • Learn from generalizations, but supplement these with your own observations and,
  • Look at the situation from both the insider and outsider perspectives.

Arm yourself with these tools, and you’ll avoid misunderstandings and conflicts that can cost your team profits or productivity.