Say “yes” to opportunities, then look for somebody who has succeeded to help you through a steep learning curve.
By SARAH RICHSON
Coaching and mentorship is increasingly becoming one of the most profound ways of developing and supporting female leaders, especially within Africa. There is currently a clear indication that women who choose to be coached and mentored rise much faster up the career ladder, showcasing excellent performance in their jobs. Both interventions work alongside the traditional interventions such as training and practical methods that aid personal and professional growth.
Today, life for the African woman has changed, as she finds herself competing with global talent given the uptake of technology, which doesn’t recognise geographical boundaries. It is definitely not business as usual. Careers are now moving at supersonic speed and savvy women are no longer thinking about taking simple steps. They are daring to take quantum leaps towards top leadership positions.
African women leaders need to deliver stratospheric results in order to sustain their positions. They have to battle and walk through the jungle of life seamlessly, and if this means seeking help, so be it. Breaking down psychological barriers has
become a formidable skill for women who want to rise up in leadership, and sustain that position.
Natural space for women
According to the UK’s leading mentor-matching organisation, Mentoring.org, (www.mentoring.org) young adults who were at-risk for falling off track but had a mentor are 55 per cent more likely to enrol in college and 78 per cent more likely to volunteer regularly. Additionally, ninety per cent are interested in becoming mentors and 130 per cent more likely to hold leadership positions.
Mentorship is a natural space for women because it is relationship based and women are relationship builders. This means it requires a form of admiration and positive relationship between the two people so that it can be an effective journey that can also last for a longer time. It also requires some chemistry between the mentor and mentee for it to reap the full benefits of mentorship. Today, the woman leader has realized that a mentor can be both male and female and also age is not a barrier as long as the mentor has superior knowledge, skill, experience or exposure in the area she is seeking to be assisted with.
In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg alluded to the fact that one does not have to have 100 per cent excellence as a woman in order to go for an opportunity. She goes on to advise that women should learn to seize opportunities that might be a shoe size bigger (or more!), then find ways to grow into the right fit along the way. Along the journey of life, women usually find opportunities when they do not feel wholly ready. As women, our minds battle with many things and self-speech is normal; we are never entirely ready for marriage; we are never completely ready for career change; we are never fully ready for children and we are never exactly fit for an executive leadership position. But the good question to ask ourselves is, ‘who is honestly, ever ready?’
There is a great strategy women who dare to take on such opportunities use in order to actualize their aspirations. On a personal level, I have seen it work for ladies who said “yes”, and then looked for somebody who had succeeded before them to help them through a steep learning curve or major transition. More often, women who are afraid of stepping into the unknown waters are choosing to ‘pivot’ or ‘piggy-back’ into the water with the help of those who are experienced enough to understand how deep or cool the water is. It really helps to listen to the stories of others who have been through the jungle before you and who are willing to share with you how they combated the hungry roaring lion.
You need a coach
Coaching provides positive support, feedback and advice on an individual or group basis to improve personal effectiveness in the business setting. Business coaching is also called executive coaching, corporate coaching or leadership coaching. Coaches can have a great positive impact on women in leadership positions, especially when they would like to advance towards specific professional goals. Coaching has been a great way for women to get help along a journey that requires transition or is confusing or where there is a need to unlock an internal resource or potential that is already within. Good coaches are now popular and they use skilful questioning to help women in executive positions unpack the things hindering them from achieving their full potential or even reaching a simple decision.
The most common types of coaching that women seek are life coaches, and this is simply because as a natural multi-tasker, sometimes the illusion of being ‘super-woman or super-mom’ can become a real threat. Human beings need to remain authentic to their inner centre and accept when the journey is too tough to tread alone. This is where women are increasingly seeking help. Today’s woman is confident enough to understand that her mother or her best friend cannot solve all her challenges but coaches can in issues such as life-work balance, managing objection at work, effective leadership, or even public speaking.
Difference between Mentoringand coaching
Mentoring speaks to the future
Provides answers to mentee
Story telling approach
Coaching speaks to the now
Asks questions to coachee
Both coaching and mentorship relationships might require an investment of time and finance. However, driven women understand the priceless value and return on investment when they reap positive impact, personally and professionally. Finally, given the excellent benefits, corporates and small business owners are embracing coaching and mentorship as growth and development interventions.
She is an executive coach, professional Growth Mentor and Thought Leader in New Age Talent Architecture and Career Trajectories. She has 20 years of work experience cutting across Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy.