Don’t feel like AC. Don’t feel like tech. Don’t feel like people. Don’t feel like radio. Don’t feel like TV too. I feel for nature; to hear the birds sing, the greetings of the trees, and the smile of the sun. As I gazed and enjoyed God’s creation, a coloured rainbow bird reminded me of a meeting with a VVIP.
I had been procrastinating this meeting for six months—a whole day’s meeting for a busy Executive was a great sacrifice. Taking the bull by the horns, I scheduled the meeting immediately. With smiles and excitement, I pulled out my swing chair facing it towards nature as I started the meeting with my VVIP: Me, Myself, and I.
This year will be twenty (20) years working in a financial institution. It has been like the Israelites’ journey to the promise land; filled with manna and giants along the way. With the land of Canaan in mind, I had to develop the strength to fight all the Amalekites, Moabites, and Jebusites on the way right from the moment I started working as an officer.
Looking back, I thank God for the giants He allowed my way. Strong will, determination and resilience were built within me. Every challenge I encountered fortified me and left me with priceless lessons that have sharpened my managerial skills. I am still on the road, fighting and conquering. I have come to agree with Fleur De Lyz that in life “adversity is not only inevitable but also necessary if we are to aspire to become our very best self.” For want of time, today’s meeting will focus on a few early battles and lessons.
A famous quote from Og Mandino states that, “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” I choose to be like Deborah in the Bible; the unlikely commander who led the army of Israel to a decisive battle with the Canaanites. Like Nehemiah, I refuse to be discouraged by situations and people untill the mission is accomplished and objectives met. Like Abraham Lincoln, there is nothing like giving up. it is just not in my dictionary. Phrases like “it’s not possible” and “this cannot be done” makes me go red.
My first assignment when I started work was in an environment where I was not familiar with the local language being spoken. To worsen the issue, I was sent to a branch and assigned an attachment zone where most of my clients will say: “Madam, I can’t speak English. Let us speak the local language”. Am I going to tell my supervisor to reassign every client that couldn’t speak English to another staff? How do I meet my target and justify why I was employed? Mind you, I just started work.
The easiest way was to search for another job that will not require dealing with less educated or uneducated clients. This was not going to be an option for me. I loved my new job but there was a barrier I needed to break and I was determined to break through. There was never a month I did not meet my target. I eventually became an expert in my category. The biter could not bit me.
Dealing with people who do not believe in you is another challenge one is likely to face in the office. What if this person happens to be the one who decides whether you stay employed or get a salary raise? No one works in isolation; the colleagues you depend on to complete your task make things difficult. What immediately comes into your mind is to move out of the organisation to a greener place.
A manager I once had looked at me and said, “I will get you fired.” I was angry and sad …but I was not going to give him the satisfaction of resigning or getting fired. I drew out my road map on how to make him swallow and reverse his words. In less than two months, the same manager gave an open commendation about me to the entire staff. God gave me the grace to bite the biter that wanted to bite me!
Strategy development is key in overcoming challenges in life. I have always documented the “where, why, how and what” of my plans irrespective of whether by Executive Management request or not. If I must succeed, I need a blue print which serves as a guide. When the going gets tough, the end result of where I want to get to clearly outlined in my strategy document pumps energy and strength in me to do all it takes to meet the stated objectives.
My strategic plan is not limited to my work but my personal life as well. I have a plan for myself and I always encourage my staff to do same. Where do I see myself? What do I need to develop? What are the timelines for each of these activities? With this in mind, I am not swayed by the actions or decisions of other colleagues. I am seriously focused on what I want to achieve.
After being a Branch Manager for four (4) years and having built enough capacity within the branch, it was time to move on. After all, Moses needed to give way for Joshua to be a leader. I had discussions on the desire to move from the branch to a different role with my boss who was on the Executive Management. I pressed hard until I was taken from the branch to the head office where I built up my experience in other areas. I never regretted my decision. Know what you want and fight hard to make it happen.
To be at the top and be an achiever like Nelson Mandala, we must be ready to face challenges head-on, fight to the end and be victors. Cry when you have to and go back to the drawing board when you need to but never give up. When you fail, get up, dust yourself and continue moving. Start again if need be but never give the biter the privilege of having the last laugh.
Whatever challenge we think we are facing, someone has gone through worse and survived. We must be determined and be strong and stay positive. Whatever that was meant to bite us can be bitten if only we remain focused.
Theodora Senaya, The writer is a Chartered Banker and a member of the Institute of Directors, Ghana.