So we recently adopted this culture at work of having a one-on-one coaching session with the C.E.O every two weeks. Here he asks about our challenges, how we overcame them, what were our learnings during the period, ending the session in a 2-way feedback.
It’s only been my second one with him, and I am always unsure what to say at these meetings. Last Thursday, I was a little more prepared and we manged to have a decent conversation around challenges and learning.
What I definitely was not prepared for was his feedback.
He began his conversation with an observation that he had made around cultures at work. In Kenya, everything is governed by “tribalism”. At work you often find colleagues of a certain tribe or ethnicity hurdling together speaking in their mother tongues, not caring what or how others feel.
Our CEO is Swiss and he noted this culture towards the “Mzungu” when he first arrived. No doubt, from his conversation he had had a hard time breaking the mind-sets that all white people are bad opportunists out to slave-drive the local. I am “brown” (Indian ethnicity but 4th generation Kenyan – often like to refer to myself as a BROWN African) and I get sucked into it as well, no matter how “neutral” or “unbiased” I am.
At work we have a culture of inclusiveness. Everyone is given a chance to perform and exhibit their best at work. So it really came as a surprise to me when the CEO began talking about how such cultural mindsets have up until recently stood in the way of the company’s progress and growth.
He pinned it down to being a lack of “International Exposure” and how, over the next couple of months this will change with more “colorful” people joining the team, and how people would have to accept this and work with it.
I was a bit taken back by this. In my mind I started – yes, overthinking! – wondering if I was guilty in some way of displaying such attributes or behaviours. Had someone said something to him that was a miscommunication on my part? Why is he telling me this.
I literally had to cut him short to ask him if he felt that I had done something that would warrant this and what he said next, left me in awe. This is what he said:
“You?….No… You are Very Unusual. You are a Powerwoman…like my mother, and many people do not know how to handle that”…
I was gobsmacked. Powerwoman!!! After all that I have been going through over the last couple of weeks. Performance dwindling. A permanent look of confusion on my face. Being isolated – and I’m a Powerwoman? I really should give myself more credit than I do!
But I (Think again!) understand where he is coming from. I come out at “strong”, “dominant” and “unapproachable” at times and maybe, just maybe what he was trying to say was that I need to let my defenses down a little bit and just be less “stuck-up” (overthinking again?)
One thing is certain – powerwoman or not, I sure know how to hold my Sh@t together when I’m breaking apart. Point noted!
A Powerful Woman
Personal power is not boastful or self centered or egotistical or self aggrandizing. It is the opposite. A woman who has owned her power is present when someone speaks to her. She makes direct eye contact and gives the speaker her full attention. She isn’t thinking about anything else. When you speak to a powerful person you feel blessed and satisfied. You feel known and received.