RK: Welcome to #360Mentor, Joan.
JM: Thank you Robert, I am glad to be here.
RK: Let’s get started right away, I know you went to school, what did you study at university and where?
JM: B A lwali. We were the people at Makerere University who would make the loudest noise on campus. I was studying a BA (Arts) Linguistics and Religious Studies. I later enrolled for a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism and Media Management Studies.
RK: Tell us about your time in the newsroom.
JM: I had a fascination for health reporting. I loved health reporting so much that whether my report was used or not, I left richer because now I was talking to health professionals. The things I did just fascinated me. Whether writing about men or women, I would always have a health angle to it. Now in my young mind as a professional, I thought if I stayed in the newsroom, I was not going to grow. It looked like only the people who were doing political reporting were the ones getting promoted. That was the lens. I asked myself how many years am I going to be here waiting? I started thinking of what my next step would be.
RK: Part of your journey is about coaching, I want to take you back a bit. You join New Vision and you have this passion of doing health reporting, at what point did the question come in? What was growth to you?
JM: After three years of doing the work I was doing, I applied for a master’s programme at the School of Oriental and African studies in London. I was given a slot. When I travelled there, I was told I had been given a scholarship. I was told I was supposed to immediately enroll and I thought I would be considered a crook since I had left New Vision for just a holiday. I returned with excitement. I was going to do my masters. The scholarship was led by UNESCO, then the office was closed and I was referred to the Geneva office. That was the time before Google. I thought I had lost the opportunity, but the interesting thing is that I had peace with myself. I still wanted to move.
RK: Did you at this stage have a conversation with anybody?
JM: Yes, Barbara Kaija. I have always been an open book. I always tell my bosses what is going on in my head. The first time I tried to leave New Vision, I was going to join an organisation as a public relations person and Barbara told me “you know you’re going to waste your life” I listened to her and I stayed put. Another time, I had an opportunity to join World Vision before I went into that space. There was a senior writer called Geoffrey Denyi who had been spotted too.
RK: I think he moved to Nairobi?
JM: Yes, he did. I had been spotted. I would like to say this, often times you never know who you are seated next to. The first time I got in touch with World Vision was through the Country Director, Robby Muhumuza. Guess where we met; church! We were sitting on the same pew and that part where the pastor says, please greet your neighbour.
RK: What! I am going to church!
JM: Please do. And please greet your neighbour. Robby has a way of interacting with people. Within that one minute, he had already taken my contact and he told me of how he loved reading my stories. He promised to reach out to me. That very week, I was called for an interview. I remember, I just went back to New Vision and told Barbara, I was from an interview. “What is Robby doing to me?” That was her response. Between the two, they agreed that they were taking only one journalist and they were taking the senior writer. That was my first interview which I enjoyed. And I think I gave away too much information.
I did another year at New Vision and the fellowship programme at Makerere came through. It was from the school of public health with the centre of disease control and prevention. They put out a call and they wanted people with a master’s degree. Definitely, I didn’t have one but I applied. Apparently, I was the best in those interviews. They had to advertise. Only 3 of us passed the interview but they needed about 14 people. Eventually they got us on board. Never joke with people who have their papers! I would sit in that class with these people and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. My conceptual understanding was very limited. In the newsroom, all you do is interface with words. That is all you do. Then you go into this other world and people are talking about conceptual things.
RK: That is what they call angazi!
JM: Yes I was angazi. I challenged myself. One thing you should know about me Robert, I am a lifelong learner. I have a high budget for my learning. Every year you will find me on at least one program. When I was in that class, one of the things I did was to go and do my Masters in Public Health Leadership. That is how I got into public health on full time. Thereafter, World Vision gave me a job.
Two people gave advice I lived by when I joined World Vision.
1. It is an international organisation, so don’t be involved in local politics. Those of you in offices know what politics means.
2. You’ve come to World Vision, it’s like a big swimming pool, and you either float or sink.
Just know, Robert, because of that piece of advice, I worked with World Vision for 15 months and I got into the regional level until I left employment. Reflect on yourself, figure out the gaps and act on your next step. While there I did a lot of things; advocacy work, monitoring and evaluation, health, among others.
RK: First pause for a minute, Joan. I need to take you back, how were you evaluating your steps to know that you needed to move from here to the next place?
JM: I think for me Robert, it is being in a space and visualising the kind of life you want to lead. For example, did you just wake up and go to Rugyeyo farm?
RK: No. I even went to the farm and pictured myself on what I would be doing at the age of 70. I even pictured the art of the farm I would be sitting at.
JM: Great. For everyone listening, if you have not visualised what you want to do. When I am doing my work as a transition coach, I tell people transition happens based on how you want to curve out your path. If you are visualising to be a CEO, let me use Tony’s example. If you are visualising to be CEO of Stanbic Bank, it means you have to sit back and begin thinking. If I want to be a CEO, what do CEOs do? What networks do they have? What books do they read? That way, you will begin curving yourself out for that space. Begin having conversations that push you to that position.
I remember our time in the newsroom, William Pike would say “women show up according to how they feel. But for men, I need a necktie.” We had this guy who would just wear anything as long as it was a necktie.
RK: I remember him!
JK: I am just using that as an example. For me I decided that jeans had no space for me in the newsroom. I thought about it, I am not going to be in this place forever, let me dress for the future. Many times, people would call for a features editor and ask for Joan. To the extent that there are moments, Robert, journalists were known for brown envelopes. I would go to Barbara and say you’re sending me to Sheraton to cover a story, please cover my lunch. I would pay for my meal so people never thought I came for their events to eat food. There are things I deliberately did because I thought there were things you must do. If you are going to go around looking for brown envelopes, you ask yourself, is this the kind of life I want to be living? Or can I come offer meaningful conversations with the owners of the event.
RK: And maybe you will learn something that will lead you to the visualisation you have in your mind.
JK: Yes. Because things are never clear. One thing though, the universe always responds. There is a visualisation I did in 2010, and in there I wrote that one day I wanted to be at events encouraging people. We are in 2021 and you have invited me to speak on this platform. You don’t wait on how things are going to come out but you are intentional. What do I want to be known for? People will only listen to you when they know there is value you are going to add to them. So it’s been a journey which has brought me to this place. And it is not like I was so brilliant to think about it.
I had no clue of how I was going to be an encourager but people who know me know that I will always have a word of encouragement. I don’t see gloom, I always see the glass as half full.
I was at World Vision but the journalist in me was still at work. I was questioning things. And I remember there was a restructuring that was happening and we had a meeting in South Africa. There was this leader who had been in this international position for as long as I had known her and then they talked about restricting and the lady started wailing like she had lost someone. I remember looking at her and wondering. By the way, it’s not that she was losing the job but just the announcement. I knew something was terribly wrong. If you have been in an international job for this long and this is the amount of shock you are getting, then there is something wrong.
If people are in these organisations which have all these tools we use; strategic plan, a vision, a mission, work plan for the organisation, as individuals, do we have our own? That sparked off the idea that I need to use my gift of encouragement to go to spaces and talk to people to realise that there is more to life.
In May 2015, I talked to Alfred Agaba, I went to share with him what I was feeling and he asked me when? I decided that I would sign one more contract and leave in June of 2017. He told me one thing; you have decided that you are stepping out, work every day as if you are already out there.
I would work for my employer during the day and in the evening I would plan my transition. I left 9 months earlier. But, having never even run a tomato stall, I wondered how I was going to transition into this whole thing. I signed up for a class.
RK: I sold bread when I was a young man.
JM: I took on a business class for 4 days. In the personal development space, anything goes. There are no barriers to entry. For me, when they told me there are no barriers to entry, I thought there was no way you can tell me that anything goes. I went on a quest to figure out what programs are out there. I identified a program that trains coaches. The local programs did not appeal to me, so I enrolled for one in Singapore. Singapore is one of the most expensive countries. What I didn’t tell you is that I invested in the Jack Canfield program. I had carried my NGO mind into a private space. I was using the NGO language. People would have like two conversations with me and then disappear. I think I sounded like I wanted to come and ride on their success. People saw me as a threat. I decided to go for the Jack Carnfield class and it was a bit costly. I spent USD 8,000. I spent that money on myself and it was such an eye opener. The reason I am telling you this is that when I chose to do the coaching in Singapore, I wrote to them. Like the universe would have it, they wrote back and told me they were set to have training in Kampala. The cost of the program was USD 1,400. Having spent USD 8,000 before, this was a non-brainer. Then they put me on a journey.
In primary school, whenever you were struggling with a subject, they would put you on “coaching”. But the real coaching is a science. This class took me on a journey. I got this fascination and I promised myself to go for coaching to the highest level. I never wanted to go for a PhD. The good thing with coaching is that the more you train, the more you realise you don’t know.
Right now, I am a Professional Certified Coach, accredited by the International Coaching Federation. Together with a team of coaches from Strathmore Business School and us from the Coach Masters Academy, we came together to start at the International Coaching Academy Uganda Chapter. When you have the title coach, it is as fancy like having the title pastor, people just love those two titles.
RK: Joan, the government has started the process of merging institutions. A lot of people are going to be out of work. Many of them are either in middle age and things are going to change. Secondly, as a result of covid 19, a lot of things have really changed. And thirdly, technology. Can you coach me as a guy facing these problems?
JM: Robert, thank you for sharing your story with me. What I hear is that you have come out of your job as a CEO and you are trying to explore the options around you. We have only a few minutes to have a meaningful conversation. What would you like us to talk about, Robert?
RK: I have fears. I don’t know where the country is going. I have been holding a very big position. I was always highly sought after. People were always there to do as I said. I have a feeling my life is going to be reduced as a result of the change that is happening or has happened. I have fears of what is going to become of me and what this new life is going to look like.
JM: Okay. I can hear you are in a state of contemplation. You were able to work at the helm of your career in your organisation. But you are asking a pertinent question; what will the new normal be like for you? Am I getting that correctly?
RK: Yes. However much I try to visualise it, I am blinded by how my life will be. I cannot think of anything else.
JM: Robert, help me understand, what would you like to happen?
RK: I would like, first of all, to be sure or in control of the things that are going to happen. Right now, I am so vulnerable, I feel like I have lost control. My life right now is in the hands of different forces that I cannot influence and I can end up in one way or another. Perhaps my dreams are shuttered.
JM: Can I play what I am hearing? It sounds like you want to be sure and have control
RK: Yes, certainly.
JM: What makes having this control important for you?
RK: It makes me feel that things are not as bad as I am imagining them to be. It allows me to clearly think of how things are. I feel like I don’t have participation in that process.
JM: Robert you just said something very profound that you really want to think, tell me, what will allow you to think?
RK: If I had some space. It seems all these things have happened suddenly. And because I don’t know how and where things are headed, that is making me more worried than anxious. Everytime I wake up, I sweat. Where will I get money to pay for the things I have to pay for? School fees. Mortgage. Just to survive.
JM: What is coming out, is that your mind is wandering. If I may share a metaphor with you, the picture that comes to mind is of one who is in the wild.
RK: Exactly! Somewhere unanchored. I am not in control of the waves.
JM: And as you observe yourself in these waves, what is it that you want to tell yourself?
RK: That I still matter. Even to myself, I am still a useful human being.
JM: We have a few minutes to the end of our conversation, I would like to know what do you; want to have at the end of our conversation?
RK: I would like my hand to be held and guided through these times of uncertainty and to maintain some certainty.
JM: You want your hand to be held and I also hear a state of mind that is calm. How would you know at the end of our conversation that you have achieved your desire?
RK: If the level of anxiety I have goes down. And if I can go to bed tonight and sleep for 6 hours straight. I will know that I am in the right zone and the right space. I would also like to know that the circumstances I find myself in are not unique or unusual. And probably I am not alone.
JM: Of course the sleep is going to happen after this conversation. It is interesting for the kind of picture you describe and the fact is that you might not be alone. I know you have been a CEO and probably observed some storms around you, what would me to be true to you.
RK: that I am an incredibly capable person of running my own affairs and that I have absolutely no reason to fear. I should have faith and strength of character to go through these uncertainties even as represented as they are.
JM: I observe that you have a certain air of firmness around you, you have no reason to fear. If you think about that, that intention has you grounded. What would support you to move forward with that intention.
RK: Clarity. If I can go through the process and manage the change that has happened. And so that change doesn’t inhibit the clarity to think. It’s managing the past and the current transition in such a way that it doesn’t disable me from thinking clearly.
JM: What comes through Robert, is that you have a high sense of awareness in terms of really what is happening around you. And also you being able to understand this peace of clarity, what kind of clarity is it that you are trying to pursue?
RK: Clarity of what it should be. The direction of life and why. The choice and the why
JM: Thank you. Earlier you mentioned that you are an incredibly capable person so if you are to focus on the incredible and capable person, what are those things that are clearly within your control that you can move forward with?
RK: Through control. My brain, that I am in perfect control of my mind….
In case you are wondering, this is how a coaching session goes.
Joan, people are going through so much. Please listen to them.
Comrade Otoa: There are two constants in life, time and change. A lot of time, preparation helps us make the transitions. How would you help us to have the right mind frame for change?
JM: Thank you Tony. Probably when I am talking about transition, it is a whole transition. I didn’t talk about what I mean by employment transition but it is a full cycle. We are not using our minds. That is the unfortunate bit.
RK: What do you mean?
JM: If you are to refer to the session we have had up there, you realise your mind is fixed on the things that don’t work. You know you are an incredible person. Coaching is a process. It can’t be just a one off. It is a science. In coaching, you listen and observe.
The key thing is to empower the person. Sit down and ask yourself, where do I want to take my life? Where you are coming from is a glorious past. Already within us is a resilience we have built. But unfortunately, you need to sit back and ask, what is my next move? But you can’t do that when you are surrounded by noise.
When covid happened the first thing was to cancel our LPOs, as somebody who is in self employment, you know what that means. I had to coach myself at the moment, can’t change anything about it and besides, covid is not only impacting me. Secondly I asked myself; how can I be useful in this time as the world tries to find answers.
We also know that in the past, things have happened and people have pulled out okay. Let’s get to a place of acceptance, you cannot alter what has already happened. You have to figure out a new way. We are in a time where you have to discover your true north. Evolve into your authentic self. It’s past time to try to please everybody that is around you. The coaching space is a reflective space. We are surrounded with too much noise, we have to pull out of the noise and see what is there for us.
I recently worked with a client from Malawi who confessed that their fear is being vulnerable. In a world where we are working with millennials and the GenZ, when you are vulnerable with them, they know they are dealing with the right people. Whereas us, we are coming to an industrial age model where everything is under structure. But if we are able to have meaningful conversations, we will be able to understand that this is the new path we have to take. The hope is going to come from within.
As Robert, what is that thing that describes the incredible you? Once you find that, you will be able to map out your next phase.
RK: Joan, today is the beginning of conversations, many people will not be open. There is still fear and vulnerability. Reach out to Joan.
Dark & Lovely: We need to look at ourselves as strategic contributors at work places. One time my contract ended abruptly and the HR told me; “Always prepare for your exit at the beginning of the contract.” When such a thing happens, take off a year and visualise.
JM: In coaching, we don’t prescribe anything to our clients. Coaching is important in three areas;
1. It helps you to raise awareness of something
2. It helps you gain an a understanding or
3. One is looking for clarity.
Those of us who subscribe to 3rd generation coaching, which we call transformative coaching, is all about expanding the thinking capacity. The second generation coaching is all about what you can do.
We are different. We cannot afford to copy and paste. You should know what matters to you. I am part of BNI, people used to ask me questions on finance about my business. I would always be asked about financial goals until I sought the services of a financial coach. And I found out that money does not drive me.
I needed to figure out what drives me. And for me it’s conversations. Every conversation I have with an individual energizes me. Then I worked backwards. This does ot mean I don’t charge. I charge and charge well.
Simon Bagumanho: Robert, the experience you shared above, is it real? I was getting encouraged.
RK: The simple answer is yes, that is what I have been processing for the last 9 months.
JM: Answers come from within. Coaches don’t give answers. The major issues are internal. A lot of the time, the problems are about the belief system. Transition is not only about people leaving employment, transition is also about people making changes within. Coaching focuses more on the individual than the situation.
Belinda Rohana: We need to champion coaching from home all the way through life.
JM: Please join the International Coaching Academy.
Mercy Happier: Coaching is expensive. Is there a way it can be afforded?
JM: There are always solutions. There are coaches for students like you.
JM: Employment transition is not the same as retirement planning. I run a company called Imagine me Africa.
Do not look for a coach when you are looking for a consultant.
Dr Moline Mugisha: When I left school, I promised never to look at a book for the rest of my life. For 10 years I never read a book. I discovered books. There is a book about everything that you are going through.
JM: There is always free information out there, if you don’t apply your knowledge it will vanish. I have a book Corporates At A Crossroads, it is available on amazon and aristoc.
RK: I cannot thank you enough Joan for this session.
JM: It is a pleasure. Thank you for the invitation.