Think for a moment, how many new contacts have you created in the past five years? How many of those have you been in touch with? Better still, how many have you had a hearty conversation with over hot chocolate or lunch? When you get stuck; be it in need of advice, someone to talk to, in need of a job, want a partner to start a business with. Can you comfortably approach any of the contacts you created five years ago to sort you out?
Despite the ever-evolving technology and rise of social media platforms for human interactions, there are several traditional ways individuals get to meet and interact. These include learning institutions, trainings or conferences, weddings, funerals and other social gathering. Often, individuals are quick to exchange business cards with the promise of keeping in touch and catching up soon. Sadly, such business cards are never looked at after being tossed in the pocket of the receiver.
It is always a pleasure to get to learn about other people, their life stories, what drives them, their passion and ambitions.
What we often forget is that most solutions to our current problems and challenges; lack of employment or capital, volunteers for our initiatives, book reading partners or mountain climbing buddies can all be found within our networks. I confidently speak on this from my experience as an Alumnus of Emerging Leaders Foundation. Walking into the training room as a Cohort two participant, I had the curiosity and intention of getting to interact with each participant. It is always a pleasure to get to learn about other people, their life stories, what drives them, their passion and ambitions. It all lies in asking the right questions, listening emphatically and being present in the moment.
One intention we had in common was building relationships, and below are some of the benefits that came with that:
- Birth of a book Club – A lean team of dedicated book lovers in our cohort were able to start a book club ‘Mustard Seed Book Club’, which meets monthly to read and discuss works of various authors. This has in turn inculcated a reading culture amongst us. One of my favorite books from our earlier reads is I know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and my favorite quote from this read is, “Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
- Investment Group – After reading books for a while, we decided to do more and started an investment group. Through our able leaders, we opened a savings account and started monthly savings as each team member explored possible sectors we could invest in and get great returns.
- A family – We are each other’s support group, a go-to team. A place to pour your heart out without fear of judgement or ridicule. Sleepovers were birthed. We opened our private spaces to each other. There is magic in preparing a meal and dining together, making time to freely engage in topics that are not spoken about yet they keep hurting the society and being each other’s accountability partner.
- Travel & Exploration – With the fast-paced life in the city, it is rare for individuals to take time to rest, rejuvenate and re-energize. As a team, we decided that part of our group savings would facilitate our travel across the continent, two capital cities each year. Last year (2019) we visited Kampala, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda. This was to get the team out of the rush of the city; to relax, analyze and evaluate our goals in life, progress made and forge a way forward. Travelling also accords us time for play e.g. Karaoke, table topics, bicycle riding among others.
All of the above came to fruition out of intentionality to build relationships. Asking yourself what you can do for the other person and what you can collectively do to make communities better. It is a blessing to have a support team that cheers you on as you start up a business, open initiatives or get married. Emerging Leaders Foundation taught and trained us; we discovered ourselves, connected with like minded young leaders and strived to create positive change in our own small way,starting with what we had and not necessarily waiting for the ‘perfect’ time because at times, it may take long or never come.
The mentors we were paired with didn’t disappoint either, they played a major part in guiding us to be the leaders we are today; thank you ELF and the mentors that serve under you. After ELF’s training and Mentorship, Alando Kelvin has created several business ventures and in turn employed several young individuals; Kibe Kimani who practices small scale agribusiness is training other young people in his village best practices in agriculture as well as engaging them in meaningful topics on leadership and accountability; Isaac Odhiambo has started a YouTube channel to sensitize citizens of Kenya on Leadership and voter awareness tohelp reduce ignorance; Sonnie Gichuhi a staff at Strathmore University mentors her students to be the best versions of themselves and Cheboi, founded an Initiative, ‘Narrafiti Locale’ which introduced Storytelling, Journaling and Creation of Reading Clubs in rural schools in Kenya.
As a young leader who has created networks over the years, as an Emerging Leaders Foundation Alumni, what are you doing with the network you have created? Are you birthing brilliant ideas over coffee dates as Oprah Winfrey would put it? Are you collaborating to ensure mutual benefit for all? Are you leveraging on each other’s strength to positively transform your communities?
Food for thought!
Stella Cheboi-Programs officer, Leadership Development