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I’ve been blessed to be able to coach those who coach others – Ehimuan

Juliet Ehimuan is the founder of Beyond Limits Africa initiative, and Country Director at Google, leading Google’s business strategy in West Africa. She was named by Forbes as one of the top 20 powerful women in Africa and a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. In this interview, she dwells on the critical elements required to cultivate self-leadership and transformation as detailed in her new book “30 Days of Excellence.” She spoke to Stephen Onyekwelu. Excerpts:

You have chosen a niche that is foundational to human happiness and wealth creation, that is, self-leadership and transformation as shown in your new book, “30 Days of Excellence”. How did your path lead to this?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be the best version of myself, reach my full potential, and to enable or support others to do the same.

As a young professional, one of the things I always did was immerse myself in learning; first to understand myself and then the factors that enable growth and success. Over the years I’ve been able to apply these principles in my life in practical ways that have opened up opportunities.

In 2017, I started the Beyond Limits initiative aimed at spreading this message as broadly as possible through coaching and development programs focused on three pillars – Leadership, Innovation, and Transformation.

I believe that in order for society to change, for companies to excel, for social and economic transformation, it is paramount to invest in people – train and enable them to develop their strengths and innate potential. That’s my guiding principle.

Since I started, we’ve run boot camps, masterclasses, webinar series and Think Tanks; all attended by people around the world; with amazing feedback on impact. I’ve been blessed to be able to coach those who coach others.

At what point in life do self-leadership and transformation become important, if this is from childhood, what plans do you have for helping parents benefit from these principles?

This is a great question as I believe that balanced parents raise balanced children. One of the things that become immediately obvious about going through this guide is that it does not operate from a narrow window of entrepreneurship or professionalism.

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The skills within are to empower the reader on every facet of their lives – as a professional, a middle management individual looking to rise through the ranks at work, a parent, a partner, a friend or a sibling. Another great piece of feedback I have received is that because it is thirty days of instruction, the reader can focus on different life projects every thirty days, which is amazing because that was my intention behind creating it as a manual for “30 Days of Excellence”.

This means that the reader might be focusing on a work challenge this month and applies the principles within to overcome that challenge, and may choose to focus on a more personal task the following month. The strategies remain the same.

A large body of literature now exists on various forms of intelligence (emotional, social and financial) and how an individual can cultivate them. What is your assessment of how these are communicated?

Decades ago, people and corporations focused more on IQ (Intelligence Quotient) – aptitude and mental capacity – in assessing capability.

Over time, there’s been an increasing appreciation of the need to adopt a more holistic approach, focusing on the total person and developing enhanced EQ (Emotional Intelligence) – the ability to navigate situations understand different inclinations, function in a group, and interact effectively with others. The increasing body of knowledge that exists is simply an acknowledgement of the fact that there is more to success, life and progress.

Despite the abundance of information, however, one of the gaps in communication I noticed – and was particular about addressing – is the need for introspection and self-leadership.

The vast majority of available resources point to outward leadership and effecting change externally with scant attention to first mastering one’s own personality, thoughts and values before tackling the outside world.

My guide starts with self-leadership: building one’s knowledge base, emotional intelligence, communicating more effectively with and understanding our impact on others, crystallising our vision and moving from idea to reality, staying focused on our priorities, and overcoming challenges – before moving on to changing the world around us.

It does this by taking these complicated concepts and breaking them down into a relatable form.

Your new book 30 Days of Excellence is designed as a guide to Self Leadership and Transformation. Why would it be worth anyone’s while to buy one and not another on a similar subject matter?

There’s a lot of material on excellence. My interest is in providing simple, accessible but deeply insightful guides that provide critical nuggets for everyone – from corporate executives leading million-dollar organisations to someone just starting a business, to career professionals.

In today’s world, there are many things competing for people’s time. It is important to cut to the heart of the matter, to the cogent points that create maximum impact. That’s what the book does that is unique.

There are two parts. First is the tabletop flipbook designed to sit on your desk or anywhere visible to you so that the concepts remain top of mind. Research has shown that what you focus on expands, and there is power in being able to visualise and meditate on what’s important to you.

The second is a workbook. It’s not a guide you read like a novel. The intent is to trigger deep thoughts and insights and to encourage the reader to internalise each lesson and see how it applies to them. It is a personal guide with calls to action, like having a personal coach with you. That’s crucial.

Each concept can be unpacked in an entire masterclass so I encourage people not to jump ahead. Start with each thought and let the reflections of each day stay with you throughout the day. It’s a compendium of what I’ve learnt in the last decade, presented in a practical and simple guide.

The programme, Beyond Limits appears to apply the principles in your book to start-up businesses, why is this important to you?

The principles are relevant across board – startups, established businesses, and individuals. It is intended for everyone looking to attain excellence. At the moment, some of the largest corporate entities in the country have ordered it for their staff as an empowerment tool; leveraging the guide as a way to position their workforce for turning the page on the challenges of 2020 and positioning them for success in 2021.

At the same time, startups, small businesses, and individuals who have been part of Beyond Limits network till now are already acquiring the book and using it. My vision is to put this in the hands of everyone that is looking to be the best they can be and that by end 2021 at least one million Nigerians – students, entrepreneurs, career professionals, corporate executives – everyone on the path to fulfilling their dreams are able to get their hands on this guide.

You are an executive coach and a member of the Forbes’ Coaches Council what does this mean for you and where has your impact been felt the most?

Being a member of the Forbes’ Coaches Council and working as an executive coach has made it easier to extend the message of innovation and transformation to C-Suite professionals and top-level executives.

This is an often-ignored level in corporate organisations as it is often believed that higher status is synonymous with agency and a working plan focused on achieving a vision. While there is a lot of truth to this, we still see experienced executives battling Imposter Syndrome in the workplace. Many struggle to identify their purpose, their identity outside of their role, and the best way to impact their teams.

The isolation felt by many leaders in global organisations is a phenomenon I understand well, and executive coaching offers the opportunity to reach that audience and present strategies for self-leadership as well as the tools for the next steps, which is impacting one’s community.

In what ways could the principles of personal development you champion in your book be embedded into the school curriculum?

Nigeria has some of the brightest young minds in the world, and it is my belief that the concepts within this book can be easily assimilated to create young leaders at an early stage if adapted for accessibility.

Many of the strategies outlined, such as time management, writing down visions and the steps necessary to achieve them, accountability, learning constantly and managing beliefs are all topics that would sit well with any school curriculum at any class, as long as they are adapted to be age-appropriate.

For instance, it is easy to teach prioritisation by giving children a set of tasks and a time frame within which to complete them. You also discover a student’s strengths through diverse subjects ranging from arts to sciences to more technical subjects. Transformation is not a subject; it is a set of skills that should be incorporated into daily life.

How do you see your book finding its way into boardrooms since you have begun with start-up businesses?

The main drive behind this book was to communicate that everyone has great potential, regardless of their path in life, and we all deserve a chance to realise that potential. This book gives the needed tools to all individuals – from young students to fresh graduates, emerging entrepreneurs, seasoned CEOs and executive-level professionals.

Ironically, I have found that a lot of the most positive feedback has come from boardroom members, many of them grateful for a new perspective on self-leadership and transformation.

While individuals may be change agents in society, what role does society play in the application of the principles you promote?

Society certainly plays a great part in the way we experience life, but with full mastery of the tips in this book, it becomes clear that it does not have to have the final say on the outcome of our lives or who we see ourselves to be.

Take the COVID 19 pandemic, for instance. It is a global virus that affected the entire world, but for many individuals and businesses, the difference between sinking and thriving has been the response to the threat.

Companies that responded swiftly showed empathy and leadership, crafted out solutions, and leveraged technology to cover distance found themselves in better positions financially than others that did not.

Individuals who accepted that the world had changed and started adjusting to the New Normal, also found themselves mentally better off in the long run. We may not be able to control the world around us, but we can affect the way we respond to it.

What are some of the programmes you have lined up to drive your message home?

The focus at the moment is spreading the word with a goal to get the books in the hands of tens of thousands of people this season. We welcome leaders to obtain copies for their staff, mentees and even sponsor copies for other groups as an empowerment tool for transitioning into the New Year.

This companion set complements the leadership and coaching work of Beyond Limits, and there will be additional webinars in 2021 which will be announced in due course. People can stay informed by connecting with me on social media – @jehimuan on Instagram and Twitter, and juliet.ehimuan on LinkedIn and Facebook. My website – www.julietehimuan.com also has information.

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