Mercy Ojwang'-Kinyua: Director of Operations, OkHi Smart Addressing
Identifying leadership "bad habits", intentionally learning from other leaders, and defaulting to transparency
The Everyday Leader podcast features inspiring individuals building and leading teams across Africa.
About our Guest
This episode’s conversation is with Mercy Ojwang'-Kinyua, the Director of Operations at OkHi Smart Addressing. She has 13 years' work experience in operations, HR, compliance, and strategy. She is curious to understand the barriers to opportunity (in learning, business, etc.) that exist and the role that innovation and technology play in imparting knowledge and availing opportunity to even the least privileged because talent can be found anywhere. Her passion is to use her skills and experience to support companies innovating to help people overcome these barriers and to explore how opportunity can reach even the most disenfranchised of individuals. Her desire is also to work with companies that disrupt the spaces they are in.
Everyday Leadership in Action
Here are a few highlights from the conversation with Mercy:
Knowing what type of leader you don’t want to be is as important as the type of leader you do want to be: Mercy learned the hard way early on when she was thrust into a people management role, and recognized that she was practicing certain types of management tactics that weren’t effective. She learned that she didn’t want to be a leader that doesn’t take feedback and didn’t want to be a micromanager. She saw that she was picking up leadership “bad habits” from others around her, and didn’t yet have the self-awareness to avoid it at first.
If your company doesn’t have the budget for leadership training, take things into your own hands: When Mercy realized she needed support in developing her leadership skills, her request for formal training wasn’t granted. Instead, she took up reading books from top managers and listening to podcasts, which didn’t get her all the way to where she wanted to be, but certainly helped her in seeing new perspectives to management.
When you report to great managers, find intentional ways to learn the most from your time with them: When she had the opportunity to work directly with strong leaders, Mercy made sure to constantly ask questions during check-ins to hear their perspective, particularly on topics or situations where she herself would not have known how to handle it and was impressed by their response. Working alongside your manager isn’t always enough to get the full learnings, but rather ask them to reflect actively in order to understand their internal thought process.
Spending longer tours of duty at companies often allows you to grow and learn more: When you spend more years at a single company, you get to see how an organization adapts over time, and likely will have the opportunity to encounter more types of people and opportunities in a setting and framework that you increasingly are comfortable with. This is particularly true at fast-moving companies, where learning is accelerated and new and unexpected opportunities tend to arise more.
Defaulting to transparency can breed trust and remove information bottlenecks: In her fully remote team at OkHi Smart Addressing, the team tries as much as possible to keep all non-sensitive information and communication in team-wide public channels to avoid clashes caused by lack of information.
The Everyday Leader is a podcast featuring conversations with leaders from across Africa’s companies, organizations, and governments about their experience managing teams and projects throughout their careers.
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