“We create our own experience of the world and we get to influence them. It starts with our relationship with ourselves,” says global coach and leadership transformation facilitator Rachel Allan, who is running the Women Entrepreneur Transformation Programme (WETP) at the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC) at Ashesi University.
The leadership programme is an integral part of GCIC’s agenda to provide the innovative women entrepreneurs of its cohort with the technical and advisory services that allow them to elevate their entrepreneurial journey, as well as with a support system to optimise their mindset for entrepreneurial success — and to become extraordinary leaders. In Ghana, women make up 46.4% of businesses owners (according to 2018 MasterCard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship).
Since February, the eight participating women entrepreneurs have gone through a series of one-on-one coaching and group sessions, accountability calls, and hands-on exercises. One of the first themes they worked on was self-care and personal responsibility.
Taking care of oneself – of one’s basic, psychological as well as self-fulfillment needs – is a key starting point in the journey to access one’s inner leadership, which, ultimately, will help the women entrepreneurs guide their businesses purposefully and consciously.
“Leadership starts within, by understanding how we personally operate at our optimum. Often this is so obvious that we forget it. So I am asking my clients: Are you meeting your own basic physiological, psychological and spiritual needs? Do you even know what they are? Life is moving so fast, as leaders it is essential to ground ourselves in meeting our basic human needs. Why? So we can respond to the competing priorities our businesses and roles bring us. It is our personal responsibility to choose.”
Identifying our relationship to self-care and personal responsibility means taking a serious look at how we live and relate to ourselves.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is used as a basis for identifying basic needs (physiological and safety), psychological needs (belongingness and love), and self-fulfillment needs (self-actualisation):
Having one’s physiological needs met, is where everything starts, followed by meeting one’s security needs, and one’s needs for belonging, love, and esteem.
To create a human body and mind that can thrive, so we can live and lead to our optimum, the female entrepreneurs were encouraged to explore the following areas:
- Sleep is the essential part of the body’s regeneration; it keeps us healthy so we can live, lead, love: How much sleep do you need? How much are you getting? How do you close the gap?
- Nutrition: How is your diet supporting your health and wellbeing? Are you eating regular meals? What do you need to remove from or add to your diet?
- Water improves our digestive function, eliminates waste and helps keep a clear head: How much are you drinking?
- Move your body. Do whatever the thing is that makes you feel alive. It is essential to move your body. Whether that be 20 minutes in the gym, a walk or dancing like no-one’s watching. Yes, you can do that even as a CEO. Exercise shifts mind-set energises the body and is all round good for you.
- Breathe and slow down! When we are stressed, we often hold our breath. Breathing supports and soothes the parasympathetic nervous system. In moments of stress, pause and take a breath before making a decision. Use the “stop-and-breathe strategy” when feeling the pressure.
- Security: Are you earning enough to live? Do you feel safe at home? What would make you feel more secure and supported?
- Connection with humans: Humans are social animals. We are hard-wired for connection. It is proven that those of us who are supported and part of a community live longer, happier lives (read: “Six Ways Happiness Is Good for Your Health” for more).
- Connection with nature is also essential – to turn off, disconnect from anything digital and reboot your own natural system. When can you schedule digital-free time? (read: “What Happens When We Reconnect with Nature” for more on this)
Eventually, the key question for each of these areas is: What action do you commit to taking?
The participants of the WETP programme are thriving female entrepreneurs, all leading organisations working on environmental challenges. Knowing one’s own needs well is the basis for any leader to be successful. Often, as many other entrepreneurs, they forget about themselves, especially when juggling various responsibilities in their personal and professional lives. They often don’t listen to their most basic needs, especially when under pressure of leading a business to success. Too often, women don’t ask for support but independently fight their own battles. Once the women had identified their needs, and the areas in their lives to address, they committed to taking action and to find ways to add more activities into their lives that make them truly happy. Often small shifts make big impacts.
“Working on self-care has made it possible to break the monotony of my everyday tasks. I took time to reflect on what’s working for me and what isn’t. I usually juggle three or four tasks at the same time. Over the course of the programme, I have learnt to prioritise,” says Esther Afoley Laryea, one of the programme participants.
Esther is a finance academic. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Ghana while serving as an Adjunct Lecturer at Ashesi University College where she teaches Corporate Finance and International Finance. She additionally provides training in financial management for SMEs. Esther works in a finance capacity with Farmable and is particularly interested in helping close the funding gap for African start-ups. Indeed very ambitious, and a lot to juggle.
“It’s a period of rewarding myself for a period of work,” reflects Esther. “The work on self-care has significantly reduced my stress level.” As she is striving to become a leading financial consultant on the African market continent, ambitious to offer sustainable solutions to financial management challenges of African firms, she has redefined what success means to her: “It is not about doing what everyone else is doing, and not about achieving more. It is about knowing and doing what feels right for me.” She has implemented a series of new habits related to scheduling time for self-care, her diet and exercising. “Exercising is still a struggle but I know now that I owe it to myself, so I am very hopeful for the future.”
Becoming aware of one’s own needs and taking personal responsibility for them, was the beginning of a 6-months journey. The subsequent themes, including mindset and perspectives, overcoming failure, navigating emotion, resilience and speaking up, are building on these first discoveries. Rachel is excited to see the bold action the participating entrepreneurs are taking to build the foundations of their inner leadership.
The Ghana Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC) is a pioneering business incubator whose objective is to support entrepreneurs and ventures involved in developing profitable and locally appropriate solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation in Ghana. The Centre’s key focus is on building businesses operating within the areas of energy efficiency, domestic waste management, solar energy, water supply management and purification and climate-smart agriculture. GCIC is part of the World Bank Group’s infoDev Climate Technology Program. Supported by the governments of Denmark and the Netherlands, the Centre is managed by a consortium led by the Ashesi University College and including Ernst & Young, SNV Ghana, and the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa.
The GCIC Women Entrepreneurs’ Transformation Programme (WETP) is one of the mentoring and coaching programmes created by the GCIC on the belief that inner leadership creates outer impact, and aims to unleash the untapped potential of female entrepreneurs. The 2018 programme is created in partnership with global leadership transformation facilitator and coach Rachel Allan.