On Sunday, the 28th of May 2017 my colleague Rebecca and I travelled to Uganda Cooperative College, Kigumba for a Visionary leadership and Strategic Planning training. The 1-week engagement is part of a comprehensive program titled Leadership For Change (LFC) that we shall be engaged in for the remaining part of the year.

“Where exactly in Kigumba is the College located? Does it have good facilities? Who are the facilitators? Are they experienced and renowned? How long shall we be there? What are our expectations from the training?” – These were some of the questions that topped most of our conversations during the Journey.

We arrived at the College at about 7 PM; with expectations of receiving at the very least, a 3 star hotel experience as we had been assured by the College’s Coordinator – Mr Wogunene James.

To our dismay, we were disappointed with just everything that evening! Our rooms/hostel were nothing to write good about. The beds were too small, rooms were not self-contained, there was no running water in the washrooms nor were the toilets functional – read not flushing. In short, it was a shocking welcome!!!

However, with no option, we settled in and thereafter headed out for dinner. As if our prior encounters were not enough – the food was cold (dinner had been served much earlier). Its here that Rebecca and I vented out –“why did we accept to come, we should have stayed in office -after all- there was a lot to do, how will learning about cooperatives benefit our work,” this conversation dragged on up to until we went back to our rooms to sleep.

Back at ACFODE, its common practice to reach out to colleagues to let them know about safe arrivals once one travels out of office. So early in the morning, Rebecca and I couldn’t wait to call the Executive Director, Ms. Regina Bafaki and inform her about our supposedly “bad” experiences.

“ED, we don’t think we can stay here, it’s terrible, everything is bad, we want to come back to office, can you imagine we are sharing wash rooms? And as if that is not enough, they have no running water, we even ate very cold food last night,” we lamented.

Being the motivator she is, Ms. Regina counselled us to give the training a chance. “Stick around for 2 days and see how it all goes, and don’t let those experiences cloud your judgment of what is yet  to come –if by tomorrow you don’t experience anything fruitful – just come back,” she advised.  Shruggingly, we headed for the training room but with not much to expect.

On day one, we were introduced to the LFC program – which is divided in 4 arenas i.e. Visionary Leadership and Strategic Planning, Personal Growth, Entrepreneurship Development, and lastly – Managing Change. All these seek to provide emerging leaders with practical skills in planning, leadership presence, business enterprise, and to help them articulate their visions more effectively, and create healthier, more stable organisations.

We were also introduced to the Positive, Minus and Interesting (PMI) Assessment tool that encourages participants in a discussion to look at an idea from more than one viewpoint; and to other modules such as “Discovering the Leader in You” and “Visionary Leadership.”

My self, whilst making a group presentation on the PMI assessment tool
My self, whilst making a group presentation on the PMI assessment tool

Day 2 mainly focused on basic visioning and the visioning process (personal and organisation); while in the remaining days we learnt about crafting mission statements, their importance and strategic planning processes.

To say that this learning experience was just good is an understatement – IT WAS LIFE CHANGING!

In many ways, Rebecca and I were humbled by our one week stay at the College – through breaking bread with our facilitators and participants from different organizations, experiencing in simple ways our daily life together, and seeing how much we can learn from each other.

Personally, the knowledge I gained was absolutely life changing, not temporarily, but permanently.  Why is this?  Because it changed something that seemed so minor I didn’t even think about it being important – HAVING A PERSONAL VISION.

I had never thought about it, after all – somehow I have always managed to get what I want and I have always had a list of things that I want to achieve in future, but not a vision, not goals.

Mr. Kabuga, the lead facilitator carried us through us the importance of having a vision in life, from the very small things like keeping th desk tidier at work to the very large ones such as being a renowned realtor in a given country.

“It’s not enough to just think/dream about it, it’s only when it is written down that it becomes real and attainable,” he emphasised.

I can’t overstress how much I had ignored this before, especially after spending many years setting annual goals (aka resolutions) only to realise that I wasn’t actually getting anywhere but was literally at more or less the same place in my life year after year. This made me tire of constantly working to achieve resolutions that weren’t leading to anything in particular. So why even think about a vision?

However, after last week, visioning has now become part of my life and will most definitely drive my success. I already have one (though it still needs a little polishing) and it is going to guide my life and give me the direction necessary to chart the course of my days and the choices that I make. It will be my light, shinning in the darkness toward which I turn to find my way –my illuminator no matter the circumstances!

I also learned the importance of becoming more patient, more deliberate, and more compassionate if my vision is to be attained.  I learned why I should let go of fear, limiting beliefs, and the need to “fit in” with the masses thinking.  I learned to trust myself, tap into my intuition, to listen to my own heart and not let my head get in the way.  I now don’t have a problem stepping out of my comfort zone; and embracing risk, yet not feeling like risk is “risky”.  This is huge to me, because being afraid of risk has been holding me back from reaching my true potential.

In addition, I learned the importance of taking more personal responsibility for everything in my life and taking on a higher level of leadership, which I have always been afraid to do previously. I learned how to gain clarity on what I truly want in my life, and how to make bold, powerful decisions that support that.

LFC Participants 2017 posing for a group photo with some of the facilitators
LFC Participants 2017 posing for a group photo with some of the facilitators

My self-esteem, self respect and confidence have all grown – YES in such a short time.  Not in an egotistical way though, but in a way that I recognise the gifts I have and how I can use them to learn and grow.  I learned that when we have success in any aspect of life, it is our personal responsibility to reach back and help others learn and grow.

Einstein has a famous quote – “The Definition of Insanity is Doing the Same Things, Expecting Different Results.” Most of us have heard this, yet how many actually take it to heart and live our lives by this advice?  I was one of those people living out this message.  I knew better, but I wasn’t doing what I knew, because I was allowing the past conditioning and default messages in my head to direct my life, instead of taking the new information I was learning and making my decisions based on this. But this has changed since my experience with magnificent Kigumba!

Thank you We Effect and Uganda College of Cooperatives for organising such a great event. Mr. Kabuga and all the other facilitators were not just subject matter experts; they were great public speakers and inspirational storytellers. I feel that I got much more from this arena than I expected. It easily passes as the best training that I have ever attended; with great learning atmosphere (expect for the wash rooms and small beds of course), well-planned material and great fun – I hadn’t danced in a long while. And thank you Ms. Regina for challenging Rebecca and I to be more patient because if it hadn’t been for this, we would have missed out on this very amazing experience.

Rebecca (right) and I during the cocktail
Rebecca (right) and I during the cocktail

For some reason, even though I had my share of not so good experiences, I just feel excited and inspired to get the most out of life – because this training has transformed the way I look at everything in general – work, business, family, etc.  I feel more positive and confident now, and can’t wait to go back for Arena 2 even if it means sleeping on a smaller bed than the one I had ☺

See you soon Kigumba!

Sandra Nassali

Public Relations & Communications Specialist

Action For Development

snassali@acfode.org

HOW LFC, a Leadership Training Has Changed My Life

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