Coaching: The secret weapon in leadership training

WAN-IFRA Women in News works to create more equitable and sustainable newsrooms in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab region and Southeast Asia. One of the ways we do this is through leadership training, which has coaching as a key pillar.

We recently rolled out executive coaching sessions for 72 women journalists in our Advanced Leadership Accelerator programme for Africa. The launch was graced by three women newsroom leaders who have gone through our coaching sessions. They shared their experiences.

Olga Muteiwa

I am the general manager at Heart & Soul Broadcasting Services, more commonly known as HStv. We are the digital arm of Alpha Media Holdings, the largest independent media house in Zimbabwe. HStv was founded in 2019. 

As a start-up, we were just finding our feet when COVID-19 hit. This means we were constantly on our toes, ready to pivot and change direction to stay ahead of the curve and in the game.  

Leadership guru John C. Maxwell says: “Good leadership isn’t about advancing yourself. It’s about advancing your team.” As the leader of a fairly young team, I was spending a lot of my time and effort building the team. When I was offered a chance to be part of the 2022 WIN Executive Coaching, I was excited at the opportunity – but at the same time a bit concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to fit it in.

However, I had an amazing connection right from the onset with Coach Tamala Chirwa. Sharing my struggles or challenges has never been easy. Yet, without the right support, leadership can be lonely. The Executive Coaching sessions created a safe space where I could sit back and see the forest from the trees. 

The sessions provided a non-judgemental sounding board and constructive feedback that sometimes was hard to hear.  Coach Tamala challenged me to look at situations differently through directed questions and dialogue – and solutions ALWAYS emerged.  While the time spent was filled with key learnings, they were so much fun. I walked away from each of them feeling energised and ready to take on the next challenge from a strategic viewpoint, not only operationally. I was disappointed when our sessions came to an end, but I am definitely a better leader. I highly recommend coaching sessions to any senior leader. 

Tryphinah Dongwana Kenalemang

I am the co-founder and director of WeekendPost Newspaper in Botswana. I have been leading the publication as managing director since its establishment in 2011. I have over 15 years of experience in the media industry. 

When I joined Women in News in 2015, Weekend Post had published for four years uninterrupted. I went through WIN’s career coaching programme, which helped me improve on career planning and make informed decisions about my future.

It was a timely intervention because the formative years of a newspaper business are the hardest. I needed a coach to support and guide me. There was a lot of pressure, and expectations were high from the board. My WeekendPost position was my first shot at being managing director, and I had to level up. Coaching helped me to stand my ground and add value to the company.

I went through my coaching sessions with Coach Batsho Dambe, a very experienced woman with an extensive background in management and finance. Our one-on-one interactions in an easy and relaxed environment were effective. Coach Batsho took me through the career roadmap, and we were able to identify my personal and professional strengths. We set up short and long-term goals. 

The coaching sessions paved the way for me to complete my master’s degree in strategic management at the University of Derby. I am now more confident in management and financial issues. 

In 2022, I went through executive coaching with Coach Susan Makore. She has wide-ranging experience in the media industry. This was another exciting journey. The coaching sessions focused on my personal and professional development. We unpacked the company’s strategies, and aligned them with its vision and mission. We discussed executing and implementing these strategies to achieve WeekenPost’s goals. Because of this coaching, I appreciated the value of engaging employees when developing company strategies. Last year we launched WeekendPost’s Gender and Sexual Harassment Policy as a team, and it was well received. 

Additionally, before the coaching sessions, WeekendPost did not have a succession plan. By participating in these sessions, I was encouraged to develop a one. All heads of department identified employees who could be groomed for future management positions. 

Coaching enabled me to be confident and know the value I bring to the company. My energies were reignited.  

Brigette Uwamariya

I have been a journalist since 2011 and the deputy director of Radio Huguka, a community radio station in Rwanda, since 2014. It took me three years to move from news reporter to a managerial position. This was the result of coaching. I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t been coached by wonderful men and women. I went through the WIN Leadership Accelerator programme, which is coaching-intensive, in 2020. Coaching has contributed to more than 80% of my career growth.

Like most women in management at a media house, I started with just the skills I got in journalism school. I remember when I started as a media manager, I was convinced that I could not act differently from others. I spent close to six months observing other media managers and looking for the best among them to copy. Through coaching, however, I realised I don’t need to imitate others and could create my own identity. I could be me while accomplishing my mission.

Everyone, particularly women, needs to be coached. Coaches make us believe in our strengths. They help us realise how to attain career growth. With the neutral vision of our coaches, we are able to stretch, to change and to grow into the leaders and managers we want to be. 

The coaches I have worked with have helped me build my leadership style. They taught me how to be strategic and intentional about my choices. Thanks to them, I am sure I will continue to have a huge impact on my team, the media house I work for and myself. I invite my colleagues to take up any chance they get to work with WIN coaches because I have no doubt they will make us shine.

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