Both my parents are retired primary school teachers. They both taught for nearly 40 years each. They have combined 80 years of experience. When they meet their former students who went far with education or those that are simply successful and doing something meaningful in society, they become so happy and proud. I was once a teacher too, but only for one term.
When I was in my final year at college, I went back to my former school, St. Patrick’s Seminary, where I helped to cover up for the Mathematics and Additional Mathematics teacher who had returned to Canada on sick leave. When I meet the students I taught and see that they are excelling in life, I become very happy!
This was the kind of elation, joy and excitement that I had last week when I had a reunion lunch with two former colleagues. During the period from 2011 to 2014, Allan Banda and Chinga Chaguluka were my two lieutenants in my career.
At the reunion, it was the first time the three of us met while the two colleagues were serving in their promoted ranks at executive director level in the information technology profession-with Allan Banda as information technology (IT) director for a mobile phone operator in Sierra Leone and Chinga as chief information officer for a bank in Malawi. And there is the third colleague who did not make it to the lunch but also risen to director rank.
They told me great things they learnt from us and also some bad habits too! Like a teacher does, I had great pride seeing them excelling where they now serve. They seem to be thoroughly enjoying what they do. They have the ability to deal with complex issues and crises that come in the IT profession at that level. They also confessed that they now understand better the pressure we used to give them, because they now exert the same and sometimes more pressure to the managers below them!
They both said that such a career trajectory does not just come by sheer luck. Indeed, there were deliberate things that we did together that made it possible for the two of them to rise to the rank of director within three years of working together. Below are three things we did to make this journey possible.
First, we had a clear verbal agreement that I would mentor them, specifically training them to operate at a job level like mine within an agreed time frame—in this case we agreed a period of three to five years. We were clear to each other that we were training them for a hypothetical director level job in IT and that they could be assigned an entirely different director level job or indeed mine. We could not tell what would happen in the future, but we could help them acquire the skills for possible future roles.
Second, we worked on a career plan that was documented. This plan included a GAP analysis that indicated the strengths they each had as well as the areas that needed filling the gaps. This informed their individual training plans. They each committed to the discipline of learning. They had each already enrolled for master’s degree programmes, which they were pursuing by correspondence. We later pressurised their completion of the master’s programme by attaching it to their work-related annual performance agreement. They also pursued several professional courses mostly paying out of their pocket. They had the commitment.
Thirdly, we had periodic reviews of the career plans, looking at how they were fairing against the plans. In the reviews, candid feedback was being given on what was going well and what needed improvement. This included close monitoring of progress being made against the individual career development plan. This way, they both were able to rise to the director level within three years of the coaching programme.
If you want to experience the joy of a teacher, coach your subordinates that have good talent, potential and a positive attitude so that they can realise their true potential. You will be happy to see them rise and shine. Good luck! n