Vera: Your work is about enabling people to maximize their potential. How do you help someone discover what their potential is and to keep that going?
Comfort: In trying to help people discover their potential, I get them to think about what comes naturally to them, what they don’t sweat to do, what lights them up, what their dreams in a particular area are and what kind of change they want to bring about. I encourage them to keep an open mind, acquire skills so that they can blossom and function at their maximum. I even suggest they consider what makes them angry that they wish to address to bring about positive change. Overall to discover one’s potential it is necessary to have an overarching vision; seek new ideas to incorporate in one’s role. One may even use apprenticeship or mentoring to learn more skills and establish benchmarks of what to improve and excel in.
Vera: You’ve written/co-written several books, one of them being the ‘10 commandments of success’’. What are some of the commandments in your book that are still/especially true today a decade on since you published it?
Comfort: The first would be what I call the ‘’God Factor’’; my relationship with God from whom my purpose in the world derives. In God, I find my moral compass and my anchor. God gives me a sense of direction. With God, I am able to serve with integrity. The other factor I would say is the importance of taking care of the physical body so as to avoid lifestyle-related diseases.
Vera: Another of your books is ‘’Defying all odds’’. What are some of the “odds’’ one needs to overcome in order to achieve success that lasts?
Comfort: Odds are essentially obstacles and are not necessarily things that are permanent. Odds are challenges we face during certain seasons of life or which come with specific goals we set ourselves. Odds could also be things you inherit such as a poor background in which case you may have to educate yourself or could be a hurdle such as discrimination from others due to disability, race etc. Whatever the odds are, the challenge is to develop the mindset that will help you overcome these odds.
Vera: One of your organizations, the Springboard Roadshow, focused on personal development is reaching many young people. How are you keeping it relevant year in year out?
Comfort: It’s a question we ask ourselves every year so that we can maintain our relevance and attract new participants. We do this assessment by involving past participants to get their ideas in terms of what to maintain, what to add and what to take out off the programme content. We also analyze what issues are occupying the mind of society. Over the years, we have focused on the themes of career development, financial independence and have run training modules around these. We also try to incorporate social interventions and encourage participants to think about where they can learn, develop interpersonal skills and seek internships. We also talk to firms for internship opportunities. We look at the impact the Roadshow is making in participants’ lives, the number who attend and how many are able to transition into what they want to do.
Vera: You train leaders; one criticism against leaders is that the higher they go the less they feel the need to learn. What would you say leaders need to keep learning?
Comfort: Leaders need to definitely keep on learning. Leaders should do what will continue to promote organizational growth and development. They shouldn’t focus only on their technical skills but improve on critical skills such as communication, team building, public speaking, human relations skills that will make them better leaders. They have to be future-oriented. For example, they need to ask the question ‘’in 5 years time what do I want to be doing?’’
Vera: Organizations often use training as a way of retaining talent although the impact of training is considered mixed in many cases. What makes training effective and how can beneficiaries of training get the most from it?
Comfort: In the training that my organization Legacy & Legacy does, we often do a needs assessment before the training and agree with the organization what specific problems should be prioritized. Since all learners have different modes of learning, we attempt to incorporate different learning mechanisms in order to maximise the learning experience. We also include practical elements, group work, brainstorming, hand-on try-outs and so on. Furthermore, we come back after the training to evaluate where the training is helping, what problems remain and what we can do to assist. Training is also more effective if participants prepare better such as thinking through and communicating what needs they want to address through the training and to also do all the preparatory assignments given in advance of the training.
Vera: Women are still struggling to gain recognition for their talent/leadership. From your own experience as a well respected leader and from your work with leaders, what can women do to make their mark especially at higher levels?
Comfort: For me the ‘’God factor’’ has been instrumental. For women more generally, I would say
- Scan the environment and see the trends, where society (or your organization or industry) is moving, what the needs are and see how you can help.
- Upgrade your skills regularly, especially for any new roles you are looking to be involved in. Work as well as network your rise to the top.
- Ask questions and research, know what the new emerging things are, what problems are being faced and how can you help with overcoming them.
- See the odds you face as opportunities. Add value in whatever you do. For example in our printing company, we decided to edit the manuscripts we received before we printed the manuscript even though we are not required to do that. We see that as a way of showing excellence.
- Stay resilient. Refuse to be discouraged by obstacles and setbacks. Hang onto your dream.
- Publicize your abilities. No one will know your abilities if you don’t communicate them. Communicate what you can do, what you’ve done in the past and what you’re learning. Don’t take a back seat; step up to the plate.
- Appreciate your uniqueness. Appreciate there’s only one of you and celebrate your uniqueness, gifts and strengths. Whatever you have opportunity to do, do it to the best of your ability. Do everything with a mindset of excellence and integrity.
Vera: How do you keep developing yourself and ensuring you are optimizing your gifts and strengths?
Comfort: It starts with looking at what one is good at. Personally I have learnt how not to take ‘’no’’ for an answer. When I have an idea, it’s not whether I will implement it but how I will achieve it. I always look for ways around obstacles and the options on the way forward. I have two people I go to when I need to work through obstacles- first to God and secondly to my husband. Talking to my family also helps me to regain my focus and humour and keeps me motivated. I also love learning new things; it keeps me on my toes and gives me new ideas, themes and concepts.
Comfort Ocran is CEO of Legacy & Legacy and Executive Director of Springboard Roadshow Foundation. She is co-author of 20 books and a motivational speaker, who has positively impacted the lives of many in Ghana and abroad. She is a fellow of African Leadership Initiative, West Africa (ALIWA) and a member of Aspen Global Leadership Network. Comfort is a columnist in Ghana’s biggest weekly newspaper, “The Mirror” as well as in “The Business & Financial Times,” She has been an expert guest on Personal development and related issues on Ghana’s leading TV channels, TV3 and ETV. Her media outreaches include “Springboard, the Virtual University”, an audio – visual motivational seminar aired daily on several radio and TV networks across Ghana. Comfort is a Board Member of the Ghana Institute of Literacy, Linguistics and Bible Translation (GILLBT) and Ghana Blind Union (GBU). She is married to Rev. Albert Ocran and has 3 children – Joojo, Naana and Nhyira
For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.