Reflections from the INSPIRE training

Hello everyone,

It has been a while since I shared some updates. I hope that you and your families are staying healthy, safe and digitally connected as we all deal with the rapidly evolving impact of COVID-19. I am currently managing a team of eight colleagues who hail from Nairobi, Lagos, Luanda, Johannesburg, and Morocco. We’re zooming several times a day, sharing tips for home workouts, checking in on each other’s families and personal situations, and trying to keep a sense of levity.
I wrote my blog post before we started working from home. It shares my reflections from a McKinsey training session that I attended in late 2019. While the nature of all corporate learning programs – at McKinsey and elsewhere – may need to change/go virtual for a time, I know McKinsey will continue to provide many opportunities for me to learn new things. These training sessions also reminded me how much energy I get from staying connected to my family and friends (in real life, and now digitally), and how to lead by coaching (vs. doing!) – something that has become even more critical now that my team is spread out across multiple countries on our average day.

I spent a week in November 2019 in one of our dedicated global learning facilities in Kitzbuehel, Austria, as a participant in the most powerful training I’ve been part of at McKinsey. INSPIRE is a week-long program for senior managers from around the world. We spent a lot of time meditating, in 1-on-1 coaching sessions with senior colleagues and alumni, as well as reflecting on our 3-5 year vision, and if McKinsey is the right place to live that vision. It was deeply personal, and the first training I’ve been to where the focus was primarily on ourselves, rather than finding ways to better live our firm mission, i.e. helping our clients and building a great company. Being a manager can get lonely sometimes, as there is typically only one on a project. It was cathartic to chat with other managers about this, and feel seen and heard.

INSPIRE was a good reminder of two things for me in particular:

On the beach during one of my 8 weeks off with my girlfriends

(1) Deep connections with people I cherish – my family, friends (including many of my colleagues and clients) energize and renew me. I took off a total of 8 weeks spread out over last year - over and above my regular vacation. I spent the extra time with my family in Kenya and my partner in the US & Germany, as we have a long distance relationship. I’m taking the 8 weeks again this year, and it makes me so happy.

A team event in the beautiful Capetown with my team after a HARD project

(2) I need to lead more by coaching versus by doing. It felt existential at the beginning of the INSPIRE week – being hands on with my team and navigating the trenches together gets me out of bed in the morning. I love being in the centre of challenging situations, and my teams consistently say they love this about working with me. They feel empowered to try lots of new things because I am close enough to the action – to either give a thumbs up, or have their back no matter what. By the end of INSPIRE, I had a better handle on how to grow my coaching muscles (pro tip: find people you like, who like you back and want to be coached by you). I also accepted that as I continue to split time between projects and transition into my next role – I am no longer the manager on all my projects, so this will be enforced by my changing role also.

I’m very grateful for the INSPIRE experience, and looking forward to growing as a coach!

Until next time,