December, 2018

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Final Ethiopia Trip Report: Speaking engagements at various institutions

Because of the unstable political atmosphere in Ethiopia, I have never gone back to Ethiopia since I came to the US in 2005. In April this year, however, the ruling party elected a new Prime Minister- Abiy Ahmed, who has been spearheading a reform that includes inviting political opponents, some of whom were sentenced to death in absentia.

Since then, thousands of Ethiopians in the Diaspora returned home after many years of exile. After 13 long years stay in the US, me too, I decided to visit my native country this past November.

During my four weeks stay, I had chances to:

  1. Visit my family,
  2. Give interviews to some government-owned and private media, and
  3. Conduct some keynotes and workshops for some universities and corporations.

Since I returned from Ethiopia, I’ve been reporting about my trip. If in case you missed my previous four reporting, you may check out the links below:

  1. Ethiopia Trip Report: Media Appearances

2. Ethiopia Trip Report: Workshops for media institutions

3. Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at the University of Gondar

4. Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at Addis Ababa University

In this final report, let me quickly share with you the institutions I served and the main discussion points. I will start my reporting with the first event I conducted and end it with my final event on Friday, November 30th, 2018.

  1. Center for African Leadership Development (CALD). I group coached the coordinators and facilitators of the iLead program designed and delivered by the Center for African Leadership Development (CALD). I also got a wonderful chance to give a motivational speech based on my latest book “Unchain Your Greatness” to a larger audience who are also alumni of this empowering program.

2. American College of Technology (ACT). I conducted a one-day seminar for business owners and corporate leaders from diverse industries. The theme of the workshop was ‘Taking Your Management and Leadership Competency to the Next Height’. Some of the participants were owners of private businesses while others executives and still others department head. At the end of the session, we had certification award ceremony.

3. Ethiopian Railways Corporation (ERC). I gave a keynote on the theme “Overcoming the 4 Leadership Challenges in the Field of Engineering.”  We have seen it again and again around the world where railways playing a backbone role for the transformations many nations experienced. The opportunity gave me a chance to show the leaders and engineers of ERC the four leadership challenges they should overcome and how to play their crucial and backbone role as the nation is attempting to come out of poverty and attain sustainable economic development.

4. Millennium Medical College @ St. Paul’s Hospital. The theme of my talk was ‘The Roles of Soft Skills in a Medical Profession’. Less attention has been given to soft skills, especially, in many technical professions including the medical profession. I was glad that the leaders of this institution saw the importance of developing the soft skills of their students. The insights, stories, and models were taken from my third book ‘Soft Skills That Make or Break Your Success’.

5. Bank of Abyssinia. As the nation opens its arms and invites FDI in some very crucial industries such as banks, airlines, energy, defense, telecom, and so on, for sure, there will be many global companies that will soon be flooding into the country to take advantage of the recent reforms and policy changes. One of the competitive advantages of these foreign companies, on top of finance, is world class customer service with a robust corporate culture and a team that functions like a well-oiled machine. That was why I facilitated a very interactive and dynamic session with the top leadership and district managers of Bank of Abyssinia including those who lead managers of up to 80 branches. The theme of our discussion was ‘Creating a Corporate Culture of Bank of Abyssinia that Motivates Continually.’

6. Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). I conducted a consultative discussion with the leadership of ECX, an innovative organization that continues to empower our farmers and traders. We talked about the need on how an institution like ECX, which has diverse stakeholders with varying interests, choices, and priorities should build its own team’s organizational and leadership capacity continually to serve its stakeholders with extraordinary excellence. The discussion was informal and very productive.

7. x-Hub Addis. The theme was ‘Leaders as Project Managers’. The Founder of x-Hub, Tewodros Tadesse, was asking me thoughtful questions about leadership, some of the most important project management competencies leaders should have, and more. In the end, the audience had also a chance to ask questions where we had vibrant conversations. Since one of the top challenges our country faces are failures in delivering projects within budget, on time, and by meeting the expectations of stakeholders, the theme of the discussion was timely and very relevant.

Notes:

  1. I’m very much thankful to all who reached out to me, created connections, and supported me in many ways for the successful accomplishment of these programs.
  2. Ermias Legesse asked me to share my observation during my four weeks stay in Ethiopia in ESAT’s DC studio. We had also a vibrant discussion based on the book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’. Below are the video clips:

Here is also another interview released recently. This interview was based on my two leadership books: https://youtu.be/-emz_iSAqqU

Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at Addis Ababa University

Since I returned from Ethiopia, I’ve been reporting about my trip. If in case you missed my previous three reporting, you may check out the links below:

  1. Ethiopia Trip Report: Media Appearances

2. Ethiopia Trip Report: Workshops for media institutions

3. Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at the University of Gondar

In this report, I’d like to share with you the highlights of my visit to Addis Ababa University (AAU). For your info, AAU is my alma mater. When I decided to return to the motherland after 13 long years, I vowed to pay back my former university, which gave me so many growth opportunities. On top of doing my first degree, AAU (the then student leaders) gave me a chance to serve its community as the president of AAU Students’ Union in 1997/98. This was the institution where I had a chance to serve nationally, travel to some African countries, and become a better person and leader.

The majestic main gate of AAU

Fortunately, my request to serve my alma mater got positive responses from the President- Prof. Tasew and Drs. Demeke Achisew & Kassu Jilcha, Directors of External Relations and Career Development Center, respectively. At AAU, I had three wonderful opportunities to serve. Let me quickly give you the summary of these events:

  1. With AAU Leadership. The university’s top leaders including Vice-Presidents, Directors, Executives, Deans; Middle and Lower Level Managers were invited by the President to attend this keynote. The theme of my presentation was ‘AAU Reclaiming Its Historic Responsibilities in the Nation Building Process’. The focus of the speech was about how AAU could play its fair share on the ongoing change process by raising competent change agents (Technocrats). I underscored the fact that the country, more than ever, needs a generation that can shoulder the responsibilities of transforming Ethiopia in one generation. In the end, we had a Q&A session where we had hot discussions about the kind of deep change and cultural reforms Ethiopia needs, the roles of the university in these regards, and some other proactive roles this historic university could play as a national learning institution, which had played crucial roles in the past as the nation went through so many transformations. I also shared some of the soft skills students need to develop so as to succeed while they are on campus and after graduation, and as they play their fair share on the ongoing change process. I also suggested incorporating and making these soft skills as part of the curriculum like other mainstream courses.
With the university’s leaders at Nelson Mandela Hall in Sidit kilo, the main campus of AAU

2. With AAU Career Development Center Team. I found the Director of the Center- Dr. Kassu, as a very dedicated and passionate servant who is working tirelessly to serve the student body. He invited trainers from all the campuses to attend this workshop. By the way, I was impressed by the prime attention the university gave to career development. The Center directly reports to the President. I showed the team the crucial roles soft skills play by taking some insights, facts, stories, tools, and approaches from my third book ‘Soft Skills That Make or Break Your Success’. I suggested the incorporation of certain soft skills on top of teaching students on how to write killer resumes, develop interviewing skills, and conducting mock interviews. Though the latter three skills are important to get one’s foot in the door, they are not enough to impress experienced recruiters. Most importantly, unless these skills are coupled with certain soft skills, they’re not adequate for students to thrive and continue to climb the corporate ladder.

The Career Development Team

3. With the Student Leaders. I had a consultative meeting with Addis Ababa University Students’ union leaders. The experience took me 20 years back in memory lane. I shared with them what it looked like to be a student leader back in the days, the things that helped our team succeed, the challenges we faced, and some of the results we have achieved, and more. They asked questions on how to overcome the challenges they are facing now, how to serve their constituents with excellence, and so on. We talked about some of the soft skills and leadership competencies they need to develop in order to serve the students body in particular and the AAU community at large with leadership excellence. We also discussed how they may play crucial roles in the nation-building process by tapping into the opportunity that presents itself in current Ethiopia. They asked me to continue to support the union’s leadership to build its organizational and leadership capacity, and I said yes… I want to thank student leader Juhar Sultan Yusuf, who was communicating with me before I even set my foot in Ethiopia to bring the student leaders together.

AAU Student Leaders…

Will share with you the last report on my Ethiopia Trip very soon. Stay tuned!

Ethiopia Trip Report: Events organized at the University of Gondar

Since I returned from Ethiopia, I’ve been reporting about my trip. If in case you missed my previous two reporting, you may check out the links below:

  1. Ethiopia Trip Report: Media Appearances

2. Ethiopia Trip Report: Workshops for media institutions

In this report, I’d like to share with you the highlights of my visit to the University of Gondar (UoG). By the way, the President of the UoG and I shared the same dormitory for over four years when we were studying at AAU, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. I’m so happy to see Dr. Desalgn- President of the UoG, after so many years. Most importantly, I was proud of his outstanding achievements as he leads one of the fastest growing and impactful learning institutions in Ethiopia.

Presenting my books to the President of UoG in his office

By taking his precious time, Desu gave me a tour and explained to me the various undertakings that were going on at the UoG. I was impressed by the expansion of the university. When I was invited by the student leaders of the then Gondar College of Medical Sciences, 20 years ago and while I was the leader of AAU students, the campus was tiny. Look at it now (the pic below is just a partial view of one of its campuses)! The UoG is now a mega-university which has dozens of faculties and thousands of students plus many regional and global partnerships around the world.

The beautiful campus of UoG

By the way, more than the growth and expansion of the UoG, I was impressed by the corporate culture, which is priceless. If you’re wondering about the external manifestations and successes of the university, look no farther. It’s because of the direct and indirect results of the internal working environment and culture of the university. During my two days stay, I witnessed the culture of the UoG in action. For instance, while in the office of the President and having informal chat with the top leadership, I closely watched how they were interacting among themselves. They were interacting like peers. I felt like we were close friends having fun in a coffee shop. We had so much fun and the conversation was full of laughter.

The tower at the UoG Presidents of Ethiopia, Eritrea & Somalia used to view the whole city

I also paid close attention to the way students were interacting with the President and his team. Students were waving their hands and greeting him with happy faces while we were walking and driving around. Some students with issues stopped him and chatted with him like they were talking to one of their peers. I was standing there and comparing what was going on right there with our student years. Let alone to talk to the president like that, we weren’t having decent interactions with our lecturers. In short, if you would like to duplicate the extraordinary successes of the UoG, study its culture, customize it to your objective conditions on the ground, and then, you would replicate its successes.

At the UoG, I had three opportunities:

  1. With the UoG Leadership. I shared the critical roles certain soft skills play and the importance of incorporating these soft skills into the curriculum like the other mainstream courses to the university’s President, Vice-Presidents, Deans, and other leaders of the UoG. The insights, stories, models, and tools were taken from my book ‘Soft Skills That Make or Break Your Success‘. By the way, the university has a dedicated Deliverology and Career Development team working hard to empower students while they are on campus so that they may become ready to serve their communities with excellence when they leave the university after graduation. My presentation was received well. As a result, the university’s administration and the relevant team are eager to work with me to implement some of the suggestions put forward in my presentation.
With the UoG leadership

2. With Student Leaders. I shared my journey on why I decided to serve the AAU community as student leader 20 years ago, the preparation I did to position myself to get elected as president from a faculty that was neglected and isolated, and the resilience it took to succeed in that very demanding position. I encouraged these young leaders to elevate their vision from preoccupying themselves in just focusing on immediate concerns of student needs such as food and academic issues. I shared with them what we did 2 decades ago. I told them that we actively engaged at national and continental issues such as traveling to visit other university students in the country to form a national students’ union, requesting to be represented in the parliament, proactively involving in the then national issues using media outlets, and traveling in some African countries to contribute our fair share in using intercultural dialogue to bring peace in the continent and so on. I inspired these future leaders of our country to engage the student body and create synergy with the university administration not only to address campus-wide issues but also to play proactive roles in other socio-economic, civic, and nation-building affairs in the regional state and beyond.

UoG student leaders

I also reminded these young leaders the fact that we have now a young PM and the nation is in transformation. Accordingly, I encouraged them to work on their personal development, have the right mindset, envision high, and develop certain leadership and soft skills to lead the student body with excellence and also to fulfill their national civic responsibilities while they are still students. They engaged with me and asked million dollar questions. They also asked me to continue empowering the leadership and I said I will try my best!

3. Spoke at Global Entrepreneurship Week Event. On this important occasion, I talked about the mindset necessary, some of the key decisions to make, and soft skills necessary to succeed in any business.

Thank you very much Drs. Desalegn and Asrat (President and Vice-President, respectively), and the leadership team of the UoG for inviting me to share my stories and expertise to the university’s community and your hospitality. I’m proud of you and your accomplishments! Way to go!!!

Will continue to report the remaining aspects of my Ethiopia Trip. Stay tuned!