The mention of a Corner Office has most people visualize a physical space. This however is most likely to be the corner of a building mostly reserved for the most senior partners in an organisation.
It is however not necessarily that kind of space but may be used to refer to the optimum achievement one desires in any sphere.
Enid Ndiga is a successful Lawyer and Women Rights Advocate. Her advocacy has seen her work with FIDA and NCHR. She currently serves as Senior Vice President at The Centre for Reproductive Rights, Geneva.
Fighting for the reproductive rights of the underprivileged women is her passion.
Against many odds occasioned by her humble beginnings and being that she is a woman, the mother of three has excelled in her career. Many would say that she has attained her Corner Office. She however says, she is not there yet.
Through her own life experiences, Enid shared the methodology towards attaining the Corner Office.
1 . Know Yourself. Know Your Personality
In the words of John C. Maxwell, “To Grow Yourself, You Must Know Yourself”
While in the past, she was branded average, Enid knew in her heart of hearts that she was made of more.
Her primary school teachers discouraged her form applying to a top National High School. Their opinion was that she would not qualify. Trusting her own judgement, she applied anyway. She was admitted to the top Kenyan National School for girls. That achievement was the beginning of her self-believe.
On completion of her high school, while collecting her certificate, she was again reminded her that she was not sufficient. She was branded average. This branding was not based on her academics. It was owing to her invisibility during her four years of high school. Unlike other girls, she did not participate in extra-curricular activities. When making this state, there was no consideration of her background. That she was from a little known school in the village and was shy and under exposed. Again, she declined to embrace this narrative and trusted her inner voice.
She had discovered her passion in her second year in high school. She was going to be a lawyer.
Mercifully, she had declined to embrace the narrative that she was average. What other people thought she was their business. Hers was to be was fully in touch with her emotional intelligence. She knew better who she was.
When you know who you are, you do not allow others to brand you. By knowing that she was a go-getter, Enid was able to focus on herself rather than others. This knowledge goes a long way in moulding how we communicate with others and how we influence others.
2. Invest In Your Self.
Enid’s first attendance for her Master’s class in Gender and Development was in the company of her two week old son. The option would have been to wait another year to join the next class. She opted not to and sat defiantly in class silently daring anyone to question her action.
After all it was a gender class. No objection came forth. The path was not easy. She graduated when her son was 3 years old.
Investing in one’s self takes time and money. It requires a lot of sacrifice. In its’ absence, there is no growth. It is therefore not an option.
3. Purpose To Have A Social and A Professional Network
“Your Network are your Net Worth” – Tim Sanders
In order to propel yourself forward, you must build a network of people. These networks become your support system in the different genres of your life. They will come through for you when there is a need. You in turn will be there for them when there is a need.
Over the years, Enid has built herself a network of people both socially and professionally. They form part of her growth journey.
Invest in fostering lasting relationships with people. They will in turn invest in you.
4. Be Visible, Be Googleable.
If you were to google your name, what would show up?
In today’s digital era, the social media is the first place people search when trying to verify you authenticity.
Are you googleable? If not, you must achieve this. You must have a Facebook page. You must have a LinkedIn profile. Gone are the days when one could veer away from the net and still stay relevant. Create online visibility as a step towards attaining that corner office.
Ensure that what is visible to the world is a person of high integrity and of high moral standing. They say a picture tell a story. Ensure that the photos you post would not embarrass your mother.
5. Read, Read and Then Read Some More.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin
There are numerous resources that can be gained from reading. When seeking that corner office Enid says that it is prudent that one reads widely. She refers to Jack Canfield who says that “There are essentially two things that will make you wise — the books you read and the people you meet.”
Read frequently and widely and expand your knowledge. Knowledge is power.
Apart from books, blogs are another great source of information.
6. Have a Mentor, a sponsor, a Coach and a Girlfriend.
A Mentor is most likely a person who is already in The Corner Office. They act as a guide to their Mentee by sharing their expertise and experience. The Mentee is most likely seeking to achieve a similar corner seat to their mentor.
A Coach has the capacity to unlock a person’s potential. Rather than teach their subject, they help one to learn. Thy help them to focus on their goals and lead them to achieving the same.
In the Kenyan context, the word Sponsor is often misused. Enid describes a Sponsor as a person who has your back no matter what. One who cheers you on and sells you even in your absence.
Every girl needs a girlfriend or two. These are the people whose company you can sip a glass of wine. They are also the people who offer the space to bare it all. It could be crying, venting or just sharing.
Armed with these four resources, ones trajectory to the corner office is most likely to remain upward.
7. Balance Your Life.
In the absence of a balance in life, something is bound to fall.
One must purpose to give in equitable proportions to work, family and self.
Women are often required to be twice as good as men to get recognition. They thus immerse themselves in work to achieve the recognition they so desire. This may often be at the cost of family and self.
Learn how to say no. Learn to be selfish.
Enid shared how she says no to work by blocking part of her Calendar so that her assistant cannot schedule any work on those slots. Fridays are her no meeting days unless it is a do or die situation.
The one aspect of the life balance that may often be ignored yourself. Everyone needs to have some ME-TIME. One needs to create the time and space to be alone.
Enid’s friend has young children. She barely gets a breather. She has devised a place and space for her ME-TIME. The space is her toilet. Here, she spends 30 minutes every day to read a magazine and exhale. It keeps her sane.
8. Reward Yourself.
It’s a man’s world and women’s achievements are often downplayed.
Enid’s growth and achievements has place her in the company of world leaders. In spite of this, she has in the past experienced male chauvinism even among her peers. There were instances where she was expected to serve tea just because she was the only woman in the room.
It takes a lot of hard word to erode the notion that you may not be deserving or that you are not good enough. You deserve it. Reward yourself. Celebrate every single milestone no matter how small. It could be in any form like a new dress or a new piece of jewelry.
In Enid’s case, she celebrate with a new perfume or just a meal or drink at her favourite restaurant. Be selfish
9. Set Goals and Celebrate Achievements
As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.
It is important to set goals as these sets your tempo towards achieving them.
Short term goals are important as they enable you to see results quickly. This then motivates you towards achieving the medium term goals and eventually the long term goals.
Enid shared of a time when she suffered from the Imposter syndrome. This is a condition where insufficiency and self-doubt is the norm. These feelings persist despite evidence of success. One is continuously in a state of chronic self-doubt. One views themselves as a fake overriding any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.
Do not down play your achievements. When you are elevated into a higher position, it is not a token. Stop second guesting yourself. You deserve it. Celebrate yourself at every opportune moment.
10. Fake It Till You Make It
Boys were an unspoken topic back home in the village. Enid, therefore knew very little about them. She did know however that she needed to avoid them in order to remain focused. When she joined University for her undergraduate degree, she was shy.
She went to great strengths not to draw attention to herself. Her daily dress code was business suits leading to her being mistaken for a Masters’ Class student. It kept the boys at bay but better still, her dress code set her looking the part of the Lawyer she was studying to become.
When seeking that office corner, you need to look the part. You need to belief that you are going to make it. You need to walk, talk and dress like you have already achieved your goals. The universe will respond.
At the click of a finger, you must be able to describe who you are. What you have to offer. Be the author of your own brand. Always have your elevator pitch handy as opportunities may come and go in a flash.
When Enid was climbing the corporate ladder, one of her tools for looking the part was to wear designer eye glasses. She did not need to wear glasses. They however gave her the cosmetic look that she needed to look the part.
One must not shy away from faking it. Practice makes perfect. Fake it until you make it.
All it takes is passion and diligence.
The path to the corner office may not be a straight one
Whether you are aspiring to be the best Hairdresser, Banker, Chef, Entrepreneur or Artist, follow the 10 steps and stay the course.
Every step will propel you forward. If you fall, pick yourself up, dust off and keep moving.
Don’t give up. The Corner Office is closer than ever before. Keep your eye on the price.