My 2021 In Review

I remember the 1st of January 2021 clearly. If it had not been for the pandemic, my hubby and I would have been at a cross over services. (I really miss attending those in person BTW). We waited for the clock to strike midnight. We prayed to usher in the new year and we called our family members and wished them a great 2021.

I was pumped up as the year began. I had my goals clearly written. My vision book was updated and I was ready to go. A few weeks into the new year, my father was diagnosed with cancer. We were all hopeful and believed God for his healing. On the 4th of March, he was promoted to glory at 87 years 2 months and 11 days. You can read the details on the post I wrote here. I guess the biggest issue was that when I have challenges, I lean on my family, except this time we were all grieving. Somehow we managed to be there for each other. I also thank God for friends who stood with us and continue to.

I do miss the phone calls with my father.

Events such as birthdays and important holidays like Easter and Christmas are just not the same in the absence of loved ones. My birthday in June was especially difficult. I had a ritual with my father since 2016 when we left Zimbabwe. We had a way of celebrating together from different parts of the world. I always looked forward to the missed call from my father. It was a signal for me to call back. We would talk for a long time about different things from my work, his grandchildren, politics, sport and anything else that was topical. Oh how I miss those calls.

Usually on a day like today, the 31st of December, I would be looking at my journal, ticking off the goals completed and reviewing and reflecting on the year. Today I am not ticking off any goals from my journal or setting anything. It’s because 2021 taught me some lessons that I would like to share.

Lesson 1. Life is like a cake. 2021 reminded me of this lesson that my pastor shared on our wedding 14 years ago. BTW, today is our wedding anniversary, but let me not digress. A cake is made up of flour, sugar salt, eggs, milk and if you are making my favourite, chocolate. These ingredients if taken individually can really be gross! Just imagine having dry flour on its own, or just salt on it’s own or the raw eggs. My son would say “mummy that is revolting”. Even ingredients such as sugar and chocolate should not be consumed in excess. The beauty of cake is in the mixing of the individual ingredients in the right quantities. The result is something truly delicious. Life is like that. Good things only make us pompous. Bad things only make us bitter. A mix of both good and not so good is what makes life truly beautiful. In 2021 I cried, like a lot, but I also laughed, like a lot, and smiled too.

2. God heals. I am certain of this. Sometimes this healing might mean the disease is removed and your loved one recovers. Other times the healing might mean your loved one is called home and isn’t in pain anymore. Either way, there is healing.

God heals. (Fullstop)

3. Any day is a good day to start. Whatever you want to accomplish, any day is a good year to start. You don’t have to wait for the new year, your birthday or some other day. Start as soon as you decide. The reason I am not writing my goals today is because I did that already in October. I had no reason to wait. As I think of a new goal I will add it to my list. That’s something 2021 taught me.

As we get into 2022, please remember this post. You might experience both good and not so good events. Like cake, a combination of these is what truly makes life beautiful.

In 2021 I cried,a lot and I smiled, a lot too

3 John 2 is my prayer for you in 2022 “Beloved I wish above all things that you may prosper (in 2022) and be in health, even as your soul prospers”

I gave myself a YES day and now I am making it a YES year

Some time back I wrote about the power of saying NO. You can read this post here . There is a definite place for NO just as there is a definite place for a YES. What is important is to be clear what you are saying YES to and what you are saying NO to.

Say YES to yourself

As mothers, we instinctively prioritize our families’ needs before our own. You know what, it is completely okay to also say yes to yourself every now and again.

End of last year I received a Takealot voucher from my workplace for a project I had worked on. I wasn’t expecting this voucher so it was a welcome addition to my Christmas shopping plans. My first thought was to put the voucher towards our family monthly grocery shopping. As I was doing my selection on the online platform, it occurred to me that if i used the voucher to purchase groceries, two months down the line I wouldn’t even remember. I then considered using the voucher to get Christmas presents for my family. The amount on the voucher was gone and I hadn’t picked up anything for myself and I wasn’t happy about it. Again I removed everything that was in my shopping cart and decided for once I was going to get something for me only. I clicked on the ladies section and chose a cute little dress for myself. I picked up Brene Brown’s Dare To Lead from the books category and a nice perfume that I had been wanting to get for a while. It felt so good to prioritize myself for once.

Say yes to that extra hour of sleep on Saturday, say yes to another slice of pizza if you feel like and say yes to time alone without the kids. Do not deny yourself the little luxuries in life and end up becoming resentful. When you are happy and fulfilled you can be a great mum to your children and wife to your spouse. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Make sure you yourself are refreshed as you daily refresh others.

My cute little dress

Say YES to your children

Have you watched the movie Yes Day?I don’t have the guts to come out openly to my children and tell them we are having a yes day, but I have given them yes days without them knowingπŸ˜„πŸ˜„. On some Friday nights, I do say yes to just one more episode of The Inbestigators after bedtime. On some days I say yes to ice cream after supper ( and of course I deal with the consequences of the sugar rush). When they ask me to read them just one more story before they sleep, I say yes. Yesterday the twins asked me to give them piggy back rides. I said yes. They are turning 8 in July and I am sure that’s not a request I will continue to get but I will probably miss. They are growing so fast and moms of older children are always telling me to enjoy this phase as it will come to an end and I will miss it.

Yes Day movie cast

Say YES to opportunities

Say yes to the opportunities that are presented to you. Even if you feel you are not 100% ready. Publish that article, go ahead and accept that challenging assignment and then go ahead and ace it. You should not disqualify yourself before you even start.

Say YES to others

YES is a powerful word. I am where I am today because someone said yes to me, believed in me and gave me an opportunity. I remember sitting across the table from the woman who gave me the opportunity that later opened many doors for me. I had come for the interview the previous day and she couldn’t see me as there was an emergency meeting. I was asked to come back the following day. When I did she was available but the rest of the interview panel were not available. She asked me to tell me about myself. After answering only this question she offered me the job immediately and asked me to come back and start work the following day. That’s how I joined one of the leading food companies in the world and worked there for over ten years including a three year expatriate assignment in another country. She said YES and that simple word completely changed my career and my life. I have tried as much as I can to keep the yes going. Say yes to others even when you never got a yes yourself.

Make the rest of 2022 the year of YES, to the right things, the right opportunities and to the right people.

Career Lessons From Netflix’s Miniseries Inventing Anna

I have been watching the new series on Netflix called Inventing Anna. I haven’t finished the whole series as yet. The episodes I have watched so far have been so full of career lessons that I thought I would share a few today. As I continue with the series, I might come back with a part 2 to this post.

Relationships – One thing to remember is that all things being equal, people want to do business with people they KNOW, LIKE and TRUST. Chase’s (Anna’s boyfriend) ambitions were significantly furthered because Norah in whose house he lived knew him, she liked him and she trusted him. Because of this relationship, Norah introduced Chase to her very influential network.

Chase – image from Netflix

Bringing this to the corporate world, it also partly explains why some people advance faster than others, the right people know about them and what they can do. One of my Lecturers back in University shared this with my class in his final lecture with us. His exact words were “… you need to know that decisions that impact your career progress will sometimes be made on the golf course. I strongly encourage you to consider taking up golf ” Today my interpretation of those words is different from the one I took when he said that. Back then I took the statement literally. He might as well have meant it exactly the way he said it. Today I interpret it as build your network and ensure decision makers know you.

Excellent work is foundational to getting ahead, but the next step is the right relationships. I am not advocating using people to get ahead (literally what Anna did to Norah). Neither do I support crossing all moral boundaries to get ahead at any cost. I am talking about building genuine relationships that result in people liking you and trusting you enough to want to business with you or mention your name on the golf course πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„.

Introductions – Because Norah liked and trusted Chase, she took him to all the important functions where he met her rich network and was able to get funding for his app that he was working on. When you get that kind of opportunity to meet people who are willing to back your dream, please do not squander it. Enough said.

Norah – image from Netflix

It is important at this stage to mention that it really is not just about knowing only supposedly influential people. You will also be surprised how “ordinary” people can literally be king makers. Remember Neff from the series? She worked at the front desk of the hotel Anna was living in. Neff knew a lot of important people and she was able to get Anna onto a lot of databases for exclusive VVIP events in New York. It is perfectly okay to ask your friends, your hairdresser, the receptionist at your workplace, the security guard and and, and to introduce you to their own networks. You will be surprised to learn who the real king makers are.

Neff – image from Netflix

Mentorship and Sponsorship– Anna managed to get Norah to notice her. Please don’t follow the devious ways that she used to do this. Let your excellent work be such that people take notice and you just cannot be ignored. Norah took Anna on as her protege, showed her the ropes and introduced her to her high powered connections and introduced her as her protege.

Allan Reid who was the lawyer helping Anna to access funds from the banks for her project was like a sponsor to Anna. Sponsors are willing to put their reputation on line and vouch for your excellent work. Allan introduced Anna to many high powered banking officials. Doors she had struggled to unlock on her own, Allan was helping her.

Allan and Anna

A clear plan of getting to her goal – devious as it might have been, Anna had a clearly mapped out plan of how she was going to realise her ambitions. She knew who she needed to make it happen and exactly how she would get it. You too need to have a clear plan to achieve your goals, except yours should not be devious and land you in jail.

Have you watched Inventing Anna? What other career lessons did you get? Let me know in the comments section.

Mum In Stilettos

Trust God to keep doors that you shouldn’t be walking into closed!

The one thing I never want in my old age is regret. I try as much as I can to choose courage, to get out of my comfort zone and explore. As a woman of faith, I really trust that what is mine will come to me. It will not get lost in the mail or end up somewhere else. It comes to me. In the same way, the doors I shouldn’t be walking into remain closed because God already sees my end from my beginning and He will therefore order and direct my steps.

Image from Pexels

A few years ago the office I worked for, in Nairobi Kenya was shut down. The business results the company was hoping for did not come in the time frame the business owners had expected. Most positions were made redundant. The company being a multinational company with branches in other countries, they offered relocation to other countries to some employees. Some were offered roles in different functions. I was on an expatriate assignment at that point. The first obvious option for those who were expatriates was to go back to your home country and take up a role there. I could therefore go back home to Zimbabwe. There was a role for me there. I was also offered several other options, one of which was to stay on in Kenya as an expatriate in a different role and function. This second option was conditional. It was dependent on me getting my work permit renewed.

Even with these options available, I still wanted to see what else was out there. Disruptions like these aren’t pleaseant, but they also present an opportunity to reimagine a different career life and future. With this in mind, I began my job search. I wasn’t desperate because I had my options available even though the other one came with conditions. I was carefully looking for a role that would offer growth but also allow me to make a difference. I wasn’t going to just take the first role that came up.

I found a role with a completely different company that ticked all my boxes. There was only one issue. It was in South Africa. This meant it was also subject to me getting a work permit. What a predicament! To make the situation even more dicey, I couldn’t apply for the work permit for my South African job offer from Kenya. I needed to go back home to Zimbabwe and make the South African work permit application from there. I could have easily done this, except my passport was required to be submitted to accompany my work permit application. If I did this, I would not be able to travel back to Kenya to continue working as I waited for my South African work permit. If I was going to take up the South African job offer, the only option was for me to resign from the role I had in Kenya, go back to Zimbabwe and apply for a South African work permit which wasn’t guaranteed.

I could have decided to stay with the job I had in Kenya. After all I already had excellent expatriate benefits. I however knew if I stayed, i would have regretted it and wondered what could have been all my life. With no guarantees that I would get a South African work permit, I still resigned. Left my comfortable expatriate job in Kenya, went back to Zimbabwe and began the process of applying for a work permit. It was a 3 months wait.

I was reflecting and thinking about that part of my life the other day. As they say, in hindsight, everything will make sense and the dots always connect. I wrote a few lessons from this experience that I would like to share today.

1. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s the ability to still do it even when you are afraid. I was afraid. My husband was worried too. We have three children to look after so this wasn’t any easy decision to make but we made it. In case you are wondering how we came to that decision, we prayed and we sought God. There was no explicit voice from Him to tell us exactly what to do. There were different signs that we were in the right direction. One was that my Kenya work permit wasn’t renewed. That door was closed and I was okay with that. Through it all, we had peace that we were in the right direction. Yes there was a certain fear, but there was also overwhelming peace through it all.

2. In the multitude of counsel, there is safety. My husband and I had people that we trusted that we could discuss what we were going through. Not only were they praying with and for us, they were also offering guidance and counsel.

3. Trust God to keep doors that you shouldn’t be walking into closed and locked and open the doors that you should be walking into. In my career, my faith has been an anchor. I do excellent work consistently but I also trust God to also order and direct by steps. I wasn’t disappointed at all when the Kenya work permit wasn’t renewed. For me, it was clear I was not being rejected but being redirected.

4. Don’t wait for the inevitable to happen in order to start applying for other roles. Even if you are happy with your current role, there is nothing wrong in exploring to see what else is out there. This removes desperation and gives you time to evaluate offers properly and not take the offers that might not be good for you.

5. Multiple streams of income are a must. Your job only determines your salary and not your income. In the 3 months that we were waiting for the South African work permit, we opened alternative streams of income that still help us as a family today. The pandemic in 2020 further highlighted to a lot of people the importance of alternative streams of income.

6. There are people whose opinions shouldn’t matter to you. I met former work colleagues during the 3 months in between jobs phase who could not understand my choices and the decisions I was making. I wasn’t worried about other people’s opinions. Not everyone should have a right and access to give their opinions on what you should or shouldn’t do. You need your own inner circle and “board of directors” who can determine and help you make decisions. In the same way corporates don’t take guidance from every Tom, Dick and Harry, neither should you. Be very clear on whom you allow to speak into your life and determine the direction you take.

The doors that were supposed to open did open for us. My work permit for the South African offer was issued and we have been here really enjoying this country which is only a 90 minute flight from home. You can trust God to order and direct your footsteps and get you where you need to be.

7 Ways To Build A Strong Network As A Working Mum.

We have all heard the saying “your network is your net worth”. This statement is very true. The people you surround yourself have a great impact on your success. I know as working women we have many roles to fulfill. We are wives, mothers, co-workers, line managers, friends, sisters, church leaders…….the list is endless . Trying to fit time for all these roles and still have time to build a strong professional network might not be easy. One thing is for sure, you aren’t going to make it alone. You need others. Today I would like to share these 7 simple ways that I personally use to build my professional network. Please note this is about genuine relationship building. Build your network before you actually need it. Networking should not be about what you can get. It’s about what is beneficial for everyone involved.

Image from Pexels

1. Make LinkedIn your best friend – When it comes to professional platforms, LinkedIn is one of the best out there. You have an opportunity to do different things on the platform including:

a) Connecting with others in your industry.

b) Getting access to job opportunities. I got my current role via LinkedIn, and I wasn’t even on the premium option.

c) Position yourself as an expert in your industry through sharing relevant content.

2. Do not ignore your high school, college/ university alumni associations – former school mates are great way to network. I am in one alumni association where we only discuss business opportunities. We don’t talk about anything else. No politics or trending topics, just opportunities only. Through this group I have received several business referrals and opportunities. There isn’t any time commitment needed for this one because we are all scattered all over the world and only engage through our WhatsApp group.

3. Join your professional association – Most professions have a body that represents the interests of individuals in that industry or profession. Professional associations assist their members through learning programs, networking opportunities and sometimes job opportunities that are are only accessible to members. A simple internet search of your profession, location and the word association should bring up all the options available near you. Take up a role in your professional association to enhance your visibility and get access to the movers and shakers in your profession. Beyond just being a member, connect with others personally. Ask for a virtual coffee meeting and make sure you come prepared to ask the right questions as well as to add value. If your professional association has a magazine, make an effort to be a regular contributor to the magazine so you build yourself as an expert in your industry. Even as a mom, you can create time for your professional development without overloading your already full plate.

4. Participate in other volunteer organisations – you network doesn’t have to only be made of people who are in your industry or profession. That is a blinkered way to approach your career. Cast your net wide and join or participate in volunteer organisations. Your weekly church cell group not only builds you up spiritually, it exposes you to people to build genuine relationships with. During lockdown in 2020, I joined Toastmasters a global organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Meetings happen twice a month so that isn’t too demanding. Each meeting usually runs for a maximum of 2 hours. In the month of August and September alone I attended meetings in Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia without actually leaving the comfort of my home. I have met so many people that I now communicate with beyond Toastmasters business.

5. Search for events near you on Facebook– the pandemic has brought events that were normally in-person online. Without leaving your children or struggling to arrange a baby sitter, you can join events that are relevant for you virtually.

6. Join a Lean In Circle near you or create one if there isn’t any near you. Lean In is an organisation that was founded by Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook. The Lean In mission is to help women achieve their dreams and create an equal world. A Lean In circles is a group of 8-12 women who meet regularly, in person or virtually to support one another and learn new skills. When our family relocated to Johannesburg in 2019, building a professional network was a top priority for me. I reached out to a friend and together we created a Lean In Circle. We currently meet once a month to discuss various topics that affect us as women in corporate. We share our experiences and sometimes bring in expert speakers. Through the Circle we have unlocked opportunities for each other. If there is no Lean In Circle near you, create one. The Lean In website has guidelines on how to get a Circle going.

7. Register for the MumInStilettos Roadmap To Career Success Group Coaching Program – if you have tried to navigate your career on your own without much success, then this 6 week group coaching program is for you. In the program, you are going to meet other ambitious women who are looking to take their careers to the next level. Whether you are just starting out or you are a seasoned professional, I will hold your hand hand help up you accomplish the following:

a) Set clear and actionable career goals.

b) Clear actions on the steps you need to take to achieve your career goals.

c) Work on your personal brand and build brand YOU.

d) Introduce you to the Power of 3 Framework.

e) The art of self promotion.

At the end of 6 weeks, you will have a clear roadmap with step by step guidance on how to take your career to the next level. Register for the program on the link below and I will get in touch with you. https://vb3l7g3vfl3.typeform.com/to/x4JKBO04

Dear tired and sleep deprived mum…

I am a mum of three. Our oldest daughter is nine years old. We have twins that turned seven end of August. There is a 28 months gap between the children. This means there was a time all three of our children were below three years old. Yesterday I was reminded of those days when I was a sleep deprived tired mama. It started raining around midnight and our eldest daughter woke me up because she was scared of the thunder and lightning. She was awake till three am so I hardly slept the whole night. I therefore decided to write this post to encourage all sleep deprived tired mommas out there.

When the twins were born, my mum came to stay with us to help with the children. I took four months maternity leave from work. For my readers in the West, in most African countries, maternity leave is paid if you are employed ( just thought I would throw that in there. Africa isn’t backward after all. We have our challenges but in some areas we get it right). My husband was able to get about a month of paternity leave. We also had a live-in helper. That means for the first month, there were four of us looking after the three children. Guess what, it went a long way to relieve the exhaustion, but it wasn’t enough.

I was always tired. During the first month after the twins were born, the night shift was reserved for me and my hubby. The day shift belonged to my mom and our helper, but since I was also breastfeeding, it meant even during the day, I needed to be available to breastfeed two babies on demand.

When hubby went back to work, my mom joined me in the night shift. During the day we scheduled our napping and resting around the babies. If I needed to rest, mom and the nanny would look after the babies and if she needed to rest, i and the nanny would look after the babies.

After two months, my mom also had to go back to her home. I still had two more months of maternity leave. My husband rejoined the night feeding shift again. It was really a lot to manage so we decided to get a second maid to assist with the house chores during the day. She didn’t live with us, but she worked three days a week. I am grateful to God that we had the resources to do this.

Eventually my maternity leave ended and I also I had to go back to work. Thankfully my mother came back for another month just to ease the transition for both me and the babies. The other thing I appreciate about the Zimbabwean law, is that once a mother returns back  to work from maternity leave, she is entitled to an hour of breastfeeding per day. She can choose to go to the office an hour later or leave the office an hour early. In hindsight, this was a real blessing for which I am grateful.

I have to acknowledge and admit that I had a lot of family support as well. My sisters, sisters in law, nieces and nephews were all a phone call away. Most weekends I would call someone to relieve me for about three hours in the afternoon, just so I could get some sleep.

Outside of work, our lives revolved around the children.(it’s still kinda like that nine years later). The only place that we went outside of our home was church. Friends that needed to see us had to come visit us. It’s pointless trying to socialize with three kids all under three years. We tried it and failed dismally.

I got a lot of unsolicited advice, even from those whose circumstances were very different from mine. Some would say sleep when the babies sleep i.e follow their schedule….but they were two different babies and they had two different sleeping patterns so whose schedule was I supposed to follow? Twin girl ( Joanna) was and still is a late sleeper so I would stay awake with her until close to midnight. Twin boy (Isaiah) was and still is an early riser together with older sister (Mimi). That meant I was awake by 5 am. Honestly, I think I only started getting a full night after the twins turned two years.

So what is the purpose of this post? To tell all tired and sleep deprived moms to hang in there. It does get better with time. They grow up so fast and before you know it, the sleeplessness nights will be a distant memory.

Get all the help and support that you can, from your partner, from family and from friends. That’s the only way you can maintain your sanity. I wish you well and I promise, you will be able to sleep again.

Photo by William Fortunato from Pexels

How to make your Line Manager your biggest cheerleader…

There are many strategies out there on how to get ahead in your career. Whilst it is obvious that you are responsible for driving your own career and putting in most of the work, there are other key allies that are critical to your career success. These may include a mentor, a coach and a sponsor. One strategic ally that is often ignored is the Line Manager. Today I would like to focus on how to make your Line Manager your biggest cheerleader so you can achieve your career goals.

Image from Pexels

A Line Manager is the person that you directly report to. He/she would be responsible for deliverables of his/her team whilst reporting to a higher level manager. Other duties will also include setting objectives for his/her team, evaluating performance, providing on the job training and mentoring.

It is in your best interests to have a good working relationship with your Line Manager. Your salary increases, your bonuses ,your visibility within the organisation and overall growth prospects within your organisation are all tied to your relationship with your Line Manager and how he/she perceives you. I know it will not always be possible to get along well with your Line Manager. For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume that your Line Manager is a normal human being who is committed to supporting your growth and development. In a different future post I will also share how to navigate when your relationship with your Line Manager is not so great.

I started my career as a graduate trainee in the marketing department of a well known global food company. After 18 months I was promoted to Brand Manager. Even though I was a manager, I did not have anyone reporting time directly. I had a few other promotions that still did not include managing others. My people management responsibilities only came 8 years later. I had a team of three Brand Managers reporting directly to me, sitting in three different countries. Today I still lead a team of managers all based in different countries. I will share my perspectives as a leader and what I believe is the best way to impress your Line Manager. I will also share what has worked for me as a subordinate over the years.

Your Line Manager can be your biggest cheerleader and advocate if you are strategic about it. Please note I am not talking about bootlicking and back biting your team mates in order to win favours. I am referring to proper ethical behaviour that you would not be embarrassed to share publicly.

1. Make your boss look good. The best way to do that is to deliver great results consistently. I remember having to share my monthly team results with the senior leadership in one of my previous roles. Team members who had great results made me look good. They made meetings easier and it was also easier to advocate for and push forward such team members when opportunities arose. When you consistently fail to meet agreed targets and you continuously give excuses even for things within your control, you make it difficult for your Line Manager to help you advance in your career.

2. Be reliable and deliver on your promises. There is nothing as frustrating as a team member who is not reliable. Missing deadlines and showing up late for important meetings aren’t ways to behave if you are trying to get ahead. And that would surely not win you any points with your Line Manager. When you make promises, fulfil them. Manage expectations and do your job well.

3. Know your Line Manager – each line Manager that you have is going to be different. I am currently on my nineth Line Manager. They have all been different. Some preferred to be updated on projects more often. Others didn’t want to be involved in the details. Some preferred when I stood up to them and voiced my opinions fearlessly. Others would take that as being challenged and did not like it. You have to know your Line Manager’s preferences and what appeals to them in different scenarios. Knowing your Line Manager helps you navigate appropriately and avoid stepping on each other’s toes and creating unnecessary animosity.

4. Adopt a growth mindset– as a Line Manager myself, nothing is as off putting as a team member who has a negative attitude and has all the reasons why something cannot be done. Be open to continous learning and trying out new things to solve business challenges. When you face challenges, do not wait until it’s too late to ask for help.

5. Understand your Line Manager’s KPIs and how you can help him/her achieve those – At some point in my career I was a Key Accounts Manager, looking after one of the biggest retail chain in the country. My then Manager taught me a lesson one day as we were driving for a business review with this customer. He told me if I wanted to deliver our sales targets as a business, i had to fully understand the KPIs of the buyers that I was meeting with. If I helped retail buyers achieve their own KPIs, they would also help me achieve my own. Understand what KPIs your Line Manager is measured on and play your part in helping him/her delivering those. An open discussion is always best. Do not make assumptions, ask directly what his/her priorities are and how you can help.

6. Be a team player– I really do not trust team members who sacrifice other team members in order to get ahead or out of trouble. It’s called “throwing others under the bus”. If my direct report can do that to one of their team members, I would not be surprised that they can do the same to me if the situation presented itself. In most organisations, teamwork is critical to delivering overall business goals. The “lone ranger” mentality doesn’t work in a corporate setting. Show some level of maturity and avoid being “that person ” who is always complaining about other team members to the manager. Only escalate issues that you genuinely cannot resolve on your own.

7. Keep the relationship professional – it is always advisable to keep your relationship with your Line Manager professional. Avoid oversharing unnecessary information that might make them see you in a negative light. Your weekend escapades are exactly that, for the weekend with your friends and not to be shared with your Line Manager. I am not in any way suggesting that you don’t share necessary personal challenges that impact on your ability to work in the name of keeping it professional. As a manager, I would want to know if a team member has challenges that impact their ability to work. A sick child, parent or relative are some examples. Whilst these might be personal issues, I am human enough to understand their impact on ability to work and put in place necessary support.

Showing yoursef as a reliable team member to your Line Manager is critical. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am making an assumption that your Line Manager is very secure in their capabilities and committed to helping you grow.

What other ways have worked for you to get your Manager to be your biggest cheerleader? Please share in the comments section.

Why I love working from home.

A year into the pandemic, I know for a fact that I prefer and love working from home. The flexibility that this has afforded me to have a more integrated life is something I wish to see continuing. I am not naive to the extent of presenting WFH as all rosy. In my case the benefits far outweigh the cons, so hear me out.

1. Working from home has eliminated a two hour commute to work. In order to avoid the traffic, I needed to leave home by 6:15am in order to be in the office by 7:00am. Some days there were issues on the highway and the 45 minute commute could end up being a 2 hour journey just to get to work. I am glad this wasn’t a frequent occurrence but the few times it happened, it interfered with the rest of my work day. On the way back, in order to avoid the end of day traffic, I also needed to leave the office by 3:30pm. If for any reason I couldn’t do this, the best option was to wait until the traffic had cleared and live the office after 5:30pm. The latter happened more often. I did miss several dinners with the family and other things that are important to me like helping my children with their homework.

2. Working from home means I am doing my own small part in reducing the overall carbon emissions that are caused by having so many cars on the road.

3. I am now able to take my children to school every morning and pick them after school, something I wasn’t able to do when I had to go to the office. The drive to school is less than ten minutes from home but affords me more opportunities to further bond with my children and hear about their school days. I just feel like I am more involved in their lives when I work from home. Children grow up so fast (it’s feels like yesterday when we brought them home from the hospital) and being part of this journey is super important for me as I am sure it is for most parents.

4. Besides participating in the school run, I am now able to plan my work days in order to participate in some of the school activities that are sometimes planned during the working day. Before the pandemic, unless a school activity was planned for the weekend, there was close to hundred percent chance that I was going to miss it. I am that mother who was always missing in action. How could I, when my office was an hour away? Now with WFH, I am less than ten minutes away from the school and I can plan my schedule to attend most activities.

5. WFH has afforded me the flexibility to encorporate other activities in my life that I was really only able to do during weekends. A good example is physcical exercise. When you leave home at 6:15am every weekday and only get home by 7:00pm, there is very little time left for exercise. With WFH, I have my daily exercise most days after work. I am even able to squeeze a brisk walk in between virtual meetings in order to just refresh my mind.

So is there any downside in my case to WFH? Of course there is. I don’t see my work colleagues as often. I don’t see this as a big deal. Besides the business virtual meetings, in person social meetings as well as the virtual coffee chats (tea in my case) can easily be arranged.

Another downside is that there is always an important dynamic that is missing when team meetings are virtual. I find that even things that one could walk to a colleague’s desk to chat about in five minutes now require a fifteen minute virtual meeting that seems to always run over. The workday is now filled with continuous virtual meetings, leaving no room for focused work and proper thinking time. I have found a solution to this. I block chunks of time for focused work with no meetings daily. I also intentionally make use of my mobile phone instead of scheduling a virtual meeting for every discussion.

Another downside I have heard friends complain about blurred boundaries between working time and family time. Unlike in the office where you shut your laptop and drive back home, for some, WFH has turned into fifteen hour work days. I also have days when work overspills into family time. It’s not a daily occurrence but there are definitely days and seasons when I have to put in more time at work. I am okay with this because it’s not a daily occurrence. To help me transition from work mode into home mode, I have my scheduled exercise time at the the end of the day that I try as much as possible to stick to.

Yes there are downsides to WFH. Based on my context and reality, I still prefer it versus going to the office.

Today I would have…

In loving remembrance of Simon Rambayi Dongonda Simende

21 December 1937- 4 March 2021.

Four weeks ago today we laid my father to rest. The past weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions, sadness, pain, guilt, fear, gratitude, and so many others that I can’t articulate. Even writing about Baba in the past tense still seems unreal. How do I write in the past tense about someone who was in my life for forty years, eight months and two weeks? How do I write in the past tense about the man who taught me so much and loved me and my siblings so much?

I had already gotten my COVID-19 test done by 9:30am on that fateful Thursday morning so I could fly to Harare from Johannesburg not only to see my father who wasn’t well. The plan was to fly out Friday the 5th of March, spend the whole week at home, have a special birthday “something ” for Mhayi on Sunday the 14th and then return to Johannesburg on Monday the 15th of March.

So on my way from Fourway Life Hospital where I had gotten my COVID-19 test, i tried to call Chiedza my young sister. I wanted her to give me a list of things they needed me to bring with from Johannesburg. She was not picking the phone. My conclusion was she was busy at work. I sent her a message and still she didn’t respond. So in typical Tendai style, I just kept on calling. Could it be something to do with what Baba told me about not giving up and trying and trying again? Eventually Chiedza answered my call. It was very brief and all she said was she was just busy sorting something and she would call me back in a short while.

It took Chiedza another twenty minutes to call me back. Somehow I missed this call. I called her back as soon as I saw the missed call and the words from her mouth changed my life, our lives forever….. “aaaa Tendai, Humba vatungamira…” Humba is our totem and what Chiedza was telling me directly translated was “our beloved father has led the way…”

Indeed Baba led the way, not only on the 4th of March 2021 but throughout my life.

I saw him lead our family. I saw him lead in the church. I saw him lead in the community. I saw him being a father to non-biological children. I saw him giving counsel. I saw him give opportunities. I saw him pray. I saw him not give up and I saw him walk the talk. He led the way!

I remember calling my father once as I was driving from work one night. I apologised for not having called in days telling him by the time I got home and put the children to bed, it would be too late. He then told me it wasn’t safe to drive and talk on the phone. I told him I was using a hands free kit but he still went on to drop the call and asked me to call him either on Saturday or Sunday. So from that day, Saturday or Sunday became the day I called Baba.

So today is Sunday, I would have called you, about this time (12midday Central African Time) . Your typical answer to the call would be Humba! and I would have said Humba Makombe. Your first question would have been ” Matopedza Church yere? ( Have you already finished church?) I would answer in the affirmative, and sometimes you would ask for a summary of what the preacher had spoken about. Without fail you would have asked about your grandchildren. I would call each of them to speak to you as you wanted to hear their voices as well.

Today is Sunday, I would have called you to say Makorokoto ( Congratulations) because yesterday 27th March was Sekuru Bonnie ( your oldest son, my oldest brother’s birthday). We would have joked a bit here and you would probably have said something that would have made me laugh silly.

Today is Sunday, i would have called you and you would have asked Kuri sei kubasa? (How is work). You would typically have said Ita kuti pau pau. I am not sure this particular word actually exists in the Manyika dialect but it’s our family way of saying give me all the juicy details. And I would give you all the details.

Today is Sunday, I would have called you and we would have talked about whatever was trending politically at home ( Zimbabwe) and wherever else especially the country I was living in.

Today is Sunday, I would have called you and you would have asked about the COVID-19 situation in Johannesburg and Cape Town. You were rather specific on this because those two cities are where other family members are. This particular part of the conversation would end with you telling me to be careful and to check on Nyasha and Takunda (grandchildren in Cape Town)

Today is Sunday, I would have called and we would have talked about soccer. We would have talked about stadiums opening for the CAF matches. All your children still supports Caps United. It’s no surprise green is really my favourite colour and I really don’t like blue. πŸ˜‰ (wink wink…if you know you know). We would have briefly talked about the English Football League. This is one area we agreed to disagree. You loved Manchester United. I love Liverpool. We still worked like that.

Today is Sunday, I would have called and you would have given me an update of what is happening kumusha, (Village) what this year’s harvest looked like, what you had planted in the “German Garden”, who was doing what and and….

Today is Sunday, I would have called and our call would have ended with you reminding me to work hard, to not worry about anything because you were always praying for us and to not take too long before calling again. I am not going to be able to call your number and hear your voice again. That hasn’t sunk in yet. I am taking it one day at a time.

My father was diagnosed with stage 3 prostrate cancer early in the year. We sought him medical care and we prayed for healing. God in His sovereign power had other plans for him.

Other than on Sunday the 7th March 2021 when I said I my final goodbyes to my father, I had last seen him in person on 1 September 2019. Along with my mother and 7 of my siblings and their families, they drove my husband and 3 children to the airport for our second relocation. We were moving just next door to South Africa but these are always significant occasions in our family. The first time we relocated to Kenya, my father, mother and siblings were all at the airport. Thats just how things work in my family.

In December 2019 i debated going home for Christmas but my father said we needed to settle down first, after all we were much closer home than before and visits will be easier. From experience I also knew my father preferred for us to always go home with the children. I remember the first time we relocated to Kenya in July 2016, I got so homesick my husband and I flew home in September. In my father’s exact words, Mauya kuno masiya wapwere wega kuKenya diko yere? ( Did the two of you really leave the children by themselves in Kenya?) Of course the children weren’t by themselves but my father wasn’t too amused. My plan was therefore to go home with the children sometime in 2020, most probably for Easter because that was kinda our ritual. Without fail from the time we had children, Easter we drove home to Nyanga. But COVID-19 happened and we couldn’t travel as a family.

I miss Baba daily and I am still processing all the emotions that come with loss, one day at a time. Rest in peace Humba Makombe. Thank you for EVERYTHING!

Finding your rhythm as a working mom…because well, balance doesn’t exist.

Monday the 18th of January was my first day back at work for 2021 after a three weeks break from the office. With the COVID-19 situation, we had planned a staycation, just being at home, no zoom meetings and no deadlines to worry about. Unlike our other family holidays which are packed with activities, this one was laid back. I read novels,something I hadn’t done in years. I slept in a lot and binge watched a lot of shows on Netflix.

So I came across a series that I felt resonated so much with me. The series is called Chesapeake Shores. It is actually originally a Hallmark Channel series from 2016. There are four seasons so far. Don’t worry i am not going to spoil it for you.

The theme is family and love

So this series is based on the O’Brien family who come from a small town called Chesapeake Shores. Abby (played by Meghan Ory) is the oldest daughter. She is a high-flying career woman who has made it big in New York. She struggles to balance her career and being present in the lives of her two daughters. This is probably made worse because she is recently divorced from her husband an equally high flying Wall Street banker. Following a visit to her hometown of Chesapeake Shores, Abbey decides to settle there and be more present in the lives of her daughters.

Abbey and her sisters Jess and Bree

Most working mothers would relate to most of what Abbey goes through navigating motherhood and her career. When she was offered a promotion to Vice President it wasn’t an automatic yes as she had to consider how she would balance the increased demands on her time with being available for her daughters. Being in Chesapeake Shores makes this slightly easier as she has the rest of her family to help her with her daughters.

Lesson 1 – Find a support network to lean on.

When we were lived back home in Zimbabwe my sisters, mother, nieces and nephews knew to expect a call from me on any Saturday morning to watch my children just so I could catch up on some much needed sleep. It wasn’t easy. At some stage all three of our children were less than three years. I am definitely not complaining here. Infact I consider myself totally blessed. There are times when other family members who can help are actually not available or too far, as is our case now. It’s however important to find other families, mothers and friends who are going through a similar stage or have gone through the same stage and can offer help when needed. They can be mothers from your workplace, or they can be mothers at your children’s school or from church. There should be no shame in asking for help.

2. Get a good nanny and or maid

This isn’t really going to be easy. I went through six maids within a two year period. Decide what is a priority for you. Is it that the house is spotless clean or that the baby(ies) is well taken care of? If you find someone who can do both well, then keep her at all costs and pay her well. If you can afford to have someone to focus on the children and someone to do the house chores, that’s actually first prize. At some stage I had a live-in and another was coming once every week to clean the house thouroughly, doing the laundry and ironing. Once you have decided on what is important, find one that you are happy with and don’t be scared to get an inexperienced helper that you can train on your own.

When Abbey relocated back to Chesapeake Shores, she rekindled things with her high school sweetheart Trace ( played by Jesse Metcalfe). As Trace’s career as a country musician took off things got more complicated. Trace has to juggle between running his business, touring with his band and being there for Abbey and her girls. This is a common dilemma in many dual career households today. Most families are dual career families. We juggle families, careers and even side hustles and sometimes studying. Another truth is that most families need both parents incomes. So how do we mantain healthy family relationships, be available for our spouses, our children and still be the ambitious career women we want to be or build the successful businesses that we have always desired?

3. Delegate at work

Whether you are running your own business or are in the corporate world, delegating to capable others is something you will need to learn fast. I fully acknowledge that this is probably something that some will not be able to do as some do not have teams to delegate to or their businesses are not yet big enough to hire other people. If you have no one to delegate to, ensure you engage with with your line manager on delivery timelines that are more manageable without causing you burnout. If your business is still growing consider automating some tasks so that gain time.

4. You really don’t have to be online 24/7

One of the things I have learnt is that you teach people how to treat you. What you allow them to do they will keep doing and what you don’t they will not do. Before I changed employers, I had my work email on my mobile phone. This meant I was available whenever anyone looked for me and even responded to work emails on weekends and after work. I had taught my workmates how treat me. This meant even though I was with my family during weekends, I wasn’t fully present with them. When I changed employers two years ago, I took this as an opportunity to make some much needed changes. I don’t have my work email on my mobile phone anymore. I am therefore not tempted to check my email every now and again. It really also helps that my employer is committed to “employee wellness ” and has in place policies that allow me to be fully present with my family. Of course there are busy periods that will require more from me at work. In such times I do put on the extra time but I only do it when necessary.

5. Prioritize your selfcare

Selfcare will look different for each one of us. It’s about doing something for you, for your physical health, for your mental health and your overall wellbeing. Find out the things that help you switch off from your work and family demands. It could be exercising, reading a good book, having a massage, a walk in nature. Whatever it is you will feel rejuvenated afterwards. Don’t wait for the weekend to practice selfcare. Find a way to incorporate such activities into your daily routine.

I am looking forward to a good year ahead and wish the same for you.

Mum in Stilettos is a community for us mothers as we grow our families, grow our careers and grow our businesses.

Stay Safe – Muminstilettos