Coaching Management Skills

By Business Volunteer, Diane Berthel

William Mhapa and Diane Berthel

William Mhapa and Diane Berthel

This is my third trip to FAME and it’s like coming home.  As the first business volunteer, initially we were uncertain about the value I could bring.  Turns out supporting the management staff connects on every level for me and them. Sometimes I’m not sure who is learning the most!  They are surprisingly self-aware and a most eager and grateful group of students.  I get more than my share of wide eyes and big smiles when something connects.  I can see that, so often, they have already envisioned it at work with their teams.  It makes the work deeply satisfying and a wonderful learning experience for me.

On a macro level I improve the skills and, equally important, the confidence in their leadership and management.  The first year I was here for only 3 weeks.  I got to know them, earn their trust and ask what they needed.  I just had time for a couple of sessions on leadership styles. Discovering that their learning model was lecture and write down every word the lecturer says, I used lots of activity and small groups.  Although uncomfortable at first, they quickly took to the change.

I should say that during my first two weeks, I mentored the wonderful COO, William Mhapa, and made lots of rounds on the hospital campus to get to know all staff including housekeeping, gardening and construction workers for the new maternity center.  Working on my Swahili, I greeted everyone with Jamba and got lots of smiles and waves.  Eventually someone shared with me that “hello” was Jambo - not Jamba.  It turned out I had been saying “fart” to everyone for two weeks.  When I finally had a session and introduced myself as the Jamba woman it was instant chemistry. 

When I left, a common request for my return was coaching – both individual support and the skills to coach their team members.   On my second trip I coached nearly every one of the managers.  Understanding the barriers to the typical models we use here – cost and unnecessary complexity - I created a very simple model for our first step.  I asked them several questions, including, list everything they do in each day.  We then put each of their activities in a matrix to examine their effectiveness and success in building the skills of their team.  I quickly learned that to succeed with this, we needed to vision what their role would look like if they were not performing all activities.  That included what FAME could be in the future; how things like data collection and analysis would be a higher-level responsibility for managers. It helped them to see how building skill and competence in their team would allow them time for higher level work. 

For some departments, I did team building sessions to warm up their teams.  In these sessions we looked at stages that lead to team accountability and results orientation.  In her coaching session, one of the nurse managers asked how you reward team members for results if there is no money. We discussed selecting a team member who stands out in their contribution.  Then end a meeting recognizing their excellence and asking them to share their secret with the team – both rewarding excellence and creating a learning opportunity for the team. Eyes wide she raced from the room and I don’t doubt that she implemented that very afternoon.  A few hours later I received a text that said, “You make that my day be good!”

I’m back for six weeks and we have a full agenda.  Coaching follow-ups, with a focus on strategic planning and resource management, plus tools for communication and negotiation are at the top of our list.  Already three days in, the momentum is contagious! 

Your support is critical to FAME serving the rural people of Tanzania and growing as a model for healthcare in the developing world.  I’m thrilled to share anything that will inspire your confidence in this amazing group of managers!

Robert Kovacs