Photography: Amanda Clarke
uccess for purpose-driven entrepreneurs is dependent on teams and networks of people collaborating to solve problems and ignite change. Often, it is one person that serves as the catalyst, the initial spark. But endeavoring to do big things in the social space ultimately requires trusting others to help carry the weight — thus, creating an environment where people are empowered to make decisions and take action.
Rank & File recently discussed team synergy, decision-making and capacity building with Servane Mouazan, CEO of Ogunte, a collaborative incubator for female social entrepreneurs. Ogunte coaches leaders using five pillars. These pillars, Servane explains, work in concert with one another, and help individuals understand how to focus appropriate self-care and personal understanding to further their professional goals. Self-care is central to enabling a healthy and vibrant team environment and to ensuring sound decision-making by yourself and your team. “If your world is not taken care of, you’re not going to do much good,” she says.
BUILDING IT UP
TO BREAK IT DOWN
As a changemaker in the social space, you’re focused on the greater good — you’re focused on solving a specific problem or moving a certain needle in the right direction. “It’s a way of life. It’s a way of learning. And it’s a way of being,” Servane shares about leading a purpose-driven business. For this very reason, she then warns, it can be dangerous, subconsciously allowing you to take on an alter ego of sorts, which is why self-awareness and an amazing team of people are so important. “I always say social entrepreneurship is not an act of grandeur. There are little revolutionary acts every day that you can do.”
Before she sought to bring a sense of alignment to her own life, Servane says she was much more focused on the macro, how can I save the planet? Paying closer attention to her own reality and really understanding her personal capacity forced her to get down to the micro, how through connectedness can I influence my community? “It’s about supporting incremental change,” she says.
Speaking from her own experience and the experiences of the entrepreneurs she mentors, Servane suggests mapping out our realities and capacities to better understand where self-focus is required. There was a time where, Servane says, “I was chasing my own tail.” She had technical expertise and skills, she was well connected and had resources available to her, but she was totally thrown off by her own set of limitations. “It’s about being very clear about the incidents in your life that prevent you from making a rational decision or decisions that enable you to grow,” Servane shares. Things happen in all of our lives, and when you allow those things to accumulate without proper attention, they detract from our ability to do what we know we are equipped to do professionally.
“To be able to function properly, you need to look at self-care… you need to have at least an understanding of what makes your life function properly,” Servane explains. “And, if you take away one of these ingredients or elements, how is it likely to collapse?” This means getting a good handle on everything, from your physical and mental state to your finances and relationships, in addition to understanding how they all work together.
For those leading organizations, the ability to see where individuals on our teams may be struggling with self-care is also important. As leaders, we have to create an environment where people have the space to take care of their own issues, whether related to family, finances or personal well-being. If they are unable to work through these things or to voice where they are as a member of our teams, their ability to make strategic, sound decisions is compromised.
“You can’t just cut yourself in two,” as Servane puts it. You have to promote honesty and make people comfortable enough to bring their issues above the board. You may not always be equipped in the appropriate way to help the person, so it is important to understand you and your organization’s limitations, but creating space is a necessity.
As the leader of a now thriving business, Servane regularly has to ask herself, “If you leave the boat, is the organization continuing? Or are you the boat?” If you were to step away today for a crisis or emergency, have you empowered your team to collaborate and make decisions independent of your involvement? Servane explains that it is an act of generosity to create a space for people to grow and flourish, who are then able to maneuver the boat when leaders have to take care of themselves or shift their focus to growth.
By promoting a safe space for your team to communicate and work through their own areas of misalignment, we are protecting their ability to make strategic decisions, and thus, ultimately increasing the capacity of the entire company. We may not always have the answers to help each team member problem-solve, but we can ensure they speak up when imbalance or burnout is creeping in so that we promote self-care and maintain a healthy, forward-moving dynamic.
Capacity Building Using the 5 Pillars
Here are Ogunte’s five pillars for amplifying change and building capacity. These pillars are intended to be viewed simultaneously, as they are interconnected in allowing growth:
Understanding your own circumstances first, and then being able to see and understand the circumstances of those around you, enables you to meet them where they are and lead in the most effective way.
Sense of Connectedness
Connectedness isn’t just about networking. It is about truly surrounding yourself with relationships that serve you, both personally and in your business, and with people who can be relied on as confidants, allies and mentors. Connectedness is about aligning your personal and professional circles and being authentic.
Growth of Confidence
We all have confidence. As Servane puts it, “There are areas of your life where you rock, and others where you suck.” Confidence is a volatile currency though, she explains. It means one thing to one person and something entirely different to another. “We have to let go of the assumption that we aren’t confident in anything. This shouldn’t define us. We have to focus rather on the confidence we do have in certain areas and mimic it wherever we think we are failing.”
It is important to know how you can maximize your own resources, both personally and professionally, while doing no harm. Understanding what it takes financially, emotionally and otherwise to maintain your life and business helps you to prioritize when deploying your resources, which ultimately protects you from making ill-informed decisions that could result in a domino effect.
Sense of Learning
Understanding how you can manage your skill areas and deploy these to further yourself and others is extremely important. It is equally important to retain your knowledge areas and to be able to transfer that knowledge.
Servane admits these pillars can come across a bit soft or fluffy. To help people see past this initial reaction, Ogunte developed a set of direct questions for each pillar to help Rank & File readers really ascertain where we stand and expand our personal capacity for amplified social impact.