Friday, January 20, 2012

My Journey Begins

Uganda 2012
The start of my journey begins with waking up in Corner Brook to a foot of fresh snow. It is a gentle reminder of the weeks that I will be missing in Newfoundland. The immediate thoughts turn to home and wondering if I had made all the necessary preparations. It was this time last year when I left home and we had no snow. The following days it was storm after storm, which wrecked havoc on my driveway and the management of a few apartments I own. However, this time I am good; I was smart enough to hire a contractor for snow clearing and Roger, my trusty Operations Manager, agreed to look after my home driveway.
I took the opportunity to visit most of the branches yesterday and further explain why their CEO was going to be absent for 3 weeks. In one of the many conversations that I had, I was intrigued by a staff persons reaction to the news that I would miss my daughters 9th birthday on this trip. The reaction of that staff member, as well as that of many other's over the last few weeks when I announced my travel plans, has been to question why I would subject myself to this experience.
I am currently on a plane to Halifax typing this blog. Half the plane is filled with diamond workers going to the North West Territories for work. They make this long journey twice a month. I took the opportunity to speak to a good member of ours while waiting for the flight and he described travel as second nature now. My good friend Scott Savoury, who just completed his last posting in Afghanistan, is retiring this month. He has countless stories of military travels all over the world. Most of these locations certainly are a lot more risky then the comforts I will have in Uganda. The point is, that the pitfall of traveling is missing out on daily activities that we live each day. Whether it is traveling for business or pleasure, time away means some form of sacrifice. Unfortunately I will miss my daughters birthday, and as I explained to my coworker no matter what time of the year I opted to participate in this program there will be a sacrifice. I am sure Shawn Brownrigg, who I chattered with in the airport, will encounter the same during his two weeks up North.
In my case, this is a small price for a huge reward. First and foremost, this experience is about helping my credit union coworkers in Uganda. The transfer of my 18 years of financial experience will hopefully yield large dividends for their communities in the future. I did question this project last year in Ghana after my first credit union visit. The advice and recommendations that I was providing seemed so trivial in comparison to what I do daily at our credit union. However, after just one visit I was completely shocked by how the recipients of the information immediately started to make changes and implement our recommendations. I have to credit my Irish partner Barry Tracey, who assured me that patience and simple strategies are the keys to success for the Ghanian credit union system.
Second, the training experience from a leadership perspective is unmeasurable. I have the opportunity to coach, mentor and enhance my communication skills. In my last coaching experience, I learned how important it is to listen and ask numerous open ended questions. Working in a credit union in Ghana, it is vital that you have strong communication skills to get a thorough understanding of their situation before providing recommendations. I have traditionally been someone to jump right in and start throwing around solutions as normally I would have a good understanding of the situation I was presented with. Listening is so important to what we do daily in our personal and work life. I have to admit it is not my strong suit, so in my coaching capacity, I am forced to manage this behavior.

Third, members and potential members of credit unions should want to align themselves with a socially responsible credit union. Over the next two weeks, I plan to share lots of stories of how credit unions in Uganda make a difference in people's lives. Leading Edge Credit Union does a lot of great socially responsible work within the areas in which we operate. All staff is actively involved in numerous projects such as the Relay for Life, and other great social programs. I am very proud to work for an organization that supports international projects and truly believes in enriching people's lives.
Well folks, tomorrow we depart for Uganda, and my next blog report will be on the ground in Kampala, the capital city!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Another enjoyable blog. You may be missing the birthday party but I'm sure she is proud to have a Dad with such adventure and willingness to help others. She will remember the wonderful reason why you missed it rather than you not being there. All the best in your travels and looking forward to your next entry.