How we can build self-less leadership models for the educational sector – Career Coach, Lara Yeku

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Let’s get to meet you, madam, tell us about yourself and your background?

Omolara Yeku is a global HR leader, career coach, mentor, speaker, and author who is well recognized for her immense innovative contributions to the current trends and practices in the evolution of Human Resources Management in Nigeria.

I am a full-breed Yoruba girl with an enriched background in Hausa and Yoruba. Born in Ondo state, but grew up in the north, Minna, Niger state precisely. We were in the North for many years till I was in Junior secondary school two at Federal Government Girls’ College, Bida. My parents moved to Ibadan during Abiola’s crisis IN 1993 where I completed the remaining part of my secondary schooling at Queens School, Apata and Wesley College, Elekuro. I speak Hausa & Yoruba. I have a strong flair for languages but I am very impatient, so I started and dropped some language lessons.

I studied Biochemistry, worked with my university certification for 1 year, and got tired of the routine nature of the work before I transitioned into HR. I have been in HR for over 17 years and still counting. I am the Head of HR, Food Division, at Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc.

I am a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), USA, and a StrengthCorp with Gallup Strengths Inc. USA. I love to make a positive impact and help people transform their life into something meaningful.

What inspired you into your line of profession?

The ability to contribute and make positive impacts to achieve great things through people.

How would you describe Human resource development in Nigeria?

In recent times, the development of human capital has been the focus towards the development of a nation most especially during this pandemic period. This is for the fact that the growth of the tangible capital stock of a nation depends to a considerable degree on human capital development. Without adequate investment in developing the human capital which is the process of increasing knowledge, skills, and the capacities of people in the country, the possibility of the growth of that nation might be minimal. Historical pieces of evidence proved that advanced countries depended on education for their rapid economic growth. There were significant relationships between their economic growth and the quantum and kinds of education provided to their workforces.

Do you think the abundant skills match the number of opportunities that exist?

My topmost concern is not about the skills that are available, rather it is the quality of those skills. In my opinion from experience, I think there are huge gaps between the available skills and the opportunities available. The world of work is evolving quickly; the future we spoke about yesterday is here today, which means you have to figure out how to prepare for a future job role that’s impossible to predict. Of course, there isn’t a crystal ball that can tell us exactly what skills will be needed and what won’t be needed.

As a human resource expert, what do you think are the reasons for this and how can it be solved?

The reasons are quite a lot. We do not have a good educational system, our curriculum is archaic & outdated, our condition of schooling is decapitating, teachers are not adequately trained, etc. We need to get our fundamentals right and build self-less leadership models for the educational sector.,  is Change which other reasons will revolve around, and the best way to solve this is to be ready, be flexible and be open to learn, unlearn and relearn. 

If the Government is able to introduce skills acquisition initiatives in higher institutions, what major impact will it have on the labour market?

Fantastic! Skills acquisition should be made compulsory subject to all institutions starting with senior secondary school students and at different tertiary institutions. Not only that, the items needed for the training should also be provided by the government. Then make it attractive by offering grants to students to drive innovative thinking and problem-solving mindset, this would inspire others to enroll and become beneficiaries too. There are many students with raw talents that we need to harness their creativity on how to create innovative solutions to problems. It will have a significant impact on the labour market as it will help address entitlement mindsets and make young graduates nation-builders by developing innovative thinking. Additionally, it will improve the quality of graduates that are employable.

As a Business professional operating in a very delicate industry, how do you build a successful customer base in the midst of tense competition?

People will always want to be drawn to a place where they can get their problems solved and value for their money. Be on top of your game, don’t compromise quality standards, understand demand and supply, value your customer and offer exceptional customer service starting from your internal customers – employees. How you treat and practice customer service with your staff from security at the gate to the topmost leader, is important.

Can you describe/outline your typical day? How do you balance the demands of your profession and family life?

My day actually starts the night before where I plan my work, outfit, and movement if I will be making multiple journeys. Immediately I wake up, I find some time to meditate and pray. Then I will spend some time with family for our devotion. Afterward, if I am able to do some exercises, I go for a brisk walk for a few minutes. Shower and get dressed for the day. On my way commuting to work is when I pick my phone to send & respond to chats. I intentionally do not pick my phone immediately after I wake up for obvious reasons – so I can control my day. Once at work, I try to concentrate on my key deliverables and outcomes till the end of the day. In the evenings as soon as I return from work, I go at least 1-hour walk having spent my entire day sitting attending virtual meetings. I listen and dance a lot to music and ensure I attend my dance classes to de-stress, to spend time with my children, and for my mental well-being. I try to create fun and memory with my family as often as I can. Sometimes, when on a walk in the evening, my kids are with me ridding their bicycles, so we catch up and bond. I can’t say I balance work and family, but I intentionally ensure I integrate both.

What key activities would you recommend up and coming graduates to invest their time in for career and personal development?

Personal development is very important, you must engage in activities that will help you stretch beyond your comfort zone and prepare you for the future you desire. For instance, I joined Toastmaster’s club back then to help grow my presentation, communication, and leadership skills. In addition, I joined an international network marketing business group to develop my communication, presentation, leadership, and team-building skills. They helped transform my life. Invest your time in helping other professionals in your chosen field, by doing that you will learn and become better. They should invest in developing their reading skills by reading more books, learning skills that are in high demand – both soft skills such as communication, presentation, innovative thinking, etc as well as functional skills such as coding, digital marketing, business-related skills, project management, excel, business analysis, etc.

How do you define success?

God has called us to be successful, He did not create us for failure. Success is a choice, just as failure is a choice. Success is not just a place you arrive at one day; it’s a journey. Success is not just a place you arrive at one day; it’s a continual process you go through for the rest of your life. It never ends because you are limitless. You move from one stage/phase to another. There will always be new things for you to attain. Therefore, you define success by knowing who you are, what you want to achieve, and creating a pathway to achieve your own defined success. Unfortunately, people confuse the by-products of success such as having a job, a home, being rich, the possession of material things such as cars, houses, etc as success. Those are not successful living. Successful living is defining your life from the knowledge of who you are and who you are becoming in your journey to life.

 Do you believe there is some sort of pattern to having a successful career?

Well, I can’t say yes or no because our life is bigger than us, there are universal forces governing the world  – hear, Ruler of the world – GOD! There are spiritual & universal forces that man has no control over that influences our lives, i.e career. You hear I am an accidental professional in a field, people will say, I just found myself in this field. I have a mentee who read chemical engineering with first-class and today she is a creative sales professional, she mentioned she found herself in sales as a corp member at her first organization where she did management trainee. I know engineers who are great HR professionals, doctors who are in other fields and doing great. I guess my point is there might be some patterns you can’t control but there are some you can definitely control to have a successful career and that is your choice. First, your choice to have the right mindset – success starts from the mind. Your choice of habits – habits that will make you successful or not. We are a sum of all our daily habits. You can choose to be lazy or hardworking, read or play, be respectful or rebellious, be obedient or disobedient, etc Our daily choice of habits forms the patterns that will decide if we will end up living a successful career.

Can you share your future career aspirations?

To be a renowned transformative business and people leader continuously transforming businesses and lives for success.

If you could change your career path, what other profession would you have liked to be part of?

A business trainer, an interior decorator, a fashion designer, or a “quiet” Model

What piece of advice would you give to university graduates, who want to make a career in human resource management?

Define the purpose of your career and ensure your desire for the HR profession fits into it. Define your values and be clear about why you have chosen this path. Have the right mindset, build your functional capabilities, and build strategic relationships. These are essential because we spend the better of our active lives pursuing our careers; it is important you get it right. Get a copy of my HR Storybook which comprises of stories of 56 HR professionals. You can order on Okadabooks, Amazon, or Jumia.

Thank you

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