In 2015, I joined an International Organisation called Mary’s Meals (MM) as Monitoring and Evaluation Manager where I was managing a team of eight officers. The organization implements school feeding programs in Africa. The M&E department was heavily affected by high staff turnover at the time, and I witness two well-qualified officers leaving the three weeks after joining the organization.
After analyzing the situation, I noted that this high turnover was not only affecting the output in the department but was also a financial burden to the organization. Hence, I decided to recommend a different approach in the recruitment process in my depart. Thus, instead of recruiting highly experienced candidates, I suggested recruiting candidates with little experience but who was showing the potential to learn and deliver.
Thus, we end up recruiting two fresh graduates to fill the positions. However, the introduction of the less experienced members lowered productivity and soon started affecting the performance and output of the whole team. Instead of complaining and shifting the blame, I focused on strengths within the team and remind my team about how important each member’s role was to fulfill the department goals. Through continuous mentorship and support, they started opening up to each other and there was a lot of knowledge sharing across the team. In addition, I also started pairing the new members with the experienced member to foster knowledge sharing and learning.
This resulted in a great performance improvement not only to the new officers but to the entire team. A year later, Mary’s Meals received £5m from the UK Government through the UK Aid Match fund. This funds allowed Mary’s Meals to expand to additional 60 schools creating a need to increase staff in the team. However, after brainstorming with the team, we decided to adopt an electronic data collection system over expanding the team. Hence, maintaining a team of 8 officers, I spearheaded a project to strengthen systems and processes that involved the design and implementation of an electronic data collection system. The project led to the adoption of SurveyCTO as a platform for impact assessment data collection for both Malawi and Zambia School Feeding Programs. This innovation not only made our work easier and faster but also created more time for the team to focus on data analysis and learning. Thus, during this period the department transitioned from Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) to Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning (MEAL).
Reflect back at this experience, I think great leadership is not about leading a big team and having a big position but rather utilizing the minimal resources at your disposal to create maximum impact and inspiring others to fully understand their potential and make them realize goals that they would not otherwise have achieved. Leadership is also about finding practical solutions to problems through collaboration and being able to communicate your ideas with others in order to put them into practice. And this is what I have demonstrated in my previous jobs.