Linda Uneze: The Transformational Coach
Words By – Jemi Ekunkunbor
Linda Uneze is a certified Transformational Coach (Coach Masters Academy), a certified Human Resource Practitioner, and the Managing Partner/Co-founder, Maurice Xandra Solutions, an HR consulting firm. The leader and facilitator, who, specializes in turning concepts into profitable company strategies, for optimal productivity has in her company kitty, clients such as General Electric (Healthcare), NestOil, African Capital Alliance (ACA), Addax, Transcorp Group, Obasanjo Farms, and a host of others. The Convener, Doing Business in Nigeria is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves. She has coached and mentored business leaders, youths and individuals who had an interest to challenge their status quo.
Linda has an MBA from Manchester Business School and a B.A from Anambra State University where she graduated with First Class Honours, worked with Environmental Accord, an Environmental and Sustainability Company as the Human Resource Manager; and MTN Nigeria in the Finance Department. The product of Harvard Business School and Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), UK who loves solving real-life issues, has put in almost a decade in human resources, gathering experiences in employer/workers’ relationship.
As the nation marks Worker’s Day today, beautiful Linda who was a member of the Institutional Development Committee, CIPM and a Gold mentor on Manchester Spring Mentoring for Manchester Business School, answers some burning questions on workers’ and employer relations, as well as expectations.
Today is Labour Day. From your experience in HR, what would you say is a worker’s greatest expectation from his or her employer?
An honest worker’s expectation is for an employer to honour the contractual agreement and create a conducive and safe work environment that enables growth for both parties. They expect to be treated fairly, with respect and inspired to be fully engaged in their work. Workers will not be encouraged to contribute to an organization that does not keep to its words regardless of how desperate such workers might be.
How are employers meeting these expectations?
Responsible employers are meeting these expectations by providing minimal benefits, paying salaries on time, and enhancing the skills of their employees through training and other forms of learnings so they can perform optimally. In addition, employers can have welfare schemes both statutory and voluntary in place that improves a worker’s well-being.
Employers are also meeting this by being inclusive and aligning their welfare schemes to suit the needs of their workers.
How can employers ensure that employees’ needs are met to avoid the constant agitations that labour unions often embark on?
For me, one way to minimize agitation is involvement. Keep employees, both individually and collectively engaged and informed of the company’s plans. Involve them to a certain degree in decision and policy making; let them be a part of the process. This will make them feel empowered and take ownership of company agreements and policies. Also, the employer can gain useful information on the employees/workers’ pain points to negotiate and agree on the best ways or strategies to adopt in resolving, addressing or avoiding the same. Organizations sometimes do this through employee engagements like surveys, village meetings etc.
Also, trust plays a major factor in most agitations. Workers want to feel appreciated, and provided for and all agreements honoured. The absence of this and the poor application of collective bargaining provisions could lead to conflict and, when not properly handled, escalates like the case of the ASUU strike.
The theme for this year’s celebration focuses on politics and the quest for good governance. How are the issues of insecurity and poor governance affecting the development of the Nigerian worker?
The security issues, political instability and poor governance results in macro-economic fluctuations such as inflation, inadequate infrastructures, theft and power supply which can make running a business costly; and cost, plays a major factor in staff’s remuneration, benefits and welfare schemes.
Also, the poorly functioning educational system has led to information asymmetry and increased transaction costs which, makes it difficult to extract value from the resources. This is why some graduates seem to be unemployable.
In your view, what special skills would you say are lacking in employees in this clime that they need to improve upon?
Some are resilience, teamwork, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and data analysis. Organizations want stability and are looking for people who can work well, interact positively with others, and recover quickly from difficulties.
They also desire people who can make good judgments from analyzing certain facts and data, and, most importantly, people with the right attitude.
These days, employers are finding it hard to retain millennials for long periods. Why do you think they are unable to stay long on a job?
This applies to Gen Z as well. They want their work to be meaningful with training and development opportunities; flexible working, and career progression.
Incorporate flexibility in the workplace, adopt a digital-first mindset as most of their lives have been spent surrounded and enabled by technology, and this expectation extends to the workplace, integrate training and development with their career goals and introduce programmes that allow them to showcase or explore their skills.
Why is it that the crises often seen with workers in the public sector are almost not there in the private sector?
The private sector tends to have better remuneration, more career choices, and greater opportunities for promotions; which, when absent, leads to agitations and crises as we have seen in the public sector.
How has your life in HR been?
My life in HR has been progressive and rewarding. It has allowed me to impact more lives than I did while in a different profession. I have transformed the lives of thousands of people by helping them get employed, and building their skills and competencies. I have also helped various organizations improve their processes. So, being in HR has been rewarding.
In your years of interacting with employees, what life lessons have they impacted you?
So many. One of the life lessons that I have picked up in the course of my career and interacting with people, is knowing that you don’t know it all, and you don’t have it all. To run a business, you need a pool of individuals who complement each other and you with their skills and knowledge. You cannot know everything and even if you have all of the almost impossible skills, you can’t be everywhere at the same time. This has taught me to value what everyone brings to the table regardless of the position. Everybody has an impact on the growth of the organization.
The second lesson for me is that, change is indeed constant. You have to stay abreast of trends and needs to properly serve your internal and external customers. So, you have to be flexible and able to adapt to changes. For example, the global pandemic has forced a lot of changes, and organizations that have not aligned their processes to embrace the change will struggle to keep their talents.
Another lesson which is the third lesson is that, soft skill never grows old. Employees with the right attitude in addition to competence are desirable. Having the right skill with the wrong attitude can run any business to the ground. So, it is important to look for people who have the right attitude, or who have the potential to grow and improve themselves.
If you were not in human resources, what other type of work would you have picked up?
I think I could have been a Broadcaster, Artist (drawing and painting), Lawyer, and Fashion Designer. Seems like a long list (laughs). But, I am exploring the option of doing some of these while focused primarily on HR and Strategy. I hope to have a TV business show in the future, and I have started drawing again.
Mentors are hard to come by now. Who has inspired you in your career?
So many people have inspired me; like my mum, some business leaders in and outside my field, and my siblings. I take learnings from people regardless of their position or field. I like to say that I am a perpetual learner.
To have a mentor, you have to show value or potential. People like to identify themselves with value and assets and this has nothing to do with money. A mentor will invest his time to know and understand you, to contribute to your growth.
My mentor is a leader in the Oil & Gas sector and our conversations are value-driven for both parties.
When you are done with work, how do you like to relax?
I am an ambivert. Extroverted with work and introverted when home. After work, I sometimes share my “me time” with loved ones. I could read, do some research work, do some drawings which I picked up lately, go dancing, go to the gym (that is a form of relaxation for me), be in a state of doing nothing and much more. lol
You have beautiful skin. Do you keep any beauty routine?
I would say my eating habit helps a lot. I eat healthily and take a lot of water and freshly squeezed juice. I also mind my business (laughs). Sounds like a cliché but true. I have my moments of breakouts when stressed; so, I try as much as I can to engage in activities that help me relieve stress like, going to the gym, dancing, doing fun activities with family and close friends, and self-care
Where is your best holiday destination?
There are various locations I love but I would say Paris and that can change in the future. My last experience there was quite memorable with friends, so Paris is for now.
I don’t have a favourite meal (laughs). I just love healthy meals, no fast food or processed drinks.