Izehi Eleanor: ‘I daily acknowledge that values build character in both individuals and businesses
‘I Daily Acknowledge That Values Build Character In Both Individuals And Businesses, Helping Them Rise Above The Crowd’
Let’s get to know you more. Why do you do what you do?
There are four intrinsic paradigms that drive me; my passion, my values, my beliefs and my aspirations. First, I am candidly fascinated with service excellence and the mark it makes in the psyche of every individual I come across as well as its impact on quality of life, profitability, personal growth and development. Apart from determination, focus, oneness of purpose, I have found service as a huge differentiating factor in developed nations.
Second, my training as a lawyer crafted values that emphasize the principles of following through to the letter. My parents didn’t raise me an automaton, but living in a society where political promises are built on abolishing corruption, I daily acknowledge that values build character in both individuals and businesses and help them rise above the crowd. My parents also imbibed a strong value in me of doing whatever you do at the level that you are able to gain and display craftsmanship/Mastery in its skill.
I have run a very successful cuisine business, consulted for businesses and developed enabling platforms. However, I come back to the desire to change people’s mindset towards service and raise a cadre of individuals that are skilled, competent, professional and productive.Simply put, I daily aspire to eliminate mediocrity as a norm in all the spheres of corporate and personal interaction.
When and why did you set up Eleanor Thompson? What does the company stand for? What services does it render?
Being an entrepreneur for so many years and therefore opportune to be an employer of labour, which also furnished me with the privilege of interfacing with other organisations and individuals, I was early amazed at the lackadaisical, mediocre, unrefined, manner in which Service at many levels and across sectors was rendered. For years I could not make sense of it. The turning point for me was when I observed that the trainings I paid for team members failed. I quickly understood that I was dealing with a unique challenge that required a different approach to being solved and so I went on a quest to first understand the problem and this I did by developing questionnaires that targeted core areas of developmental capability to function as a contributing member of a growing nation.
I ran random interviews on about one to 2,000 Nigerians, cutting across various educational qualifications, age, experience, status and gender. My findings left me in utter shock at the reasons why mediocrity was highly celebrated and how we were unknowingly breeding individuals ill-equipped to grasp the understanding and know-how of solution providing or who knew nothing about how to solve problems for themselves, not to talk of an organization or the economy/environment.
The second point for me was it seemed we were oblivious of the negative multiplying effect a lack of service culture had on the economy, governance, quality of life, life expectancy, personal and organisational growth as well as quality of people. In fact it seemed to me like we were blindsided and I decided to do something with my research. I reoriented the mindset and values of my team, based on my understanding of the problem and the result was transformational and long lasting and, after that subsequent training yielded greater value, as retention and implementation came with ease. I then got a foreign franchise, to help me master the skills of training from the standpoint of the problem I discovered on Service Excellence. From research to franchise was two years, so we set up our Service Excellence training and consulting firm in 2013.
What does the company stand for?
We stand for Excellence, we hold all our trainees accountable to the highest standards because we believe that the nation is only as rich as the poorest person and we are only as strong as our weakest link.
We offer foundational training to individuals, corporate organizations in both the public and private sectors, on Service Excellence standards, culture, development and workings. This forms the Foundation upon which other service trainings can build for transformational, long lasting and effective change towards productivity, ingenious problem solving as well as profitability for individuals, firms and economies.
Why do you think that we have poor work ethics in this country and what has been its impact on the nation’s economy?
We have poor work ethics because we are not taught from our foundational institutions the value of service as well as its impact on our lives and economy. We are constantly reminded of the need not to be poor. That poor people suffer and have a hard life. It is instilled in us that education is escape from poverty. The focus should not be on poverty or wealth when building people that should grow a nation. Wealth and poverty are by-products or a reflection of the state of mind of a people. The focus should instead be on developing, minds that become rich and robust in problem solving. It is in teaching that life is an exchange of value for value and it is enabling the people thrive in solving problems in any capacity. I find it interesting that we are sold the value of cultural, political and religious benefits, these virtues should embed service as their foundation, but we are trained to serve our selves, to provide for our immediate families for survival. We are mostly driven by self-survival mode.
A nation is made of people, the people are expected to surmount the challenges peculiar to their terrain. Now for this to happen, the people must be in an enabling environment that equips and foster developmental growth and ability for willing people to thrive. People need to understand that they are the problem solvers and that they are the answers to the challenges in that environment, which means that every sector must be functioning at maximum capacity, to absorb ‘able’ problem solvers. No sector can be shunned, looked down upon. But when everyone is moving towards the highest paying jobs and most lucrative businesses and sectors what we have is people driven by money, they work to get paid and not to serve and make a difference. We are a Nation of consumers and users who cant repair, retain maintain. When we serve each other, we help each other and everybody benefits.
Now, tell us how you arrived at the #IStandForExcellence campaign. What are the aims and objectives?
The #IstandforExcellence, was birthed out of the need to reorient values and change mindsets of the Nigerian people. True transformation begins from a mindset and I am of the opinion that we are in need of a new mindset that should jump- start a different set of values and thinking. We cannot pour old wine in new skin and expect transformation. We can’t adopt new technology, new government, new policies and new training without a new sets of values. We need to unite and first stand for something as a people as a nation as Nigerians before we stand for a new party, policy or system. We need a national cultural shift to help jump-start our road to economic and national recovery. We do not need money to grow our national self-worth and self-confidence. When we build our self worth and restore our self-confidence, we will start to create wealth from unbelievable resources. The aim is to build that confidence, to insist that we place a higher demand on ourselves. We demand the best and highest levels from every sector and individuals in Nigeria
Kindly walk us through the workings of service excellence and its impact on the society.
(Really Laughing) That will require taking a foundational basic beginners course on Service Excellence here and now.
Why do you think that we experience poor service delivery culture in this country?
We do not understand better. You can’t give what you do not have, you can’t miss what you have not experienced. It is a societal orientation. We are not equipped anywhere on how to do it.
In what way do you think this campaign can help to improve things in the society?
The campaign is to raise awareness on service excellence and get the conversation going. Those who know better, do better. There’s new knowledge that must be imparted. By showing the benefit of service first on the quality of life to the individual, then to the economy then to employments rates then to poverty. Like I said, if we know better, we will do better.It will also help us carry a national inner consciousness and pride and help us remember anywhere we go that we are better, we can be better we choose better and we will do better.
You said it is a 10-year campaign, how do you intend to go about it. Are you collaborating with other organizations to accomplish this?
Yes, it is a 10-year campaign. Things take time. We plan to tackle it from the grassroots and educational sector, the family unit. These structures are our first interactions with the world. We aim to organize more awareness. We launched the #IstandforExcellence campaign on the third of this month and its the first of many installments. We were fortunate to launch the maiden edition of our magazine, which will address issues on service, culture and values. I am currently working with a few companies and individuals but for this to create the necessary impact, I still seek partnership with organizations, Government buy-in and individuals. It’s going to require a whole lot and I can’t unveil and execute the 10-year vision by myself.
Is this poor attitude in our genes like some people say? When and how can we get to the level of developed countries?
Not necessarily in our genes. I have truly come across individuals who transformed the minute they understood the workings structure and execution of Service Excellence. It’s our teaching and that means we can be untaught and re-taught. I once told someone that the reason all the international learning will not yield its full benefits in Nigeria is because the courses developed abroad to solve certain problems are peculiar to them. Until we get to become a certain type of people and society, which is like them, copy paste will never fully yield its benefits. So we must first be a certain type of people for a certain type of manifestation. An understanding of the problem helps us understand how best to tackle the problem
You speak with so much zeal to accomplish this task. Tell us what motivates you.
(Laughing) My belief in the Nigeria people; the pain at my inability to improve the quality of life of the common Nigerian. The frustration of not reaching at least 10,000 Nigerians a day to sell a very simple, yet under-rated value to them. The anger at seeing people suffer when the answer lies in them. The law of madness we seem to keep operating in, Party after Party, implementation or attempts at implementation of new strategies on old people with old thinking or same people with same thinking. The failed state of our infrastructures that denies the opportunity for more gainfully employed youths, the underutilized opportunities, it is countless.
Any female role models?
I admire and model my life around women who possess a virtue I lack and I believe I need, to help facilitate my growth and development towards being a better person. I will say my mother first. She instilled my strongest values in me. I learn from women, the one on the streets making an honest living, the high-powered executive who dreams for more and the housewife who tends to her home judiciously. There’s so much to learn from women, I have taken from Christine Lagarde, Mother Theresa, Michelle Obama, Udo Okonjo, Chris Jenner, Esther in the Bible. Women are great teachers.
What’s relaxation for you?
Well, I love to travel, I love to try new foods, I love to experience new cultures and being surrounded by the people I love. I think I am most relaxed when I am with my loved ones. It’s truly gratifying.
What’s your advice for every working- woman?
Get your priorities and values straight. First- things-first. Whatever you are, be true to yourself and be the very best version of yourself. And, most importantly, love. Love, with every beat of your heart, love.
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