Young African Leaders Gaining New Skills Through DISC
Thanks to TTI’s DISC assessment, more than two dozen young leaders representing 19 African countries now have some of the necessary tools to become more effective leaders and enhance their own workplace value.
During a six-week summit this summer, Dartmouth College’s Dickey Center for International Understanding hosted these young leaders as part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. This is Dartmouth’s second year hosting YALI through the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
The State Department-led program, now in its fifth year, aims to build and develop a network of African leaders ages 25 to 35 to prepare them for future leadership opportunities when they return home.
It’s of particular importance to the continent: Nearly 1 in 3 Africans are between ages 10 and 24, and approximately 60 percent of Africa’s total population is under age 35, according to the State Department.
While nearly 50,000 people applied to take part in YALI at Dartmouth, just 500 were accepted into the program that focused on lessons in civic leadership, public management, and business and entrepreneurship, said Vincent Mack, program officer of co-curricular programs at Dartmouth’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and Social Sciences. Dartmouth was one of 20 universities to host YALI.
Whit Mitchell, founder and CEO of Hanover, New Hampshire-based Working InSync International, was invited by Mack to host a DISC workshop, with the goal of increasing the fellows’ self-awareness for real growth and promoting how to work effectively in teams. Mitchell donated his time and a number of DISC assessments as part of his philanthropic efforts.
The longtime Value Added Associate said he understands the critical nature of tailoring one’s communication style when conducting business with differing workplace behavioral types. He also believes exposing leaders to assessments allows them to develop new skill sets, while also bringing these individuals closer together through a common language.
“I like to start off my discussions with a quote from Sam Kinney: ‘The leading cause of death of an executive’s career is a lack of self-awareness,’” he said. “So, becoming more aware of ourselves and others is key in making decisions.”
While Mitchell’s three-hour presentation hit on many facets of DISC, including communication dos and don’ts, he said one of the most impactful exercises was having the young African fellows pair up into peer coaching partnerships to develop five questions that their peer coach would ask of them — and vice versa — each week. Leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith developed this method.
Mitchell said the questions — framed as “yes” or “no” or a number — had to have a direct impact on their work back home so they could easily track each other’s progress.
“As a leader, you want to understand and appreciate that people communicate differently, and behave in specific and dynamic ways,” he said. “Through DISC, they now have a tool in which they can take back and start to understand and appreciate the different styles of behavior and communication. These fundamental lessons help separate the successful leaders from those who are not.”
Upon returning to their home countries, the YALI fellows can gain access to professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training and seed funding to support their ideas, businesses and organizations.
“Their entrepreneurial spirit has and will continue to blossom through having this resource at their fingertips,” Mitchell said. “More and more young people are running businesses, and being exposed to tools like DISC will only enhance their value in the workplace.”