Prior to embarking on my three-month adventure with Challenges Worldwide in Zambia, I was working as a Management Consultant in London. I have been in Lusaka now for three weeks and have found that the role of a team leader is an interesting mix of playing consultant, teacher, trainer, mum, mentor, friend and programme manager. With 38 volunteers to manage we are never short of work and definitely never short of WhatsApp messages to respond to!
As much as I have managed teams before – never have I ever managed a team of 38 volunteers from a range of ages, backgrounds and of course cultures. I am lucky that my Zambian counterpart, Sam, has been both a team leader and a volunteer before and I have certainly relied on him during the first few weeks to help me find my feet and navigate the crazy bus system.
The Challenges Worldwide programme is incredibly demanding and complex – for many of the team, this is not only their first time in Africa but their first time working in a corporate environment and often in an industry that they have little experience in. The role of a team leader is to offer help and guidance to support them throughout their placement.
On a daily basis, we have a mix of 121’s, business visits, host home visits, reports and planning sessions – all dotted around Lusaka! Having a mix of visits ensures we are keeping up to date with everyone on a regular basis. It’s also an excellent opportunity to sit and have a general life chat and see how the team are getting on.
Sam and I also have 8 businesses who we are responsible for. We meet with the teams as well as the clients on a weekly basis to help plan their work, manage their workload as well as provide advice and support. I love working with a range of inspiring businesses and having the opportunity to help our volunteers deliver sustainable impact on the ground.
Another key part of our role is planning and delivering our weekly team meeting and Chartered Institute of Management (CMI) learning session. This is an excellent opportunity for team leads and volunteers to be trained to an internationally accredited standard on core consultancy skills. This is co-facilitated by team leads and the volunteers so that everyone has a chance to present and showcase their knowledge. We plan the sessions in advance to ensure they are relevant as well as fun, interactive and engaging to ensure practical learning.
I am only three weeks into my adventure and I have already learned and grown so much – both professionally and personally. Our role and the programme is constantly evolving and no doubt we will face many more challenges and learning experiences on the way. The role of a team lead is challenging and the volunteers most definitely always keep us on our toes – but having the opportunity to support so many amazing young people in their placement is incredibility rewarding.
Written by Natasha Porter