Leadership Lessons with Naomi Aidoo
I have had the privilege of learning from Naomi for over a year now through her FB group. Although she is based in London, and I live near Chicago, we were able to video chat using Zoom. She has been such an encouragement and blessing to me and to many others. May her words of wisdom help you grow as a leader.
I found most of these thought-provoking questions at https://michaelhyatt.com/20-questions-to-ask-other-leaders.html
1. Tena: Tell me about your current and past leadership positions. Naomi: So, when I was a teacher for the last 2 years, I led an alternative education provision for the students who had been removed from mainstream school, so they were the more badly-behaved students who were kicked out because of attendance or behavior and things like that. I was like the liaison for parents for social services. Then I was asked to come and be the Director of interns at the church and so the pastor of the church basically wanted me to lead a team of young people to essentially serve the church and their community using their gifts, their skills and their talents. And now, I’m a business coach. And so mobilizing faith focused women and helping them to build, scale, or grow their businesses, especially in the online presence, and that might mean women who just have a blog or just actually getting them started or more established business owners who predominately worked within the personal stuff or brick and mortar stuff and helping them break more into the online space. Tena: Would you say that your experiences as a teacher and the director have fed into your business coaching, you’re using those experiences? Naomi: Oh yeah.
2. As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?
Naomi: I am the only employee right now, but I have experts come and help do some of my program, along with help from my husband. I will keep the inspiration happening once my business expands by keeping the same morals and principles and values and ensuring that the organization is Spirit led. You can be wise and make decisions from a place of wisdom and discernment but ultimately, we want to be led by the Lord to do what it is He is calling us as an organization to do. We want to have employees who have the same views and principles; otherwise it will start to get messy. We need to ensure that this is consistently communicated throughout. Bill Hybels says, “Vision leaks unless it is continually implemented into people.” As he said, the vision will just leak out and people will start to go all over the place. People need to keep rooted into what the truth is.
3. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
Naomi: The mindset work and getting in the word and reaching. Quite often a lot of what we share is stuff we are learning, stuff that we have discovered, stuff we are applying ourselves. If we aren’t making a commitment to personally develop ourselves then it means that we are going to be empty and dry and not have the same things to offer. I like to continue to top myself off with what I read and listen to, so I can show up with better ideas and ideas that I know will add value and support to people that are listening. Tena: Does the Lord work for you where you hear an idea here and there and you are combining ideas of all different authors and speakers and putting it together in a new way? Naomi: Oh yeah, yeah!
4. Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
Naomi: Well its cliché, but it will be God. It will be the Bible predominately. In terms of leadership and not only leadership but, also character. Quite a lot of what you read about in the Bible, just normal people that were maybe reluctant to live out the call on their life were hesitant about stepping into who it was that they were called to be, and then just applying those same lessons because those are the same things we think and feel. Applying those same lessons to the lives of the people who are listening to whatever it is that I share and then just being able to use that, and then obviously, being able to use my own personal story and using stories of those that I read about in books.
5. Which is most important to your organization—mission, core values, or vision?
Naomi: They are all key. I think vision is quite key only in that I think the other two contribute to the vision. Vision is what will continue to mobilize people, and mobilization is like my “key” word. But vision is what will continue to mobilize people and equip people and cause me to show up in the way that I do. It’s the vision that this is what God is doing, and that naturally means that the core values and the mission are intrinsic to my vision. So, I’m kind of cheating by saying all three, but it’s largely vision, to be honest.
6. How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values?”
Naomi: There was a time where I was questioning that, because being a business coach, I was questioning whether I could coach anyone not necessarily Christian women, but I felt the Lord reminding me of the call because I started off as a blogger and things like that, and I think He was just reminding me that the call on my life is to equip the church and although I’m a business coach, what that essentially means is, equipping them to live out the call on their life, and so I think that that is something I can insure that, talking about core values, that its just equipping someone to live out the calling that is on their life rather than just, this is a nice business idea. Is this equipping someone’s walking in their call to walk in their worth. I suppose continually coming back to that question, revisiting it and re-asking myself that.
7. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Naomi: So many, I supposed the key one is going to be integrity just to ensure they are not misleading anyone, manipulating anyone, and that what they believe is what they do, and they practice what they preach, they are walking in the truth that they are conveying. Integrity across the board, in the products and services they sell. They don’t want to be doing anyone a disservice and kind of offering them a rubbish finished article whether that be a service or a product. If someone is parting with money ensuring that you are giving your best.
8. What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Naomi: Being driven by the wrong thing, being driven by money, the thing is as a business owner you are going to want to make money. I don’t think money is bad, money is good obviously, it’s the love of money is where things start to go wrong but I think if you’re driven by ambition, things, success and all of those things more than you are driven by what you are called to do, then things will start going wrong, because your character will start to slip, you’ll start to make compromises that you never expected to. You will just lose your way a little bit. You’ll lose that “why” it all started in the first place. I often say to my clients even in my group, “What’s your why? Why do you do this in the first place?” If you lose your “why” then you will just find yourself derailed and doing the wrong things, because you are driven by the wrong things.
9. What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Naomi: When I think about leaders, I suppose its kind similar in terms of integrity to their vision, but almost when things become a popularity contest when you’re doing what you know the people will want as opposed to what it is that you feel called to do or led to do. Whether you’re a Christian or not, there’s a reason why you started doing what you’re doing and as soon as you’re instead, doing the whole people pleasing thing, it can mean that you are not being authentic, to be honest, because even though you are giving people what they want it isn’t really what you fully want to do, which is a difficult thing not to do, because obviously you want to provide people with what they want because that’s important to them, but, not at the detriment at what you are called to do.
10. What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?
Naomi: Kind of just what I said, it is that sort of people pleasing popularity, going with the crowd, instead of going with your heart and your call and you can then get derailed because then you are stuck because you are halfway up this path of this kind of people pleasing thing and you don’t know how to get back because you are in this place where people like what you see but you’re kind of like I don’t even want to be here anymore, like what happened?
11. Can you explain the impact, if any, that social networking has made on your organization or you personally?
Naomi: My whole business really is around networking with people online, communicating the truths of God’s Word, allowing Christian women to believe what’s possible for them. It’s changed everything to be honest. I was a high school teacher for seven years and although I had a blog and I had a blog alongside I did it very sporadically because I didn’t have the time that I would like to give to it, so moving into the social media, social networking sort of space opened me up to a different world an essentially its where I do my business online through meeting others, and growing and scaling and building from there.
Tena: Yeah, and I am so glad I am interviewing you, because your leadership is really web based. Your influence has really stretched because of social media where other businesses are more brick and mortar they still can reach other people, but you are really reaching across the world because of social media.
Naomi: Oh yeah, thank you, it is exciting.
Tena: It is. It’s so neat to see God connect to women all over the world through your group.
12. What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader? Conferences? Books? Your Go To?
Naomi: There’s this book by Joe Maxwell, he’s one of the key people to “go to” for Christian Leadership in general, but even though he’s a Christian as well, the leadership goes across to business, churches, wherever. I have his great little books, Leadership Promises for Your Week, for Your Month, and for Your Year. I’m a coach, but the reason why this started is because I myself received coaching and recognized what was possible. I heard one time, and I think it is so true, that you are qualified to coach, mentor, support, or whatever you call it, someone who is half a step behind you and some people almost approach leadership feeling as though they are a fraud, feeling as though, “oh can I do it”, and actually if you are in a place that someone else would aspire to be, then you can just talk to them about how you got there and that’s good. So, I would say coaching is huge it has been pivotal to my life, not only to my business, but to my life, to be honest. Conference wise there have been leadership conferences in the UK, one which is yearly at the Royal Abbot hall in London. They get Christian and non-Christian leaders, because it’s run by a church, but they get a mixture of leaders. It is a 2-day event. If you can get to summits and conferences I always feel that that’s good because there’s that corporate element and you are all together, as opposed to just you are thinking if it’s a good idea, you are with other people who are supporting that. I have been going for the past 2 years and I will continue to.
13. What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Naomi: If they are Christian, it would be to pray and to seek wise counsel from the people who are around you, that know you most, also just the charge and commission that was given to Joshua to be strong and courageous. To be honest with you, it will always feel a bit scary. I think there’s always going to be elements where it’s a little bit scary, a little bit nerve wracking to do the next thing, to do whatever it is, like online, or if you like to do a Facebook live, or in person, if that’s to host your first event or retreat. There’s always going to be the next level of something which generates a bit of fear, but the advantage is that when you pray, and you know that God is in the midst and you know that He goes before you, and you just do it up right. It is a bit scary so, “o.k., but it’ in the midst and I’m going to go for it anyway.” I think maybe that’s one of the previous questions, where strong leaders can trip up as well with pride. Pride will trip people up because some people can look at people and think they are younger than me or older than me or they look different to me or they are from a different place, or whatever it is, so therefore what can they possibly teach me? And if you have that kind of disposition you can really be setting yourself up to fail because pride comes before the fall. You just shouldn’t have that sort of disposition of “Well who are they? I’ve done this, I’ve done that” because we are always learning, growing and developing, so don’t ever have that kind of prideful attitude that shuts yourself off from the idea that somebody else can actually help you. The Spirit of God is not a respecter of persons. We were learning in church last week that King Josiah, one of the greatest kings, became King when he was 8 so the Spirit of God moves and goes where He pleases. So, you may think to yourself, “This is weird. I never imagined I would be in this position of learning from that person,” but that’s what happens in the kingdom, and just trusting God in that.
14. What do you like to ask other leaders when you get the chance?
Naomi: Who they listen to, what they do, who they coach. Who do they reach?
15. How do handle doubt when it plagues your mind?
Tena: Doubt when you feel your first calling, and doubt when things aren’t going right.
Naomi: Going back to prayers and speaking to my husband. I think that is important. My husband is super supportive of my business which is helpful, and he understands the entrepenuering world as well, so if I am just feeling, “Ugh, what is this” then there’s just that reminder of what it is that God has called me to and when handling doubt. Personally, for me, at the beginning of the year and just before, I had some prophetic words spoken over me by people that don’t know me at all. My husband and I make a habit that if we are on a break somewhere, we go and visit a church because he’s a community minister of our church here so if we are away we make a habit of going to a church where we can be anonymous, well there was this one time, at the beginning of my business, when this guy stopped us as we were leaving and started prophesying and it was really spot on with regards to what I am doing now so that is a good way to handle doubt, like I know that without a shadow of a doubt that God’s called me to the work I’m doing, so that even though it doesn’t look like I imagined it would look right now, that’s not a permanent state and I have to keep showing up and doing the work.
16. When insecurities pop up, how do counter them?
Naomi: There was a time of a few years when I made huge mistakes so if you were to look on paper I wouldn’t necessarily be the person who would be leading other people, but I also know that I’m redeemed, that I have been bought with a price and I know that without a shadow of a doubt that in my weakness God’s power is made perfect and that he uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and so the reason that God would use me is so that He would be glorified because, it’s not about me and I just need to do what He’s called me to do and speak the truth that He’s called me to speak, but that is not because of who I am but because of who He is.
17. What ways have worked for you to deal with worries?
Naomi: I go back to the why. Am I sure that this is what I’m called to do, going back to those prophecies, speaking to my husband, prayer and journaling is key for me. I journal a lot so that journal will look like me just consciously reflecting out in prayer or answering a question like, “How are you feeling right now?” That helps because I enjoy it and it’s important to me.
18. How do deal with feeling overwhelmed when it occurs?
Tena: As in overscheduling, doing too much, too much going on:
Naomi: There’s always going to be important things, so it’s about prioritizing, and it’s about following the idea that you should do what you think you should do not what everyone else recommends or thinks you should do. Because then you start taking on everything and then suddenly you get overwhelmed and think “I never even wanted to do all of this stuff”. So, for me regardless of what I see other people in my industry and my space doing I’m going to do what resonates with me, what’s right for me and trusting that God is in it and that’s how it works to avoid that overwhelm, and not following the “should.”
19. Do you schedule time off to avoid exhaustion? If yes, what does your scheduled time off look like?
Naomi: We try to schedule breaks somewhere else here in England and try to take time to switch off and recharge. We are involved in ministry as well, and my husband is a volunteer, so there’s a lot going on, so we just try stepping away from the area we are living in. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, but maybe go somewhere for a day, it could be just going somewhere for lunch or go somewhere that’s not where we live and off familiar surroundings. Stepping out of familiarity can be refreshing sometimes. You know, just scheduling in opportunities for that to happen.
Tena: Do you schedule them once a month or every three months or what?
Naomi: It’s very sporadic. Sometimes we will have few in a week and sometimes we won’t have any for weeks. We need to get better with scheduling them out as opposed to just doing it as and when. We try to make time, but I just wouldn’t be able to be completely sure how often that is done.
Tena: Yeah, and I would think too with you both being in ministry there’s an emotional drain that you need to refuel that tank because you are dealing with people’s lives, and maybe there isn’t an easy solution to their problems and you feel that weight. It’s good that you both take time away.
20. Do you have a friend or group of friends to help you when you feel discouraged? How do they help?
Naomi: My best friend is super supportive. She’s not an entrepreneur but I’m able to talk to her about it, and my coach. I just believe as coaches, as people are mentoring and things like that, it is massively important to invest in yourself and to get support and mentoring yourself so with that I continually have a coach, or more than one for different things, and so I will speak to them because they get it and that’s their job in a sense. In my environment at church with the friends I have around, even though people can be well meaning in terms of their support, they don’t really understand it because that’s not what they do. And so having a coach or other like-minded people who are also entrepreneurs, and especially people who are a couple of steps ahead can be really important because it helps you to remember that you’re not crazy, like, “oh yeah this is a real thing” just because it doesn’t look like everyone in my church family is doing the same thing or my biological family, that’s fine, because I know I’m called to this and I’m just going to quote: “keep on keeping on.”
21. What advice would you give your younger self if you could?
Naomi: To stop caring about what people think so much. As a teenager and then through my 20s, I was a huge people pleaser but to the point where I would hate to put myself out there or to do anything that might rock the boat or make someone else feel insecure. I just wanted to make sure that everyone was happy, and everything was plain smooth sailing, and it meant that I stopped myself from doing a lot of things that I would have otherwise done. That’s just something that I continually remind myself of and I’m much better at now, that if someone doesn’t like you, if someone clicks off it or someone’s like “no that’s not for me” not in a bad way, but, I don’t care that much, because I have to do me and what it is that God’s called me to do and that’s it. So, I would say, stop caring about what people think so much.
22. Do you have a special word or verse you are focusing on in 2018?
Naomi: Yes. My word for 2018 is balance.
Tena: Two other things I wanted to talk about. One is, do you have anything else that you wanted to share like as you were thinking about this interview, you thought, “oh I hope I get the opportunity to share this….” Is there anything that’s on your heart? And then, we are also going to list all your resources at the end, so women can click on that in the end. So just personally or spiritually, anything that you would want to be able to say, “Hey, I just want to tell your audience this.”
Naomi: I would just really, really encourage anyone who’s reading to not suppress what it is that they feel that God has placed, even if it is a tiny seed, but instead to address it and to let it grow and blossom and bloom however scary that is. I remember as a teacher it got to a point where for me, even though I like teaching, teaching in the context I was teaching, wasn’t the right thing for me anymore and there was a thing in me where it was comfortable and safe so it didn’t make sense for me to be doing anything else, but there would be days where I would be literally crying before I would go to work. There was just something in me where I felt, “I’m not living out what I’m meant to be living out” and I think there’s lots of people that feel the same way, there’s lots of people that suppress, because they’re like, it’s not the _____ thing, it’s not right, it’s not now, or all the other excuses. There’s that quote that says, “You’ll either find a way or make an excuse.”, and that’s it. So, I would say to anyone who feels like they have something in them which they know needs to be addressed, or something God’s planted in them, find a way and don’t make an excuse because I as a person have been completely transformed because of stepping into who it was I was called to be. I am more confident, easier going, less anxious, less wound up, I’m better in social situations, less snappy with my husband, so many things are different because I addressed what it was that got up on the inside of me and stepped into it as opposed to suppressing it and saying, “oh maybe one day, maybe one day, maybe one day…” It’s important that anyone who is reading or whatever, that they address it and they do something with it and that they find a way to make it work as opposed to making an excuse for why it can’t. Tena: That is phenomenal advice, I’m glad I asked that question because I think every woman at some point has that choice to suppress or address and I think that’s going to be key when they read it because they may be in that moment, they may have gone through it or they’re going to go through it so that’s great advice. And a lot of times it might be in creativity, you know, being yourself and deciding it doesn’t have to be to start a business. It can just be being who you are supposed to be. It can be from small to big, whatever God is calling you to do.
Ways to connect with Naomi:
Naomi’s website is: http://naomiaidoo.com
Right now, people can join Biblical Business Academy which is at http://naomiaidoo.com/academy
Social media wise Naomi is on FB and Instagram:
Naomi’s group- The Sheerah Network: http://facebook.com/groups/thesheerahnetwork