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05 April 2022

'Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu'

I recently listened to a podcast presented by The British Psychological Society (BPS) discussing ‘How can leaders build a coaching culture?’ with Prof David Clutterbuck, Dr. Lisa Lewis and Dumi Magadlela - an EMCC Senior Practitioner in Team Coaching, and I was stunned!

In the podcast Dumi Magadlela shared the term in Zulu: 'UBUNTU' which in South African culture is 'a capacity that expresses compassion, reciprocity, dignity, harmony and humanity in the interests of building and maintaining a community with justice and mutual caring' (Studies in Philosophy and Education), and more fully: is part of the Zulu phrase "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" which literally means that a person is a person through other people.

Ubuntu also happens to be the nearest google font to my Yael Leinman - Intentional Team Coaching unique Branding font after much searching for that perfect personal match that felt just right. So finding out by chance that this term has such deep meaning (a whole value system) just blew me away!

Dumi Magadlela shared that in Zulu: 'Sao Buna' means: 'I see you and all that you represent', explaining this further: "I am because we are, meaning I cannot be fully me without you being fully you".

He invites us in his wisdom to "build a coaching culture where people can be fully who they are authentically and as they show up themselves, but not as the narratives that they think people want to see them as". He invites us to have conversations where we can be fully ourselves which creates safety. I'm grateful for Dumi Magadlela for sharing this insight.

When leaders can start having different kinds of conversations with their staff - they can start changing the organizational norms and begin to create a new language which is healthier. But we can only start making the change by looking in first.

So what kind of language do you use as a leader?

Is it language that is damaging, closing people's boundaries to listen and incorporate differences driven by fear and defensiveness?

Or is it language that supports open, creative and inclusive conversations led by curiosity of the other?

What new kinds of conversations could you start having as a leader by paying more attention to the language that you use to create new opportunities thinking - UBUNTU?

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