Alum of the Month - May 2020

Lucille Ossai (nee Okpere)

An effective leader in times of crisis is one who strives to communicate simply, briefly, and clearly with a dose of empathy in virtual channels. No other skill is as valuable in motivating people to take action for the greater good.
Lucille Ossai (nee Okpere)

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  • Programme studied: Industrial Relations & Personnel Management
  • Year of Graduation: 2001
  • LinkedIn profile

Our May Alum of the Month is Lucille Ossai (nee Okpere), a communications trainer, coach, and award-winning communications blogger (Rethinking Business Communications Blog). Lucille helps professionals and business owners improve their communication skills so that they excel in their careers and boost business results. 

What’s your current job?

I am the communications coach at the Lagos Business School, Pan Atlantic University, in Nigeria. The Lagos Business School is listed among the top 50 global business schools in The Economist magazine’s 2018 Executive MBA ranking. It has also been ranked every year since 2007 by the Financial Times of London and is among the top global providers of open enrolment executive education.

My primary role is to help MBA students across all cohorts—including the executive batch—to improve their communication skills. I also facilitate sessions and deliver training workshops in different aspects of communication.

Where have you worked previously?

After my postgrad studies in the UK, I immediately began job hunting. However, I was due to start a new chapter in my life a few months after graduation—getting married! So I realised that returning home was the logical solution. I haven’t regretted that decision.

I previously worked at the Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria as its first commercial officer.  I concurrently worked part-time as the first business developer for the Swedish Trade Council in Nigeria. In addition to these roles, I worked as the first executive secretary of the Nigerian-Swedish Chamber of Commerce for two years in Lagos.

How has studying at the Department of Management allowed you to make an impact?  

Although I had previously completed a four-year undergraduate course in Leicester and was thus not a ‘newbie’ in the UK, the intellectual exchanges in my class were enlightening. Classmates came from countries around the globe, and my outlook on life broadened. Just as iron sharpens iron, my interactions with British and international students at the Department of Management was a practical lesson in cultural awareness. I thus learnt how to speak persuasively and how to write clearly. Moreover, because I was once a foreign student in the UK, I am better placed to advise those international students enrolled in MBA programmes at the Lagos Business School on how to navigate the cultural dilemma and maximise the benefits of their courses.

My stint at LSE also helped me to make an impact in my first job by preparing me for working with Swedish diplomats. Furthermore, working in groups with international students in the UK prepared me for collaborating with colleagues in different countries at the Swedish Trade Council.

What is your favourite memory of studying at the Department of Management?

Without a doubt, I appreciated the accomplished faculty the most.

I particularly valued the sessions of Dr Jackie Coyle-Shapiro, my project tutor. Jackie always delivered riveting lectures for the organisational theory and behaviour (‘OTB’) module. Not only did she challenge our thinking in class, she also refused to accept average contributions. Her sessions were engaging and informative. I remember how much my speaking skills improved in her classes.

What are your aspirations for the future?

My vision is to guide, coach and train professionals and business people across the globe to become more effective communicators; especially memorable speakers and compelling business writers. But I can’t achieve this feat alone. Therefore, I’m open to collaborating with trainers, facilitators, and thought leaders in the field to provide practical solutions. I also regularly connect and engage with communication professionals and authors with different expertise, so that I perpetually sharpen my knowledge and hone my platform delivery skills.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken normal modes of communication to the core. What is your advice for business leaders to communicate, motivate and encourage productivity across their teams during the COVID-19 crisis?

Since face-to-face communication is no longer feasible because of social distancing,  business leaders increasingly need to communicate virtually. But without one-on-one interactions, it becomes difficult to discern nonverbal cues during speeches, presentations, meetings or other activities to determine if they're effective.

Therefore, leaders must become mindful of their body language behaviours in virtual programmes so that they motivate their teams. Below are tips to consider:

  • Sit up straight and keep your feet 'planted' on the ground. You want to project confidence and firmness.
  • Keep your body in an 'open' position - and use open arm/hand gestures. Nonverbal communication experts believe open gestures boost trust and credibility.
  • Vary your tone to add 'flavour' to your words, and to signal authority. Nevertheless, don't shy away from using pauses as these accentuate your points, and make your listeners pay attention.
  • Smile reassuringly when appropriate and always end with a positive outlook. This creates a  we're-all-in-this-together situation, and inspires people to 'own' the solutions.

Above all, note that an effective leader in times of crisis is one who strives to communicate simply, briefly, and clearly with a dose of empathy in virtual channels. No other skill is as valuable in motivating people to take action for the greater good.