Sarah Richson started her career as an Assistant but changed paths to focus on her passion for people. This has led her to become one of the most recognised HR thought leaders in Africa.
Can we start with a little background information? Where are you from and what is your current role?
I am a Kenyan-born global thinker and thought leader. I moved to the UK in my early youth where I lived and worked for close to two decades. I am married to Claude and we have five beautiful children.
What is your background?
My background is in international business, coaching and human development. I’ve done that for quite a number of years in many ways, impacting mainly women, youth and global talent. I have depth, exposure and experience working internationally as a continent improver, consultant and strategic advisor.
Can you tell us a bit about the teaching and training that you do?
I am known as a creative energy based trainer therefore my workshops are high powered, highly creative and innovative borrowing from methodologies from across the world; mainly taping into my African background identity for gusto energy and vivacious approaches. I teach and train in the areas of emotional intelligence, personal branding, areas of winning with people and finally the areas of coaching and mentorship for success.
A lot of my principles are embedded on growth and progressive approaches, instead of using words like feedback I use feedforward, instead of using words like change I use transformation. I’m big on motion, if things are moving then things are getting done; if things are getting done then results will be achieved. I have a learner persona and in my training, I try to bring up learners and not achievers.
You started your career as an Assistant. What are the main changes you have seen in the workplace since then?
I started my career as an Executive Assistant and I have lucky to have done that role both in the African continent and in London and the biggest change I have seen I’ve seen is around technology and the use of it.
On the role of the assistant rising to become a highly strategic one, very few of us use that in a strategic way as a platform on the level of your boss and not the level under your boss. From very early on I always thought through my tasks and through the lessons that I gained working with a certain individual. A lot of my HR experience came from working for a global Human Resource Director in London.
The other change I’m seeing in the workplace is flexible working where you can have virtual assistants, you can be working for someone in a different country or you can be servicing a team of people in different countries and different time zones so a lot of understanding will need to stem from cultural intelligence because you are working with different cultures; there are also a lot of multi-cultural teams.
We are also facing nearly four to five generations in one workplace which poses a lot of interesting dynamics and dimensions to the workplace.
What inspires and motivates you?
What inspires me the most is my family; my husband and my children; being a mother has taught me to be a nurturing and grooming leader rather than be a task oriented leader.
I’m deeply inspired by the newness of things and by the results that can be produced through mastery.
I’m motivated when I witness people deepen their approaches and love what they do so much that they are actually inspired and don’t necessarily feel like its work. Another crucial thing that inspires me is silence and deep thought; creativity and having creative people around me.
What advice would you give someone just starting out as an Assistant?
Do not journey alone. Get a mentor, get a coach or someone else with more experience and exposure.
Pick up the tricks and create your own little tool box of how to approach situations, how to map scenarios effectively and to move at speed.
You need to get your head around technology very quickly and find one that works for you and make it work with you.
Do not underestimate the power of your personal development; develop yourself in emotional intelligence and in cultural intelligence as you’ll definitely need them in the highly volatile work spaces you are in now and in the future.
So, what’s next for Sarah Richson? Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Continuing with the work of country improvement and continent improvement is very key as well as continuing with the work being a glocal thinker i.e. very global concepts but localizing them everywhere I go.
Travelling the world, speaking, inspiring, building and sharing; different continents coming together.
I have set up Richemele International Consultants working with a team that want to take on the globe in a very inspirational way to advance human development.
In five years, I want to ensure I’m touching lives especially some key segments touching women around the globe and transforming their lives through the 3Hs: Helping them to raise their thinking, making sure that they have their Head in the right space, their Heart in the right space and their Hands and the activities of those hands in the right space. If I’m doing that for women, executive assistants and the youth of this world no matter the geography. Continuous learning and transformation is what we need to get to the next level. If I am part of that narrative in the next five years then I’ll have started achieving my life goals.
I have interacted with Sarah Richson, a truly phenomenal woman in a 2 day Train the Trainer workshop here in Kenya. I am inspired by her story since I also started as an Executive Secretary for a Deputy Vice Chancellor in the University.
I have learnt valuable lessons on leadership, management and everything in between. Being in a University setting, I have also scaled the academia ladder and graduated with PhD in Human Resource in the year 2016.
I am now pursuing my passion in training on various fields: knowledge management, talent management, customer experience among other HR areas.
I am indeed very proud to be associated with this profession as it has propelled me to higher heights!
I am an avid reader of Executive Secretary magazine.
Keep up the good work!