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Profiles

Mucha’s Emotional Intelligence Journey

Mucha Mlingo Emotional intelligence
Mucha Mlingo Emotional intelligence expert. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

Mucha Mlingo enrolled in university to study engineering, but she quit after first year to pursue Natural Sciences with a major in Mathematics. She was facing a life of teaching but she knew she would not be the best teacher. She did a Master’s degree in Finance and joined the financial services industry. However, it was a job. When she moved to a training department in a UK company, the light bulb went on. Ten years ago, Mucha who grew up in Zimbabwe and then moved to the UK, came to Nairobi with her husband and founded Premier Training Services Africa. The firm develops people using emotional intelligence. She met JACKSON BIKO for a chat.

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I don’t suppose you have a problem of telling people you are meeting for the first time, ‘I’m the lady in the black jacket and a green shoes, seated in the corner.” Your hairstyle, or lack of it, makes you stand out.

(Laughs) That is true. I was not particularly blessed with great hair. When I was in university, I had dreadlocks (Chuckles). Part of it was that in the UK, going to the salon was very expensive. My mum was horrified. She was like, ‘oh you’ll never get a job with dreadlocks.’ I had mine for about 10 years and one day felt bored and chopped them off. The reaction to my hair is interesting though, some wonder if I’m a cancer survivor, others think I’m bold, some stare. (Chuckles)

Your professional biography is quite, what do I say, abstract or complex, “EQ fanatic and change maker, keynote speaker…” How would you explain to your grandmother what you do?

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I help people to be better, do better and I use emotional intelligence as a tool to do that. That is what I would tell my grandmother.

As human beings or as professionals?

As human beings, as Africans. For example, we have parenting series that we are running called “Raising Humans” that does parenting with emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence helps you to be effective in life. This morning my son was having a meltdown and I just thought to myself ‘goodness gracious me! The things I’m teaching people, I really need to practise them myself.’

What are you currently learning in your 40s?

I’m learning to be kind to myself. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in my 40s is that I can’t live life for somebody else. I am not tied to the expectations of others. I figure out what I want, what’s important to me and then make decisions on that basis.

The reason why people say life begins at 40 is because you just let go of other people’s expectations. I’m learning to say no more. I’m asking myself; does this help achieve what I really want? It’s really hard because there is always this thing at the back of the head that tells you, ‘a wife is supposed to behave this way, a mother is supposed to be this and that, a Christian is supposed to do one two and three.’ Unpack those ‘suppose tos' and interrogate them to determine if they are real.

You have been this person all your adult life and suddenly you’re questioning and challenging this person you are and making different decisions… what does that mean for your relations with the people around you, are they in conflict with this new you?

Of course, and unintentionally so. I’ll give you an example. In addition to running my business, I’m the current chair of OWIT {the Organisation for Women in International Trade}. I travel a lot. Last year, I was travelling out of the country every month. I have two boys, 10 and six-years-old.

I remember having a conversation with someone who said, “oh my goodness! you travel so much, your children miss you and wonder where you’ve gone!” Then I thought, ‘no, I’m not picking up that load. I’m a good mother, I make mistakes, but I am a good mother, I’m trying to be very intentional and yes it is true I may travel but when I’m there, I’m fully there.’

Some of those tensions that you are talking about I think are not intentional but you just remind yourself that it is okay. My husband and I have worked it out and it works for us.

When people say “I’m a good mother”, “I’m a good father,” “I’m a good parent”, is being a good parent correspondent to the quantity or quality of time you spend with your children?

It’s both. Because if you are giving them five minutes of quality time, that’s not enough. Part of the stuff I’m learning about my emotional intelligence journey is that parenting, motherhood, wife-hood, sisterhood, need to be intentional. You just need to ask yourself; what do I really want? When I look at my boys I ask myself, what do I really want? I want when they are in their adulthood to have the kind of relationship where we can talk about anything and everything. For me to have that, I need to be intentional about the time we spend together.

You are a professional, a mother, a wife, a sibling, a member of the society, which part of those segments do you feel you are giving more time and working on developing currently?

That’s a good question. (Pause) I’m at the stage where I’m trying to grow my business more. But also the more work I put, the more I realise that I need to a lot of work on the other aspects to maintain balance.

One of my goals in the next three years is to fire myself and hire a CEO. I recently hired an executive assistant to handle some of my work and at home, I need to employ someone who is not just a maid, but who can manage my household. I laugh with my friends and say I have outsourced very many things; my meat is delivered, my dry-cleaning is picked up and delivered, my water delivered, my fruits are delivered...that’s a good use of my time Biko. It is not a good use of my time to be standing in a queue in a supermarket. I have learnt to be ruthless and cut out the things that don’t require my physical presence to someone else and only handle the things that require my presence, like my Tuesday afternoons which I have to spend watching my son play sport.

I don’t know how growing up was for you, but most of us were beaten young as a form of discipline. I wasn’t hugged, never told I was loved or that I could be anything in the world. Our parents were busy looking for school fees to engage in those hearty conversations and so you were taught the hard way to respect elders, obey, study hard, get a job, get the hell out of the house, start a life, and be a responsible human being who fears God. As a result, most of us in our generation turned out great and others didn’t. This convinces me that there is no formula for raising children. Do you agree?

There isn’t a formula to be honest. As a Christian, I feel that God has given us some guidelines. The difference between the way that we were raised and the way we need to raise our children is that the world is a scarier place than it was. Our children need to be equipped with the tools to navigate this ever changing, high-risk world.

The world has become more chaotic; children are exposed to so many things much earlier, to higher incidences than we ever were. Part of that is because of technology. How do I equip my child with the skills to navigate the world? In school, they are getting the tools to choose a career. They are not being equipped on how to deal with depression or being bullied. It’s about equipping the children with the emotional muscle that they need and it’s not necessarily hugging them all the time or saying ‘I love you’ but it is validating them.

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