July 26, 2016   by

How to set your Chama’s Foundation

Chama leaders are most vulnerable in their first few months with their new Chama. It’s a bit like starting a new job; those early impressions, right or wrong, can really stick. And the stakes are high. Failure to create momentum during the first few months guarantees an uphill battle for the leader. Building credibility and securing some early wins lays a firm foundation for longer-term success.

When you start your Chama, as the leader you are supposed to find people for the Chama and get the group off the ground. You have to win the confidence of the new Chama members and you have to make tough choices about where the Chama should go. Regardless of what the situation is, it’s a good idea as a new leader to spend some time learning about the new people in the Chama; their likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams and what they expect to gain from joining the Chama.

By the end of the first few meetings, you want your members to feel that something new, something good, is happening. Early wins excite and energize people and build your personal credibility. Done well, early wins help you to create value for your new Chama earlier and therefore reach its goals much more quickly. Above all, of course, you want to avoid early losses, because it is tough to recover once the tide is running against you. These are the most common traps that affect unprepared new Chama leaders:

Failing to focus

It is all too easy to take on too much at the beginning, and the results can be a disaster. You cannot hope to achieve results in everything at a go more than a couple of areas during your transition. Thus, it is essential to identify promising opportunities and then focus relentlessly on translating them into wins.

Not taking the Chama situation into account

What constitutes an early win will differ dramatically from one Chama situation to another. Simply getting people to talk about the Chama and its challenges can be a big accomplishment. Think tactically about what will build momentum best.

Failing to get wins that matter

It is essential to get early wins that energize your members. But your members’ opinion about your accomplishments is critically important too. Even if you do not fully endorse their priorities, you have to make them central in thinking through what early wins you will aim for. Addressing problems that your members care about will go a long way toward building credibility and cementing your relationship with them.

Establishing long-term goals

In the first three months, a key goal is to build personal credibility and create Chama momentum. You do this by securing some early wins. Plan your early wins so they help you build credibility in the short run and lay a foundation for your longer-term goals. Specifically, your efforts to secure early wins should one, be consistent with your Chama priorities, and two introduce the patterns of behavior you want to instill in the Chama.

Targeting behavioral changes

If you are to achieve your Chama priorities, you may have to address dysfunctional patterns of Chama members. Start by identifying the unwanted behaviors. For example, Elizabeth Wairimu wanted to reduce the menace of poor meeting attendance in her Chama. She introduced a system that would discourage members from skipping meetings. One, she introduced a fine system. Any member who missed a meeting with no apology would be liable to a fine of Kshs.1,000/-. Also, if a member missed more than four monthly meetings in a year; with apology or not, they would be liable to a fine of Kshs.3,000/-. Elizabeth wanted her Chama members to avoid missing meetings and her strategy worked. So, just like Elizabeth did, have a clear vision of how you would like people to behave and plan how your actions in pursuit of early wins will advance the process of behavior change. What behaviors do people in your Chama consistently display that undermine the potential for high performance? Summarize your thoughts about the behaviors you would like to change then take action.

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This post was written by Diana Wangari

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