September 04, 2013   by

Every Chama is different, with its own individual members coming together for one common cause: to pool money and improve their financial status. Some Chama members come to the investment club with years of experience. Others are very affluent. Some chama members are polite, thoughtful and measured in their approaches. Others are pushier, taking charge and moving things forward quickly and aggressively. These are all legitimate approaches to running a Chama, and any one of them can work well for the benefit of the chama members.

There are times, however, when one chama member’s personality or approach to the group can throw a spanner into the works. They are people who try to dominate a meeting, try to push their agendas no matter what the cost, and try to bully their fellow chama members into seeing things their way. They’re the people that chamas dread.

black-woman-at-work-stressed3Before things get too gloomy however, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of chama members approach their duties with a sense of integrity and a desire to do what is best for the fellow chama members. It’s actually rare to see a chama member really allow their self-interest get the better of them, and create difficult situations for everyone else around them. Perhaps they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

There are ways to solve these problems though, and the answer is not always to simply remove these chama members but to find a solution. Finding that solution starts with finding the root of the problem and understanding that there are a number of reasons why a chama member might cause trouble—whether that trouble takes the form of aggression, passive-aggressive foot-dragging or simple ignorance. It’s equally disruptive when a chama member starts to focus on his or her personal agenda versus the chama’s agenda. If, for example, one chama member wants the chama to invest in some plots she has identified, she may continually push that into discussion, hoping to push her agenda through. That approach creates resentment among other chama members.

Keep in mind chamas come with a variety of personalities and not all of them are easy to work with. How you handle those difficult chama members can not only make or break a chama, it can also affect your success as a group. Managing a challenging chama member doesn’t have to be difficult. It starts with setting clear objectives. “Often, when chama members are unclear of their role, they become hard to work with,” says Mr. Bernard Omollo, Executive Director, Management Consultants. Most team members don’t set out to be difficult, Otieno says. It may be that they’re stressed about their personal lives. Give each chama member specific tasks and goals then follow up to identify gaps in understanding.

“Some chama leaders think that they can delegate a task by telling the other person what they want done. Or worse, by saying, ‘Can you take care of this?’ Omollo says. “They don’t check to see how the request has been received and whether or not that chama member has the skill, or will do it voluntarily. Instead, he recommends explaining specifically what you need. Describe why it’s important by relating it to the broader objective of the chama. Then, set a deadline. If a chama member is confrontational or unwilling to take direction, don’t avoid the conflict, says Omollo.

Instead of glossing over misunderstandings or negative behaviors, thrash out the problem so it doesn’t return. If conflict with a chama member escalates, proceed with caution. “If someone is yelling at you, do not yell back. Remaining calm will enhance your reputation as a chama leader who can handle even the most difficult of chama members.

So if you encounter difficult people on a team, what winning strategies can you adopt? One of the biggest challenges when dealing with difficult situations is not to fall into the non-communication trap. It’s key to make sure that you listen effectively and learn to use questions to clarify understanding. Also, learn to step into others’ shoes. We all form opinions, judgments and views based on our own experiences to date. The trouble is we only know what we know. If you can step into the shoes of others, you can really start to understand the viewpoints of others. Make an effort to find common ground. The truth is, in any difficult situation, there is always going to be some common ground. For example, in a chama might me in investments. Finding common ground removes the emotions and takes the focus away from one party or other’s personal agenda and re-connects both to the core purpose. When dealing with difficult people it is very easy to lose your temper or get angry. The trouble is that, when you do this, you lose control. Aim to remain calm when faced with difficult situations.



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