The pursuit of growth and success often requires stepping outside of our comfort zones. True leadership goes beyond merely occupying a prominent position; it entails making thoughtful decisions and taking actions that have a positive impact not only on oneself but also on others. In this exclusive, our guest shares his journey, emphasizing the importance of stepping outside of his comfort zone for personal and collective growth.
“I believe that for something to blossom, it must first delve into the depths of the earth before it can bloom,” says Steven Dossou, a renowned leadership coach and entrepreneur, highlighting the transformative power of embracing resilience in the pursuit of success.
Let’s meet you and walk us through the journey of becoming a known public speaker and a coach.
I appreciate the opportunity and don’t take it for granted. My full name is Abraham Stephen Dossu. I was born in Togo, in a 2 bedroom apartment with nine siblings. I understand what it is to grow up in a place where you have to share space, eat 1 to 2-course meals per day, and walk miles to school. Despite that, I knew within me that I could be more than I am.
At the age of 18, about to finish my first degree, I looked around me, analyzed the situation, and decided to relocate to another country for a better opportunity. I spoke to my parents about it and they didn’t object. I tried several countries like Europe, the United States, and Australia and finally decided to move to South Africa.
My journey from Togo to South Africa was about 18 months and all through this time, my family thought I was already settled in South Africa. Those 18 months were one of the toughest periods of my life, experienced bullying, 2 to 3 days of no food and water, and no place to call mine. I woke up from the shade I stayed at the street corner to find something to do.
On a faithful day, a lady saw me and spoke to me about understanding my relocation to South Africa, she said that was not her first time seeing me and asked me to see her the next day that she might have something for me. I didn’t have anything to wear but I went to a friend of mine who is a pastor, he gave me a brand new shirt and trousers.
The next day, as soon as I opened the door to the interview, I saw that it was held by a blonde woman, Lizabeth, and immediately, she told me I had so much confidence and that I got the job. I was surprised and asked, “What is the job?”, she said the job is to sell a vacuum cleaner. Then, I was about 19 years old, and back home, we used brooms, I didn’t understand how I could sell so I was given the sales script to read.
I went home, studied, and went back the following day. From that day, I worked 10 to 15 hours per day, 7 days a week for the next 3 years. Every day, working had to sell and say “Hi, give me a moment, I want to tell you why buying this vacuum cleaner can change your life, sir, your wife will love you when you buy this vacuum cleaner.” Before I knew it, I was given the opportunity by this competitive company to become the area manager of 60 team members with an account of over 30 million dollars in sales yearly.
Six months later, I became the regional manager of 200 people accounting for 10 trillion dollars in sales yearly, and after that, the national manager. It was an amazing time for me and I bless God for it. After I left corporate, I went to start my own company, an import and export company that failed a year later taking everything I had and also had a failed engagement with a South African lady at the time. Having lost a lot of money, I lost my momentum as I was back to zero. When you lose momentum, it should be followed by the birth of something or someone new.
I believe for a thing to blossom, it has to go into the dark of the earth, then flowers. I was in the dark of earth and the choice was mine to either come out blossom or rotten and I chose blossom. I decided to leave South Africa and go to Asia. Things that helped me during this period were, my resilience, clarity in thinking, driven by ambition and purpose, and ability to train people. I decided to make a career out of it.
That was when I decided to grow my speaking and coaching business. That was like five and a half years ago when I started in Asia. Since then, one thing has led to the other. It’s not been easy, I built my skills in the process, and now I’m traveling the world. So the answer to the question is I have come far.
Is there a significant turning point or defining moment in your life that shaped who you are as a motivational speaker and a leadership expert?
It’s been a long time coming, starting from the time I left my home country, being able to persevere during the hard times to climbing the corporate ladder to where I am now in my career. One thing I would love to emphasize is the decisions I made during these periods. Decision is a key in every process of transformation. You have to decide to commit to the training needed to become who you want or need to be.
Without being aware, the journey from leaving home and going through hard challenges was changing my perception. So when I talk about going through these things, I talk about them from the place of having lived it and not from what I read in books.
Secondly, climbing the corporate ladder wasn’t easy, the environment was hostile, foreigners were not much regarded, and having great leadership skills was essential. I was complimented on this skill because I created an environment where my team was motivated, heard, and appreciated. It was the process even when I did not know the process already started.
We mustn’t forget the lessons during our down moments and remember there’s a time to sow and reap, a time to serve, bear, and grow. We should understand that what we are going through is the process and seed sown for what we will become next.
Is there a particular mantra or quote that inspires the way you work and your daily life?
Yes. “To inspire others, read more, be more and do more that makes you a leader”. Leadership should not be misconstrued, there’s the spirit of leadership which everyone should have, and organization leadership. One person who has inspired me the most is Dr Myles Munroe, he was a leadership expert. I want to be someone who will help others get rid of their fears, be more, live, and do more.
You could have encountered people in your field who are making significant transformations, how do you help them find clarity and make life-changing decisions?
A very good question. There is a concept I talked about in my book, “Be Transformed”. In this book, I talked about how every one of us is in the process of transformation now and then. Transformation is continuous, everyone is transforming. The only time you become conscious of these transformations is when it hurts and usually, you wait till it hurts before taking action.
I have come to understand that in life, 3 things stop us from becoming who we should become, they are fear, doubt, and low self-esteem. These affect almost everyone, they are the enemies within. I help people see these things for what they are and deal with them. So many times, we have been victims of these.
How I help people is to uncover these thoughts or systems, see them for what they are, and move ahead. There was a time I was suicidal during my days working in the corporate world, a friend came to me and reminded me of who I was 3 years ago when I first arrived in South Africa, which made me take a bold step in organization.
What strategies do you employ while training leaders to effectively guide their teams?
Leadership is extremely important. Any great achievement in the world is a result of a leader bringing people together to act on a vision.
A leader has the burden of carrying a vision and, secondly can act on it and bring people together. Leaders tend to confuse their roles with being able to work in a company or the concept of programming. They forget that it is by inspiration. A leader is meant to inspire his or her team in a way that they carry on tasks effectively. A leader should continually inspire, coach, be there for the team, and train them to become great leaders. If the followers can become, the vision of the leader is achieved effortlessly.
According to your nickname, ‘ACTION MAN”, can you give examples of how taking action has shaped your life or those around you?
Definitely. I love using the story of Moses and the Israelites when they came face to face with the Red Sea which was in between them and the Promised Land. History has it that Moses didn’t know what to do and then he got the instruction to stretch out his rod. Even though he has authority and has witnessed signs and wonders, he is still confused. But one thing he did was take action.
People, most especially Christians tend to often believe that things are going to fall on our laps. I hope that things will happen but things don’t work like that, I call it empty hope. You have to believe it and take action for it to come to life. I got the nickname because the time frame when I think about something and bring it to life, I believe is extremely minimal.
The reason for this is that feedback is gotten when we take action. An example was when I started a public speaking group in Antalya, Turkey. Got a lot of feedback, but if I sat on the idea, nothing would have happened. Started with 4 people and after a year, more than 2,000 online people in the community. Taking action is a way we can bring our ideas to life, in the process, we make necessary adjustments.
What practice or mindset will you recommend to people?
The SWITCH method involves sitting on a chair, relaxing back straight, and closing your eyes. For example, if you smoke and want to stop smoking, I will let you know what smoking can cause, lung cancer, etc, and tell you to picture yourself not smoking, being in good health, spending time with family, and accomplishing more in life. While your eyes are still closed, you make the box of smoking smaller disappear completely and the box of not smoking bigger to get what you desire.
Another is the ENCOR method. It is connecting the bad memory with the good memory. A lady I had just a session with had suffered anxiety, stress, and depression for more than 20 years and had gone through therapy sessions before that. I believe you don’t have to have many sessions to get results when you work with me. She works for an orphanage home so I told her to think about all the times she suffered these attacks and all the good memories she will get from working with orphans, then, choose. All of these are in the mind.
At times when I don’t do either of these methods, every morning, I do 100 pushups, and I train my power to persist. I started with 5, then 10 to where I’m at now through discipline and consistency. Secondly, I listen to 30 to 60 minutes of something positive, preaching or motivation. Then, I write everything I want to achieve in a book. By doing that every day, I build my mind to pursue my goal unrelenting. You set the foundation for a mindset shift.
Anything that brings you joy outside work?
Music. I used to sing but what I do now is write, create melody, and get people to sing. People don’t know this but music is a great part of my life. It makes me happy. Also, traveling and seeing new places
Any advice to your younger self?
Just two words, THINK BIGGER. Nothing more, nothing less. I tell younger people, “If you think you are thinking too big, now, think bigger”.
What legacy or impact do you hope to leave behind through your works?
I have written 4 books thus far, plan to write 56 more. I would love them to be translated into 185 languages. At the age of 60, I want to reach 3 billion people. I believe so much in young people, so I want to create a foundation to help young people actualize their dreams.