Meet Ugochi Ossai popularly known as Coach Gochi. An ICF Certified PCC Coach, a mentor to many, a transformational personal growth coach, and a passionate advocate for women’s empowerment. She has dedicated her life to bringing out the best in people and, journeying with them to become the authors of their own destiny.
In her interview with GABI Magazine, Coach Gochi walks us through her journey, sharing valuable insights and strategies that would be of great benefit to thought leaders and individuals who desire to not just exist, but positively impact their spheres or industries.
WHO IS UGOCHI OSSAI? CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH WHERE IT ALL STARTED?
In my early years, i had wanted to be a simultaneous interpreter, so I studied languages. Today I speak 5 languages some fluently, others not so much. What is striking though is that after these studies, I didn’t eventually become a simultaneous interpreter. I then decided I wanted to become a lawyer but ended up with an MBA.
After my MBA program I found myself in the banking industry and then Investment Management, and everything else that came with managing money and growing clients’ portfolios
It’s like, my life was just ordered by circumstances. I honestly wasn’t in control but whatever I did, I excelled at it. Finance & investments took about 17 years of my life. I made the money, impacted lives and turned around organizations but, I still felt like something was missing.
I would describe myself as an empath. I’m touched by people’s pains, needs, and challenges. All my life, even when I was in secondary school, friends often turned to me when they had challenges or wanted to get some clarity on situations and, for whatever reason, by the time they left, they were happy. I didn’t quite know what I did, but whatever I said, seemed to work for them.
When I left Finance, I got more involved in people’s lives as a Pastor. Funnily I had always called myself a coach. When someone asks “What are you?” My answer would first be I’m a coach. So, today I’m a pastor, but I’m also a personal growth and Leadership coach.
One day, my son was talking to me, and he said, “Mom, you’re always calling yourself a coach. Why don’t you go do something, like actually study that?” This stirred up some excitement in me and so I decided to get properly trained as a Coach.
I talked to a few people, and that was how I was introduced to Coach Masters Academy where I was certified as a Transformational coach. I also wanted to coach groups, where you could take a group of 5 or 6 people with similar challenges or things that they wanted to achieve and just guide them into setting up their goals and steps to get there. Their contributions help to challenge and build up each other. This led me to another Coach Training school, Ignite Global 360, where I was certified as a Group and Teams coach. I went on to become a mentor coach.
Later i decided to get accredited by the Global body for Coaches worldwide – International Coach Federation [ICF] because Organizations were becoming aware of ICFs role in accrediting coaches worldwide. are beginning to understand now that you need to be officially recognized by ICF. It’s not just sufficient to say I’m a coach, if they check the register of the body that oversees coaches globally, will they see your name? So, I went back, did the exams, and today I am an ICF certified PCC coach. That’s my journey.
And, I would like to add that I’m in a place where I believe I’ve always wanted to be. I’m happy to be where I am. I’m touching lives, seeing their transformation. I’m hearing people say, “Wow! I never thought I could do that.” For me, that’s more than enough reward.
Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention, I was someone who never really had much confidence in myself. People would commend me on something i did, but I never believed it. I always thought they were flattering me, trying to make me feel good.
I also liked to tell people proudly that i am a perfectionist; that became my go-to excuse for delays and missed deadlines. When I got into coaching, I realized that was just a glorified name for someone who was too scared to fail.
There was so much I didn’t do early in life because I never wanted anyone to have a negative view of me. And because I believed I was not good enough, I kept striving for perfection in everything.
The result was that I never got any real joy from what I was doing, and never celebrated my wins until understanding came! Today, I can appreciate myself and I’m no longer afraid to make mistakes and accept my areas of improvement. I’ll confess that I’m not completely there yet, because we keep learning and improving each day but I’m definitely in a much better place today.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED IMPOSTER SYNDROME AND IF SO, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
Oh yes, oh yes! Imposter syndrome was part of me for many years of my life, maybe for as long as I can remember. Even in secondary school, I had always believed I could never be good enough…irrespective of what people said to the contrary.
I think you would say my deliverance came when I understood that this ‘great trait’ I had of being a perfectionist was not so great in real terms. Deliverance came from a critical step in the personal growth process – self-awareness.
When you allow yourself to understand that you’re not perfect, you have strengths and weaknesses, when you allow yourself to understand that even when you have a weakness you can recognize it for what it is – a learning or improvement point. You can’t brag about it like many are wont to do, sometimes. It is what it is, and ought to be addressed, in order to move to your next level.
I sat down and asked myself, “Why am I so afraid?” People would suggest, “Hey, you can do this or go, do that!” And Id answer, “Oh, yes.” But I’d never do anything about it. Then I’d see somebody else doing the same thing, and I’m maybe completing their sentences in my mind. I’m saying to myself, “You know I can do that.”
But nothing ever came out of it these internal debating’s. I just did not believe in myself. I could help others achieve results. I could tell them I believed in them and I would see them rise and grow, but I lacked the courage to do and believe same for myself.
Acquiring coaching skills helped me see what it was I was dealing with, accept it and then work on growing in those areas.
I think one of the exercises we did was my turning point. Over the years, I had become an expert at deflecting compliments. “Oh, you did well,” and I’d either pretend i didn’t hear the compliment or I’d respond in a way that reduced the compliment.
Anyway, this particular exercise involved each member sitting and listening to other cohort members say what they admired in us. When it’s your turn, you are not allowed to say a word and after each person finishes, you’re just permitted say “thank you.” So, I sat down to participate. Listening to the first 2 people was hard, as I was tempted to refute the compliments, but the Coach stopped me.
After some time, I actually started to listen, to absorb what they were saying, and from thinking “Oh, no, that’s not me,” as they spoke, I graduated to “Oh, wow!” I began to truly receive the positive feedback. At the end, i came away feeling good and telling myself “You know, I’m not so bad. Yes, I may have some faults, but there are lots of good things about me too.” It was an exhilarating experience.
These people had nothing to lose or gain from their feedback to me. They were students from all over the world, no other Nigerian, aside me and yet, they were saying positive things about me. I think for me, that day marked a turning point in my life. I realized it is okay for people to appreciate you, Ugochi. It is okay for you to take ownership and celebrate the positive things in your life.
And so, with that, came some measure of confidence. With that came the ability to speak to those negative thoughts that will say, “Don’t feel too hot, don’t feel too thin.” You address those thoughts directly, you bring them down, and you replace them with positive thoughts.
Once I started doing that, it worked. But even as recently as yesterday, I saw these negative thoughts come up again. The good thing however is that today, I have acquired the skills to deal with it. It’s a process but, it is doable and it’s possible.
You have the right to accept the compliments, it does something to your neurons, your brain. Accept those thoughts and you allow them to just stay in your brain. Somehow, something happens from your brain to your whole body, that aligns you with others, and you become a better person.
So, efforts to try to put ourselves down, and saying, “No, I can’t.” hurt you both mentally and professionally. Our bodies align with what we think about ourselves. That’s why your mindset is so critical to your personal growth…the state of your mind.
What are you feeding your mind? Because if you feed the wrong things, they will cripple you and slow down your growth, if you grow at all.
HOW DO YOU THINK PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT CAN CONTRIBUTE TO A SENSE OF PURPOSE AND RESILIENCE IN EVERY INDIVIDUAL?
I think the first thing to understand is that personal growth or personal development is a process. You don’t get it from sitting at a lecture or just at the snap of your finger. It is a process to get you from where you are, where you have no sense of awareness, no sense of purpose to understanding your true self and having sense of destiny.
So, what is this process? It’s a process of developing new skills, attitudes, mindsets and actions. The way you react to things, all of that is personal growth. Some people are constantly reacting. Personal growth is also about emotional intelligence, managing your emotions, and self-control. When you can navigate this path, then you will be able to have a positive impact on life, increase your overall well-being, and understand your destiny or purpose, and they all start with self-awareness. “Who am I?”
Many of us are just existing. Every day we get up, we do something, or we copy our friends or everybody on social media just to attract attention. But is that you? Who is the authentic, the innermost part of you? Who are you? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you like? What triggers you? What gets you angry? What attracts you to certain types of people? All of that is the personal growth journey.
Now, some people can study to recognize these things and to align their lives with their authentic selves, good but it’s not like that for everyone. That’s where your personal development coach comes in. Your coach walks with you to identify who you are, because by the time these questions are asked, what makes you happy? Where do you see yourself in 6 months, one year from now? If you had everything you wanted, if money and travelling weren’t the problem, what would you like to do? Those are all pointers, also like I get touched when I see kids who are sick, I’d like to see everybody around me healed. Those are all pointers. For me, I’d like to see every woman empowered, go out there, do what they know, impact life, not feel inferior, and not allow the culture to hold them. Just understand your person.
Now, if these young people can have someone who can guide them and make them understand that they don’t have to win all the time. You can fail, failing doesn’t make you a failure. Failing just means that there are other ways to do what it is that you want to do. Allow them to be creative and to imagine. Tell them, “Just work with your mind, spirit, and soul, because personal growth covers every area of your life.” The result comes when you begin to find yourself, you know the strengths, the weaknesses, and the areas of development, and then you want to develop new skills to close that skill gap.
Then, you’re going to articulate actions that will take you to where you want to be because you have dreamt of it. And you have said, “That’s where I know, that’s who I want to be, where I want to be. Then I’m going to be able to know what reactions will hold me back. All that inability to manage my anger, all of those excesses, if I want to get to where I want to be, I have to also manage my reactions because the only constant in life is change. Therefore, if I’m going to be able to navigate change, then I need to manage my emotions, my reactions, the words that I speak even concerning myself.”
All you need is someone to help you and that’s who your coach is. Most people don’t understand what coaches do. They think, “No, no, no, I don’t need a good coach, I can do it myself.” They make mistakes and waste years of their lives because they don’t have someone to show them what they have already on the inside of them and find out what their destiny is.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFESSIONAL GROWTH AND PERSONAL GROWTH?
I think for me, is like comparing IQ – Intelligence Quotient and EQ – Emotional Quotient. Someone can do a test or an exam and ace it. But they come out of there and don’t even know how to talk to people. They’re having problems in their homes, with their children. They don’t know how to navigate life. But for complete growth, it’s a holistic thing. If you’re doing well professionally you must do well personally.
It depends also on what you call doing well. If you’re climbing the corporate ladder, and you’re now the MD or CEO, and everybody under you dislikes you, but they have to pretend to like you even though you are toxic, and you have no empathy. There’s nothing about you that they admire, your home is in shambles but they can’t resign or your organization becomes like a placeholder for them until they can find something better. So yes, it happens sometimes that we learn the skills to move up the corporate ladder. Sometimes we can even be nice and humble to those whom we think would help us to climb. But that’s not who you are because it’s just a tool that you’re using to manipulate people but it is not you.
So you can be doing well in one area, professionally, even though I’m using the word “professionally ” very reluctantly. You may be doing well professionally, but if you’re doing well professionally and your home is in shambles, you’re not doing well at all. If you’re doing well as a CEO, and you can’t connect easily with other CEOs, they can only deal with you because they want something from your organization, but outside of that they don’t want to have anything to do with you, you’re not doing well.
So is it possible? Yes, you can be climbing professionally but you’re not growing personally. There’s no real growth because if there’s growth, your attitudes will change. If there’s real growth, the way you relate to people will change. If there’s real growth, holistic growth, every year we see you as a better version of you.
WHAT ARE THE PARAMETERS YOUNG OR UPCOMING PROFESSIONALS CAN SEE AND SAY THAT THEY ARE GROWING?
Like I said earlier, Personal growth is a process and it starts from self-awareness, to achieve the purpose, your goals, and all of that. In this process, you will have to define your goals. Where do you want to be? How will you know you have arrived here? People talk about the setting of smart goals. You have to be specific, measurable, time-bound and all of that.
So, how will you know that you are growing? When do you set those smart goals? Those goals must be specific and not fluffy. For example, I want to lose weight. How many kilograms, or how many pounds and within what space of time? Why is it even important to me that I lose weight? That should be the first case that would be your motivating factor or your driving point. So, these are parameters that you’ll have to clearly define for yourself with the help of your coach. With clear parameters and steps, the question of whether I am growing or not will be easy to answer It’s not going to be guesswork. All I need to do is to tick off those parameters as i achieve them and it will be obvious to a blind man that I am growing.
I think that’s probably the easiest way I can say it. If your parameters are set right. If your goals are right, if they’re time-bound if you can tell when you have arrived there, when you start ticking them off. Yes, yes, yes, you’re growing.
SHOULD PEOPLE CONSIDER THE PERSPECTIVE OF OTHERS WHILE GROWING?
Oh certainly, especially when it comes to some of the soft skills, the people’s skills. If you’ve been a person who’s prone to anger or you just lash out or an impatient person. If you are someone who also doesn’t have time to listen to others, you tell them to hurry up so you can sell your own. When becoming a better person becomes your goal, you will have to identify how best these habits are hurting you and you have to decide you’re going to change. When the change starts happening, believe me, people will notice, they will say you don’t get angry like you used to before. The feedback will come. Believe me, they will come.
IS IT ADVISABLE TO LISTEN TO PEOPLE’S VALIDATION?
Validation is good but be realistic. You know how we talked about self-awareness? I should also know that what I am now is not the best of version of me. I am not the champion of the whole world. There will always be people who are ahead of me. If I can’t accept this then, I can’t learn, I can’t grow. If they’re ahead of me, then that means that they know something I don’t know. Then humility- which is also an acquired attitude, should propel me to learn from those better or more knowledgeable than me, and not feel diminished or intimidated.
So, wisdom is accepted that I am doing well but, that I am not the best. Because of this, I’m going to intentionally seek out and associate with the best, so that what they have can rub off on me. That’s humility once again. That too is being realistic.
So, if some people are telling you that you are the best in the whole world, then know they’re lying to you. And if you believe that, then you are the foolish one. You may even with time outgrow the best person, but don’t cut them off! Let them remain your friends, or in your circle. However, continually look out for other people who can challenge you to grow even more. Add them to your inner circle. In that way you are always growing, always learning, regularly upskilling and becoming a better version of yourself. As long as you have breath on you, don’t stop learning.
COULD THE LACK OF PERSONAL GROWTH BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DYSFUNCTIONAL SYSTEM IN AFRICA?
Certainly! Personal growth is about knowing I don’t have it all, personal growth is about humility. I can learn from somebody, I can upgrade, upskill, upscale, innovate and create. What we have in Africa are men and women who have come into leadership by thinking they know it all while in fact, they know nothing. We have some who know they don’t know it but are claiming they do because they are in power. Men who are not accountable, which is also part of personal growth – accountability “I’m not accountable even to myself. I can do what I like when I like, how I like, however messed up it is, it doesn’t matter. I have no sense of responsibility neither to other leaders or to the people I’m supposed to be leading. I have no self-control, no self-regulation, I can talk about what I want, even if it is repugnant. I do what I want, even if it is completely irresponsible, why? It’s because they are not investing in personal growth, it makes no sense to them, and they see no need for it.
This is because they have a “village of morons” praising them for their foolishness and hailing them. Certainly, they need a change of mindset. And some of them say, “That’s who I am so take it.” “This is just me” If that is just you and you are not sufficient to get us to where we ought to be, because you are a leader, you’re supposed to be taking us somewhere, somewhere better than where we are, not worse than where we were. So certainly, there is a gap there that needs to be filled but they have chosen that they have no responsibility to anyone, so you take it or shove it.
We’re talking about them as leaders on the level of leadership of a country or organization. But if you check their homes or relationships, those attitudes are there, too. If you don’t have it, you can’t fake it. You can’t fake it in your home. You can’t fake it to your friends. You can’t, you can’t fake it even in your sleep. You can’t fake it. You just can’t. Your emptiness will be seen, eventually.
WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT RIGHT NOW AND WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR BRAND IN COMING YEARS?
Amongst other things, I’m excited about my signature program called Invictus Living. The word came from a poet called Ernest Henley. At the end of that poem, he said, “I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.” So, I took this inspiration from this and came up with a coaching program targeted at women to own their voices and understand who they are. You don’t have to be me but whatever it is that you want to be, own it, expect challenges, embrace the challenges. You may fail, you may fall, rise and keep going. Show Resilience.
So Invictus Living focuses on resilience, courage, agility, and being able to navigate and live life. Thrive, don’t just exist. Defy the odds, boldly step out triumphantly over adversity, because when Ernest Henley wrote this poem, he was in a hospital, eventually he lost his legs, but he still came out, and he made something out of it.
Nelson Mandela came out of jail and based on these principles, it was as if he just forgot about all the pain and united his nation. Invictus living is about forgetting what is in your past, where you have failed and people who have hurt you. Look at yourself and say, “I’m going forward, and nothing will hold me back, I’m going to represent who I am. Uniquely, I’m going to take ownership of my life. I’m going to craft it.” Visualize who you want to be and work towards it. Get all the help, all the skills, all the knowledge you can get, and then dig in within yourself and become that person. You are the artist, the painter of your life. The canvas of life is in front of you, boldly paint it, and place no limitations on yourself because you’re a woman. That’s how I started.
And then, sometime mid-this year. I was talking to one of my friends who happens to run a school, and she said to me, “Gochi, can you teach this to children?” I had never thought about it a couple of months ago before she approached me. I’ve now taken it to schools and it’s now being adopted as an extracurricular activity. Coaching the children on self-awareness, resilience, empathy, courage and confidence is especially important given the increase in bullying and cultism in schools. Depression even in children aa young as 7 years is on the increase.
I’m excited about that because, in addition to empowering women, I’m now coaching children between the ages of 10 and 16, I’m helping to forge their young minds to be able to build a positive, empowered future. I am excited about that, and whoever else wants to come on board the Invictus Living Program is welcome. The principals affect every individual. So, let the leaders come, let the politicians come, and we will take them, Invictus Living can benefit all of them, there is room for everyone.
DO YOU RUN PERSONAL COACHING FOR INDIVIDUALS?
Yeah, I do one-on-one coaching. I also do counselling, mentoring, group coaching, and developing harmonious teams for organizations at different corporate levels.
FINALLY, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THEIR PERSONAL GROWTH IN THE NEW YEAR?
Find someone who can walk the journey with you. Get your coach which is very important. Sometimes, we think we can do it alone and a few people may have tried it. But more people who have started have dropped off along the line because they couldn’t sustain it. There was no accountability partner. There was no one saying, “Hey, you said this at this time. How are you doing? Where are you going? Where are you now?”
The coach will not tell you what to do but help you establish what you say you want to do and be. It may look like something very simple, but it makes a whole lot of difference when you have an accountability partner to help you find those goals, put a timeline on it, and define the steps that you need to take to get there. Someone who will stay with you, who is in your corner encouraging you.
So what would I advise? Get a Coach who will walk this new path with you, help you define what your real needs/ dreams are, and, hold you accountable as you navigate your unique journey. The goal is to become the best version of yourself at the end of the journey whether in the professional or personal front.