The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

YALI at the Rockefeller Center: Connecting through Communication with Sadhana Hall

Article Type 

This is part of an ongoing series of articles on the Rockefeller Center's participation in the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI

Daisy Muthamia
2015 Dartmouth Mandela Washington Fellow
Project Engineer, Kenya Electricity Transmission Company
Founding Member, Strauss Energy

Going into the session “Connecting Through Communication” with Sadhana Hall, Deputy Director of the Rockefeller Center, one of the things I wanted to learn most was how to conquer nervousness. I am so glad the session directly addressed this with some techniques I learned: take a power pose, take deep breaths. As a leader, I also learned that it is important for me to listen and stay with the audience and avoid the chattering that goes on in my mind as I anticipate and react to whatever is being said. 

Sadhana Hall leads the YALI Fellows in taking "power poses," a technique useful for decreasing performance anxiety. Photo by Sam Williamson.

I also wanted to know how I could communicate with presence as an introvert. As a leader, it is important for me to know that everyone around me is an audience. It is important to maintain my integrity by remaining true to my values and to my word. To best engage my audience, I learned that it is important for me to ensure that my values are in congruence with my behavior. This creates trust and credibility with everyone I interact with, creating confidence in me and as a result, prepares me to work with an audience.

Before attending the session, I was thinking about all the different ways I could do a good presentation. As we practiced our public speaking, I was worried that my voice was too soft. The feedback I got from my group that my soft voice made people want to listen. I learned to consider my voice, tone, message and body language. As a naturally technical person, most of my presentations tend to be very technical and include a lot statistical data. I learned to use word pictures to more easily allow less technical audiences a way to understand my message. I also learned that it’s important to prepare and own my presentation and have it at the tip of my tongue. I should give a strong introduction, a brief body with essential-to-know information and a lingering short conclusion. 

YALI Fellows engage in discussion and give each other feedback on how to improve presentation and leadership presence. Photo by Sam Williamson.

Another thing I learned during the group exercises, when we had to comment on the questions asked by the fellows, was the importance of listening to everyone. One of the fellows also asked how to listen and talk to someone he does not agree with. I discovered the importance of collaboration in order to arrive at a common good. Sometimes as a leader, I may not agree with everyone but listening to them allows me to learn from them, harness their energy and find ways to collaboratively get to a common good. Leadership is a shared experience. 

-Written by Daisy Muthamia, a 2015 Dartmouth Mandela Washington Fellow from Kenya. 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences