Debola Deji-Kurunmi is a coach who is passionate about equipping a new breed of African leaders.
Over the years, she has been recognized for her leadership impact and this includes the being a two-time mentor at the Queen’s Young Leader Awards, 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow, 100 Most Inspiring Nigerian Women 2019 and currently serves as a Youth Representative at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, she takes you into her world.
Tell us how you got into life as a coach?
I got into coaching by accident literally, because I had always been the go-to counselor for friends and colleagues as far as 2002 while on campus. In 2003, I started a mindset empowerment community on Obafemi Awolowo University, which grew into a movement of young ladies who were awakened to a sense of purpose and personal power.
Also because of my passion to transfer knowledge and show others whatever I find to be working for me, I naturally found myself in the coaching context from my early twenties.
By 2010, my desire to create transformation for people and help them fulfil their higher potential had become a full-blown passion; thus, leading me to create safe spaces for people, especially women, to meet up, learn and connect with the insights they needed to improve their lives. Back then, I led what we called Life Academy for Women and freely produced Introspective Journals to aid personal reflection and journaling.
In 2014, I officially founded IMMERSE Coaching Company as a personal transformation coaching firm for men and women seeking life clarity, intentional growth, elite productivity and visionary execution.
What was the experience like at the beginning?
Actually, I am always fascinated by the memory of how we started. We have been well received by our audience from the beginning. I started out providing coaching to 20 women at a time over a 30-day period, helping them clarify their goals, craft a commitment to healing and create their Life Plan.
Every woman who went through the IMMERSE Academy as we called it at the time, would go and invite others. We quickly grew our clientele base simply by the power of crusadership. Our impact was significant and undeniable. We witnessed women starting businesses, stepping out domestic abuse, focusing on their goals and solving real problems in their communities.
As our audience grew, we also started to expand our courses and programs, as well as began to recruit other Coaches, whom we trained and certified, to join the organization, so we could reach even more women. The journey has been amazing! What started as a community of 20 women, has grown into a global community of over 45, 000 members in 99 countries including men and women.
What are some of your recent activities?
IMMERSE Coaching Company has three distinct arms. We’ve got IMMERSE Inner Circle which is our women-only coaching membership with thousands of super-achieving and leading women who use our courses, programs, and resources as tools for their growth and personal transformation. Within this membership, we have served over 3, 000 women since we launched it in 2019 and we’ve built over 80 courses, accessible to our members.
What inspires me the most about IMMERSE Inner Circle is our Changemaking Projects. Every 90 days, our members adopt a community, orphanage, hospital, school and others to provide charitable support and directly impact the vulnerable persons there.
The second arm at IMMERSE is Men’s Arcade, which is our men-only coaching practice helping men attain real success and elite performance through mentorship, game-changing courses and valuable support systems for the work they do. We are excited about the partnerships we have with father-figures, male mentors and inspirational leaders who provide guidance to men on their path to elite performance and true success.
The third arm is Visionary Compass, a 40-week high-tier coaching and mentorship system that helps visionaries and leaders elevate their income, impact and influence through their life’s work.
You are also an author of 20 books, what is the inspiration?
Well, I believe that books are a powerful way to store transgenerational wisdom and preserve legacy. Books are a way to remind the next generation of the mysteries you uncovered in your time. Books are gateways into realms where men lived and wisdom they discovered. I write books because I want to connect with people in intentional ways, and allow them to experience mental awakenings at their own pace.
I love writing, and I have so many more books within me which would be released in the days ahead by the grace of God. Some of my most loved and widely read books are the 4 books in the FIRERBAND Series, My Life is Full of Encounters, and Kingdom of Words.
What does being a two time mentor at the Queen’s Young Leaders’ Award in the UK mean to you?
It is completely humbling to mentor some of the most outstanding young leaders in the Commonwealth. First of all, I am so proud of the Queen’s commitment to highlight the extraordinary work and achievements of young outstanding visionaries across the Commonwealth and to invest in a program that equips them for even greater effectiveness.
Being a two-time mentor is an honor that afforded me the opportunity to directly impact those building solutions particularly for Africa, and creating change for vulnerable communities. This is at the heart of the work I’ve done in the last ten years, and I found it a source of great joy to provide guidance, support, and practical advice to these young leaders during their time at the Queen’s Young Leaders’ Program.
What are the challenges you encountered with the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID19 pandemic definitely hit the world in profound ways and highlighted to us some important lessons which continue to shape how we live, work and interact.
As a Coaching Firm, we had so many clients and members of our global communities who were badly hit with severe financial and health challenges. We thus had to become merchants of hope and quickly pivot our coaching approach to provide resources on coping, resilience, mental health and inner strength.
On the other hand, COVID-19 met us prepared as far as our work at IMMERSE Coaching Company is concerned. We had fully built out a virtual learning platform to host our interventions including fully online courses, virtual conferences and non-residential programs. We significantly grew our audience during the Pandemic, and became the go-to resource center for founders, executives and leaders seeking coaching, training and human capital management.
What are some of the memorable moments in your life and career?
Well, my career has been an adventurous journey of personal discovery and self expression! I found early that I am a multi-dimensional woman with many gifts and many sides to me. So I generally took a path of discovering my passions, testing different waters without falling into stereotypes or fixating on labels; and I embraced the principles of stewardship and value creation as navigation tools for a life of purpose.
I started out as a HR professional, working across recruitment, training and development, compensation and benefits as well as performance management. And totally loved my experience! After a few years, I moved into consulting and specialized in learning and development because from the beginning till now, I have always been a firm believer in the power of knowledge to transform people.
When I couldn’t contain my passion for social innovation and public policy, I moved into the international development arena, working on projects by the World Bank, United Nations and Crans Montana Forum. During this time, I also took on a job with an ASPEN-mandated Foundation in Nigeria focused on female entrepreneurship.
Strengthened by my desire to equip NGOs and nonprofits in Africa to better deliver social impact, I founded Ideation Hub Africa in 2015, which has grown into a 12, 000+ member-strong ecosystem of nation builders, social innovators and nonprofit professionals building Africa through their development efforts.
All the while, I never stopped investing in my passion for people’s development and after I left consulting in 2014, I also founded IMMERSE Coaching Company. At IMMERSE, we help people actualize their higher potentials and achieve their goals through personal transformation. Our biggest proofs are the over 45, 000 people across 99 countries of the world who have taken our courses and joined our coaching programs. Today, we have many of our members creating change within their industries and countries.
What is your experience as a Mandela Washington Fellow?
Oh! That was actually a significant experience for me. In 2018, I was selected by the US Government as one of the most outstanding young leaders in Africa alongside other brothers and sisters of mine on the continent. It was definitely validating to be recognized for my commitment to build Africa by building its people. This has always been my desire and dedication.
Being selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow took me to the United States, touring exceptional businesses, charities and government parastatals across the State of Minnesota, as well as undertaking an Executive Education Program at University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. At the end of the fellowship, I was selected to deliver an IGNITE Talk to my colleagues at the Summit in Washington DC. That IGNITE Talk “how to fry fish to solve a wicked problem” became a source of inspiration to many visionaries home and abroad.
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