Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

“I’m Already MIssing You”

On our second night we observed an amazing sunset.

On our second night we observed an amazing sunset silhouetting a beach hut.

Caribbean Sky, Sea, and Sunset

We’ve had a lovely few days at Sandals Whitehouse on the south coast of Jamaica.

I’m scattering photos throughout this post.

The beach seems to go on forever, and the sea really is “Caribbean blue.”

The sun has been strong every day until around 2 pm; then we’ve had clouds, sun, rain, clouds, sun, and finally last night a clear starry sky.

Just a small part of the Sandals Whitehouse Resort

Just a small part of the Sandals Whitehouse Resort

Delicious food, comfortable room, and excellent staff, made the holiday relaxing and refreshing.

Our waitress at this morning’s breakfast, when she learned we were leaving, said. “I’m already missing you!”

What is Psychological Safety?

The sunset had its 'reflection' in a rainbow on the other side of the bay.

The sunset had its ‘reflection’ in a rainbow on the other side of the bay.

Last time I told you that two New York Times articles caught my attention. The first was the news that the U.S. is about to send help for Nigeria’s efforts against Boko Haram. If you missed my post with that news, you can find it here.

The second article I liked was about Julia Rozovsky’s work at Google, on what makes teams effective, She is an alum of Yale’s School of Management, SOM, where I received my MBA (then called the MPPM or Masters in Public and Private Management).

She spoke with Times reporter Charles Duhigg about her work. She told him that when she got to Yale, she was assigned to a study group. “[My] study group was a source of stress. ‘I always felt like I had to prove myself,’ she said. The team’s dynamics could put her on edge. When the group met, teammates sometimes jockeyed for the leadership position or criticized one another’s ideas.”

This brought back memories for me, some good, some not so good!

When I was at SOM we were in self-selected study groups, but we ‘selected’ our group without any basis of knowing the others. Three groups of eight made up an IGB, or Interpersonal and Group Behaviour class.

Over the course of the semester we met three times a week to solve problems, practice communication skills, and try to make meaning of being together. We had readings and lectures to assist us.

The team building this beach hut seemed to work together well.

We watched this team building a beach hut at Sandals Resort in Jamaica. Three team members worked together well.

Rozovky’s work at Google – which cares a lot about effectiveness of teams – was influenced by her SOM days, she said. She and her colleagues undertook years of research. They discovered norms or patterns but couldn’t grasp the crux of what made some groups excel.

Then they found the term “psychological safety” that helped them put the theoretical framework around what they’d learned.

I had to read the piece to understand their work, but basically when people feel safe with each other they tend to work together better. Their research helped them see what provides this safety.

The summary says, “The behaviors that create psychological safety — conversational turn-taking and empathy — are part of the same unwritten rules we often turn to, as individuals, when we need to establish a bond.”

As I read the article, I realized that my own SOM IGB group never achieved this feeling of safety with each other. So we didn’t remain a group after the first semester. There were several that did bond and stayed close for the whole two years and after. I envied them.

The flowers everywhere at Sandals Resort made me feel right at home.

The flowers everywhere at Sandals Resort made me feel right at home. It was like being in Nigeria.

Boko Haram Myths Debunked

Jideofor Adibe, Associate Professor of Political Science at Nasarawa State University in Keffi, Nigeria, wrote a thoughtful analysis of Boko Haram and its strengths in Brookings Institute’s blog. He invites “a second look and re-evaluation of some of the earlier rumors and notions about the sect.”

He discussed several myths about their strength. The worst, to me, was. “when the Chibok girls were kidnapped, some key (former President) Jonathan supporters openly doubted the story, and believed it was part of a grand design by the north to bring down the Jonathan government.

He also makes clear that Buhari’s talk of ‘technical’ defeat is not helpful. Several times, he says, the group seems to have faced defeat, but each time has come back stronger.

Adibe believes that nation-building, including re-engaging those Nigerians who are feeling alienated, is as important as military defeat.

He says in his conclusion, “Rather than deliberately engaging other alienated groups such as the new agitation for a Republic of Biafraor the regrouping of ex-Niger Delta militants, Buhari appears to regard such groups as deliberate plans to undermine his government. It was essentially the same mistake former President Jonathan made with Boko Haram.”

Do you wonder, like I do, if Buhari or his staff read international comments? Will U.S. support help?

Rev. Debra Haffner who spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court

Rev. Debra Haffner who spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court

Speaking Out for Women’s Rights

Rev. Debra Haffner speaking on the steps of the Supreme Court yesterday to rally for women’s rights, made me proud. She is a friend, a nonprofit leader, and our community minister at The Unitarian Church in Westport. Thanks to Dan Woog for sharing the information.

Dan said that “Haffner — who spoke soon after California Congresswoman Barbara Lee — noted that ‘people of faith of every religion support the right of individuals to make their own moral decisions.’ She said that ‘clear majorities from almost every major religious tradition in the United States support safe and legal abortion.'”

I was excited to read at the end, “PBS Newshour led its evening broadcast last night with some of Haffner’s remarks (click here for link).” We didn’t see it; we were too busy enjoying Jamaica’s sunset.

Debra’s remarks are shown at about minute 25.

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. “Thank you, Catherine, for your insights on Teamwork. And I’m glad you enjoyed Jamaica.” Bea Mayes (I met you in Park City)
    (Bea sent this to my email, and I asked her if I could post it here. She agreed.)

  2. Glad you and your husband had a good time in Jamaica. The pictures are stunning. Thank you for keeping us informed via you blog about what is happening in Nigeria.

  3. Thanks, Catherine, for the variety of information here. And you blog even on vacation! Glad it was glorious.

    • The blog was a day late. I realized the internet was too slow at the resort, so sent it out after we got home. But I don’t think anyone noticed, or at least no one commented! Yes, it was a wonderful though short vacation!

  4. Thanks for sharing the peaceful photos of Jamaica. Helping me gear down after a (too) late trip to the fitness room of my apartment complex.

    • You are most welcome, Margaret. Yes, I know the problem – mine is usually doing a difficult crossword or trying too hard in Facebook Scrabble right before bed! My gym time at least is usually in the morning.