Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”, Matthew 11:28-30
He kept me waiting at the reception for about 45 minutes. This is a man who was once my student in my Master of Business Administration (MBA) class at University. As I grow old, I have ‘learnt’ to take it easy. Not to try to pull ranks, because as they say, “there is always a more senior fellow.” Let me digress. Once I was queuing at a restaurant in downtown Hong Kong. I noticed the person two people ahead of me was one of our top local politicians cum executives. He was in his real element, enjoying life freely. It was good to find such people normal and calm in a space where nobody cares who you are other than being seen like any other hungry customer! That experience taught me to be humble. You are only powerful in ‘your space.’ Outside of your home, nobody cares. No one should.
I tried to send an SMS. “Is our 11:00am appointment still on? I have been here since 11 sharp. Please reply – Bernabas M.M.” I waited to no response. I checked in again with the personal assistant. “Please let him know that I am around.” To which she politely intoned “He is aware.” When I had just started out on my own, I would wait and wait and wait even after two hours. However, as I grow older and learn that in Uganda, like elsewhere, business is about relationships, once our agreed time goes past 30 minutes, I write a note and leave to attend to other appointments. This 30-minutes principle has been a savior. I will read newspapers. Read a book on my phone. Once it clocks 30 minutes past our agreed time, I move on. But this meeting was special for me. I was to make a brief presentation of my strategy facilitation approach a final step in the assessment of my ability to be of help. Five minutes later, I was called in.
Five people were seated on a roundtable. They offered me a seat across. “Ok, Mustapha. Show us how you do it.” At this time, I was so unhappy for having been made to wait for more than 50 minutes. I had made my minds to let this deal go. “Strategy is about choices about the things you will do. And the ones you will not. Having been a victim of your poor time keeping, I don’t think this is a good company culture to execute a strategy however great we craft it. Accept my request to discontinue at this stage.”
When I worked as a senior consultant at EY, it was common for the managing partner to reject clients. I had never learnt why. With hindsight, a great executive should have the wisdom to turndown businesses based on anticipated risks. If your value systems do not match, exit. There is peace and happiness in turning down prospects. Try to do it. Take it easy. Not all jobs (or opportunities) that come your way are great ones. Try to say no without giving explanations. You will experience the best freedom.
Bernabas M. Mugisa, Mr. Strategy, helps plant the seed of transformation. Visit www.summitcl.com/boardtools to become a better Board member TODAY.