When I finished my Master’s all those years ago, I thought I knew it all. I felt that the next available job should be straight to management. My first full time job though was working in a government legal organization, photocopying court documents, it annoyed me but at the same time it humbled me. It’s not all about how much you have read in the book, that’s only half the battle. It’s about how you relate to people, managing your portfolio, managing time, proving your worth and even managing the odd bit of office politics. Intelligence, get’s you through the ranks quite quickly, but without the emotional and intellectual maturity, it will only get you so far. This is basically what happened to me. In a short time I moved up quite quickly, but due to my big mouth and my erratic emotions, I wasn’t ready to manage others.
The company I work with now, they reward you on loyalty. If you are lucky to have a fairy Godmother or Godfather, then they will put you in a position which may or may not be within your scope but they feel that you can learn on the job. In some instances it works but mostly it doesn’t. You get people who really have no business guiding your career in managerial positions, and the result: high turnover.
Yesterday we had a meeting, just our standard weekly meeting but the man child boss was late, the meeting was supposed to start at 10am, we did not start until getting towards 10.30. I had another meeting at 11, I told everyone that I’m sorry but I have another meeting at 11, can we start. The rest of the team sat down like robots, waiting for man child boss to arrive. This position is a regional position, although we don’t have people reporting to us we each manage a portfolio worth millions of dollars. However, for example, the Ivorian small boy. He is 25, he came in as a management trainee at the Ivory Coast Office 2 years ago, after a year they brought him here and he is now managing the biggest category of the company. Very intelligent, and very good at following up on issues, but not mature enough for the position. He basically does the job of the people in the countries, we here are supposed to be looking at long term strategies, ways of improving the process, but then you get people like this guy micromanaging. Chasing stock which is at the port somewhere in Guinea. There is a whole operating company in Guinea, with people paid to do the job of chasing stocks. At most, let them keep you in the loop but from Accra here what exactly can you do. I have a relationship with my team in the countries whereby things run smoothly. They keep me in the loop of information, and they escalate any issues that that are beyond them, but I don’t step on their toes and in return they don’t have the attitude that “well if she thinks she knows it all, she should do it” (as my Nigerian colleagues said of school prefect when I went for a visit). Two years in a row I have hit my target, my boss thinks it’s a fluke, hell I half think it is a fluke, but my system works for me, so why go with the flow “just because” when it is obviously not working for them.
I do like the Ivorian guy, he’s a good kid, but I think that for now, this job is way above his head, a couple of years more in the job that he was doing, a bit more life experience in general and he would have been good for this role, but for now, him coming here has kind of dumbed down the position. As any human being is, if you get a young guy who is eager to please and will run around chasing his tail because that’s what he thinks he should be doing, well he’s kind of made the job into a glorified houseboy’s position, so it’s kind of going to make it tough for the next person who comes into the position. Somebody who has that experience, who can actually add value to the position will either dumb down or just leave.
But I don’t blame him, man child boss, well I could talk about him all day. He got the position by virtue of him being the person here the longest. Had I been his boss, I would have sent him to a totally different market such as Europe or America for a year or two , they sent him to Cameroon for a year and then bought him back and gave him a car and all the perks and the only value he has managed to add is to his belly.
He has a team, different people, with different strengths and weaknesses, different career aspirations. What does he spend his time doing, chasing proforma invoices because the country is too lazy to do it themselves. The other day I went to his office and said that the whole of last year I had not done any training, neither had I done anything this year, yet two people who arrived after me were sent on a leadership skills course just the week before. His answer was, “am I sure”, as I manager I would expect that he would be on top of these things. He also asked ME if I have heard anything on my move to marketing. When the job vacancy came up, HR spoke to him about it first, yes I have been following up on it but that’s because of my sheer determiness, but really I would expect more from a manager. But he wasn’t trained to become a manager, neither was he given coaching. He was put this position because it’s cheaper than bringing in an expatriate and expect that he will learn on the job. Yes it is right that as a manager there are certain skills that you will learn and it will be a bit trial and error to begin with. But bringing in someone with no people skills, who is intellectually skillful but has the maturity of a 5 year old, well I think he has a way to go before you give him such a position. But who am I but a mere worker. As our HR Director says “take it or leave it” (yes I said HR director, still wondering where his humanity is though).
Would I want the position of my boss, no, why, because I probably would have sacked everyone by now. Do I think he deserves the position, yes, he’s been here a long time, I just don’t think he deserves it today. This is a multinational, we are moving forward, but unfortunately, if you live in Africa and have never travelled outside the continent, your vision is quite tunnelled. I say that also for people who have lived in Europe all their lives and never travelled outside, I also say that to my American friends who don’t even own a passport. We have the resources to send our people around the world to develop skills, but I guess the top guys know what they doing, unfortunately for we inside, the role of my boss which is a very important position in the company has dumbed down and the dumbness has trickled down. But once again as I say, take it or leave it. For me, mine is to get all the experience I can and add it to my portfolio and move on, whether it be another department or another company I put it all in the hands of the Almighty.
I was actually bought in as an experienced professional which I wuold have thought meant they wanted me to add some value in someway, had I known they just wanted me to be part of the hurdle of sheep, I would have stayed where I was, but never mind, that’s the risk you take when you accept a new job.
Well I am out now, I had to come to the office because ECG has outdone themselves. The power still hasn’t returned since Friday morning but here’s praying it comes on soon. So I have come in to pick up my laptop and my French books I vow before I leave for Cameroon tomorrow I should be able to at least communicate with the driver who’s picking me up from the airport.
Hopefully should have Wifi in the hotel so will let you know how it goes. So Au revoir for now…