Two weeks ago, during our weekly staff meeting, I riled and had a go at the team for not performing up to the levels expected.
I probably used stronger phrases to get my message across, emphasizing the fact that I needed to see them exert themselves a lot more than they are/were.
At this week’s meeting, one member of the team mentioned that the reason their unit was underdelivering was because they have not been allocated resources to stimulate optimal performance.
Basically, that I was expecting a car to run without fueling it; or hoping to harvest more than I was planting.
Trying to run on fumes is a situation most early-stage entrepreneurs often face – which is why introspection that leads to honest conversations with your team is important.
So, I was quick to apologise for my ‘unrealistic’ expectations, acknowledging that without adequate resources, we would be hamstrung. I also pointed out that resources aren’t the end – only a means to – so what we needed to do for now is to ask, ‘What do we do as we wait?’
It is a question that most of us need to learn to ask, because things hesitate, stumble, slowdown and stop a lot more than they move at the pace we require of them. If you think about it, we are often operating from a position of depravation more times than we are from plenty and abundance.
There is never enough assurance of food, medical bills, school fees, mental and emotional fulfilment, rent, whatever. Someone is always dealing with something that might drive them to the edge – consciously or not.
That question takes even more significance if you are Ugandan or African or Black. In every conceivable way, the systemic odds are stacked against you – making it hard to dream with any sorts of certainty.
If you are building a business, the operational environment almost always feels like it’s designed to stifle growth; if you want to go to school, access is never really within reach; a higher paycheck commensurate with your expertise and experience is a pipedream; if you’re politically conscious you don’t see much hope in progressive policies that will move social service access and provision to any desirable point.
It is easy to feel despondent and wonder if things will ever change – and how long it will take for them to work as well as they should, whenever that change comes.
Between that first staff meeting and the second one, I had had a soul-sucking conversation with a friend, about all the things that need fixing in this country and around the continent – and my worry that young people who are innovating to fix the mess will grow weary from the lack of will and movement from those in charge right now, and just give up.
Ever the optimist, Linda, had calmly responded that what those who are innovating simply need to “continue working and preparing themselves for when that time comes, because it is certainly going to come.”
It was such a simple answer to a complex supposition, but one that points to how our current circumstances can blur their idea of the future. It’s so easy to believe that those who hold the levers of power today will always be around; and that because of that, any work put into creating and preparing for the future is futile.
But they won’t always be around, and things won’t always be as gloomy. What we must ask of ourselves is how much work are we putting into preparing ourselves for when the moment comes. The alternative is to imagine the tragedy and disappointment, when the moment comes and we aren’t prepared or up to the task.
Good social entrepreneurs and corporate entities know that it is more important to start with a business/strategic plan and then find the resources to actualize it.
Having money without a plan for it can have disastrous consequences. It is also something you notice with whoever wields any sort of power today – economically, political or social. It’s the stuff out of which empires, dynasties and conglomerates are built – planning, creating, perfecting, and biding your time.
Waiting can’t be easy for anyone, especially if your back is against the ropes while at it; yet it’s the only way. So, whatever you’re working on, don’t stop because the time is certainly going to come.
Mr Rukwengye is the founder, Boundless Minds. firstname.lastname@example.org