The Work Place
This article is dedicated to my former colleague the late Rre Joseph Willico Mashalane. I met the late Big Joe in Gaborone in 2013. That was when he came for S.H.E Coordinator interview. Our very first interaction was during the interview and Big Joe impressed a lot. The following year I was transferred to Orapa and that is when I happened to work with this man. Big Joe worked for BCL and progressed from being a spanner boy to shift boss (commonly called Chibase in Fanagalo language used by miners). This language is called Fanagalo and was popular in BCL in the 1970s, 1980s and possibly the early 1990s. Big Joe worked for BCL in the late 80s and early 90s I think. I used to hear my father also talking in Fanagalo as well. Fanagalo was lingua franca of the mining industry, spoken on a daily basis in the workplace. It originated from South Africa and in BCL I assume it came with the Afrikaans, the Bapedi, Basotho and Batswana. I vividly remember very well that Big Joe was a Pedi whose parents relocated to Botswana to work in BCL. I remember the little Fanagalo which Big Joe taught me and that is The Lord’s Prayer. Our Father in heaven was translated as “Baba tina, Wena kona pezulu”. I cannot attest or confirm whether Big Joe taught Fanagalo well to me. Nonetheless I liked our communication in broken Fanagalo.
In Orapa we became too close and I learnt a lot from the gentleman. More significant lesson was the importance of decision making as a leader. Though Big Joe was a SHE Coordinator, our paths crossed daily – we attended a lot of HR and SHE meeting together. One of my additional duties was to lead the Depot team in POP meetings. POP meeting is performance ownership meeting which is designed to assist teams and individuals with their daily duties. The POP meeting included HR, SHE, Finance, Parts and Salesperson teams. We discussed the crocodiles (challenges) and successes of each team and the end of it we could find common cause to improve the Depot team performance. I was called to duty almost every hour as a Team Leader to make decisions in the absence of the Depot Manager when in charge. Decision making was key and certain operational requests were made and it was either Yes or No. Big Joe always used to say “Mrena tsaya tshwetso” meaning please make a decision on our request. This was one key lesson from my dear parted friend. Leadership is leadership, whether in Churches or political parties. Decisions need to be made by leaders. I have in the past witnessed even religious leaders failing to make simple decisions on straight forward matters. Decisive leaders stand out! Leaders learn from their experiences, skills, knowledge in different ways and most of the time, they make impacts that last. Decisions are so important to the organization and since they provide an opportunity to move forward or not. Decision making is just the starting point of running an organisation and it needs to be done at all levels of management. A solid understanding of decision making is paramount to the success of any organisation. The main difference between a successful organisation and other organisations is not in the level of aspiration but in the practical decision making through their leadership. In the increased fast–paced world of today’s proper and high level decision making leads to new competitions arising out of nowhere, improved financial markets and changes in corporate strategy to meet new demands.
Decision making is a process of solving business problems and examining alternative choices and deciding on the best route to undertake. The process is continuous and is an indispensable component of managing any organisation or business activity. To echo Peter Drucker’s word “decide” means to conclude or resolution as to what is expected to happen. George R.Terry defines Decision making as “the selection based on some criteria from two or more possible alternatives”. D.E. Mc. Farland also concurs by supplying another definition of decision as an act of choice, concerned with selecting a course of action from among alternatives to achieve a predetermined objective. Kotter (2001) defines Leadership as influencing employees to follow to a set a direction, align people, motivate and inspire to achieve an objective. Leadership is defined by Weinstein (2005) as the systematic process of selecting the best business alternative choice from gathered factual information. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf defined leadership as the combination of strategy and character. Leadership is a process of giving purpose (meaningful direction) to collective effort and causing willing effort to be expended to achieve purpose. The leader ensures that actions and activities are implemented to achieve goals and objectives. Part of the actions is decision making.
One common challenge facing leadership is independence. Leadership need to be independent and objective in decision making. The Leader must be independent of mind. Proper Leadership should make decisions without being affected by influences of other people and should act with integrity and honesty. This call for objectivity in making decision and at all cost decision should not be made to please any person or employee. Leaders must know when and how to make decisions and make all the interested parties know. Transparency is one key component of decision making. Transparency involves open dialogue which allows followers to appreciate, examine and participate in decision making process. Leaders need to be independent in mind and soul. Leadership is an act of being accountable, self–disciplined and mature. Making independent decisions is crucial skill at any level. Leadership is the ability to decide without fear and favour. The ability to make even unpopular decisions! The ability to call a spade a spade and the ability to decide not be influenced by next of kin and friends at work. This is what I will attribute to independent Leadership. Leadership that isn’t biased and doesn’t owe anyone anything. This is the kind of leadership that will draw respect and employees will be willing to die and work for. In most cases leadership often fail to be of independence due to friendship which cannot be separated from work. I appreciated Big Joe a lot as our friendship was outside work and when it came to work, we could fight and strictly talk work and nothing else. Concluding the above, it’s easy to make decisions if your values and conscience are clear.
Another critical issue in leadership and decision making is the ability of the leader to independently conduct research and verify facts. I don’t believe in accepting any information without verifying facts. This is paramount. The decision making process involves verification of gathered facts and information so that best alternatives can be selected and actioned upon. If you are C-suit, research and verification is a must and no need to negotiate. Leadership should be able to independently verify facts. Whether you are a school head, Hospital matron or Chief Editor of the Patriot, you are not exempted. As an editor verification of sources of information is key and the ability to and research will make you to be a reliable and valuable reporter. A good and balance research will enable the organisational leadership to compare and resemblance statistics. The ability to conduct research enables certain decisions to be made from quantitative and qualitative information presented. A summary of exit interview presented in the HR dashboard need to be researched from the sources and should be acknowledged. Data Decision making is now common and encouranged by business leadership. Data Decision making is based on analysing data and addressing the problem as presented. Businesses of today are now conducted in these lines, which is based on past records, comparisons and prediction or forecast of the future. The aim is centred on making informed decision with reliable and verifiable information from research. A leader who is skilled and knowledgeable in research has the ability to independently apply and make good decisions.
Sound decision making is very vital in any organisation, even in churches. The ability of the leader to make decisions is very key as well. Good decisions lead to success. I challenge leaders in organisations to be ethical and moral as this will improve the quality of decision making. You can’t discipline if yourself are not self-disciplined. Organisational leaders must personally have certain qualities to improve on quality of their decision making. Some qualities such as honestly, dependability and consistency are important. A leader should be able to apply the same rule, yesterday, today and tomorrow. A leader must be independent and make decisions without any influence. A leader should be honest and his work should walk and talk what it says. Failure to uphold small basic qualities such as those mentioned above, may lead to struggles in making decision that are of quality. I played and coached social soccer team with Big Joe at OCJSS and these are life long memories which will forever be cherished. Even at our social soccer team we were leaders and we made decisions without any fear and favour from our players. This article is dedicated to Big Joe and May Your Soul forever rest in peace Big Joe!