Your Post COVID People Agenda

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12 years – and counting – that is the time I have been committed to developing people. As a leadership coach, I know just how much potential often remains unlocked from the people I work with. My job often is to point my clients to their inward potential. People, are amazing – and truly the greatest resource for any company – even in these deeply trying times.

How do you show, and remain deeply connected with your team? Here are some thoughts.

Engagement – Keeping Connected and Informed

We have already seen apps like Zoom and Skype step up to keep teammates connected. Now is a great time to insist on video – seeing your colleagues, in their remote (or home) setting reminds us all the truest circumstances around our personal lives. These can be supplemented with local voice calls. As a leader, now is a great time to practice strong listening skills. Listen to new challenges regarding working from home, and the effects it has on your team. Watch out for who is thriving and who is struggling. Ask how you can be of help to them. Yes, everyone (and you) has been proactively sharing information on how to stay safe, but find out what is working for your team. Now is the best time to truly build and leverage a sense of community.

If your work cannot be taken at home, schedule a weekly call to share and learn from what other colleagues are doing to remain connected and upbeat during this isolation.

Brian Ssennoga

Wellness – Keeping Health and Safe

The COVID isolation is unprecedented for many of us and it has taken a big toll on our mental, physical and emotional well-being. As a small or medium business in Kampala, it is unlikely that you have an Employee Wellness program (we know its not a new business idea, but one that will catch on). But there are other programs that support wellness from a workplace point of view – Coaching is one such idea. Offered as a service, performance coaching can prepare team members for tough times like these. Your team would have benefited from clarity of purpose, mission integrity and learning the values of relentless pursuit of results. By filling your team’s minds with ideas to work on, ideas for professional and personal development, you would have prepared for their mental health – a key pillar when one finds themselves isolated. Coaches are essentially counsellors on call. Some companies, like the Kampala Leadership Hub were already offering this service. As a leader, you may be pondering how you can adopt this post COVID.

For that well intentioned medical insurance benefit, outside of the isolation restrictions, your team (and their family members who may be ailing or on medication right now) are not able to step out to see a doctor. Its time to review whether the benefit you extend to your team includes tele-consultations. My friend Dr. Davis Musinguzi and his team at Rocket Health are connecting people to doctors for multiple discipline consultations via telehealth services. The service is affordable, available for corporate and retail offerings. The benefit to your team needs to adapt to include this.

Have you considered personal development as an aspect of wellness? That by creating opportunities for your team to spend some of the extra time on their hands by learning something new, you would in fact create positive impact on their overall wellness. Many companies providing online resources are offering their services at discount, or for free, for nearly 3 months and because you are in tune with your team, and you care about how they are doing at this time, they will be pleasantly surprised when you share such resources with them. Learning something new is a good way to enable your team divert their minds into something useful and of interest. For you, I recommend this Harvard business Review 35minute interactive class on Leading In Turbulent Times.

Brian, What About Real Staffing Challenges?

Every leader has gone through this – the considerations that a) they can keep everyone’s job post COVID-19; and b) they can keep paying everyone as before. These are not easy decisions to wrestle with, and many leaders will be faced with some difficult actions to enable their companies to sustain operations – if they don’t fold altogether.

There is no better time to draw that line in the sand, and to show your team where you truly stand, when it comes to taking care of each other as a team. There will be considerations on operational costs, cash flow, decisions that impact salaries and contracts. Sometimes if your leader is not communicating enough, this brings a worry toll on the team. There might already be guidelines from state actors like NSSF, or PAYE that provide no relief to your circumstances.

The burden to bear, for your people, will always be great. But if you must make considerations related to people costs, here are some thoughts.

1 – Consider now to Pause All Hiring as this allows you to not make commitments such as recruiting, on-boarding and introducing new operational costs. Instead, negotiate with the team to consider taking on more responsibility. Without new hires, there is less people to spread the cash reserves around on.

2 – With all the extra time on your hands, identify roles on your team with greater or lesser relevance. Those with lesser should be realigned to other roles. When things return to normal, we may get back to old teams and old structures. Find ways to keep the team as there’s always a stronger premium on teammates who understand the ethos and culture of the team.

3 – As teammates get a hang of remote (or work-from-home) work arrangements, consider introducing alternate work days and a full on work-from-home day once a week. This may be better grounds for negotiating adjusted pay (and thus reducing, but not eliminating salaries). When work resumes, you will also be amazed at the operational savings on utilities, office provided food, and the use of other materials, supplies and equipment.

4 – In the wake of sacrifice, do not be afraid to show the team the vulnerability of cash-flow. Afterall, if you do not have enough, you actually can not pay them, and anything else. Invite everyone to offer to take a % of their salary as a cut, or a deferral. Use a percentage, so that its equal sacrifice across the board and always start at the top – to show a committed example to juniors. Invite more invested colleagues, such as co-founders and/or senior managers to consider a voluntary deferment of payment.

The current restrictions took effect in the final 3rd of March. Many leaders would have already provided for this month, and some organizations would have runway through April and May. As the new month has began, this cash-flow would have supplemented runway down the line. Ask now, which of our work processes will earn us money within 4-6 weeks. prioritize this, and offer to support the team members that deliver on these processes. This will help you to remain afloat.

If you must find new ways to reduce operating costs, and you are looking to reduce headcount, make this decision now, so you have ample time to give legal notice, and negotiate for compensation in lieu of. Work with a good coach, to maintain as much dignity and humanity in the processing of staff exits. Be thoughtful, fair and remain compliant of internal and external employment guidelines.

Remember, until we are through with this, #BeSafe as you #StayAtHome.

About Uganda, Here’s where I stand

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At the end of the day, there is a line to draw, and a side to be on. I have daughters, brothers, cousins, friends and a large extended family. I am a Muganda, born and raised in Kampala, I am Ugandan. I am personally invested in the future of my country, and I need it to be safe, sound and sober.
I stand for strong leadership, backed by strong laws.
I stand for accountability, not based on the wishful thinking that a man – any man – will be as good as his word, but rather with the law written on his heart, and surrounded by a strong and supportive community, such a man will be encouraged to right standing, day by day.
I would like our constitution amended to include term limits and to have an age limit. But most importantly, I would like the law of my country to be designed to set up our leaders for success.
I would not like, and do not support the idea that a constitution be amended to give 18 yo’s a chance to leadership – this is a country of 35 million people, not a whatsapp group. Heck, the responsibility to tick a box cannot be compared, on any spectrum, to the weighted responsibility to rally a nation. So no, let’s not get petty.
I would not like, and do not support the idea that our constitution be amended to give a person aged 60+ yo a chance at the presidency (or indeed a high ranking public office), because your best years are long gone – and that’s a fact of life. We don’t just want good leaders, we must desire to have the best, in their prime.
I too will one day be 60, and I know i will not be useless to the younger generations, but to claim to energetically hold the flag and lead the charge, that would be pretentious. I will lead, but I will lead from the back.
This is the line i draw, what do you stand for?
For a country that has largely young people, it is time to start filing the bank of our elders.
For all those who are 60 and above, if you do not have a group of young people in their 30’s who you have mentored for the last 10+ years, then its time for you to correct the most selfish act of your public life – step down, get out of there, find some young people to mentor (assuming your legacy and profile are still attractive as you hope). Its time to have you serve on boards and foundations where your true experience and legacy (if you have any left) can be used for what it truly is.
Do not fall into the trap of tokenism – the fallacy of “Youth MPs” or “Young People” – instead, create junior boards for younger leaders to begin to know what really happens in the corridors of power. For our country demographic, every public board should have a junior board, heck every junior minister should be below 35 – yes, its daring and ambitious, but the future of this country has got to be worth much more.
If you are in your 30’s – and have never considered standing for public office, you are perpetuating the rationale that you will only do so (serve your community and country) when you are older. That is a lie. You can serve now. We can serve now. Consider now, to stand for office. You do not need to be perfect, but with great mentors, and on-the-job-training, in an environment of protection by good strong laws, you will flourish. Remember, there are teenagers about to become your mentees – start now to build and set a profile that will be attractive to them. Start now to learn what you will pass on. In case you didn’t hear me, its time to grow up!
If you are of voting age, now is the time for us all to sober up. If indeed we want to secure the future of this nation, its time to face the reality – a country that is 80% 35yo and below cannot be led, and adequately run by the last 15%. They have to be fulfilling elder/advisor/mentor responsibilities – and therefore someone else has to stand up and lead/manage/inspire. And you are empowered, by the law, to give them that opportunity. But you have to want to do it. So you are going to find, not the most perfect young leader, but the one who has shown promise. Give them a chance, hold them accountable, place safeguards around them that allow them to flourish, learn, grow, lead and then pass the baton. You can do this, you can set the stage, it always starts with you.
Leadership is a significant lever of change, and in young democracies, you can set about doing this with a great constitution – there are far too many countries in the world for us to cherry pick the best, and no, we do not have enough able bodied Ugandans to pay a bloodied price. So no, let’s not even think about it.
Leadership has got to be learned, practiced and experienced. And a young country has got to train and develop (educate, commit to service, mentor) its young people into great leaders so that they can earn the social capital to be entrusted with the public and heavier responsibilities of a national scale.
Let us start now. No, Yesterday.

2 Commencement Speeches I liked

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Glossophobia is still the world’s #1 fear, yet we have people who seem to have been born with a golden mic in their mouths. They wow us all the time. One of the best seasons to feed on the genius that oratory can be in the commencement speech cycle. They come once a year can carry platitudes and/or conjecture, but often they are delivered by people from all walks of life to inspire and challenge that next generation of leaders. Here are 2 that I took time to dive into…

Mark Zuckerberg – As a young man growing up and working in Africa’s nascent technology space, this man, perhaps together with Google, have had the biggest influence on my generation. I love that he is coming into Africa to see how far a dollar really goes.

“Change starts local. Even global changes start small — with people like us. In our generation, the struggle of whether we connect more, whether we achieve our biggest opportunities, comes down to this — your ability to build communities and create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.”

My work is in Leadership development, and for me these words cannot ring any truer. If you have heard me say it once, you have heard me say it again, I love computers and all the magic but I love people more. If we can give people a sense of purpose, build a community around service, we cannot get it wrong.

 “Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started. If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook.”

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi writes – Be brave enough to put it all out there, stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t, with your insights on why and how to fix it for next time.

Zuckerberg is famous for dropping out of Havard, but that is not his most proud failure – its facemash, a prank site he put up which drew attention of the ad board. As he awaited his fate, he met Priscilla and as he says, “ But without Facemash I wouldn’t have met Priscilla, and she’s the most important person in my life, so you could say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.”

Oh how we need to teach the virtue of failing smart.

 “I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.”

You can read (or watch) Mr. Zuckerberg’s full speech.


Donald J. Trump – Quite frankly, as a non-citizen global health advocate working in the expensive bubble that New York is, I happen to share a home city with the man many of my ilk have come to hate. But he is still the leader of the free world, so we got to listen.

“Adversity makes you stronger.  Don’t give in.  Don’t back down.  And never stop doing what you know is right.  Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy.  And the more righteous you are, the more opposition that you will face. “

…this after the rhetoric on how the media has treated him and his political sojourn thus far.  That’s not how the speech begins, though; he dishes out quite many thankful remarks to leaders, and graduates alike. He also pardoned cadets for minor offences and offered them a clean slate. I wish that life and the rest of us did this for our young people – that at the turn of important milestones is NOT the only opportunity to turn a new page, and a clean slate, but that you have that opportunity daily. Yes, every time the sun comes up, it’s a new slate, a new chance to make it better.

“Just days from now, you will put this vital skill into the service of your ships, your sectors, and your country.  You’ll serve as deck watch officers on our amazing Coast Guard cutters. You’ll bring law and order to the dangerous waters as boating officers.  You will block illegal shipments of cash, weapons and drugs.  You will battle the scourge of human trafficking — something that people are not talking about, one of the big, big plagues of the world.  Not our country only — the world. 

The call to service continues to ring out, as if a call to this generation. I could not agree more. Service is the new way to work; service is the new entry to employment.

Americans will place their trust in your leadership, just as they have trusted in generations of Coast Guard men and women, with respect for your skill, with awe at your courage, and with the knowledge that you will always be ready.  You are Always Ready.    

For a man under so much fire, this speech came off as very composed. Perhaps thoughtful of his first world trip, and realizing the opportunity to speak a less combative audience, Mr Trump did make some strong remarks which are clearly of a bigger vision than his own political lifeline.

You can read the full speech text.

You can catch up on extra snippets as captured by Business Insider and Fast Company

My Speech On the Occasion of the 7th Graduation of Greenbridge School of Open Technologies – Kampala

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to share my life and thoughts with you. GreenBridge

Today, I lead a team of 10, supporting ICT for Watoto Ministries having previously worked with USAID and EGPAF’s STAR-SW Project in Mbarara. Before this, I led a team of 4 managing ICT at the International Health Sciences University, work that I took up after supporting the Ministry of Health’s efforts in Health Management Information Systems as far as Rakai and Bududa!

I have been fortunate to travel this country, from Laminadera to Bunagana, from Lake Katwe to Malaba – Uganda is gifted by nature; but most importantly, this country has potential in the multitudes of young people across hundreds of communities.

My work has also taken me to Nigeria, Ghana, SA, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. I have met more young people, lived through better infrastructure and you can’t help but marvel at flying back home. It’s beautiful here.

You also cant help but see that the world out there is changing so fast, I started out in this profession when my course works would fit on a3.5 inch floppy disk – and now, only a dozen plus one years later, they are gone! You can check blood-pressure on a wearable gadget, you can study without ever being in a classroom, and my preschool kids know their way around a phablet!

Education, Health and all of life is not what it used to be. The product of education is perhaps a most interesting thing – the world now desires a knowledge worker – fast, radical, with highly relevant and immediately applicable skills. There are 2 lessons that I have learnt in the last few years that I feel are profound in my profession.


Multi-Disciplinary Technology Evangelists

You see, traditional approaches to life have changed.  Wealth and economic development in the information era has now shifted to knowledge, learning and innovation, which reside in the minds of people like you and me.

 The challenge is to live and thrive in a world and community that demands more innovation. And the demands are off the keyboards and app-stores that we are so familiar with. The challenge is in the slum trenches, in hospital document stores and in government departments that are straddled with archaic use, access and management of information and systems.

But who will be the technology evangelist that will take interest in health systems? Who is interested in how citizenry access open data? Who will make ICT 4 Education their priority? Because I have learned that I cannot just be a great innovator and technology evangelist, I need to anchor into a social sector in order for my technology to be felt. That is what how I attempt to define ICT for development. The defining indicators for development are immunized infants, literate children, active young people, empowered communities and informed citizens.

Which sector will you influence with technology today?

Please note that there will be no quick fixes. Success will be intentional, over time with major commitment and dedication from leaders, knowledge workers, resource mobilisers and everyone. The starting point is a generation that has in equal measure an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit which can be supported with vibrant research and training (such as at Greenbridge) as well as innovative programming delivered by governments.

Being a Young Leader

That brings me to the second most important lesson in my life, one that I am passionate about and continues to be exciting and challenging. This is the question of young leaders – you see, this is not about age, after all that is just a number – “young leaders” is much more about leading in this generation; about identifying with the issues of this generation; and about connecting with this generation in their own unique way.

How do you lead a generation that prefers a mobile screen to face time? How do you connect with a language based on shorthand? How do you inform an informed generation? Moreover, how do you “hang out” with them – at their wells and grazing grounds?

You can, if you are one of us. If we let you lead us – something we do when we know that you understand our language and can communicate with us; but also that you can uniquely congregate us around the most important issues of our time. Jobs. Opportunities. Empowerment.

To be one of us, you have got to be young – literary and at heart. But you cannot be a leader without learning the most important aspects of being a leader:

  • That Leaders Eat Last – That there is a social contract we sign with our leaders, affording them all the perks, privileges and rights; in order that they will stand up for us and protect us and identify with us. If you want to become a leader, putting others first is important. Always.
  • That Leadership is Learned Over Time – Its not like an instant message; like a picture download, actually it feels more like a 6 semester course, spread over the rest of your life. And no, google does not work either, you cannot google leadership. To enjoy the perks andprivileges above, you have to work for it. To be in Hon. Anite’s shoes in 2016, you ought to have started, because leadership takes time.

I believe in young people, and I believe in their empowerment. I believe in the power of education to transform a generation and in the power of a generation to transform a nation.

But you must remember this, Uganda needs young technology evangelists who are ready to permeate all of life’s spheres of influence – The Arts, Education, The Media, Religion, Business, Medicine – with transformative technology.

Greenbridge and institutions such as this seek to curve out a different mould of a young technologically apt leader – are you the one Uganda is waiting for?

Lastly, I find this Alvin Toffler quote very interesting: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.’

Thank you for listening to me.