Friends & Friction: Vuka! Black managers

My people, you can call me a victim of apartheid if you want, but when a black manager appoints you, understand there are jaundiced eyes that are watching to see if he or she will fail miserably.

Understand that the black manager is doing God’s work because they are giving you the opportunity white people denied you for a long time.

People have died for the seat you’re occupying.

If you work for a black manager, accept that they have given you a rare opportunity and have put their reputation on the line by backing you.

So don’t embarrass them by failing to deliver – even on the basics.

The worst non-delivery in South Africa is not in the townships, but in corporate offices because of black subordinates who take their black managers for granted.

Black subordinates expect their black bosses to tolerate their sloppiness and expect endless empathy.

In a way, it is the black bosses’ fault.

They don’t set high standards for themselves and their subordinates. The rules must be simple – unless you arrive at the office at the crack of dawn because you’re avoiding ruthless traffic or something, all your subordinates must arrive at the office before you.

If you work in sales and your staff have to start with client calls, there must be a weekly status meeting where they report on exactly who they have seen and what the progress on the sale is.

If you don’t hold status meetings with your staff to know what they have done that week, you have failed as a manager.

It is just a question of time before the corporate world buries you.

If your subordinates are unable to perform a task, coach them, give them counsel, but whatever you do, never do it for them.

The eye of the boss achieves much more than their hand. Lead by example, but not by doing. If you do something for your subordinates, you are denying them the opportunity to learn.

Your subordinates are employed to make you look good. If they are unable to do so, sit them down and find out what the hurdle is. If necessary, arrange training for them, and if they still can’t cut it, fire them. You are running a business, not a rehabilitation centre.

Remember, stupidity is the most contagious disease known to man, and it is incurable. You can impart knowledge but not wisdom.

So look for wisdom and a can-do-attitude because an army of debaters and cowards can burn cash and nothing else.

Forgive mistakes because that encourages learning, but never forgive laziness. It leads to a slow death.

As a boss, you have responsibilities too.

It is better to be late for your wedding than late for a business meeting. You may not see it, but every minute that you’re late takes away a chunk of respect from you, which is why so many managers are the walking dead – they are feared but not respected.

Your greatest reward as a manager is not in the fatness of your pay cheque, but in the success of your subordinates.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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