Robert Kabushenga on Building a Name

Throughout the 42 days of lockdown, Robert Kabushenga is taking off time to run a daily mentorship program called #40DayMentor hosted on his Twitter spaces and Youtube.

You will discover if you are young or old like me that the most valuable asset you will ever own in your life is your name. Therefore the relations that you will nurture is your name. Your name creates a unique identity that people can identify. That will either put you in a good place or in trouble.

If you have no identity you are in trouble. If there is one lesson that you will go away with from this conversation it will be your name, your reputation and your relationships.

The first time I met President Museveni was in 1988. A number of us university student leaders were invited to meet him to pave way for what came to be known as the National Students Council. He was noting down names of the various students as they made their submissions. When I mentioned my name, he paused and looked up. He asked me, “Which one?”

You can look around in this country and there are some names that have been around for years. If you have inherited a good a name, you will not be beginning from scratch. Relations make things work for you.

Yesterday but one I received a call from a former colleague asking me to go to Kololo to pick my wallet.  At that moment I had not even realised I had lost it. He described it and indeed it was my wallet. A police officer had picked it and he had taken the trouble to look for someone who knew me to call to pick it. I was shocked that anybody would pick up my wallet and take the trouble to see I get it. What if I had mistreated my colleague during the time I was in power, would he have looked for me? Imagine if I had built the image I did while I was in the office I was in, would the policeman have bothered to look for me?

These stories that I am telling you now point to one thing; the name. There are three things I would like to talk about.

  1. How do you start to build a name

What is your family is known for? The response to that creates a reputation to build on. That name you have inherited is usually associated with certain behaviours.

If you have not inherited a name, you have to ask yourself what I need to do to build my name. You do not say one thing and do another.

We can learn many lessons from ladies. Ladies usually dress and look the way they want to be perceived. When I became CEO, I had to dress up in suits for the people who entrusted me (with this authority) and those I led to take me serious. My dress code changed along the way depending on the assignment before me.

How do you want to be perceived?

 In 1991, I was working on the first floor of the New Vision and this man walked in. His name is Wafula Ogutu. I made a point to talk to him. I had always wanted to talk to him. Indeed he gave me a job that was better than what I had.

When I joined The Monitor then, there were all these firebrand guys; Peter Mwesige, Bernard Tabaire, Kyazze Semwogere, Chalres Onyango-Obbo and others. I determined to make a mark, I decided to do my best especially before my immediate supervisor Jimmy, I made sure I did all my assignments and even asked for more. For the guys in the office, I made sure they got to know me as the fun guy.

I knew I had to build a relationship with these people because I needed them once I finished university. I wanted to be useful with people I was going to get in touch with. When you meet people, create a relationships before you make demands. By the time I left, I could be trusted to do the job I had been given and two, I was a fun guy to hung around.

In 1998, I decided that I wanted to be on radio. So I went to David and Patrick. Patrick introduced me to Agnes Kizza who I made sure became my friend. I offered myself as the guy who would always be called in to sit for the host. I was later offered the job to host the Capital Gang on Capital FM. On the show, I made it a point to always serve coffee to the panellists. I did not know in person, it took me time before they accepted me into their circle. We have been friends for over 20 years now.

If you want to be invited into the circle, nurture that relationship. Do not be in a rush to be brought into the circle. Give yourself time before you are admitted.

I spent a lot of time in the company of Hon. Amama Mbabazi. Whenever, he rung somebody, he introduced himself. Every time you call or send someone a message, make sure you sign off. It is only good manners that you do so.

Whenever you send someone a message, sign off. Always put a name on the message you send out. There are many people who send out messages but you distinguish yourself when you introduce yourself. Use your sir name. If they do not answer you, it is not your problem, pack your bags and move on.

2) Reputation And Reputation Management

When I worked in the media, people would call me to complain on stories that had been written about them. People would accuse of conniving with their enemies to tarnish their name. Nobody is going to build your reputation. No one does that for you. You take it upon yourself.

When I was staring out as a corporate person, I wanted to be trusted with business assignments, I had to look the part through mainly my appearance. I had to dress accordingly. Along the way, I had to tone down on my dressing so that I could engage with the business people we were working with. When I joined farming, I dressed the part as well.

Beware of the things that sabotage your reputation.

Greed. People want to know that they can trust you with responsibilities among which include money. If you are greedy, you will not stay long.

Arrogance. You should be humble when dealing with people. People should find you polite and grateful. Once people find that about you they will introduce you to people you could never have met.

Many years ago, I wanted to take an unpopular decision and one person told me; the people you meet on the way, always pray for you. If you take this decision, they may pray for your downfall and God may answer their prayer.

95% of the reputation breakdown is brought up by you. Other people may show up by it is you to do something about it.

As Michael Niyitegka said recently, today your CV is your digital footprint. One of the areas to build or break your reputation, it is easy to break it. Many people do not know the reason why they are on social media. Some of you are on social media as influencers but you expect people to get in touch with you when you are using pseudo names. Some of you want to get attention by fighting people. The digital footprint does not go away.

Ask yourself how I want to be perceived on social media. There are some friends I tell not to share their children’s photos on social media because they do not have their permission. You are already laying a digital footprint for them.

Remember that the moment you turn up for a business partnership or job application, the first place people will check will be on social media.

Recently, I was approached by people who wanted to do something with me but when they got to know about me on social media, they realised I was not the kind of person they wanted. And I am okay with it.

All I am saying is be mindful of what you put up on social media

3) How do you build relationships?

I will tell you another story. I wanted to push for a farmers program at Vision Group. I called Juma Kisaame who was the MD of DFCU Bank. Juma and I were personal friends, I walked to his office and told him about this idea which he bought into. I did not have to write a proposal.  Juma introduced me to the Dutch Ambassador who also introduced me to KLM. In one week, we had all the partnerships we needed for the project to kick off.

  1. How do you treat people when you meet them the first time? People do not want someone who is intrusive. The relationship must be of use to the person you want to be in partnership with. Know your boundaries. Know your limits.

You may have a big name but an atrocious people behaviour. Do not underlook people because of the positions they occupy, things change.

  • Unless you are good with the person, do not make gratuitous calls. Do not call people for the sake of it. One of the things people never forget is when they lose someone, go for funerals. For weddings, it is okay you can contribute and disappear. But show up when people at their most vulnerable. Look for opportunities where you can connect with people at an emotional level. We are in the times of Covid, be empathetic. A text message shows that you care.

By 1988, I knew some people that I wanted to be associated with. What I had to do was to get in touch with the people around them. You have to balance between relating with people and kamanyiro.  If you want to be friends with the person, study the person. You have responsibility to know them. Do not be in a hurry to be friends with this person. Do look for benefits. What is the benefit that you bring to them?

Invest in knowing the other person you want to relate to. Some of you insist that you want to be in close proximity. You may want me to mentor you when I don’t want.

If you damage a relationship, firs retreat and examine the impact of your action. How bad was the damage? It takes a minimum of two years to restore something that took you two minutes to break. It takes time for people to see who you are.

Everything zeroes down on your behaviour.

If you are looking to establish your reputation. This is the best time to do it. Social media is the place to be. Learn from those who have done it. Look at people like Esther Kalenzi and Siima Sabiti, they have built their reputation online.

A bad reputation is not a way to go. In all that you do, remember that building your relationship is entirely on you.

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