Robert Kabushenga on Decision Making

In the 42 days of lockdown, Robert Kabushenga (RK) is taking off time to run a daily mentorship program called #40DaysMentor hosted on his Twitter spaces and Youtube. In this episode he talks about Decision Making.

Why did I choose this topic?

I will tell you two stories.

A couple of years ago, I sat down in a conversation with one of Uganda’s prominent leaders. My workplace had published a story that rubbed him the wrong way. I went over to make amends. His name is Prince Kassim Nakibinge.

I asked him how he knew his father (Late Prince Badru Kakungulu) was preparing him to take over him.

He told me, whenever his father had guests, he would be invited to serve tea. Thereafter, he would sit down on the floor and listen to the proceedings. That is how he learnt.

You can see how important it is to learn. There he learnt how to make decisions.

Another story. I was once having a conversation with a friend Keith Muhakanizi. He told me he preferred a particular vice president because he always made decisions; good or bad. Being indecisive is almost akin to self-sabotage. Decision making is one of those life skills that are so important. It determines whether you will be important or condemned to a situation.

We all have dreams. They give us ideas which give us choice which forces us to act. Decision making is one skill you must acquire.

Life will present to you numerous opportunities. If you are indecisive, you will live a life of regret. That’s why today, I feel I should talk to you about decision making.

But what are the types of decision making

  1. Avoidance. There are many of you who do your best to avoid making decisions. You will stall. You will delay. You just disappear because you cannot handle responsibility. You end up being a follower all your life. .
  2. The Impulsive. On the opposite side of the spectrum, something happens and out of impulse people just make decision. Those are the kind that leave home to go shopping but receive a call along the way to go drinking and they abandon the shopping.
  3. Stampedes. They are carried by the group. You are out there trying to mind your business then your friends come and suggest, let’s go here. You go. You are just driven in all directions.
  4. The gambling type, they never assume anything. They just go.
  5. Then there are those who hide behind consensus. They are more like avoidance.
  6. Those who are intentional. They are thorough and try as much as they can to be objective. They listen.
  7. The paralysed kind. They look for all manner of details. They buy time.

In the 30 years that I spent in work, I will say this to you; there are numerous places for you to learn how decisions are made. Home is the best place.  Watch your parents even for something as mundane as whether to buy a new flat iron or where to have lunch. The best way is to be observant.  Watch what they do. Because when you see what they do, you see the consequences in their actions. The family setting always gives you an opportunity are made. Look at how you and your siblings approach your parents in these things.  Sometimes you know who the favourite of your parent is and you send that person to convince say daddy to let you go for a night out. All those are methods of making decisions.

The other way to learn is that we all get to be in charge of responsibility. Be it at a wedding meeting. We are given roles where you are supposed to make decisions. In those different roles we find ourselves. There is an opportunity for you to exercise decision making. So whenever you are confronted or given a responsibility take it. It will always be of help in the future. If you keep postponing making decisions, the consequences are dire. You will regret. You will always wish you had. Whenever you are given a chance to make a decision, take it.

What helps me in decision making? The rules when making decision

  1. I never make a decision when I am sick or tired. At that moment my judgment is impaired. I just postpone it. If there is someone else who can make the decisions, I let them do it. If I am hungry or too full your brain is elsewhere, don’t make decisions. For those of you that consume mind altering substances like alcohol, go with a plan. Just think of the something that may need to help you make a decision. E.g. Before you go out drinking as a lady, known you could end up in a bed with someone you don’t like. Plan accordingly. Make decisions that will help you not end up in that position.
  • Learn the skill of asking questions. It might be that you want people to come along. Persuade people to give you their view through asking them questions. Always ask what decision people want from me. Whenever I got people in my office, I wold begin by asking them to tell me the decision they want me to make. If someone is not going to die or we are not going to lose money, it can wait.
  • Read. Before you make a decision, take the effort to read. Whatever you don’t understand underline it and question it before you decide
  • Never sign on something you have not read or has been explained to you, you may sign out your land or spouse. A decision that will haunt you forever. When you are in a decision making position, people will know how you go about it and they will try to twist your hand to get you sign.

While I am for quick decision making, some things are no brainers. They do not need a lot of thinking. In the first lockdown, companies that did not act promptly were affected. If there is something urgent, leave. Snap decisions are called for in unavoidable circumstances.

  • Know yourself. Know your blind spots and default setting. E.g. If you know you are bad at numbers, never take a financial decision at a snap, even if it requires you to take 4 days, take them until you figure out all the numbers.
  • Learn to listen actively. Watch people’s body language. Depending on what gender you are, please pull out the opposite gender. If you are in a family setting it might be important to ask your wife, if she keeps quiet, then you may wait. Do not be in a hurry
  • Decision making is a lonely journey. You will have to make tough decisions. Harsh ones. Decisions that people do not want. Often times, people want to take good decisions for the short time gain. Unpopular decisions are good and you should take them. They will serve you in the long run.
  • Timing is important. Ask yourself why am I in this position at this time? It is because it’s your turn to make the decision. If it is too good to be true, it is. You will make bad decisions, but learn from them. Do not repeat them. If you are in doubt, wait on it. Learn the language of your stomach. Your gut. Listen to it. Give it time, there will be a revelation. Delay that decision if you must.

Human being have been around for years, the circumstances you are facing, you are not the first to make the mistake. There are journalists that have been beaten before. Learn about this, it will give you the good judgement. That is why sports is important. Sports train you to have the right judgement that come out training and practice.

  • Own the decision that has been made for you or by you. If it is your team or parents, they may have made it in the short term, but you own it. Your parents may do something for you which has a short term impact, respond to it positively because it will impact you on a long term. Flip it and go with it.

Once a decision has been made, own it especially if you are a leader, continue with it all through.

Once the decision has been made, that is the end of the debate. You are bound you can’t go out talking and blaming others.

Beware of urgent things. Whenever things come as urgent, buy time. A story is told of a Kenyan official who used to sign on papers wherever they found him. He would just sign. One time on a Friday evening he signed a letter of his resignation. He always went to the farm on Friday. By the time he reached the farm, his resignation had been submitted and accepted.  He found out later.

Sometimes you have to make the decisions to leave. It may be a very hard one but make it and leave.

In all this, keep focused. Keep sight of the bigger picture.

Qn: How do you go about making small decisions from small businesses?

RK: Decision making is not about the magnitude. If you’re careless with 10,000, you are likely to be careless with a billion.

Otim: You’ve made a bad decision, how do you deal with repercussions?

RK: Decision making comes with responsibility whether it is you as an individual or as a group. Accept that you have made a mistake, the correction process will start.

QN: What are some of the tough decisions you made in your life?

Some of the tough ones are family decisions like where do you take children for school. At work, it was always about having to let go of someone. That always comes with a lot. Usually the best way to look at taking painful decisions is in the long term.

Every time an unpopular decision is taken, stand with that person. One day you will be the one who will make a bad decision and other people will have to stand with you.

QN: If you know that you tend to make poor decisions, isn’t it better to take time before you make decisions?

RK: No. Learn how to make decisions. Poor decisions can be turned. Teach yourself the right way. I too had to learn.

QN (Naava): What has been your guide in allowing your children to participate in in decision making decision?

RK: What role did your parents have in marrying the man you married?

Naava: None

One time I went to pick my daughter. She was in primary school. She sat under the shade, pulled out her lunch box, picked out bananas and began eating. Once she was done, she came and told me she was ready to go. I usually go through their mother. As a parent, your role is to guide but do not take the decisions. Let the children make their own. You are not going to live for them.

Penelope: how do you deal with delayed decisions?

RK: That is procrastination. You know what needs to be done but you postpone it until you cannot delay it anymore. It is easy to tell procrastination. It is a result of laziness

Owen: How do you deal with a boss who is indecisive?

RK: Learn what the other person is like, know which button to press and which one to leave.

As long as decisions are not about you. People will stand with you later. They may be unpopular but you have to stand by them, I made many unpopular decisions last year but I stood by them. Self-preservation is important.

Rushongonza: What decision do you wish you had made in your earlier career?

RK: None. I look back and I am glad I took the decisions I took at the time I did because with time, they made sense.

Grace: If you are face with two conflicting scenarios and the decision is between two competing priorities, how do you go about it?

RK: If it is ethical, follow the ethics. Even if it is unpopular or personally painful. If you have competing priorities, it depends on the time or dream. E.g. If you don’t have food and fees, which one do you want to tackle first?

Angie: If you are faced with a challenge, what do you do?

RK: Seek a second opinion.

Kataza: Tell us about the hard decisions you had to make as a CEO

RK: The good thing with vision group, decisions were always made in meetings. I would advise as the CEO and let the final decision be taken by the chair. Never usurp someone’s power.

Gloria Besigyireki? How does one make decisions when the options are more than one?

RK: Ask yourself Gloria, were there tough times you had to deal with tough decisions? Ask yourself the toughest question, if you make the particular decision, will someone die?

Denis: What is your take on impulse decisions?

RK: Teach yourself that you are prone to impulsive decisions, some people use simple decisions. Some people take in a deep breath and others count five times.

Prince Nakibinge told me, every time Muslims wash their face, hands and feet, before going to pray is to calm down. They do not go before God when they are angry. Learn to control your mind. Discipline is key.

That’s all we had time for today. We shall continue from there next week.

One thought on “Robert Kabushenga on Decision Making

  1. This is good! Sharing information and learning from others makes life easy for all of us. I hope this forum will continue after 40 days. Please let it non-profit. Some of us got free knowledge and we must give it freely.

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