419: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
28th September 2015
Last weekend, I addressed an auditorium full of KNUST students at the first ever TeK Talk event. It was a very well organised event, put together by student leadership. The other speaker was Prince Kofi Amoabeng, a truly inspirational Ghanaian. More about him later this week, but let me share a little of what I talked about to the assembled future leaders. I told them the story of what happened on the flight to Kumasi earlier that day.
We had been sitting on the tarmac for about twenty minutes. Take-off time had passed fifteen minutes ago, and we hadn’t moved an inch. Passengers who were late for appointments in Kumasi started to feel agitated. Then we heard the captain’s voice:
“Good afternoon, Ladies and gentlemen. We have a slight delay. We are waiting for an important document without which we cannot take off. This document is not coming from our own company. It is from another company, and it has not yet arrived. We will keep putting pressure on them, and hopefully, we will get it in five to ten minutes, so we can take off. Sorry for the inconvenience”.
My friends, what do you think about this statement from the Captain? To some, it’s absolutely spot on. He has informed us of the cause of the delay, promised to try and get those who caused it to solve the problem, and apologised. Job done, right?
Let me explain why, as a paying customer, the captain’s announcement left me distinctly dissatisfied.
You see, when you pay for a product or a service, you are paying for a result, not an attempt to get you a result. I had paid for the airline to get me to Kumasi safely, by a specified time, not for an attempt to get me there. So while I was sitting there, worried about being late, it did not fill me with hope to hear the captain tell me that it’s up to some other company – with whom I have no contract – to ensure that he can deliver what I had paid his company for.
It was basically like saying to me, “Hey, thanks for the money. I know you gave it to me to get you to Kumasi by a certain time, but I may not be able to give you what you paid for. If it’s any consolation, it’s not my fault. Someone else messed up. I’m still going to keep your money though. Thanks again, buddy. You’re a real gent.”
Secondly, why come with me with details of the problem? I didn’t pay to experience of a problem. I’d much rather hear details of the solution.
Here’s what the Captain should have said:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise sincerely for the delay to our departure. The good news is that we know exactly what is causing it, and are solving the problem as we speak. The next time you hear my voice, all will be sorted, and we will be ready to take off for Kumasi. Thank you for your patience”.
This would have given me much more confidence that the leader of the team I had paid to get me to Kumasi was in total control of the situation and WAS going to get me to Kumasi, in spite of the delay.
Former Presidential aspirant, Mitt Romney once said, “Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses”. That is all that is expected of a leader. At the end of the month, you don’t want to hear your boss telling you that someone owes him money, and so he can’t pay you – and you can blame his debtors for your inability to feed your family and pay your bills.
You don’t want your father to tell you he used your school fees to attend funerals – and so you can blame all those dead people for your lack of education. You don’t want to hear your landlord tell you he is broke, and so he can’t fix your roof – and you can blame poverty for the fact that your bed becomes a shower every time it rains. You don’t want to hear your government tell you they have used your health insurance levy to pay judgment debts or ex gratia, so if you’re sick, you’ll have to pay again for your healthcare – and you can blame the people who sued us and won, or the government officials who are leaving office.
We don’t want to hear excuses from those who have taken responsibility for providing us with the things we have paid or voted for. But how about us? Who is looking up to us to deliver on what they paid or voted for? When things go wrong in your workplace, in your church, in your home, do you assign blame to someone else, or do you take responsibility for finding a solution? Ultimately, it boils down to this: YOU took the money. YOU received the vote. You solve the problem.
There is a popular scam where tricksters show you a valuable product like a laptop or a mobile phone in a package, take your money and then give you a package filled with rocks instead of what you paid for. They call it 419. Taking someone’s money and not giving them the service they paid for is nothing more than 419. Blaming someone else for your inability to deliver what you have been paid or voted to deliver is the same as swindling those whose money or vote you’ve taken. If you’re not a con artist, a fraudster, a criminal, then please, deliver what you promised. And if something goes wrong, take responsibility, don’t make excuses.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I owe you a result, not an attempt.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!