As Lupapa branch manager of National Water, Eng Makubuya, was a sensational stand out. His job specifically had him meet a 95% revenue target and 100% implementation of new connections. To achieve this he assembled a small team with every member known personally to him. At the start of the week the 25 members would meet in his office and after serving breakfast he would appraise the past week’s performance. Targets were set and he would then let all go, occasionally visiting them individually in the field, to sort out intricate issues on the ground. Bonuses were attached to every member who met his target, and this motivated them.

Soon Headquarters heard of the amazing results of Lukaka branch and the man spear heading it all. When the job of General Manager at headquarters fell vacant, the Human Resource Chief, Rose, aware of Eng Makubuya’s performance, called and interested him in the position.

“But I am happy where I am and feel I need more time here!” Eng Makubuya protested.

“This is a bigger job,” Rose encouraged him to apply. “It will come with more perks, a larger office and you will be overseeing over 100 staff.”

Encouraged, Eng Mukubuya applied and got the job. But it didn’t take long before he started doubting his move. First, unlike the small Lukaka branch where members worked like a close knit family, at headquarters there were all these divisions involved in a cut throat competition for resources, more at the expense of the other. Departmental heads were quick to undercut each other so as to shine better. Eng Makubuya soon found that other than motivating the organization he was now spending more time blowing out fires due to internal conflicts, something as a results drive manager he was not so enthused with.

One day he got to office and found a Board member waiting for him. He let him to his office and the member was quick to get to the point. “I need you to get my daughter a position here,” the Board member said. “I know those positions are there or just create them.”

Eng Makubuya tried to bring to the attention of the Board member of a conflict of interest. “If you don’t I will make your life a hell!” The member threatened.

Just as he was dealing with this issue an audit report came out pointing to some staff companies bidding and supplying materials to the organization. Eng Makubuya decided to take action by firing the implicated staff and calling for new bidders. An anonymous staff quickly went to the IG office and lodged in a complaint accusing him of falsifying his qualifications and misusing company funds. Threatened with interdiction, Eng Mukubuya, decided to call up the line minister and explain himself. However, the line minister sent him a message through an emissary that, “I expect something if I am to save your job!”

At that point Eng Makubuyu recalled how he had hesitated to take up this bigger job. Nothing had prepared him for the fire he was receiving from all directions. He wondered if he should have insisted and not sought a promotion. Perhaps he was better fitted for the smaller local job than the big league jobs with all the intrigues involved.

In his last book on management, “It worked for me” the late US Secretary of State, Gen Colin Powell, shared a story of “an officer who was promoted from colonel to brigadier general… and he broke down under the burdens that were placed on him. One morning he committed suicide in his garage. He would have served successfully as a Colonel but we raised him beyond his potential.”

The point being as far as promotion is concerned two factors matter. The person should be ready for the bigger job having gone through the necessary trainings for the next level. But more than that it is important to realize, some of us are better at operating at mid-level than the big leagues, which comes with a different set of challenges.

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