Mark Essien: Letter to the new Country Manager

by Mark Essien

Dear Country Manager,

To be successful at your job, there are a few things you must do.


You must see the future. This means that you often sit and think of all the bad things that could possibly happen and you start fixing them now before they happen. If you are good enough, it will look like you are being unnecessarily cautious about things that never happen – but it’s because of the work you put in that they never happen.


Watch the behaviour of people closely to see when there is a problem. Often, the body language of people will indicate when there is a problem long before you are informed. See how people are behaving towards each other and towards their work. Small fights can spread quickly; when there are people agitating for some reason, they can influence others quickly.

If there is a team problem, people will not immediately leave – they will stay but be very demotivated. They will do their work in a very lack luster manner, and this will affect the business. They will also influence others around them.

The core of problems people have with a company often lies in a sense of ‘unfairness’. Always observe if you are treating everyone fairly – in terms of attention, praise and compensation. Even if there are no external signs, unfairness will tend to result in problems at some point.


Do not be quick to make decisions if you have partial information. Listen to what you are told, then ask probing questions. Listen to all the words the other person is using and try to pick up some information that was not told to you. If something is complex, ask it to be broken down for you very clearly.

Always ask for an alternative. If a person comes and tells you he or she wants to do X, find out what will happen if we don’t do X. Ask if there are other ways of achieving the goal apart from X.

Get information from multiple people to properly understand the decision you are to make.


Waste kills companies. It’s easy to approve expenses, hiring or allocating people on tasks when you feel you have to get as much as possible for your own department. But you have to think of the entire company – anyone allocating resources wrongly is ultimately harming the company significantly.

On the counter-side, if you need resources, you MUST get those resources. That is what you are in the position for. Leaving that decision to people who do not recognise the importance of the recourse you need is you harming the company. Make your presentation, make your case and keep pushing till you get the resources. When you do not properly explain how essential the resources you need are, then you are harming the company.


You cannot execute without setting goals and making plans. Have lists and checklists. Constantly review those plans and those lists. As complexity rises, you will not be able to operate without the tools you have setup. If you don’t have those tools, you will fail and will be unable to deliver.


If something is happening 3 months from now, but requires 2 months, you MUST start 2 months from now. But it is very easy to forget this when hundreds of things are being thrown at you. Mark it in your list as starting in 1 month, and don’t fail to start on that day.

If things can be done in parallel (they are not dependent on each other), then run them in parallel so long you have enough ‘attention resources’ to throw at it. Look at the project, list out everything that must done, decide which will be done in parallel and then get started on all of them.


You will constantly have things popping up that are shouting that they must be done NOW. The tendency is to jump on those. If you do that, you will never get out of the loop as you will never be solving problems that have not happened yet.

Of all immediate problems, delegate! Push as much as possible to someone else. If you don’t have that person, make sure you get that person. You cannot spend your time solving emergency problems.

Problems that you must handle, slot them into your planner – make sure they do not prevent you from working on long term things.


Make sure from the highest level, every department has clear goals to achieve. Perhaps quarterly goals (or monthly if you prefer). Talk often to the department head to see if they are on track for their goals. If not, then try to debug the situation.

It is very important that you do not simply accept what people tell you. Ask to see the source of the information. Let the person explain from where he gets his data and let him/her show you exactly the source. Make a few suggestions and see how the person counters to understand how deeply they understand what they are doing.

People who are over-achieving – reward them in a way that you see fit. People under-achieving, find out why. Sometimes they don’t understand fully what they are to do. Other times they don’t have the capacity. Either way, understand the problem and solve it.


If you find yourself spending days on one thing, then you are not doing your job. It usually means you are hiding from your responsibilities. Your job is to oversee, this means that naturally you are hopping from one thing to the other. Doing just one things means that either you are not able to delegate, you don’t have people good enough to delegate to, or you are avoiding your responsibilities.


Generally, your job is this: Take care of your people. Make sure they are motivated to work and have all that they need. Make sure the right people are doing the right jobs. Plan out very carefully and as much as possible what you want to achieve. Decide in what order you want to execute, and then execute. Handle random things by delegating. Make sure just the right amount of resources are being used everywhere.

Never get caught by surprise.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Mark Essien is the founder of

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