He Promised to Join Us, but We Never Saw Him Again
In Kenya's corporate training, the period between 2001 and 2010 was the golden decade of team building. Most organizations were doing it, and we, trainers, were busy.
Economically, it was a period of prosperity, and nearly every company had a budget for team building.
I was one of the pioneer team building facilitators, and there were only a few of us. I spent most of my weekends facilitating team building.
That's how, in 2009, I ended up doing team building for company X. It is a blue-chip company - the kind that every trainer would love to have as a client. It had planned team building events for its eight departments, and all of them took place at a hotel in Naivasha. Typically, a bus picked them up from their head office on Saturday morning, and they returned on Sunday afternoon. We did the first seven groups without incident, but the last group left late.
We assembled at the head office at 7 am on Saturday, and all employees were on time. However, we had to wait for their head of department, who was still "finishing something". I had met him a week earlier to discuss his department's requirements, and he insisted we must depart on time. I found it curious that he was the one delaying us.
On the bus, his subordinates gossiped about him; and I learnt a lot about him from listening to them. They liked him because of his easy-going nature, but he was a workaholic who spent long hours in the office. He always left the office past midnight and worked all weekends and public holidays. He had not taken leave the previous three years. It seemed like there was always something for him to do in the office.
At 9 am, he came to the bus, and we all thought it was time to leave.
"I have not finished what I am doing," he announced. "You guys can leave. I'll join you after two hours."
We got to Naivasha at 11 am and got on with our program. However, by the end of the day, he had not arrived. His team tried calling him, but he did not answer. They said it was normal for him not to pick calls when he was busy. His assistant called his wife, but she said she was not expecting him. He had told her he would travel to Naivasha with the team.
As is the case in most team building events, evenings are spent making merry and partying. There was barbeque and plenty of alcohol. The team had brought along a DJ, so everyone forgot about the manager when the dance and the booze started.
The following morning we had breakfast at 7.30, and we were getting ready to begin our events for the second day. However, as we walked to our team building grounds, one of the team members received a phone call that made us return to Nairobi immediately.
It was about their boss.
Security officers patrolling the building had seen him slumped on his desk at 3 am. It was normal for him to spend nights in the office, so they didn't find it unusual. They had seen him resting in that position many times before, so they moved on to inspect other floors.
When they were handing over to their day shift colleagues at 6 am, they saw him still lying in the same position - he had not moved an inch. They tried to open the door, but he had locked it from inside.
That is when they called the Managing Director.
Somewhere along his busy day or night, he had suffered a heart attack, and it killed him.