This is the second part of the Story of Themba. Read the first part here.



The Aftereffects of Themba’s Breakdown

After Themba’s breakdown, Kate took him to a Psychologist. The final diagnosis was acute depression. He couldn’t believe the diagnosis. He went into denial. Themba was booked off work for a month. As an African man who was brought up to be strong at all times, for Themba depression was an indication of weakness. He felt guilty and embarrassed for having broken down in front of his colleagues. He swore that even if his CEO and Mr. Ngozi wanted him back, he will never show his face at work again. He thought his colleagues will never respect him as a man and leader. Themba locked himself in the house and started drinking heavily.

After a month, Kate could see that her husband’s health was deteriorating. She sent a request to Mr. Ngozi to extend Themba’s leave for another three months. After the three months, there seemed to be no improvement. Kate consulted the Psychologist to seek advice. She also paid a personal visit to Mr. Ngozi, Themba’s HR Director. She knew that her husband needed more time to deal with his guilt and embarrassment.

You are never too Experienced for a Mentor

Mr. Ngozi admitted to Kate that after Themba’s episode and what she said to him, he decided to consult one of his previous managers, Ms. Maluleke. He asked her to be his mentor. Mr. Ngozi realized that as an HR Manager he had failed Themba and all employees. He had allowed himself to be an order taker from the CEO and not the strategic partner that he was supposed to be. Through Ms. Maluleke’s help, he has rekindled his passion for being the conscience of the organization in the boardroom.

Mr. Ngozi had also appointed a consulting company to help with developing and implementing an Integrated Talent Management framework. Even though it was early days, Mr. Ngozi had noticed some changes in the employees. The tension in the corridors had lessened. The consultants had stressed the importance of implementing leadership development programmes focusing on leading self, others and the organization. These programs were aligned to the organisation’s vision, strategic priorities, leadership philosophy and values.

Mr. Ngozi knew that there was still a long way to go to embed the new behaviours and make them sustainable. Hence he appointed Executive Coaches for the Executive team to support them during the change. He was also in the process of appointing an Organisation Development practitioner to oversee Talent Management, Culture and other OD interventions to facilitate employee engagement. Mr. Ngozi thanked Kate for telling him the truth on the day that she picked up her husband. He assured her that Themba’s job was safe.

Time to Heal

Kate decided to take her family for a retreat. She told Themba that they were going on a month-long family holiday. Unbeknown to Themba, Kate had arranged coaching sessions with the owner of the retreat. Mr. Sibiya, the owner of the farm was an Executive Coach. He has experience in dealing with overworked Executives who had lost passion for life and their jobs.

Mr. Sibiya was an excellent host. Themba never suspected anything. He found it easy to talk to Mr. Sibiya. In one of their conversations, Mr. Sibiya gave Themba a note written “you will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life”. Themba read the note a number of times and pondered on it.

He asked himself if ever he was truly satisfied about his life. What exactly is life? What has he been doing all along? What does it mean to be satisfied by life? Was there a difference between life and work?

That night Themba couldn’t sleep. Kate woke up to an empty bed. She saw her husband writing furiously in his journal. She was happy to see the positive effects the retreat and Mr. Sibiya had on her husband.

Let the Coaching Begin!

The following morning, Themba went in search of Mr. Sibiya. He was excited about his reflections. He wanted to share them with his new found friend. On seeing Themba approaching, Mr. Sibiya knew that the Coaching sessions have just begun.

For the rest of the holiday, Themba and Mr. Sibiya met daily for Coaching sessions. Themba was not aware that he was being coached. Their discussions included Themba’s job, his breakdown, childhood, incorporating his responsibilities as a son, husband, father and leader at work. Mr. Sibiya always asked Themba thought-provoking questions. He encouraged Themba to write down his thoughts and practice mindfulness. Themba rediscovered his love for writing. The exercises gave him understanding, insight and peace into what happened.

On the last evening of their holiday, Themba thanked Kate for the holiday. He shared with her some of his reflections. The sessions with Mr. Sibiya had helped to reflect and clarify questions about:

  • His personal and family purpose and vision?
  • Leadership philosophy?
  • His beliefs, values and assumptions?
  • Is work separate from his life or a part of his life?
  • What does it mean to live an integrated life?
  • What has the breakdown taught him about himself, how to treat others and life in general?
  • How is he going to support his team members, peers and colleagues?

Themba vowed that from that day onwards, he was going to be authentic. He would be a man whom all the people connected to him are proud of. Most importantly he was going to take care of himself and team because he realized that they are total human beings. Themba promised to ensure that there is a balance between driving for business results and taking care of employees.

The Value of a Wise Spouse

Themba never found out that the whole retreat was planned by his wife. Kate was a wise woman. She let Themba believe that he had discovered a way to heal himself. She knew that great leaders make people say  “we did it ourselves”!


Thanks for reading this story to the end. You might want to reflect on it. Please do by commenting. If you like the story or if you think other people could benefit from reading it, don’t hesitate to share it through your social networks.

Tshamani Mathebula

Tshamani Mathebula

I am an experienced process facilitator whose purpose in life is to develop people so that they can be the best they can be in their personal and professional lives. I have 15 years experience in human resource development, organisational development, change management, culture transformation, employee engagement, graduate development, leadership development and coaching. I am passionate about leadership development and transformation, and my area of study is focused on transformational leadership and high performance culture.

I am a Leader. I am a Person. The Story of Themba (Pt 2)

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