“It always seems impossible until it’s done”. I am not writing this quote haphazardly. This nice sentence was said by Nelson Mandela, who passed away a few days ago. I like this kind of quote we should repeat us every morning, front of our mirror. Nelson Mandela is the right person to pronounce such a quote. He spent 27 years in jail for campaigning against apartheid regime. The apartheid regime was suppressed in 1989 by Frederik De Klerk, president of the South-Africa republic, and Nelson Mandela was released from jail on the 11th February 1990. Mandela never gave up his fight against apartheid, and he paid a huge price with a large time of his life in jail, but he reached his goal by seeing the realization of his goal.
From this example, each of us we can learn a lot of positive things when we want to reach goals in our life. It begins with some dreams, and often we are thinking we will never reach such a goal because it is too complicated. Most of the time, we are the one who put obstacles on the way of our own objectives, and our dreams remain dreams. Most of the time we would like to have finished something before to start it. Today, everything is going fast, everything is ephemeral, and we lost the fact that great things require effort and pain to be realized.
I would like to take an example. I like to talk and to write in other languages than my native one. This blog is a real opportunity to do such exercise. It is obvious that most of you who are native English speaking, noticed that I am not one of you. Language is a marvelous tool to express ideas and to communicate them with other people. It becomes very interesting when you know some expressions that cannot be translated literally in your native language. When you know and pronounce such expression, it means that you have a good knowledge of the language but that you have also interests for the people you are talking with. Such interest makes that people are closer from each other. Often, I am dreaming to move to a job of translator-interpreter. Such goal means that I would have to learn and to improve significantly my language knowledge. Is it impossible? Probably not, but it requires few things. First, is to take the decision to realize that objective, by drawing a strategic plan, by following courses, reading books, watching to Tv programs. Second point, is to have a discipline, the discipline to study your vocabulary and your grammar on a regular basis, based on a work agenda. Third point is to take all the opportunities making that you will practice the language you are studying. I mean that if you are French speaker who is learning English and you meet English native who speak very good French, take the opportunity to practice English and not your mother language. The language learning process is something long, that you can always improve.
Many things like to study a language take time. Most of us, we remember things we were struggling with at school, and today, we are wondering why we struggled with it. As to build a house, you will do it stone by stone. You will have to face difficulties you will have to solve. Such difficulties are opportunities to learn new things, to improve and empower your experience, to expand your knowledge. The experience make that you will be ready to face bigger challenges and, will become more confident. The fact that we will reach our goal is linked to our own decision to do it, by our courage to face difficulties and our perseverance to work hard. It is possible if our projects are driven by passion. As said Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”.
So, each morning, let’s think about this quote, and about the way to realize goals. Goals are the motor of our life.
Recently, I was listening to the news on the radio, about the employment market. My country like probably others has to face with a lack of talents. Indeed, despite the fact that the unemployment level amounted around 12%, there are available jobs that can be filled due to a mismatching between the requested skills and competences, and the available talent on the market. Mismatching, but also lack of talents on the market. These last decades, the market and the related needs is changing faster, and the talents need to follow the same evolution. But this in theory, but practically, the gap remains.
The economical environment has a huge impact on the work market and on the career evolution. It was not unusual to have people having the same position during a big part of their career, with an indexed salary each year. And it was not impossible to see young people starting their career, earning a lower salary to do the same job. Such situation today is not sustainable anymore for companies. The competition is always harder and each invested penny has to provide a good return, not only in term of financial return, but also in term of quality, productivity and growth.
Does it mean that for seniors, the chances to find a job are low, because they are too old? I don’t believe so, but it is obvious that today, you cannot just do the same job all your life. There are always possibilities, and the acquired experience is an asset you have to use for future challenges. Such evolution implies an appropriate evolution in your career. Such evolution is an asset for companies and organizations, but is also positive for people. This career evolution implies a permanent education, a permanent acquisition process of new competences and skills. The combination of new skills and your experience is a useful innovation tool, and innovation is an essential key to develop successful and sustainable organizations. Definitively, these are people who make the organizations.
The development of the organizations and the technologies create specific needs, niches of specific competences. To fill these needs, we need talent. Talent means people with specific and added value skills, but also with strong experiences. Here is a major point, the specificity of what you can deliver to the organization. What will be your difference criteria, and what will be the factor making that people will work with you and not with another? To be able to answer to that need, you need to see a matching between the needs and trends of the market, and your acquired skills, but also with complementary skills you could acquire. For instance, people working in finance and accounting departments offers financial services, but combining this with strong IT skills, they can build powerful tools and deliver added valued solutions for the organization. This combination of skills will make you as unique. The added value provided by such combination of skills is higher than the sum of each skill.
By growing your skills and capacities, you give you the chance to open new doors to new opportunities. And each opportunity gives you the chance to learn new things, to live new experiences. Such process is successful if it is initiated and driven by passion. Passion and talent will make that you will offer the best of yourself, and in the mean time you will convince people to contract your services, your talent. By subscribing to such process, you will certainly meet success, but it will impact positively your wellness and self confidence. The feeling to be useful and to still have an active place in the society has a positive impact on your physical and psychological health. All this things will make that you will fill yourself as a creative actor of the society and not to be a slave.
Do what you are passionate by, reinvent yourself each day. It’s good for you, it’s good for your future, it’s good for the community.
Success is something most of us we are looking for. If to be successful is something different for each of us, the definition of the success is to reach the goals we have defined. Success is seen positively, and appeared as something that intelligent people reach without any constraints. Does it mean that other people cannot be successful? The question is what we name success.
To succeed is first a question of power and courage. The courage to make that our dreams become true. But often, some people never realize their dreams because they are scared to fail, and that failure is considered as a tabou. Commonly, failure is considered like something you are guilty for. This feeling of guilt comes probably from our education system based on rewarding and sanction. When a student answers wrongly to a question, he will be penalized. The education system is based on a competition system where students are scared to do not reach the arrival line. It is obvious that the integration of knowledge needs to be evaluated to be sure that students have the necessary tools to face life, but the learning process is an ongoing and iterative process. Each of us, we need more or less time to learn something, to understand the complexity linked to something, and finally to succeed. We probably remember something we struggled with at school, and that we find now very easy, wondering how it was possible to struggle with such thing. For instance, with mathematics, by doing exercises and repeating a logical process linked to a theorem, we understand it and finally integrate it. Before to succeed in a process, we probably failed a lot of times, but failure is an opportunity to know what goes wrong, to analyze the reason of the failure, and to take an appropriate action to move to the success. Henry Ford was saying that “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Such statement should be integrated in the education programs. In companies like Google, people are encouraged to fail. If you remember, some great inventions are the result of another project that failed. For example, the Post-It was invented accidentally. The company 3M was developing a new king of strong glue. The obtained result was the opposite of the one wanted, but this accident was used as an opportunity.
Failure or more precisely the reason of failure is important to develop and to keep our critical mind. When we are succeeding, we are just enjoying our success, and attributing this success to a range of factors. There are no absolute certitudes about these success factors, but there is nothing that put the opposite in evidence. For instance, scientists describe processes based on experimentations and observations, write a theory that is valid until there is an event that makes that this theory is not valid, or need to be updated and include some exception cases. Success is not definitive. But what appears as a failure is something that brings you matter to learn, or to discover new things, bringing information, a useful raw material to move forward in the knowledge.
Successes or failures are not final destination, but different steps of a process, of our life. By paying attention to this, by using failure as a raw material to build our knowledge, we are empowering our self confidence and are able to face new challenges. By considering failure in a positive way, as an opportunity to learn, we take our belief off that creates psychological obstacles, preventing us to reach our goals. Remember that the real failure is to do not try. Some people never failed because they never try something.
Few days ago, I attended the General meeting of the non-profit association I am treasurer of. As each year since 3 years now, I presented the financial statements to the attendees, and the budget for this year. These two documents were approved, and employees were happy about the good results of the association even if we are crossing difficult time.
I was happy of course of this, but I remember people did not have always the same reaction. When I joined the board of directors 3 years ago, some people did not see positively a financial consultant joining a non-profit association. There were probably scared about some confusion with profit and non-profit. Such reaction was understandable, as the finance people are often seen as non-flexible people, only focused on profit and performances. Here is probably a confusion that could be done by employees of a non-profit, but by financial people too.
My first challenge was to be accepted by the people of the organization. My ambition to join this project was not to have power or to tell people how they have to do, but only to join an interesting social project as volunteer, and bring some competences in order to contribute to the success of the common project. My first thought was that I had to learn about the different activities of the organization, the interactions between the stakeholders of the different projects, in order to have a global picture of the association, to understand the work of each people and to be aware about the difficulties they were facing. This was a first condition for an efficient and harmonious collaboration. By showing interest to the work of each employee and volunteer, by asking some question to them about the different aspects of they job, I was showing my real and sincere interest in this project, and people began to trust me, as they noticed also that I did not interfere in their job. Each people his own competences.
There was clearly a need to professionalize the financial and administrative processes, in order to manage things on an efficient way, but also to provide credible financial information to the requesting subsiding authorities and potential partners. It was important to deliver a clear message about this need to get a structured financial process and to explain why. The accounting and the production of financial statement are not only legal obligations, but they represent also a financial management tool. This tool allows organization and her management team to have a clear picture of the financial situation on time, but also to have a “business” decision support. We know all that the business environment is not always a quiet story, but the non-profit environment is not quiet at all too, when your sources of financing are non-recurring sources, and that you are facing some regular crisis situations. In such situations, it is important to show that you have things on control, but also that you are able to define alternative strategies and to express what precisely your needs are, when you meet some potential donator or sponsors. People need to understand that financial tool is needed to ensure the sustainability of the project.
Here again, we speak about the confusion done by some people about things that are totally different. Indeed, what I mean here is that financial management does not mean profit. A non-profit organization does not focus on profit, but it is important to keep an eye on the balance between the expenses and the revenues, in order to preserve the owned capital. The goal is not to earn money, but to avoid to loose money. If it is the case, some decisions need to be taken in order to preserve the funds of the organization, but also to ensure the quality and the continuity of the activities and the provided services. It is not financial performance that is the focus in such environment, but the outcomes. If we try to reduce some operating and administrative expenses, it is not to save the integrality of the money, but to invest in more projects, responding to a demand and contributing to the goal of the association. The saved money will not be distributed to some shareholders, but will be reinvested in future project. This is a difficult part of the equation, to be able to have a long term vision with short term financial vision.
A long term vision is necessary, and projects have to be defined to materialize this vision. An appropriate strategy has to be implemented, in order to reach your defined goal. With these criteria, you focus on the sustainability of your project and the outcomes. These two factors contribute to social cohesion and personal satisfaction of people.
Recently, Marrisa Meyer, Yahoo’s CEO, creates the controversy with her move to take away the flexible working arrangements that Yahoo employee are benefiting from. The reason was that working home or in other locations was a source of inefficiency in the work organization. The Yahoo’s human resources chief, Jackie Reses, mentioned that communication and collaboration are important, so people need to work side-by-side and it is critical that all people have to be present in the offices. Such affirmation created a lot of negative reactions. By reading this, I was thinking about the pertinence of such conclusion and decision about work organization. The inefficiency causes are probably not linked to the fact that people are not working at the same place. Personally, I spent more than 20 years in offices where people are coming everyday, but who are not communicating, are not sharing information. The problem is probably somewhere else.
In my mind, telecommuting or home working will be a trend in the coming years for many reasons, but it is not an end on itself. It is a possibility collaborators can use in particular circumstances. As in each system, conditions and rules need to be defined in order to get good results, and you will see that some rules are only basic management principles.
- How to measure productivity? Is your company measuring productivity by the number of hours spent in the offices, or by the deliverables and the produced added-value? People can spend hours in the office and show low performances and other can work less time but provide results that represent significant added-value for the company. Some people are working less time but more wisely than others. The added-value they are providing can bring more future benefits to the organization than the work of other people working more time.
- Are the goals clearly defined? : People have to know the scope of the projects they are working on. If people have clear goals, if they know where they have to go, what they have to do, and if they can appreciate the contribution they will bring to a common project, a big part of the success is ensured. By meeting such conditions, you are sure that the goals match with their aspirations. If they are motivated, they will take the appropriate actions to meet these goals and provide the needed work. But it is also the opportunity to indentify what will be the methodology of work and to see if some tasks need to be done in the office or not. For specific tasks, you will be probably more productive by working in an environment where you are not disturbed by colleagues every five minutes.
- Organize regular meetings: Regular meetings are essential to share information, to fix an agenda for the coming days. Define with your team what will be the topics of the meeting, and spend only the time needed to cover these topics. It will be the opportunity to fix the next point, reporting and deadlines.
- Define a reporting frame and deadlines: In order to follow the work in progress, set up a periodical reporting. By reviewing the progress of projects with your team members, you will appreciate the work done, and see if the productivity is there or not. It will be also the opportunity to be informed what the potential issues are and what the appropriate actions are needed, in order to prevent them. Pro-activity and anticipation implies communication.
- Provide efficient technology: it is essential to provide efficient technology to ensure the productivity of people working remotely. Just a quick remind that technology is only a tool who contributes to ensure a better efficiency and productivity, only if the previous point are defined. By investing in good technology, you will allow people to work in good conditions and improve their productivity. Your return on investment will be reached quickly, by the provided time gains.
If such conditions are met, working remotely can be a real advantage. Time spent by people in traffic jams to go work, represents an important economical cost, as this time is unproductive, but also a cost in term of health and wellness. I noticed often that some organizations do not work, not because they have not efficient tools or because people are working remotely, but only because there is a lack of organization and management, or because people does not subscribe to the project.
I would say that companies don’t need to adopt a single way of organization, working in the offices or remotely. Each system has his advantage for specific functions, in particular circumstances, for specific tasks. But it is something as many things that need to be prepared, evaluated and improved on an ongoing way.
Some of you know the famous quote from Mark Twain “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”. I remembered this quote during a meeting with some entrepreneur friends. One of them is a retired lady who made a career as teacher. When she was retired, she decided to stay active, and developed interest for new technologies. During our discussions, we were talking about the advertising world and the consumer society, where advertising is addressed to a target public, where each person is categorized. She was telling us that when she is hearing or seeing these advertisings, she did not feel concerned by this, because she was not the target of such advertising trying to promote our wellness by acquiring products and services. I can easily understand her feeling, as we are often more considered in our society as consumers before human beings.
By jumping into the world of new technologies and precisely in the internet world, she was telling us that it was a wonderful discovery for her, a wonderful tool allowing us to share knowledge and information by participating to forums on several topics, an unlimited way to expand our knowledge, to conquer our freedom. She did not stay only a user as many of us, but became a real actor by creating a blog, and a militant promoting the accessibility to the web for people suffering of poor eyesight. She attends conferences about web on a regular basis in different countries, brainstorming sessions in co-working spaces, and built a strong network of contacts in different countries. A network of IT guys, entrepreneurs that she had the opportunity to meet, people she could not imagine to meet when she was teaching at school. The teacher became a real connected geek, and is clearly a important member of a community. And what about our discussions about several topics? It is very inspiring and an example of cross-generation relationship.
Such person makes me think about different things about life and self-confidence. We are the owner of our life, and only us, we can decide the way we want to take. A negative point of our society is to make us believe that we cannot access anymore to knowledge or leisure because we are too old, that our life is programmed to do this and not that. The consequences are that we are stuck in limiting thoughts, leading us in a way without goal, in a passive way of life. I remember also this quote from Confucius: “We have two lives and the second begins when we realize that we have only one of it.” There is no age to be aware of this, but one of the messages is that we can discover a passion, of start a project at every moment of our life. The fact to have goals making that you will build a structured life has a positive impact in term of wellness and self-confidence. Our friend realized such goal, such dream because she listened to her inner voice. The age is not a criteria that defines what you can do or not do. It is just a question of mind, and the mind is specific to each of us. We can have the power to follow our own desire and not to be formatted to what others say we should do.
We need to have the courage to pursue our dreams, to transform them into reality. There is no age for dreams, no age to realize them.
I would like to share an experience as member of the board of a non-profit organization. Some years ago, I join this organization in order to help them to professionalize the structure and to implement processes in order to meet operational and legal requirements. The particularity of this association is that there were never Operations director. Each cluster was managing his owns activities. Such operational structure can have advantages, but the directors who joined the board at that time had to note a range of lacks and some “original” ways of doing things. The problem was to know who was doing what.
As financial consultant, some people did not see my presence as something positive. The directors were obliged at that time to implement some rules and processes in order to meet legal obligations that were huge changes for people. The development of a new project and the impact on the organization in term of work processes en legal reporting made that we had no choice if we wanted to succeed. But as many of you know, people are reluctant to changes, and the challenge is to know how they will agree with the changes or the policies needed to be implemented. One element that is important to mention is that there were conflicts between some people, and my presence due to one of the employee made believe to the other people that I would agree with this person and be in conflict with the other.
A board of directors has to be unified, and communicate on the same way in order to gain credibility. It means that each matter has to be debated, but you will never have a full power or control on things. The question is how can you reach the assigned goal and how to gain the trust of people. Here are some tips I would like to share.
- Focus on the goal of the organization. You have to show that you join the organization because you are interested by the activities and the pursued goals. The success of an organization, of a project depends of the will of each member to reach the common goal and to work together.
Let show also that you are not scared to lose your position of director. You are there to take responsibilities and to take difficult decisions if needed, to bring expertise and recommendations, to work with people, not for the power and for your ego.
- Define clearly your role in the organization: you need to explain clearly what you want to bring to the organization and why you want to do it. You have to avoid to interfere in the work of other people, a work where you have no expertise. Each people have complementary skills and expertise. Define how you can work together, what are the needs of the people and how can you help them or how can they help you.
- Be persuasive and defend your ideas: as member of an organization, you can have a power of influence on things. Often, when a person is joining an organization, it is an opportunity of change, to develop new projects, strategies. Some projects or strategies are not developed because people or directors don’t feel comfortable or have not a clear vision of it. By bringing your own vision, by bringing your strategy, you can influence the way of doing things and can be a motivation source for the other team members.
- Listen to the people: as explained previously, there is no operational director in the organization. Each director is in charge of specific matters, and employees can talk about the problems there are facing. By listening to people, you can advice them or make suggestions, and you are yourself learning a lot of things about the organization and the daily activities. By sharing knowledge, people are moving together.
- Act as a mentor: By sharing your knowledge with people, your goal is to make them gaining autonomy in their work. You can help them to put a process in place, but the goal is that they have to be able to manage it themselves. By sharing knowledge and transmitting responsibilities, you show that you trust on people, and bring to them the feeling to be valued. Such attitudes contribute to wellness and to self confidence. Try to communicate your entrepreneur mind.
- Put milestones: You want to reach some goals and see realized achievements, but things are not always progressing as you want. Don’t forget that your expertise is obvious for you but not necessarily for other people, and that they can not move as fast as you want. Advice them about some improvement in their work and underline the realized significant steps. Maybe you don’t reach yet the assigned goal, but see where you are coming from and all the steps already done.
- In conflictual situations, be neutral. In the organization, there are often conflictual situations, caused by emotional attitudes and reactions. People are proud about what they are doing and consider their tasks as something personal that somebody else can’t make to their place. Sometimes, volunteers don’t accept certain rules or remarks, they want to do things on their own. Explain to them why you ask to act differently, but underline also the value and the importance of their work for the organization. Explain to them that they have their place in the organization, but that some rules need to be applied to move to the same direction, and to reach the common goal.
There are probably more other things that can be said about the way to find your place and be accepted in an organization. In small organization operating with small team and limited financial resources, competences and motivations are the key elements to succeed. By sharing our experiences and expertise each other, we can expand our horizons and face new opportunities, build a better society, we can build our own way. This is what makes good leaders.