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Archive for March 2018

When you have no choice

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To reach your goal

To reach your goal   – (Picture from NYtimes)

Few weeks ago, I had to face a difficult time within the non-profit association where I am member of the board of director. We were in trouble with an employee who did not give satisfaction. We tried several time to fix what was going wrong with him, by giving some feedback about his job and about what we were expecting from him, but unfortunately, no improvement followed. After more than 2 years, we took the difficult decision to fire him.

This association is helping people in precarious situations, through different social and educative programs. I am acting as volunteer accountant and member of the board. Such commitment is very rewarding, as it makes more sense on what you are doing, by helping people. This is a real opportunity to face challenges and opportunities, and to discover new interest, to discover yourself. Nevertheless, there is not only nice things when you contract such responsibilities. There are even ungrateful things you have to face.

One of these ungrateful things is when we have to stop the work collaboration with an employee. We already had such cases in the past, but it was the president of the association and the managing director who were in charge of this difficult task. This time, as our president was unavailable for an undetermined period and as I was in charge to replace him during his absence, the weight of such responsibilities was on my shoulders. The day came where the managing director and me, we invited the employee to a meeting in order to inform him about the end of his contract and the reason of such decision.

Such meeting is never pleasant, and it was the first time I had to fire somebody, as I never had people under my responsibility during my professional career. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the fact that I stayed calm, keeping eye contact with the employee and the director. And at the end of the meeting, I thought “You did it!”. Yes, I did something I thought I would never be able to do. I did it because I had no choice, but I did it. And I began to wonder why I stayed so calm during this meeting, doing something I am normally scared to do. What was the tips making that I “succeed” in this task and having a different feeling than the one I would think I had ?

A first element is that this decision was the result of a long reflection process. During few boards of directors, the managing director talked about the problems he faced with the employee. We invited the employee to a meeting with only the administrators, to talk to us about his job, about the satisfaction he had or the problem he faced. He expressed some expectations we communicated to the managing director. Based on that, the managing director gave him some opportunities matching with his expectations, but the results were not successful. After many reframing of his tasks and an ongoing monitoring, we concluded that the job was not for him. We communicated our conclusions to him, but expressed also that he would be maybe more happy in another kind of job. The first element was a good argumentation making think us that we took the right decision.

Another element to take such conclusion, was the lack of productivity of this worker, and the consequences it had on the activity. This person was supposed to manage a team of 6 people in a social and professional integration program. He had not the skills and talents to manage such team, with negative consequences on the work improvements of the team and on the reputation of the association. This situation produced conflicts within the team, caused an additional workload for the director, and had a negative impact on the productivity of the team. The risk of seeing the activity decline and to get a bad reputation, were not an option.

The challenge here is to succeed by doing something we are scared by. By thinking about this experience I mentioned, I see two keys contributing to succeed.

  • What is the goal? To define the goal is an important step, because the goal will be the key of your motivation, the element that feel feed your energy to succeed. In the case I mentioned, the goal was not to fire the employee, but the goal was to solve the problem of organization and productivity caused by the lack of competence of this person. It could have huge and damaging consequences on the durability and the reputation of the association.
    It is interesting to think that what you define as a goal on a first time is probably not the final goal that will motivate you to take action. I remember a video of a guy who wanted to put out weight. Each day, he was going to work by running, and had always some food with him. The first days were not easy to find the motivation, and the desire to eat was still there.
    On his way, he was meeting homeless people, and one day, he decided to give them a part of his food. By doing this, he made a step to get more motivation, by defining another goal. His goal was not only to put out weight but also to help poor people by sharing food with them.
  • The other key is your motivations and the reasons why you want to achieve that goal. There are many reasons why you want to achieve a new goal, but the most important is probably the need of change. You want to change something, because the present situation is not an option anymore. By starting such change process, you will think about strategies and have a different perception of things. You will learn new things, and maybe discover new hide talents or passions. Learning something is the best way to empower your self-confidence and to give you the possibility to face new challenges and opportunities, to have bigger ambitions. I would say that the desire to learn is probably more important than the desire to succeed. And that desire will make that you will not be scared to try something new and eventually to fail. The other important element if you want not to be scared is to have an alternative plan in case of failure. Louis Pasteur said that chance smiles to prepared mind (La chance sourit aux esprits préparés).

The experience I mentioned above make me realize that sometimes, we are not enough ambitious, but also that we missed sometimes interesting opportunities. When you have no alternative and you have to face a challenge, a situation, you will concentrate all your power and energy to succeed and in some cases, you will note that you were able to win this challenge. You won because you have no choice. What is maybe more important than to define a goal, is to find the reason why you have no choice and why you have to go, to realize a dream or to face a new challenge.

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Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 21, 2018 at 22:39

Career : Never Be Scared To Take a Decision

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Mandela-winRecently, I read a post from a freelance on my LinkedIn wall, meeting a friend he had not seen since a while, and who told him his misfortune. Talking about their professional status, the friend told him that he lost his job. We was working for a start up, but unfortunately, as many of them, the start up felt in bankruptcy and the employees lost their job. The guy felt completely ashamed to be jobless, especially since he left a position in a multinational company, to go work for this start up. In his eyes, he felt guilty to have made a bad decision.

This story made me think about my own professional journey, and a similar experience I have lived. In the 90’s, I was working for an international company as senior accountant. The workload was intense but it was an interesting opportunity to learn a lot and to make significant progress in term of skills and competences development. But after few years, it was difficult to maintain a good work-life balance in such rhythm, and my motivation was declining. I was very tired, and not too far to fall on burnout. At that time, I was in contact with the CFO of a company that was a customer of a previous company where I worked at the beginning of my career. This company moved from IT hardware resales to a software development activity, and so move to a star up mode. The CFO let me know that he would need some help to ensure the development of the company, and need a profile like mine to join the financial department. Nevertheless, he caught my attention to the fact that the project was not yet profitable and that the risk of failure was high, an so a unsecure job. Despite this, and the fact that I was not moving to get a better salary than the one I had, I did not hesitate to resign from my current job, and to sign a contract with this start up.

In the start up market, the rate of success is around 10%, and unfortunately, the start up I worked for never joined the 10%. After 2 years and 6 months, the company was declared in bankruptcy, and I was jobless, as all my colleagues. This failure was not a big surprise, even if I would prefer to live another scenario.

When such things happen, some people around you would tell you that you probably took a wrong decision, and maybe it can be the first feeling you have. Personally, I have not that feeling and it made me think about Nelson Mandela quote – “I never lose. Either I win or I learn”. The decision I took to leave the multinational company was a well thought out decision. My motivation was declining, and burn out was certainly not an option.  Furthermore, job security was already no more a certitude end of the 90’s.

Joining a start up was a change of environment. They needed the competences I acquired in multinational companies and such environment was an opportunity for me to perceive more intensively the finality and the added value of my work. I discovered the advantage and disadvantage of the start up and small companies business, but I discovered also a motivation to work in such environment, developed new skills and competences making emerge new passions and opportunities. Such changes are definitively a wealth, in a fast changing economic environment where job security does not exist anymore.  During my career where I worked in several companies, I noticed that your current job is and has to be the opportunity to prepare the next one. If you do not learn anything, if you don’t face new challenges, then the danger of not being competitive anymore is not far.  You cannot find job security anymore but you can build your career security by learning on an ongoing way.

Being unemployed for several months was not a shame for me. I was looking for jobs offers and making contacts with temp agencies, but the time after the dotcom crash was difficult. If I had felt ashamed to be unemployed, it would mean that losing my job was my fault. Such view would still make sense if job security still existed. But today, even if you are doing a good job and showing a good attitude, there is no guarantee to keep your job indefinitely.

To answer to the question if you take the right decision, you never know in advance if it will be the case. But asking that question means that you are looking to the past, not to the future.  By looking to the past, you will not be focused on what you can learn and discover from your new journey, and it means also that you have no project to feed your motivation and to reach success. Success does not mean that you will never failed, it is the capacity to cross over failure and to learn from it. Sir Winston Churchill did not say anything else: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts”.

Failure is indeed not fatal, it is only a view of mind. Failure is not fatal if we keep in mind the eventuality of it and if we develop alternative plan in order to build resilience. Never facing failure does not mean necessarily that you meet success, you could never meet failure because your lack of ambition. And lack of ambition is not a successful attitude.

Our life can only be successful by taking decisions. Decisions and actions are the keys driving our life, helping us to build self-confidence and to open new doors, to move to new horizons.  When I look to my journey, the only thought I have to my mind is this: Never regrets to take a decision, a good or a bad one, only regret to have not taken one.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 14, 2018 at 19:11