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Posts Tagged ‘change

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

How to face uncertainty?

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rock-climberIn my previous post, related to the choice of studies, I was talking about the fact that to predict the future is something becoming more and more difficult. Since now 25 years I am working, and looking around me, what is for sure is that uncertainty is growing. Who can predict now how will be the world in the next 6 months, or in the next 10 years? We try to make predictions in many areas and sometimes, we have to note that these predictions are not verified. How many times have we heard some economists explaining us the origins of financial crisis they were unable to predict.

The big question is how to face uncertainty as we don’t know in advance what the evolution will be in many domains? There are in my mind two types of uncertainty to take into account; the uncertainty linked to our environment and the evolution of it, and our own uncertainty, or I would say our own uncertainties. Facing uncertainties induce questions and make people worried. What will be my future? Will I have a job? Or simply will I be able to do this task, to face this challenge?

Our own uncertainties and the uncertainties linked to our environment interact. Most of you probably know the famous Peter Drucker’s quote saying “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself”. But to be able to create something, we need to have a good perception of the future and be able to perceive the trends and the changes of our environment.  But facing the environment uncertainties means to face also our own uncertainties, with a range of questions we are putting to ourselves. What will be the future and will I be able to face it? Have I the capabilities to face challenges and what challenges will be? To face our uncertainties means to try to know a bit more about ourselves.

To consider our own uncertainties is to be aware of our lack of knowledge and experience. By mentioning this, we underline the key role of education but also of curiosity. Education and school are the fundamental tools to develop our knowledge and capabilities. Education and knowledge will give us the opportunity to become first human being and to develop our autonomy, giving us more possibilities to make choices. This is why the role of education and the way to educate people are fundamental. It is important to develop curiosity, to encourage people to learn new things by their own, to discover new interests. To develop our knowledge is probably the best answer to the question related to my previous article: what studies have I to choose? Most of the time, it is difficult to know in advance if we will enjoy things we don’t know now.

This is why people have to be encouraged to make experiences, to be curious and to try new things. It implies the necessity to take risks. By multiplying such experience in a process of serial trials, you expand your possibilities fields and you dispel your own uncertainties. You will probably enjoy something new that you never suspected before that you could enjoy. We never know in advance what things could be if we could enjoy it or not, as we don’t know them.  Such experimentation process make that your own uncertainty dispels: you know that you enjoy something, that you are able to do it or not. By expanding your interest and experience fields, you discover new possibilities, you build new competences, but you also empower your self-confidence.

Self-confidence and competences are probably the two most important key components to dispel your own uncertainties. The development of these two components will allow you to maximize your chance to attract challenges and opportunities. With all your experiences, you will build your background, a knowledge base including information that helps you to analyze situations and to develop appropriate strategies. Nevertheless, despite the fact that success cannot be guaranteed anytime, it is also important to develop and keep critical mind. When facing a similar situation we faced by the passed, we should avoid making a copy-paste of previous solutions we applied. Things are less linear than before, and we have to take all the elements of the situation into consideration to implement solutions and action plans. It is part of an efficient learning process.

It is obvious we cannot live in an environment without uncertainty. But by developing a learning attitude, we can create a virtuous circle, where experiences and risk taking contribute to empower our self-confidence. A zero risk environment doesn’t exist, but this virtuous circle will allow us to be creative and to be stronger to face it and to quit more easily our comfort zone.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 8, 2014 at 06:07

Change, responsibility and self-confidence.

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Self-confidence & responsibility, ingredients to feed change?

When change is considered as new opportunities by some people, it is seen as a danger by others. Change is a question of mind and some people are not used to change. But the question to be asked is why there are not used to change. Or maybe why have they no motivation to operate changes.

If we are going back to many years ago, and maybe still today in some public organizations, people were supposed to do their job as it was told to them. They were not allowed to take initiatives or to change some rules. The change was only driven by some managers or responsibles, and the employees were only allowed to do things as it was decided. But is it still possible to manage things in such a way, in a fast moving environment? No, it is not.

The development of technologies has an important impact in term of organization in companies and institutions. Each change of operating mode needs also some changes in term of people management. But in order to drive this changes successfully, people have to be motivated by changes. It is only possible if some conditions are met.

  • Function and job description: people needs to have a clear job descriptions, to have a good picture about their function in the company and the implication of their work within the organization

  • Targets and objectives: Peter Drucker was saying that management by objective works if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time, you don’t. If people know their objective, they can organize their work to reach the objectives.

  • Team spirit: personal objectives are part of global objectives, the objectives of the company, of the organisation. Global objectives can only be reached if people are working together on an organized way. It implies to know how to work, who is doing what. Let us keep in mind that there is no personal success without common success.

  • Responsibilities: By defining a function and goals for each people, you are giving responsibilities. With the development of technologies, where each function requires more skills and capabilities than before, each people is playing a key role, but need to have the feeling that this role is taken into consideration by the management. People assume and are motivated to take their responsibilities if it is recognized by the management,

  • Feedback: Feedback is important. If people are doing mistake or are not going in the direction of the assigned goal, colleagues or management need to give feedback about what is going wrong, analyse the reasons of the mistake, and to discuss about the appropriate actions to be taken. We are learning more from our mistakes than from our successes. It will help people to anticipate potential mistakes and to be more proactive, and to increase the quality of work.

  • Self-confidence: By assigning clear goals, by helping people to reach these goals and by recognizing the added value of their work, people have the feeling to be part of the organization and become more self-confident. This self-confidence will make that they will not hesitate to take initiatives to improve the processes of the organization. It is clearly a win-win situation, where people are acquiring added value and the organization benefits from the work quality of dedicated people.

As we can see, change is not something we can decide in one day. It is not only a question of mind but also a question of culture of the organization. It is obvious that culture is conditioning people, but in a fast moving environment where flexibility become a key factor of success, people can only face revolutions if they are used to work within an evolution process. And in an environment where flexibility and adaptability become important factors of success, it is obvious that people have to be used to work within an evolution process.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

April 11, 2011 at 20:51

When and where do the change begin?

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I was reading recently, this quote from Jack Welch, “Change before you have to”. But most of the time, we notice that people are reluctant to change, and on the other hand, people are claiming when nothing change. How to explain such paradox?

Change is first a question of perception. How can we perceive some changes, some trends coming slowly? If you have a look to a tree in your garden every day, you will probably not see that this tree is growing, but if you are looking to it three months later, you will notice that he grew. The tree grew, but you noticed it suddenly. The perception of change is a shock, it happen suddenly.

Is it because the change is not perceived that people don’t want to change, or because they are scared about change? People only allow to change if they perceive the need to change or perceive the change as an opportunity. If they have no choice or other alternative to a situation, they will be motivated to change. For instance, the development of information technologies has a huge impact in our professional and personal life. Some people are more reluctant than others to use them, because they found this difficult. But at a certain time, they will be obliged to use them, and will probably find this marvelous. Just think how we can communicate over the world via Internet and e-mail, when before you have to send postal mail without to be sure that your correspondent will receive your letter.

Change implies also education. By education, we can understand more things, and perceive the needs of change. By understanding the needs of changes and the consequences of changes, we avoid fear. But by education, people can be concerned by changes and take appropriate actions to face changes. Let us take for example the problem of environment. Scientific studies show that if all the people around the world have to live following the same standards than people in the western countries, we would need three time the natural resources the heart is producing. Each people should contribute to reduce the consumption of resources by changing some habits. Could we obliged people to change their way of live without attempting to their freedom? It is difficult of course, but the people who does not change their habits cannot obliged other people to change their way of life.

Change implies that we have first to admit that we are the actors of our own life, and the actors of the world where we are living. We can not always expect the change from other people. We have to admit too that we have to share the environment where we are living with other people, and that we have to make choices, respectable for the community. It implies that we have to take decisions and responsibilities.

Change implies to break our habits, to break the routine. This change of habits requests some effort. But people are scared to make these efforts, because they are not self confident, things seem to hem impossible to realize. How can we take such conclusions, if we do not try something else, to do things on another way? As for many things, we have first to start with the beginning, to do simple things. Before to climb the Everest, try first to climb on a chair ! Before to have some bias about changes, let’s try first some small changes. Somebody who have a Phd in mathematics had first to study basics of arithmetics. He had to learn and to understand ranges of theorems, of mathematical demonstrations. Step by step, he acquired and expanded his knowledge in mathematics. Like a house you are building by putting stones one after the other.

Can we adapt ourselves to change? Yes, we can do it gradually. As I mentioned before, you can used to accept changes step by step. It requires always an effort to adopt changes, because we have to change our habits. Change is like every exercise; when you are used to it, when you have integrated it, then it is more easy to change, and small changes make place to bigger changes. By changing things in your life, you become more self confident, we are more flexible and adaptable, and we expand our chance to face new challenges and opportunities.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 2, 2011 at 21:07

The art to lose time

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Running after time

Most of the time, we are hearing people saying they have not enough time to do what they want or they have to do. I will not give here a training session of time management, but sometime, we have to think how are we using the “lost” time, because we are thinking always on the same way.

I am thinking about this, when it was snowing few times during this winter, as consequence that  traffic jams were still worse than usual. Every day, people are losing time in their cars in the traffic jams and during that lost time, what are they doing? Nothing! Only increase their stress and lost time.

A particularity in Belgium is that the percentage of company cars is important. Due to high tax level on salaries, companies are giving a company car to some employees as an alternative of salary increase. The consequence of this is that people are using this mode of transportation, because it is free of charges, even if they could take another mode of transportation which could take less time to go to the place you have to go. It is of course costless for the employee, and we could understand the reason he is acting in this way, but certainly not for the employer, for the reason explained before.

It is true also that sometimes, another mode of transportation could take more time than the car to go somewhere, but does it mean that you will lose more time? Not necessarily, but it depends how you will use it. Let me tell you an example. I have a former colleague who is IT consultant. This person has no drive license. It means that when he is visiting his customers, he is using the public transports. When he takes the train to go to a customer located at one hour from Brussels, he has the time to work in the train with his laptop, answering to mails, preparing some documentation, planning his agenda. He reads also books or documentations. By using the time of transportation in this way, he is performing tasks he will not have to do at home on the evening or losing time to do it when he is working for a customer. If you have to cover the same distance by car, you are only driving and not doing anything else. In fact it is a question to use our time on a more efficient way.

By thinking about this, each of us can find some tips to use our time on another way and to increase our quality of life. You will say that it is probably easier to say it than to do it. Of course, each change in our life needs to provide an effort and a period of adaptation. It is a matter of fact we are falling easily in the routine, and we are taking some comfortable habits, moving slowly to a kind of apathy and laziness. But we probably need also some motivation too to change our habits. It is well known that if you have enough time to do something, you will have trend to slow down the rhythm and take more time than needed. This motivation is a part of self motivation first, and also motivation coming from the others. If you want to have time to do sports, social activities, or to spend more time with your family, then you will use your time better, for example by doing some tasks in the train, and not at home. More fundamentally, our attitudes are guided by our ambitions, our goals, our projects, and the middle we are allowing to then.

Picture source: http://www.aufeminin.com/mag/psycho/d2901/c75053.html

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

February 17, 2010 at 19:02

Social economy, the sustainable way ?

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AGRICULTURE-ENVIRONNEMENT-ALIMENTATION-MAG

In Gironde, consumers are financing the installations of a "bio" market gardner for a local direct sale.

Today, the social economy seems to gain interests. The main principle of this concept is to create an economical model showing more solidarity. When I read these words, I am wondering if we are not busy to re-invent what should be the ideal model?

If you think about the economy, it has to be to the service of the people, and not the opposite. By mentionning this, it implies that the economy has a social dimension…or should have it.  But today, the concerns are more to maximize the profit of the companies in order to create value for the shareholders. But for how many time? In these particular difficult times, people lost their jobs. Sometimes, it was the only solution in order to maintain the continuity of economical activity. But we can see also in many countries, increasing difference between higher and lower salaries. When some people could not spend the money they are earning during all their live, other people try to survive.

Do not forget that some people have high responsibilities and need to be paid for. But until which salary level does it still make cense? When I remember by the past, some salaries and bonuses earned by some directors of companies which did not show exceptional performances or falling in bankruptcy, I see that more as an incompetence premium. Everybody would be ready to miss a target of to fail a project and receive a salary or bonus which allows you to have a comfortable live. Where is the risk?

By reducing the lower salaries, how can we ensure an economical growing, if people can not pay for goods or services? By contracting debts? That is what  happened these last years, and created the financial crisis.

We can not create a social environment in an economical desert, but we can not also develop a sustainable economy without a sustainable social model.

Today, it seems we are trying to find new technical solutions in order to re-start the economy, while it is much more a mentality change which needs to happen. Let us take the example of the automotive industry. Today, in order to save this industry and to boost the car sales, many countries are giving allowance to people buying a “green” car. When we know that the automotive industry is in overcapacity since few years and that this industry is producing more with less people than before, this kind of measure will only produce short term effect, but fundamentally will not solve the problem.

In a sustainable economy model, the profit should only ensure the continuity of the company, giving the capability to finance new projects development. The profit is one of the components, the human resource is another. Maintain the number and the quality of the jobs contributes to maintain the know-how of your company. And this know-how is increasing everyday as long as same people are staying in the company. People should not be considered as employee, but as partners of the company. Reduce the people turnover contributes also to reduce recruitment fees and avoid to lose productivity.

To preserve the environment contributes also to a more social environment and develop a sustainable economy. By producing less and recycling more, by developing new activity fields respecting environment, we can develop a social economy giving opportunities to lower qualified people, to contribute to a high valued environmental project. We can already see such programs, gaining successful results.

Personally, I believe that a social economy is possible. It implies innovation and creativity. Creativity does not mean only to invent new things, but also to do things, to think on another way. But such transformation is possible if it is driven by the common good. It is just a question of will and intellectual honesty, to move to a society where people do not exist only by using a credit card.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

November 11, 2009 at 23:16

Posted in Economy

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The wind of change is always blowing.

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The wind of change is always blowing

The wind of change is always blowing.

Last week, I was in France for business purposes. I had to meet the controller of a subsidiary of the group I am working for, in order to fix some technical reporting problems. This manufactory, producing building material, has to face profitability issues, which means a restructuring process. During a discussion about this restructuring process, the controller said that she found a bit amazing when some bankers are asking plans or forecasts for the five or ten next years. Does it still make cense to have such request in a faster moving environment?

When you have a look to the last five years figures of your business and you compare with the plans you did at that time, sometimes, the two pictures have nothing to do with each other. A lot of financial professional are saying that when the budget of the year is approved by the board of directors, there are already a range of obsolete data. Based on that fact, the question is: Can we still make accurate long terms and accurate plans in a faster moving environment?

I would like to compare this with sailing. I often use this picture as comparison.

A few years ago, I was sailing with some friends. Before each trip, before to head for the open sea, we have a range to tasks to prepare the sailing boat. You process a good maintenance to ensure that everything is running well. You have a look also to the weather forecast in order to know the wind speed and direction, you have a look also to specific maps in order to know the tide times and speeds. All these parameters will determine the way you will follow to reach your destination. When these first preparations are done, you are ready to head for the open sea. As you probably know, you have a range of essential equipments to navigate: a VHF radio, a GPS in order to determine your geographical position, a compass to know the direction you are taking, and maybe also other instruments. In some sailing boats, these instruments are very high-tech, sophisticated.

When all these conditions are met, do you think that everything will happen as expected ? First, despite the fact that you have sophisticated equipment on board, it does not mean that it is not necessary to be able to determine manually your position with a sextant. Equipments breakdowns happen frequently, and in this case, it is useful and essential to have alternative solutions. It is not because you have a text editor with a spelling corrector that you do not have to learn orthography.

Another point is the natural parameters. The different natural parameters regarding weather and tides can change too !  If the wind is stronger, or is changing of direction, you will have to recalculate and determine another way. Specially, if you plan to make a long trip, cross over the Atlantic Ocean or a world tour, it is impossible to forecast a so long travel on an accurate basis.

What I mean by writing this, is that you need to pay attention on an ongoing way. Things will probably not happen as you would expect then. You always need to get alternatives in order to be able to act and not to react ! In business, it is the same. We should always think about alternatives, to think about the issues which could appear, and not to think about then when they are, to have a “plan A” and a “plan B”. This means that we have to be creative, to innovate, to improve the different processes, in order to be ready to face difficult situations.

Does it mean that finally the instruments and tools are useless, in sailing as in business ? Certainly not, but it reminds us that they are only tools helping us to take decisions.

Does it mean also that we should not think on a long term basis as things will not happen as expected ? Certainly not too. We need to fix some long term and global goals. The way to achieve then is done with a range of different steps. Some of these steps will probably be modified according to the circumstances, will need to be reviewed, but these changes could also offer added-value opportunities.

Let us keep in mind that, in business, the wind of change is always blowing. There is no certitude, but to have a goal and the wind of change are two essential components to move things forward and to create new opportunities.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

September 20, 2009 at 14:08

Posted in Business

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