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Posts Tagged ‘opportunity

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

When a mistake can be an opportunity

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herbie20hancock

Herbie Hancock, a famous jazz pianist.

I watched recently a video of an interview of Herbie Hancock, a great jazz pianist, who plaid with the most beautiful musicians. In this video, he explains that one day, during a concert with Miles Davis, he plaid a wrong accord during Miles solo. He was terrified and disappointed by the wrong note he did, but surprisingly, Miles pursues with a note that was in accordance with his wrong note and took another direction in his solo. It was totally improvised. Such anecdote makes thinking about serendipity, the fact that you get something different than expected.

In the industry, there are many examples of discoveries made by accident. For instance, the company 3M was experimenting glue that should be very resistant. The experience failed and it was the opposite results that the R&D team obtained. The glue was weakly adherent. Somebody saw an opportunity to use that glue, and this is how the post It was born, this small paper peace you can stick on your screen or other support.  What was considered as a failure has been transformed into an opportunity.

Talking about that wrong note and the improvised situation that followed, Herbie Hancock speaks about something that made growth each other. By playing another note to stay in tune, Miles showed he was keeping the dialog with Herbie and created another musical sentence. He was probably aware too that they can only succeed together, or fail together. The first option only was the good one. Such situation teaches about personality of each other and contributes to empower a relationship, and it is the contribution of a strong team spirit, from people who want to build something together.  Complementary skills and the desire to build an original project are the key ingredients of entrepreneurship. Like improvisation in a jazz jam session, a lot of things can happen in an entrepreneurial project, and the capacity of the team to pivot to another plan in function of the circumstances and to catch opportunities, will lead to success.

This nice story has to make think that failure is not definitive as success too. To fail doesn’t mean that you have to restart from zero. Experimenting, trying new things and make mistakes are a necessity to move things forward, to reach new level of knowledge.  Thomas Edison who filed more than one thousand patents, was used to say “I have not failed. I’ve just found then thousand ways that won’t work”. Experimenting and trying many times can only foster the emergence of serendipity, to create opportunities to expand your skills, to meet people and share skills and ideas, to develop your network. It reminds us that success does not come always when alone, that personal success does not exist without collective success.

Last but not least, making mistakes and learning from it contributes to empower your skills but also your self-confidence.  Step by step, you will be used to face new challenges, to push your limits and to face the future with confidence. Don’t forget that mistakes can be opportunities.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

April 4, 2016 at 19:05

The way to success…failure?

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Failure-foundation-of-success-1024x723Success 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.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 15, 2013 at 18:17

Bootstrapping, a way to make stronger businesses?

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IT entrepreneur

Some entrepreneurs unfortunately lost their business or project, because they made it with some investors who wanted to have a certain short-term return on investment level. As the expected return on investment was not reached, the founders of the project were sanctioned by the investors and pushed out of the company.

I read in the Belgian economical magazine Trends-Tendance, the story of three partners who had to face such adventure. These three engineers decided to start a new project, but following a totally different business model. They build a new business in the field of digital imaging, a technology having customers in the medical and aerospace sectors. The major concern of this business was to protect the intellectual property of such technology. The patent price for such technology is expensive, and the three partners have to allocate the major part of the profit of the activity to the deposit of such patent. To reach that goal, the challenge was to make the needed profit, and in this case to do business based on a low cost model. They have no offices. Each of the partners is working at home, having only meetings when necessary. They are using free open sources software, communicating thru free voices over IP systems, like Skype. They have no company cars, and are maximizing their travel with public transport, and eventually renting a car when really necessary. One of the partners explain that to work in such a way has of course an impact on their professional and personal life. It implies to have new habits, but the conclusion is that they keep the control on their business and they are very happy.

By thinking about this experience, we note that these entrepreneurs took the option of bootstrapping. Bootstrapping means that you start your activity or business with limited funds and without partnership with investors. It implies that you will have to contract only the necessary costs to develop your business. In each case, you will consider if there is an opportunity to spare money, or to contract a service or a good for a better price. You will also consider if you can do it yourself. The chance to succeed in such process is linked to the competence level of the partners. What you can do yourself is an opportunity for cutting costs. A partnership with members having different and complementary competences will be definitively an asset. In such process, we can maybe see an opportunity to build businesses with much more added value. As your margin are thin, more attention will be paid to the return on investment of the contracted expenses, and maybe the basis of the business could be stronger. You will probably invest money in tools providing more added values to your project and more return on investment after, instead of investing in a luxurious car, which can bring maybe more appearance but which will not contribute to increase the quality level of your product or your services. With the development of technologies, we can more easily see than before, the level of people competences and services performances. This is what the customer is looking for.

But do not forget that such approach is not always a guarantee of success. Each project needs a minimum of capital in order to be implemented. The lack of capital make that some projects are never concretised. Nevertheless, this way to operate will make that people will probably do business on another way, with long term views contributing to develop a sustainable economy where imagination and creativity will be the motivation and the profit the middle to make the dreams work.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 21, 2011 at 22:25

Perfection or excellence.

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Some of us, we try to reach perfection in our personal as our professional life. Each day, we are trying to make efforts, improvements to reach the perfection. But is perfection reachable, or should not we first define what is perfection?

Perfection is a statement where everything is perfect, up-to-date, where there are no defaults or weaknesses. Is such statement possible? Marc Buelens, Doctor in Industrial Psychology (Ghent University in Belgium) and professor at the Vlerick management school in Belgium said in an article in the Trends Magazine, that you cannot be perfect in each domain of your life at the same time. You cannot be a perfect father if you dedicated most of your time to your professional career. Does it mean that perfection is utopia?

Perfection has not to be seen as a reachable goal on itself, but as a trend we are following to do things. But is it always possible to do things on a perfect way? If it should be, we have to make choices. By wanting to do things on a perfect way, we have to dedicate the necessary time to do them perfectly. It is obvious that we cannot do everything at the same time. We need to set up priorities, which is a constant in our life. Everyday, we need to make choices, implying to take decisions.

But this is of course the ideal and theoretical situation. Everybody knows that things never happen as we wish. If, for instance, you have a job with high level of responsibilities, you are often facing the challenge to deal with different projects, tasks, and to deal with unexpected things. You can of course use the time management techniques to face these priorities and meet the deadlines, by setting priorities, by delegating. But if the available time is limited, will it be possible to reach a quality level closed to perfection?

The question remains how to define perfection. Does the perfection exist? Probably not, but by trying to improve what we are doing, our work, the education of our children, professional and personal achievements, we are trying to reach the excellence. Excellence could be seen as a process, a process of improvement, a process increasing the quality as good as we can. The fact that we have to deal with a range of priorities, will make that everything will not be perfect, as mention Marc Buelens, but if we have a look on what does not work properly and if we take the lesson of failure and weaknesses to improve the way to do things, then we are in a process of excellence. To learn from our mistakes, our failures, is an opportunity to anticipate, to find more appropriate solutions to reach our target on a better way.

Perfection is probably only not a goal, but a trend we can reach by excellence.

 

Infos about Marc Buelens: http://www.vlerick.com/research/db/search.cfm?menu1=93

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 17, 2011 at 21:24

A manager, mentor and creator of inspiring environments.

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A manager, a mentor and a creator of inspiring environment

All of us we probably remember a manager we were pleased to work with, giving us the opportunity to develop talents and to achieve goals. All of us, we can note that when we finished our studies, we only acquired basic knowledge in the discipline we choose. At that stage, things only begin. In an ongoing fast moving environment, we have to learn every day by acquiring useful experience.

What is precisely experience? An efficient experience is not only a range of accumulated performed tasks, but the realisation of projects and assignment with concrete results and the knowledge acquired through the processes. A part of the acquired knowledge is the result of our own question we are putting to ourselves, but also the shared experience and knowledge by our colleagues and managers.

Recently, I put a question about the criteria of a good job. Somebody underlined the fact to work in an inspiring environment as a criteria of motivation, environment where colleagues and managers want to share knowledge with each other, which means a real team spirit, environment where each member want to be part of a collaborative process, and consider only personal success with team success. Everybody can contribute to such environment, but it is the manager responsibility to create it and to make it work. A manager is responsible of a team, with people having several competences and capabilities. The point is to create an environment where the people can demonstrate their talents, and create more added value than the sum of the individual talents. It is important to create a collaborative process, a dynamic where each team member can share knowledge with all the team members, where the seniors can share their own experience and recommendation and teach the juniors. Here I am not only underlying the combination of competences in a team, but also the level of competence and experience of each member. The importance of a balance between seniors and juniors is critical, for the reason that as senior, we do not only acquire knowledge, but we developed also methodology of work through several experiences. Methodology is a key factor in a project, in an assignment. Knowledge answers to what I have to do, but methodology answers to how have I to do it.

The manager has to play a key role in the acquisition of methodology by his team members. It is obvious if he wants to delegate processes and see these processes done on an efficient way. He can reach such results if we share his own experience with his collaborator, giving them the opportunity to work autonomously. Personally, I remember managers advising me and contributing to make me important steps in productivity improvements. They gave me small tips giving influence on my career direction, revealing talents and capabilities.

I think that a manager has to be a mentor, has to inspire and to build inspired and enthusiastic teams. Considering the fact to share knowledge and information, he clearly subscribes to a sustainable and long terms view of the organisation. He clearly understands this quote of Peter Drucker: “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

September 6, 2010 at 22:07