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Posts Tagged ‘responsibility

Act as a leader

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“The Key to successful leadership is influence, not authority” – Kenneth Blanchard

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.


Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

February 18, 2013 at 22:22

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 consequences of non-decision

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Influence of people in a meeting

Most of us, we had physical science courses at school, and we learned that inertia is also a power. We can observe this phenomenon not only in physical science, but in other contexts, and such phenomenon has time to time negative consequences. I was reading an article few years ago in a magazine explaining that some negative events are the consequences of wrong decision, and can be avoid. For example, in the tragedy of the “Challenger” space shuttle, engineers were aware about the leakage problems with the boosters and the linked risks, but they decided to take off the shuttle. We know what happened after. If the consequences are known, why do we take the wrong decision?

Most of the time, we have to face a problem, we analyze it and elaborate solutions to solve it. But this problem has to be debated with other partners. In this group of partners, there are people who have more influence than others, who can influence the others. And some of the people will finally accept the decision of the majority

I would like to tell an example of such phenomenon of inertia and the negative consequences of it. A non-profit organization received a donation amounted to 750 thousand euros from somebody who had no heirs, which was a really appreciable amount for this small organization. At that time, the board of directors decided to take advice from a bank and invest that money in quoted shares. They decided also to hire permanent employees in order to develop some projects and to promote the organization. The plan was to cover the needs of the organization with the expected interests revenues and realized gains of the invested capital. But this plan totally failed with the fall of financial market in the year 2002.

At the general assembly I was attending, I received a sample of the annual accounts. I was surprised to see an important loss in the accounts, but what surprised me was that the amount of all the revenues did not cover the salaries costs, and apparently, the board of directors did not take any appropriate measures of action plan to avoid such situation.

My first thought was that this board of director was not competent to ensure the assigned responsibilities. Some of them said that it was the fault of the bank if they lost so much money. We can not agree with such comment, as it is the treasurer or the financial director who is responsible to manage the finance aspects and to take the appropriate decisions. So, my first thought was not so bad, but by discussing with each directors, each of them told me that it was not their own decision to invest the received money in such financial product. I found this attitude very strange, but it showed the temper of these people. If such decision is taken, it is because everybody agree, or because some people does not want to decide and take the same opinion than the others, and because they want to stay pleasant in the eyes of the others. It is also the problem of shared responsibilities. If a group of people have to decide something and by this way have a shared responsibilities, some people will always say that if something fails, it is the fault of the other. Can we consider that such board of directors is competent?

The consequences of this situation is that some employees received their letter of dismissal. And some directors said that it was really a social tragedy, as it was the consequence of the non-decision of other people and not of them.

The question is the following: when we need to have a group of people to take a decision, are each member of the group independent and competent, or are they chosen, because we know that some of them will have the same opinion than the majority? If it is not the case, like in the described example above, we can see what are the consequences of non-decision, and that inertia is a power,…a negative power.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

November 17, 2010 at 23:39

Act as an actor for your career and for the community.

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Actor of your own career and of the community

Recently, I read an article about the lack of doctors in Belgium. In Belgium there is a numerus closus in the universities for medicine studies. Only a limited number of graduated doctors can exercise the profession. This could explain the lack of doctors Belgium has to face. But Jacques de Toeuf, doctor and former president of ABSym (Association belge des syndicats médicaux) has not the same opinion about the problem. Based on statistics, he mentions that there are enough graduated doctors in Belgium compared to the number of beds in hospitals, but the problem is that some of then does not want to work in hospital, does not want to ensure permanencies during the week end, taking care more about quality of their own life instead of the quality of life of patients. And Jacques de Toeuf is wondering if these people, only visiting three of four patients per day, are still able after a couple of year to diagnose deceases, if they still have the competence to do their job correctly. As he mentions, medicine is not the same as to sale “tupperwares”. You do not do it when you want.

By reading this, there are two questions to be asked. What are the values we dedicate to work? Work is, most of the time, considered as a constraint. Some people are doing a job because “they have to work to earn money”, waiting the week end, the end of the month to receive the cheque, the holidays, the retirement, ..the death? In a previous posting, I already talk about the importance to choose the job you want to do, the job you are convinced by. If you are convinced by what you are doing, life will be much more exciting, and you will be able to give the best of what you can do. The motivation is an essential condition to stay on the top of competences. In a fast moving environment, you have to maintain and improve your skills everyday, it takes time, but this time has to be considered as an investment, a essential condition to ensure you a sustainable career. If you do not improve your skills, your knowledge, you will come shortly to incompetence, and the chance to find another job will be thin.This is why to do the job of your dream is so important, and is probably the only good reason to do it. As said Confusius: “Do the work you like to do and you will never have to work during your life”.

What I mentioned before is related to the private sphere. But there is another important question and value, needed to be considered, it is your function in the community. Each of us, through the job we are doing, we have a mission, we have to contribute to the community. If you are responsible for customer service in a company, you will take care that everybody could benefit of a good service. If you are a doctor, you will do what you can do in order to save your patients. We have to consider we are playing a role for the community, and this implies the notions of responsibility, respect and commitment. A doctor has the obligation to do all what he can do to save a life. If he has a conscience, he is aware about his duties, and will not try to escape to it. I am used to say that there are constraints in each job. You are free to choose the job you want to do, but remember that the only existing freedom is the one to choose your constraints.

Commitment to act for the community is a value having to be part of our professional choice. Commitment means to have respect for the others. This means that we have to play as an actor for the community, but we have to be first the actor of our own life, our own career. It is only if you try to build a project for yourself that you will contribute to build projects for the other, with efficiency and concrete results. By doing the job you like to do, your working hours are an investment and not a loss of time, and as each investment, you will have a return on it. If you are a doctor, and if you take care about your patients, then they will recognize your talents, and will probably recommend you to other people. Be an actor of your career, of your life and for the community.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

September 22, 2010 at 20:26