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You must have heard many times of the term "premature success."
Well, there's also what I call premature failure.
Premature failure is when you just started to fail and not when you have failed and tried hundred of times but didn't find an ounce of success or simply an opening for a reiteration.
Premature failure is giving up way too early when in fact, the pains of any early startup or journey or first few steps are always longer, harder, and perseverance-required than in any other stages. It is just what it is. An indication of something that must be done, evaluated, and relaunched again.
Realistically our concept of failure is flawed in a sense that we always have high expectations of our initial actions. We allow this momentary discovery elude us of the benefits of the real results that come after many tries and retries.
We see a well-polished book and we thought that the author must have written it in one go while watching Netflix or a new app that we install in our tablets and phones had been imagined and developed with a matter of months just by talking to friends. We seldom see the behind the scenes of product development of many companies whose tasks is to lower customer barriers to acquiring, using, and marketing their product for them. We often don't look at how the after-office hours of business would look like when this means revamping everything that they think great about their product to build a better one. Start-ups know this by heart. But the non-profit sector doesn't, not even those who are serving a purpose-centred mission.
There is an idealistic notion that they should be successful at their campaigns because they have lofty goals. That the public should be donating more, supporting more, the government giving more budgets because the needs are greater and that squares a lot of the wrongness in society. When that didn't happen, they blame it externally rather than look within their own limitations.
Honestly, this idealism leads to regular failure. Regular failure is what we need. Regular failure is premature failure. Regular failure becomes the necessary ritual to attain the next level of competency.
The culture in the purpose sector should be stripped away from idealism to pragmatism. Regular failure is under appreciated. Premature failure is not the time to make a direction-changing course of action yet.
Ask more questions and listen attentively to market signals. Go back to the drawing board and recalibrate. Stay in the learning mode until you get it right. And when you get it right, do you really want to change course?
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There is a level of productivity that is satisfying and brings joy to everyday work.
Once this is overdone, this perpetuates self-doubt and thoughts of self-insufficiency.
When you overprepare, whether it's a speech, a writing, a major presentation, or whatever that brings out fear, this means that you're not actually addressing it but using overpreparation to cover up that fear. It all boils down to self-esteem issue.
Fear dilutes the satisfaction of productivity and in this case, preparation.
Preparation starts in the mind and emotions. Going to a room full of strangers with a very difficult decision to make, prepare mentally and emotionally. Imagine what could potentially transpire and think of alternative ways to get to the bottom of the issue.
There is such a thing as overpreparation. I have overprepared one time and looking back at the videos, a little bit of spontaneity and spunk could bring more lightness to my presentation.
When you have done your best to prepare, relax and enjoy some thing else. Don't focus on it day and night.
The muscle will surely remember what to do when the time comes. The rest is just being yourself and showing no qualms about it.
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THE BOOK IS A PROCESS
I had just released my first commercial book.
Yes, it's a big achievement. It's a cause for celebration.
Some call me lucky. Others tell me, "You had come a long way."
Some said, that I should start paying tribute to the people who helped me along the way.
They're very happy for me. I'm pleased that they're happy for me.
But this book, like any other things in life, is part of a process.
The book is a product of that long process. For me, it took me two decades of sharpening that process- the wisdom, discipline, lots of lessons learned, and eventual putting it down to bring more value out there for others to partake.
Like any other process, it was a product of other processes that came with, my consulting business founded in 2013 but operational in 2014. The business grew in 2015 and cocooned to accommodate my personal vicissitudes. Back in 2018 soft launch and massive work thereafter to grow where I am now. It followed by creating value and ensuring quality every step of the way. I means late nights work, weekend work when my baby was with the in-laws, meeting potential clients, lots of networking, pro-bono work, writing while cooking, cleaning, and chasing butterflies, and enjoying the ride. I also learned magnificently.
Life is about failing well and coming back up to straighten one's paths. To all of you creators, you know what I'm talking about.
Cheers for this first book, cheers to many more, beautiful and valuable creations.
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NEED A TUNE-UP?
Do you always get a notice in the mail for your next car maintenance works? I do. Engine tune-up, wheel adjustment, tire pressure test, change oil, battery check, air filter, to name just a few. Depending on the vehicle, its age, and the uses, other more comprehensive checks are needed every year.
Ordinary people will not complain about this: they want to ensure that the car usage is extended, safety issues are addressed, and of course, avoiding paying for exorbitant repair costs when these issues are ignored.
This is the same as your organization. You might be cruising along fine. You might be focusing on some areas and delaying or ignoring other issues that beset your staff, your stakeholders, your financial health, and overall effectiveness in delivering your services. Most of the time, changes in policies, rules, and regulations, how the 'game is played' change drastically. Newer forms of public engagement, research, evaluation, policy advocacy, cross-sectoral work are now unfolding. Are you leading these change or are you playing a catch-up?
We are leaving the pandemic era in a much slower phase while considering that stronger infrastructures and systems must be put in place in organizations, communities, and systems to benefit from stress, shocks, and pressures. In reality, the on-purpose sector seems to be lagging behind in #beyondresilience.
For those who are hugely successful during the pandemic, one thing stands out. They never let a good crisis cripple them. It made them stronger and more robust. It kept them on their toes. They continue to improve and push the envelope when it comes to impact without ceasing. Regular tuning up is not an obligation but a necessary exercise to achieve excellence without breaking your wallet.
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CAN'T WAIT FOR THE OPPORTUNITY
Today's news is tomorrow's archive.
If you're waiting for the right opportunity, it might pass you by without you making sense of it.
Fortunately, the world will not stop to pick you up when you're ready and willing.
I believe that opportunities are disguised as conundrum- these are confusing and difficult problems to solve. I saw with my own eyes, how purpose-driven organization turned their world upside down because they saw massive opportunities during the pandemic for their members, the least of these members. I observed how customer-driven organizations refuse to let their excellent track record be affected by the remote work during the crisis. I know personally that some small businesses are not cutting costs but instead, expanding value to their community even more.
These are opportunities. Another kind of opportunity is what you imagine and create for yourself. Waiting sucks! I have been mentoring a newcomer professional for a number of months and I can say that she's not waiting in her room. She is busy getting out there, creating opportunities to network and link up, and building her credentials so that she can land the job she dreams of! She is physically, emotionally, socially, and financially buffing up! What a great attitude can do?
It's not cosmic alignment or a question of luck or maybe a great break, it's the everyday readiness that springs you forward. When the opportunity is at hand, I get ready for the next.
What are you readying for?
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ON BECOMING DIFFERENT
So many people want to make a difference but very few are capable of being different from the rest.
By now, people should understand that there is no Big Brother, somebody to validate their every move, approves them, and tell them they are on the right path. It's an imagination.
Besides, the vast majority of the Earth's population are dreaming with their eyes wide open. Instead of living for a purpose, they live based on what's comes to them. If you're life is performative, who needs an audience?
With the current Ukraine crisis, we know that this didn't happen overnight. Many years of hostility preceded this and both sides are guilty of violating the trust and blatantly eroding any civilized manner of diplomacy. The road to peace is littered with good intentions but bad consequences.
Independent thinking is a breath of fresh air in an environment where conformity is more favored than an inquisitive mind. Standing up against the mob is an active protest in itself. But you need a better strategy than just a moral action.
Whether you're in the Board room or in your shop or working in the on-purpose sector, becoming different is not pushing hard on certain agenda or being rough on others. It means standing for your values and principles, standing up for your organizational values, and standing up for purpose-driven impact. The consequences of doing these actions can be great but being compliant without understanding has dreadful effects too. Know what you are capable of doing. Act with integrity.
That's the way to making a difference in your cubicle (or home-office).
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THE 10% GROUP
In the on-purpose world, we still have organizations stuck in the twentieth-century thinking that the public donors do not want to pay for administration. Websites of many of these organizations are proud of declaring that they only get 10% for administration, the rest to core programming. Many think that it's larceny to allocate more than 10% or to some extent bad practice to ask for more.
What we can glean from this based on leadership and management perspective, these organizations have no
- capability of building up and strengthening their core processes
- capability of securing and retaining great talent- a must to survive and thrive!
- capability to build strategically for the future
- see themselves as sacrificial conduits with their begging bowls every year
- always uncertain, tentative and highly disrupted by the larger forces around them
- cannot stand up for their principles, values, and commitments
They maybe good with their programs but they're not sustainable and even effective in the long run. If you're not taking care of your own house, how can you be the most charitable for all?
Don't compromise your organizational sufficiency in the altar of public legitimacy.
At the next blog, I will share some of the strategies to get away from the 10% group.
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ADMIT YOU NEED HELP
I have seen first-hand how on-purpose organizations refuse to get help when they should, not when it's too late to do so.
That moment is like the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOM) when executives have to make the decision to get good and fast help in the hope to turn the tides for their benefit. As the saying goes: "In moments of weakness, don't make a decision. In moments of strength, take the best decision."
I would like to add to that. The real value is asking and admitting that you need help. That is the first sign of courageous leadership. Knowing when to do is a sign of better sense-making. And taking action by talking to able and wise mentors, coaches, and advisers or even with peers, is a sign of prudence and wisdom.
What's preventing them from seeking help? It's not the lack of resources, budget, or capacity to take new things or learn new things. It's the ego that's preventing leaders from taking new ideas because they think that theirs is the greatest, or they have nothing to learn or they can never fail. Sometimes, they just don't want people to know their issues. Most of the time, it's the low risk appetite.
If your working in organization that refuse to look themselves in the mirror and ask difficult questions, don't enable this and don't go with the flow. You can start asking for help and getting the help you need!
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DON'T AUDITION FOR YOUR FUTURE
Leaders and managers, stop auditioning and lead boldly.
There will not be an announcement saying, "You're next to promotions, here's the baton." It is up to you to figure it out. At the end of the day, the best leaders and managers do not wait for an external green light signal. Most often, I find in my 20+ years of career in jobs and consulting, that it's always too late.
Waiting for the green signal from others leave you more vulnerable to external validation and external success metrics imposed on you. It is better to trust your judgement and keep on building your competencies. The right opportunity will come and when it comes, you're ready for it.
In matters of decision-making, the same principle follows. Don't explore a certain future with the intention to seek out certainty. Explore your organization's future with the intention of embracing ambiguity and being effective at cruising along such complexities in your strategic environment. Ambiguity is a friend, not an enemy to curse or throw rocks at!
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DON'T BOOTCAMP IT
The funny thing about start up boot camp is that it's just a boot camp.
It simulates real-life struggles, pains, and turmoil but can barely do so without either running out of steam or funding.
Start ups who are cocooned in this type of environment believe that it will always be easy, there are answers to almost everything, and that with the right technique you can have it all in quick time.
In business and in life, there are many uncontrollable factors and under time pressure, funding pressure, and impact pressure, few entrepreneurs make it without the emotional, psychological, and physical trauma and strains of keeping with the program.
The biggest take-away that a boot camp can do is to let entrepreneurs learn on their own without the grants, supports, networks, and prized monies. What will that look like?
Strip away all the prestige and glamour attributed to entrepreneurialism, it's really about marshalling whatever you have, rather than aiming and getting to their best position.
Bird in hand...