Entrepreneurship

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Your Perspecitves Shape Your Progress

Many times we may feel or meet people who feel overwhelmed with all that is happening in their lives.

This is especially when things are tough – a job loss; a failed relationship; loss of a loved one; insufficient funds to get by; being taken advantage at work… the list goes on.

I learnt from a dear friend and manager that life is a cycle of feasts and famine. We must be able to recognise the good that we have, and celebrate the good times; and when things are not as we would like, recognise it can happen to either make us stronger or prepare us for exciting times ahead.

In doing this, it is useful to remember as the GoodTherapy graphic suggests – it is how we interpret situations and infer meaning that can make us or break us. Moreso, it is how we respond to the ups and downs that can propel us upward or keep us down. At the end of it all, however, one thing we can be sure about. Life goes on.

Life Cycles and Interpersonal Interaction

My dad used to always say, “life is not for one day.” I used to hear it all the time, but never really gave it much thought. Typically, the silent response of, “yeah, whatever,” would come to mind and quickly evaporate along with the advice.

In the past couple years, however, this saying has been coming back to me in a range of scenarios, to the point where i now find myself feeling compelled to remind others, “Life is not for one day.” When i used the quote initially, I thought to myself that despite my best efforts, I am becoming my dad, and thus used the quote sparingly. But the fact is, it can be something useful for us to remember, particularly in the course of our everyday life.

The first time this came to mind I met one of my college (high school in the US) classmates, who became a teacher. Now, of all the people in the world unfit to give instruction to kids, I would say this guy had to be in the top 10. When he told me he was teaching, i quickly and then more thoroughly scanned my memories for a single redeeming quality that could justify his career – but i couldn’t. I told him this and he agreed. “Who would have thought?” he asked, while we both laughed. But it does underscore one iteration of the theme – Life is not for one day – you don’t know what job you would end up in.

One that stood out – there was this one girl who was quite the plastic – having earned a reputation for being condescending to others and arrogant. Some adored her, others despised her, and all took notice. Good looks, high academic performance, preferential treatment wherever she went. She had it all. Individuals of that behaviour profile never held any appeal to me, nor was I particularly impressed, so that our interaction was minimal. She was hot, was all I knew. Imagine my surprise when one day I was helping a client recruit staff for a back-end banking function, and her Resume was given to me with her being the next candidate to be interviewed. I was briefly, and silently amused – wondering what this interview would be like given my client’s temperament and disposition. The interview itself was OK – bland, really. It surprised me to hear what she went through in her work career. It was remarkably unimpressive. I don’t know what other circumstances would have been, but the confidence and privileges did not propel her that much forward. Life is not for one day – the people you hate on today might be your boss tomorrow.

Another iteration led me meeting one of my school acquaintances dressed smartly in uniform – he became a police officer and was enjoying senior rank. I remember he was a really skinny kid who at one point used to be bullied by others from what I heard. My memory of him was sketchy, but was largely unimpressive. “Wow. YOU became a police? Are things really that bad?” was my first response and we both laughed. But there he was, standing with confidence and many pounds added on, protecting the civilian population as was needed. I thought it interesting that one day he could be the one to respond to the distress call of my family or even myself – Thank God I wasn’t part of the contingent who used to bully him. Life is not for one day – you don’t know who you would need to rely on or ask for help.

Today, I was asked to help someone out who had in the past rejected my professional services and was pretty nasty about the entire ordeal. My initial reaction was ‘Payback is a bitch’. But then I began to think that this guy is evidently trying to develop and would definitely benefit from the help. Should I forgive and assist him, even if I cannot forget? I am really not inclined to, considering the tone on which we last met. But I got into consultancy with the focus on helping others. Perhaps that should be the governing factor? Or would an exception in this instance be acceptable, if not justified? I found my deliberations on the dilemma surprisingly short and the answer quite simple – I would help – it would not take much of my time or by way of interaction. And besides…

Life is not for one day – you be good to other people and good would come your way.

Faheem Mohammed is the Managing Director of Professional Alliance Network (Caribbean) Ltd., where he serves as Lead Consultant for Strategy, Leadership and Technology portfolios. He can be emailed at fmohammed@pancaribbean.org

P. S. Some can argue that this is a simplistic and transactional view of interpersonal interaction, but it does help to temper interpersonal interaction in the dynamics of everyday life. Further, consider that internalising this simple reminder does well to reinforce humility and selflessness, and temper arrogance. None of us are invincible. Nor are we completely independent. As we go thorough the ups and downs of this journey, it would be helpful to remember this, internalise it and let it guide who we are and what we do.

Taking the ‘I’ out of Company Decisions

Decision-making can prove a difficult function to perform, sicne it is usually done without the luxury of sufficient time or information. In the context of Entrepreneur-led firms and Central Executives, they become central to decisions – in some cases all the decisions that have to be made – in an environment that may prove less than forgiving.

It is amazing how many Central Decision-Makers (CDMs) overlook the fact that their personal propensities, predispositions and preferences are reflected in their organisation’s strategy.

For example, if you as CDM are personally technology-averse, or don’t put much value on it, I have seen where it is often the case that this paradigm is reflected in the organisation’s systems and processes. It is easy to understand – if I don’t like it, I am not going to be inclined to look favorably on it or entertain too much opportunities for its involvement. This is not to say that I would be opposing it (although some people do feel that strongly about some issues), but more often the case that I ignore or minimise its role and position in my operating sphere.

This I have found to be particularly the case in entrepreneur-led firms, family-owned businesses or other organisations dominated by a strong personality or group-think. Needless to say, these types of firms account for a large percentage of any private sector economy (here’s some interesting data on this from the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council).

It becomes important for CDMs to realise that the decisions that need to be made for the firm have to be distinct from personal preferences. The governing question should be ‘What is in the best interest of the firm – whether I like the answer or not?’ It needs to be recognised that many CDMs envision an organisation that bears their envisioned form and shape – their personal signature, and that is fine. But when the decisions are going to affect the ability to compete, perform or simply survive, the question needs to be asked. If the decision is aligned to personal preferences, then great. As long as the decision is a conscious one and considers the firm’s requirements, then its being done from an informed and conscious position.

Imposing this lens is generally difficult to do, with a thousand things going on across different functions and at different levels. However, it needs to happen for rational decisions to be made and before scarce – and expensive – resources are committed. This is one of the key reasons such firms and individuals access external input and insight – in a B2B context typically from a management consulting practice, or on a more personal level from coaching and advisory services. It serves as a reminder to us in the industry to keep the perspective. It reminds us at panCaribbean of the first of our 5 commitments to each client – to put client interests ahead of our firm’s interests. It proves beneficial to the client to do the same from a personal angle.

Faheem Mohammed is the Managing Director of Professional Alliance Network (Caribbean) Ltd., where he serves as Lead Consultant for Strategy, Leadership and Technology portfolios. He can be emailed at fmohammed@pancaribbean.org