Not that! Avoid chasing fantasies!

I, umm, slipped?

Earlier today I had the opportunity to decline to make an offer, and I took it.

It felt pretty good, actually… since I have not always done that in my career.

With a lifetime as a consultant, I have felt an obligation to learn ahead of my client and to make quick assessments of my ability to take on more than I have handled in the past.

For a long stretch of my career, that has included teaching technical subjects through formal instructor-led training.

I often had the opportunity to study and play with technologies in ways my clients could not… if only because they had “day jobs” that consumed their available time.

Being a full-time traveling instructor gave me a lot of hotel time, flight time and time in-between classes to study, invent, test things out and learn in the process. Now, I should add that my first company was a training company, and we often looked for marketable courses that would be unique and drive premiums.

Oh, and I was younger then, and the choice of technologies was one of a few client/server platforms, one of a few databases… and the Internet was not enabling advancements as quickly or in quite the same way as it is today.

Anyway, there was an opening for me to make a training offer today, and rather than jump at it I referred my client to another company that provides formal training on the topic instead.

My team could give on-the-job training, or even an ad hoc session or two… we may still do that, but in my past firm we might have jumped right into developing formal courseware and offering open enrollment courses as a result of this kind of “opportunity”.

One of these guys needs a barber less than the others.

In my thinking, an opportunity is a situation with a real structure and real properties to take care of my concerns. So:

  1. A barber is not an opportunity for me because I have very little hair (no concern)
  2. My fairy godmother is not an opportunity for me… well, because I don’t have one (no real properties)
  3. The lottery is not an opportunity for me because I don’t play it (no structure to produce the outcome)

Back to my current situation… we don’t have the courseware, we don’t have years in the classroom teaching this material, and we have no intention (strategic coherence) to begin offering training at this time.

So you can sometimes see “opportunities” right in front of you, but it is critical to make assessments of their strategic coherence to your plans and offers, as well as your ability to make them real and exploit them for your success.

If you don’t, you will waste a lot of time, energy, money and lost “real” opportunities chasing after fantasies that can never help you succeed.

Have you chased after “false opportunities” before? How can you recognize them? What ways can you see that you might take a situation like that and create a different kind of opportunity from it?

About ken
Creative insights, passion and technical adrenaline - strategist, agile coach and marketer, providing a good life for wife of 20 years & 2 awesome teenagers!

2 Responses to Not that! Avoid chasing fantasies!

  1. bfmooz says:

    Sometimes the best opportunities are gained by deflecting opportunities. Speaking from the customer point of view, one of the challenges that we run into more often than we would like are what I call the “non-consulting consultant”. When looking into the face of unknowns and placing certain reliance on the experts, it is just as important to be told no as it is to be told yes. I’ve encountered many a consultant that simply would do anything that we requested to do with no questions asked. While this serves to keep the customer happy, it always seems to lead to much more difficulty down the road. Unfortunately in today’s competitive market there is a lost art to being able to objectively look upon a request from a customer and have the nerves to explain to them that what they are requested could be better served by choosing a different approach, but ultimately it’s what drives both value and respect.

    • ken says:

      That makes sense. It may be similar in other fields, but in the IT industry I have had many employees and coworkers who just want to help so much that they struggle to decline making the offer. Some even take on way more than they can handle, killing themselves nights and weekends to fulfill on promises. They don’t see the damage to their own health and stress, and when they ultimate cross the boundary between what simply isn’t possible to do with the time and energy they have, they often fail to realize the full impact of their broken promises… and how that is the opposite of what they had intended from the start.

      Oh, and though I wrote that as if referring to others, I know I have been there, too. Vendor or customer, nobody really over-commits… they just over-promise to the point where we cannot really hold what we thought was a commitment.

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