In the year 2000, I prepared for a presentation for the senior management of an organisation on information strategy planning. In order to impress the audience, I stuffed the presentation with ‘cut and paste’ jargons which even me, the presenter did not understand well. It was the last hurdle, before signing a big contract and the audience included the senior most stakeholders from the customer’s side. I started the presentation well, could manage most of the questions from the audience, and when everything was going as per the script, i walked backward and hit the podium, and it fell down with a big noise, along with my self confidence. After that I could not utter a single word, and the rest of the presentation looked totally alien to me, under pressure. We lost the mega order because of me. That was a great and the most expensive lesson I learned ever in my life, ‘Never present anything which You have not experienced either positively or negatively’, and that great lesson helped me to sail through the corporate consulting world, in a successful manner during the past decade.
Temptations are the acid test of your convictions. Yesterday I had a meeting with a multi national customer, who wants me to teach them project risk management and project financing. It is very tempting to say ‘Yes’ to this assignment. Even if I know these concepts, I have not practised them extensively. The financial package is tempting, so is the temptation to prepare another ‘cut and paste’ presentation. Just manage one more show, thats it. If I say ‘Yes’ to it, I may be able to manage it, and at the same time I will never get a standing ovation from the audience at the end of the show. I do not want to start an assignment knowing that I will not be able to do well. So, I am saying ‘NO’ to it, and the benefits of that ‘NO’ are;
1) I know that I have a reputation to loose in the industry, and the risk of loosing that reputation is managed.
2) I will not be cheating myself by pretending enthusiasm about the concepts, I am not that enthusiastic.
3) Every failure pushes me into a bout of professional depression, and I take almost a month to get out it. Avoid it proactively.
4) That client may come back to me with another assignment in the area of my current strengths. A failure can shut the doors to that client forever.
5) It takes integrity for not repeating the mistakes..and I feel good about it.
6) My business partner feels bad about the lost business. He would have felt worser with a failed assignment.
7) I am walking my talk by advocating the power of failing fast, than failing at the last moment.