Communication and persistence can make almost impossible assignments happen.

October 17, 2009

Some years ago, I got the project to set up a fish processing operation in Klemtu on the central coast of British Columbia. Some agreement had been made a couple of years earlier, as the whole project started with the set up of fish farms.

For the processing, we needed to not only equip the plant, but also train the staff of this small coastal community isolated on an island with no road connection to the mainland. Therefore, the logistics were quite adverse: an isolated island with about no choice of carriers except the one that had been appointed on a sea that is often dangerous to the point that barges do not even venture on it. The risk was that the fresh fish could be stuck and not be delivered on time. Of course, that would have been unacceptable for our customers, who were located thousands of km away.

When it came to the facilities, the local community was providing for the plant, meaning a very basic building with no specific equipment for salmon processing. In the plant’s yard we had to browse through a pile of old tables and pipes to figure out something. Since volumes were starting rather low, it would not have been sensible to buy automated processing equipment, because the cost per pound of fish would have been horrendous. Further, the isolation of the place would have made any call for a technician about useless, as it would have taken him a couple of days to be on the premises. All the work was to be manual.

The equipment was probably the easiest part, though. We needed to train the staff to modern food production and educate them about to all aspects of food safety and quality, as they had never been exposed to this. Everyone who has dealt with First Nations knows that they are dealing with a number of social issues and poor physical health and condition, unfortunately the result of past colonization and the destruction of their traditional society. As such, this exercise was a great way of merging two worlds and recreating a feeling of community between this village and the international food business including large retailers and food service companies in the US and Canada.

We developed the training program covering all theoretical aspects as well as the practical realities of fish processing. A few chosen crew members were sent to an experienced fish plant to get exposure to modern processing. We set up an exam to have an incentive for the potential employees to study our material. As it appeared the day of the exam, half of the students did not show up and someone explained to me that some felt uncomfortable with writing. Of course, this was an awkward situation and there was a chance of losing some of the workforce, which is not good when that workforce is already limited, and replacement not easy to find. I turned this around by giving only one collective grade. After all, I had repeated so many times that this would be teamwork, what better example could I find to illustrate that than giving the team the grade, instead of individual marks?

Considering how important it is to gut and cut the fish properly, I was more interested in the quality of the work than the productivity at first. Once they would master the technique, we could think of increasing the pace of the processing line. So, we started with the equivalent of half a truck the first day, and the second half for the following day. In a normal plant, a full truck was processed in five hours in those days. I was expecting that our first half load would be done in eight hours at most. The reality came out quite differently. After two hours, the staff got physically tired and I could notice that moment when all the shoulders started to drop. After eight hours, many of the workers went back home because they were tired. We finished the first production day in thirteen hours! The second day was even worse with some people not showing up at all, and it took 23 hours! The situation looked lost. However, my sense of persistence made me refuse to give up so quickly. I re-planned the next round of harvests to be only a third of a truck per processing day. This was the magical number, and from there, our staff was able to work within normal hours, and get more productive, while producing the proper quality. Within two weeks after this, they were able to process a full truck in 9 hours! What a turn-around! As production volumes were increasing, we were able to justify for the purchase of machines to help speeding up the operation and by then we were able to process fish as quickly as any other regular plant.

As time went by, some of the locals showed capacities to take charge of more and more things, and even the original agreement was clearly that management activities had to be carried out by non-locals, we created several positions that they could fill successfully.

Yet, beyond the business case, the most valuable experience for me had been to see activity coming back in a community plagued by 80% unemployment before this project started. Getting work did not only give them money, but it helped them become healthier, with many of the employees recovering from diabetes. The most important of all was a boosted self-esteem, as they found a new purpose in their lives.

They felt successful, happy and fulfilled again!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The ten signs that people are happy at work

October 9, 2009

In no particular order, people who are happy at work show the following symptoms:

  • Happy at work!They are happy to go to work; they do not suffer from stress or fear about it.
  • They smile and laugh at work.
  • They greet and interact socially with their colleagues.
  • They are rarely on sick leave, only when it is serious.
  • They do not think of leaving their employer.
  • They talk positively about their work, their boss and their company.
  • They bring new ideas to their colleagues and boss.
  • They have little physical or mental need to take a vacation; they are not burnt out.
  • They do not gossip and they do not do office politics.
  • Last, but not least: they are happy in their personal lives, too.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Just be yourself!

September 14, 2009

This is a prerequisite if you want to grow and be happy in life, as well personally as professionally.
Although it would sound like an easy thing to achieve, too many people seem to have difficulties getting there. Many internal and external reasons can explain that, but it is always possible to change for the best.

If you are not a superhero, it is OK

If you are not a superhero, it is OK

Why is being yourself so important?
Quite obviously, if you are not yourself, then who are you? Just this question makes clear that it will difficult to know who you are. If you think you are some of your role model, realize that s/he probably was him/herself, and that is why they got in that position of role model.
Moreover, if you are playing being someone else (like the example on the right), you will miss the opportunity to genuinely improve yourself and achieve higher fulfillment in life.

How can you be yourself?
This can take more or less time between people to find out, but it is possible and not that complicated. All you need is to have people you trust to give you candid feedback. You have to understand that even the most popular people are not perfect and that they have their insecurities as well. An easy way of discovering yourself it to find what you like most and what you like less in life. Capitalize on your assets and limit your liabilities. Accept your limitations and enjoy your talents! After all no one is talented in everything, and all you need to be happier is to do what you do best and like it. To find out who you are and to be yourself, you are just going to need to determine how much will, dare, capability and knowledge you have.

Deal with other people’s judgment!
Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion about other people, and most of the time it is based on very partial information. Most disputes are the result of a lack of communication, not of knowing each other well. I often tell the same joke about how lucky I have been in life to meet only great people who unfortunately for them all have seemed to be surrounded by idiots.
Realize that you cannot please everyone, and whatever you may do and whoever you maybe, there always will be someone out there to criticize you. The only feedback that counts is the one from people who really know you well, and that you trust enough to give you their opinion. Such an exercise is not about passing or failing, but it is about self-knowledge and possibilities of improvement. True friends will not shoot you down. In this exercise, they will tell you what you could be better at.
Also realize that it is better to get some bad feedback on who you really are than on whom you trying to be, because in that case, the information is useful for you.
If you find difficult to accept yourself, you need to consider two things. First, you are not the only person who feels that way; a large of majority of people tends to underestimate themselves. Secondly, most people have much more potential than they think; all they need is to take more chances. You need to show the world what you can.
Finally, always make sure that you are the one deciding for yourself. Peer pressure and your social environment, not even to mention marketing and the media have a very powerful impact on how many people think they should be. It is not to them to decide about that. Dare to challenge them. Also, realize that people who are themselves always attract compatible people, thus making their lives more interesting and fulfilling.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Are you living your dreams?

September 3, 2009

Dreaming your lifeFrom early childhood, we all have had our ideas and dreams about how life would be later. You know, when I grow up, I want to…
Yet, later in life, many people seem to have forgotten about these dreams or, worse, they have given up on them. This is sad, because there are not many things that can energize and motivate you as the pursuit of something very dear to you: being the person you always wanted to be.

Personally, I have been blessed with supportive and open-minded parents. They always encouraged me to pursue what I really wanted to do, if that was indeed good and important for me. The fact that they also taught me boundaries made such encouragements even more stimulating: if they supported me, I knew that it was because what I was aiming at was worth it. Consciously going after something meaningful is one of the most motivating things I can think of.

This has allowed me to be aware of my personality and of my possibilities at a young age, which made it possible for me to decide much of how my life would be like. Like everyone else, there have been bumps on the road once in a while, but knowing what I wanted always helped keep the course, and that has brought me lots of satisfaction and the privilege of living quite a few of my childhood’s dreams.
As I grew a little less young, I also discovered that dreaming is a work in progress. It is nice to pursue your childhood’s dreams, but sometimes, circumstances change, or the dreams appear to not be as realistic or sensible as they seemed first, and we left them aside. That is not really a problem as long as we keep the ability to keep envisioning who we want to be. With age comes more experience, more self-awareness and this is why it is never too late to think of what we want to be later. This process has nothing to do with any mid-life crisis, as that is something else, which is not about dreaming about the future; it is the mourning of the past.

I have been lucky to live most of my youth’s dreams and it has brought me to where I am today: a happy and fulfilled man who wants to make it possible for others to experience the same. It has made me able to look at my life in a dynamic manner and constantly think of how and in what I can grow further, and the ideas keep coming.

Who you want to be is the mix of what you love to do, what you do best, what your values are, and of where and with whom you want to make this happen.

The worst thing to do to oneself being not to try at all, and regret it for the rest of one’s life, the question that you must ask yourself is: Are you living your dreams?
If not, what happened then? More importantly, what are you going to do about it? Can you think of better objectives today, thanks to a better knowledge of yourself? What is keeping you from trying, and how can you overcome such hurdles? It is only by trying over and over again that one succeeds.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The Life Plan will help you increase personal fulfillment

August 4, 2009

Your level of happiness or fulfillment is generally a direct consequence of how much you live your life and live in an environment that matches your values.

Here at The Happy Future Group, we have developed our Life Plan program (see the presentation under “Personal Programs“) to help you identify how balanced your life and your values are, and from there we help you build your own specific action list.

The process is simple. To identify your values, you will confront your own findings with some of your friends’ assessment of what truly drives you. Involving trusted friends to participate makes this process more fun and more rewarding. It also avoids this search to feel like a questioning, and at the same time, it will give you a much more objective feedback. After all, every person is who they really are, but also whom they show and who others think they are. By reducing the discrepancy between these three apparently different persons, your level of happiness will naturally increase.

By assessing how much fulfillment the different parts of your life match your core values, you will get your own “fulfillment index”. From that index and its analysis, it will become rather easy and obvious what actions you will need to take to increase your level of fulfillment.

The philosophy of the action list is all about incremental improvement. Consider your current life as being the ground zero. Each action when completed will help you live more to your values, and therefore you will achieve progress one step at a time. The timelines are the ones you feel comfortable with. All you need is to fully commit to the process. Should you “soften” a bit, we will help you remember what you promised yourself to achieve.

All you need to complete this process to success is to have the willingness to make it work, to be yourself and to spend the necessary time and energy.

To be happy, you do not need to go up the mountain to find yourself. It is all here and now, inside and around you!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The confusion between perfection and excellence

July 2, 2009

Always betterWhen hiring people, I have heard many times their claiming to be perfectionists, either as one of their top three qualities or one of their top three “weaknesses”. Actually, it has always sounded to me like everyone wants things to be “perfect” all the time.
On the other hand, I very rarely have heard anyone mentioning the word “excellence”. This is strange, because many of the “perfectionists” are not really looking for perfection, but they simply want to do an excellent job.
So, what is the difference between the two terms? Actually, it is very simple. Since nobody can define what perfection exactly means, perfection cannot be attained, and therefore should not be set as a goal. On the contrary, excellence, because it is a dynamic and relative concept can be translated rather easily into performance objectives that can be quantified.
Perfection is the quest of an abstract absolute, while excellence is the desire to constantly improve. Therefore, the so-called perfectionists can be split into two groups: the bitter idealists and the driven achievers.
Members of the first group are easy to identify, as they are never satisfied and always have to criticize or blame something or someone for the according-to-them unsatisfying performance. What is also remarkable is that they never seem to make mistakes and they are in never the cause for any problem. They tend to have a negative attitude and they never are happy.
Members of the second group are quite different. They, too, are difficult to satisfy, not so much because performance is below expectations, but because they see ways of doing better or of having been able to do better. Their attitude is generally positive and they are always ready to go again to improve things. Their main motivation is to do beat the previous record and certainly to always beat the competitors. They also do not waste their time blaming, justifying or criticizing, and if they realize that they performance is not good, they will feel mortified and they will take action themselves to correct the situation and meet their goals. Their drive and their knowledge that tomorrow is the other day when they will do better keeps them optimistic, happy and stimulating.
So, if you want superior performance, choose your group! Be enthusiastic, shake things, never give and deliver the goods! Do not focus on why things went wrong, bring solutions and fix the problems!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Take control of your time!

June 23, 2009

As such, time management is quite simple and yet many people seem to have a serious problem with it.
What counts the most for an effective management of your time is to have control on what happens or can happen during your day.
Juggling all the timeThe best way to achieve this is to make a short plan of the activities you want to be done before the end of the day. Remember that failing to plan is planning to fail.
Next to that, you also need to create the conditions to be able to carry out this plan. This means that, although you need to be flexible and adapt to some change of plans, you also must not forget about your priorities. Assertiveness is quite useful for this, because very often disruptions come from other people asking something from you. Be helpful to them, but also make them understand that their request will have to fit in your schedule just as well. Sometimes you will be able to accommodate your own priorities this way, and sometimes you will have to accept that their request comes first. Nonetheless, always try to negotiate an acceptable give and take.
Another important part of effective time management is to not get distracted by unnecessary and useless activities. How many people seem to have the need to check if they have messages on their cell phones or on their email? There is no point about checking obsessively every other minute. Turn off the device and focus on what you need to do. Sometimes, isolation is the most effective way of completing your to-do list.
Remember that the best reward for your effort and discipline is that all the things you had to do are done. They are off your agenda, and this is one of the greatest feelings there is: mission accomplished!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.