21 January 2009

Are you Opportunity-Minded?

This article originally appeared in Issue 65 of InSight published 21st January 2009


After his elevation from semi-retirement to the Tasmanian Parliament in June last year, I wrote about my Uncle Ross (Butler) in InSight 37 as an example of the new career possibilities available to Australia's seniors.

This New Year's Day, we had a get-together of extended family and in chatting to Ross, it turned out that prior to arriving at our lunch, he had been fulfilling official duties by representing the Premier (the holidaying David Bartlett) in presenting the trophies for the Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race (the small cousin of the more famous Sydney to Hobart Race).

As we chatted about the presentation, he told me that before presenting the prize for first place, he re-counted a short story to the audience of about 100 people, about his younger days when he sailed competitively on the Tamar River (Launceston's major waterway).

He thought the story had gone over well with his yachting audience and commented that with the State Election next year, it was always useful to use these opportunities to make a genuine connection with the audience and leave a positive impression that might just assist when people are casting their ballots in his electorate (Franklin) sometime in early 2010.

As we continued our conversation, I asked him what he does, as a backbencher, with his time when parliament isn't sitting (most state parliament's are only scheduled to sit for between 50 and 60 days per annum). ‘Door knocking' was his reply.

‘You mean walking from house-to-house and knocking on the door to talk to whoever answers the door?' I asked.

‘Yes, that's right' he said.

‘How long do you do that for?' I asked.

‘A couple of hours at a time'

‘How often do you do that?' I was intrigued.

‘As often as I can.'

‘What do you say to people when they answer the door?'

‘I introduce myself as their local Member of Parliament, give them my card, and ask them whether they have any local issues of concern that they would like to discuss with me.'

The conversation continued on further about the sort of issues people raised and how Ross responded and what difference he thought door-knocking made to his chances of being re-elected. A significant amount Ross thought.

After lunch as I was driving back to my parents' house, I considered what Ross had shared with me. Here was a 65 year old man who, through the unexpected resignation of former Premier Paul Lennon, had became a member of parliament at an age when most people of a similar vintage would be fully retired and spending their days in the garden or on the golf course.

It would have been quite acceptable for Ross to have his brief time in the spotlight and fade quietly away at the next election. Yet he was taking every opportunity to put himself in front of his constituents and be bold and resourceful in his communication to them, whether it be to a group of people or one-on-one, in a bid to be re-elected for a further 4 year term.

I used to think I was very opportunity-minded, but I have been put in the sun by my pension-aged uncle!

In this sober, current economic climate, it would be easy to look at all the reasons to be pessimistic or to believe that it's a nightmare ahead for recruiters.

There is no ‘reality'. There is just your interpretation of the environment that surrounds you. Is your interpretation one that is assisting you take positive action or is it an interpretation that has you spin your wheels with despair and negativity?

Consider the following examples:

Negative mindset
Opportunity mindset
Hiring freeze - no work
Maybe they will recruit more temps
Prospects won't answer their phones
I need to ring before-hours and after- hours to avoid gatekeepers and voicemail
My best client's laid off 200 staff - forget them
I'll offer a free resume review service for all redundant staff and then offer to pro-actively market the top 10%
All clients are asking for discounts
What genuine service value-add can I highlight or create, to maintain my fees/margin and distinguish myself clearly from my competitors?

I notice global recruitment powerhouse, Hays PLC, are opening an office in their 28th country, India, this month

Clearly a company doesn't get to be Hays' size (sales of 2.5 billion pounds sterling, 300,000 temp placements and 80,000 perm placements, per annum) and have the courage to make decisions such as entering into a brand new market in tough times, unless they have leaders with an opportunity mindset.

What's your current mindset?

Would people be inspired by your ‘self-talk' if they could tune in to what's running through your head?

Do your daily actions inspire confidence in others that you communicate with daily, both internally and externally?

Not only did I have a very tasty New Year's Day lunch at beautiful Opossum Bay in southern Tasmania, but I was also given a master class in opportunity thinking and action by my uncle.

‘When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.' - Alexander Graham Bell

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