Missed opportunityJun 02, 2023
Have you ever missed an opportunity that is right in front of you, and only realised after the fact?
I distinctly remember one of the first times I was let out on my own to present to a small community where we were developing a new scheme.
It didn’t go well.
It was a remote village of fewer than 10,000 residents, in a beautiful coastal setting. I was so excited to be finally considered responsible enough to take this on, that I didn’t put much emphasis on who I was speaking with and what it was for.
Instead, I blindly put all of my energy into creating what I thought was a powerful deck of slides and presentation boards to pin up. We were passionate about our concept proposal but unfamiliar with the site and the needs of this community.
This is abundantly clear to me now. At the time, however, I rehearsed every word of the presentation with intent, I laboured over the imagery and fretted about whether the boards would have adequate display space.
In other words, I was caught in the weeds, sweating the small stuff.
I arrived with plenty of time to set up. The venue turned out to be a vast, echoing church hall. I delivered my presentation in the exact way I had prepared – curiously. I even remembered to talk about a landscaped community space that we were very proud of. I didn’t stumble over any words and when I asked if there were any questions, I was relieved that there were none.
There was delayed applause and the organiser thanked me for coming.
I quietly packed up the presentation material and set off for home. I was smiling from ear to ear, utterly relieved that I hadn’t messed up the presentation. I began to run through what I would say to my director the next day. You’ll be proud of me, I thought, they didn’t put up a fight.
And then it hit me like running into a brick wall that appeared from nowhere.
Had I honestly just walked away from this community gathering with no knowledge about what they liked or disliked? Had I honestly just talked at them, not pausing for a moment to ask them questions, to invite their feedback?
Had I wasted an incredible opportunity to shape our proposal specifically to meet their needs?
Yes, I had done exactly all those things.
I had nothing to show for my efforts.
Imagine if I’d taken myself out of the equation and instead put myself in their shoes. True, it’s not always easy to position yourself in your stakeholders’ shoes. In this instance, I simply didn’t understand what it was like to live in such a remote location. I was probably the first architect that had presented ideas to them in this kind of forum. But if this was the case, then inviting their stories, trying to understand what it was they were looking for and where they were at, would have been a good result.
I vowed never to waste such opportunities again.
What opportunities might be right in front of you that you need to give yourself the headspace to clearly see?
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