Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Do You Have A Healthy Relationship With Opportunity?

Opportunity.

It’s one of a handful of words which on its own can inspire hope and the sense that we might be one step closer to reaching those personal goals we set out for ourselves.

Opportunities also serve as the driving force that pushes organizations into pursuing new territory, in the hopes of discovering potential new markets for their products/services to boost stagnant or declining revenue shares.

It’s no doubt the reason why we find it so hard to say “No” to new opportunities because of the inherent belief that any opportunity which crosses our path is an open door leading us one step closer to our objectives.

Although we spend so much time talking about seeking opportunities, we rarely consider the importance or value of the quality of the opportunities we’re offered. That’s why most of us approach opportunities from the vantage point of “if we don’t accept it or if we pass this up, what will we lose?”

Perhaps a better question we should ask ourselves when such opportunities arise is “what will we gain through accepting this in terms of reaching our goals?” Other equally important questions we should begin asking are “what future opportunities could we miss out on because we committed our resources to this process?” and “is this the most direct route to where we want to go?”

Making the effort in shifting our attitude from simply seeking opportunities to evaluating what we’d gain from pursuing that option is especially important for organizations, which are currently grappling with growing concerns over losing their key talent as the global economy improves and opportunities for their employees being to appear elsewhere.

While organizations should consider measures that will prevent the loss of their top talent, leaders must also reconcile the reality of balancing opportunities which best serve their employees, and those which best serve their organization as a whole. After all, whether we’re talking about an individual or an organization, we all want to achieve something. And so the question becomes how do these opportunities help us to accomplish what we’ve set out to attain?

The other thing we need to be aware of is that true opportunities are those which address head-on some of the obstacles which lie directly in the path of our goals. As such, leaders need to ensure that they understand what obstacles stand in the way of their employees’ professional goals so that they can provide them with opportunities of real value. Simply claiming that a new position or approach is an “opportunity” doesn’t make it so, especially if it veers us off on a tangent and not directly towards the goal we set out to reach.

Perhaps Thomas Edison said it best when it comes to understanding the true nature of opportunity:

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

If the economic forecasters are right, a period of growth and new possibilities lies ahead for many organizations. The only question that remains is if those opportunities will be the best ones to help us achieve our goals – whether they be personal ones or those we have for our organization.

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15 Comments
  1. On February 21st, 2011 at 2:41 PM @drewhawkins said:

    Really liked the insight here on opportunities. Just because one arises doesn't mean it's one we should jump on. There's a lot of purpose in seeking out opportunity value for the best return. Well said Tanveer.

  2. On February 21st, 2011 at 4:09 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Drew. Glad you enjoyed this look at how we should reassess our perception of opportunities.

  3. On February 23rd, 2011 at 10:40 AM Mitch Maloney said:

    Tanveer,

    I agree that a person in sales, such as myself, has to temper their enthusiasm regarding a possible opportunity to ask the questions how this might affect the rest of their business mix and equally important, will the company pay on time for proper cash flow. Then, again, it's nice to have more opportunities to evaluate once more.

  4. On February 23rd, 2011 at 1:03 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Mitch; glad you enjoyed this. I would counter, though, that as with most things, it’s not the quantity of opportunities that we should be driven towards, but their quality in terms of reaching the objectives/goals we have for our efforts/collaboration.

    Thanks again, Mitch, for adding your thoughts to this discussion.

  5. On February 21st, 2011 at 6:01 PM Gwyn Teatro said:

    Hi Tanveer,

    As usual, this is a very thoughtful post.

    For me, the word “opportunity” is in serious danger of becoming a buzzword. It is a word that suggests progress and bettering a current position but as you so rightly point out, not every “opportunity” when taken, will result in progress. And so, it requires more serious consideration than we are often prone to give it.
    One of the questions I have learned to ask when faced with such an “opportunity” is this. “If I say ‘yes’ to this, what am I saying ‘no’ to?”
    This speaks to your point about balance. Saying ‘yes’ to everything as it comes our way means that we are implicitly saying ‘no’ to something else even if we don’t consciously choose to consider it.

  6. On February 22nd, 2011 at 11:25 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Gwyn,

    I absolutely concur that “opportunity” is edging closer to becoming the latest buzzword, one reason why I felt compelled to write this piece. I think part of this is due to the reports that the economic doldrums are coming to an end and people are naturally eager to jump in and kick start their efforts again.

    Naturally, such a vantage point makes any opportunity look like the gold ticket to getting back on track, something I see as creating more problems than benefits down the road. As you pointed out, we need to add pauses in our day to ponder what we’re giving up by saying “yes” to a new opportunity instead of simply pushing ahead because any momentum is better than none at all.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Gwyn.

  7. On February 22nd, 2011 at 3:46 PM Alain Theriault said:

    Alan Fine, author of "You already know how to be great" says that interference is our greatest obstacle in becoming "great". Opportunities can easily become interferences. Make us lose focus on our goals, add complexity to the task at hand. For managers in big corporations, the company culture can serve as guidelines or guard rails against losing focus but for entrepreneurs at the helm of an SME, an "opportunity" can be just a bright new shiny gadget out there.

    I believe "opportunities" don't exist by themselves, it's what you make of a situation that you turn into an opportunity, and that takes exactly what you imply…taking time to think it over. In personal productivity lingo, Important but non-urgent matter 🙂

  8. On February 22nd, 2011 at 10:38 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Alain,

    You bring up a good point about entrepreneurs and the trouble with filtering opportunities through the proper perspective. When you garner the attention of a potential client or possible partnership, it's easy to get lured in to the "opportunities" it might give rise to. But again, this is where we need to evaluate not only what we'd gain, but also what other opportunities we might miss out on by taking that leap. If anything, I think entrepreneurs especially need to take those moments for reflection and review to heart because they do end up putting so much on the line.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this, Alain. And it's good to see you here on my blog again.

  9. On February 24th, 2011 at 10:34 AM Alain Theriault said:

    Entrepreneur are so much into "urgent" matters that one of the most difficult task for them is to "spend" time on non-urgent but important decisions". You are right my friend.

  10. On February 22nd, 2011 at 9:05 PM Robyn McMaster said:

    Had an opportunity to go to Vietnam to teach graduate business students. But there was a hitch. The person in charge of the program had an old fashioned mold she wanted me to fit. As a change agent and working the last fifteen years to develop more of a "guide at the side approach," I felt that this was not the opportunity for me. It was lucrative and I really could have used the money, but it was not worth going the opposite way of all I have been working to accomplish.

  11. On February 22nd, 2011 at 11:15 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    That's a great story, Robyn, and a perfect example of how not all opportunities are created equal or are the best fit for us in terms of reaching our goals. There's no question it's not easy nor is the right answer necessarily obvious. But that's why we need to rethink how we view opportunities so that we can appreciate when they help us reach our goals and when they might steer us off course.

    Thanks again, Robyn, for sharing your story. It's good to see you here on my blog.

  12. On February 26th, 2011 at 12:07 PM Jim Matorin said:

    Another rock solid post Tanveer. One addition thought this morning. Sometimes the opportunity is right there staring us in the face as in something that is not right that needs to be fixed, a problem in need of a solution. Easier than doing all the due dillengence associated with identifying/brain storiming new opportunities. I think of James Dyson.

  13. On February 26th, 2011 at 3:43 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Jim; glad you enjoyed this piece. James Dyson is a good example of my point about how a real opportunity is defined by how it helps to remove an obstacle that’s in the way of our achieving our goals. In Dyson’s case, he realized the problems people had with effective vacuuming of their carpets and used that as an opportunity to develop his line of vacuum cleaners.

    Thanks again Jim for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  14. On February 28th, 2011 at 1:20 PM Chuck Hebert said:

    Tanveer – Great Post. I've especially noticed in a number of public companies, there is almost sense that organizations need to constantly create new opportunities just to show they are breaking into new markets or new products. Not neccessarily a bad thing until you get into a feeding frenzy of tackling too many opportunities. The result = no focus and increased probability of failure.

    A lot like setting personal goals, organizations should evaluate and focus on the best opportunities. And sometimes the best ones are already in front of them and they just need to complete the execution.

  15. On March 1st, 2011 at 12:03 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Chuck; glad you enjoyed this piece. And I agree with you that there’s a stronger advantage for organizations to pursue the best opportunities – ones which allow them to demonstrate what only they can uniquely do – as opposed to simply ‘chasing the competition’ by running toward any opportunity that happens to come their way.

    Thanks again, Chuck, for adding your thoughts to this discussion.

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