11 October 2008


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

"NieuCommunities was a complete and utter failure," insists the bloke sitting across from me in The Chip, a local pub on Ashton Lane in Glasgow's west end. More than a year and a half removed from nieuCommunities and I still find myself haunted by conversations like this.
The 'bloke' I'm with is a good friend whom I join down the pub once a week with a few others for some good chat (usually), and to be fair, he's earned the right to have an opinion. I've known him since the first month I moved here, and though he's "not particularly religious," he became quite familiar with nieuCommunities from very early on.
"I could have told you it was going to fail within six months of your arrival," he adds. Oh, I think to myself, it took me a little longer.
"It's not that it wasn't a good plan," he continues, "it's just that the wrong people came."

Hindsight is 20/20.

Thank goodness he regulalrly inserts the phrase, "except for you and Jasheen," otherwise I'd probably be feeling pretty worthless about now. He continued to share with me his thoughts on how and why the organization I originally came to Glasgow with has since pulled up stakes and closed shop - or in his words, "failed." His thoughts are not personal; they're not emotionally charged. In fact, he has little to no personal agenda at all. He's just astute, and afterall, we did come to his town.

The west end is a relatively small place for being home to a couple of hundred thousand people. I would have expected by now that these conversations would have run their course, and Jasheen and I would just be... Jasheen and I, working with Mosaic, teaching piano, etc. But no. In many ways we are still called upon to account for and explain the whos, whats and whys of nieuCommunities.

In any case, the idea of examining 'failure' began while I was in Geneva a few weeks ago at a Coaching Leaders workshop provided by CAI and led by longtime friend, Keith Webb (Creative Results Management). I began thinking of 'failure' beyond the arena of life-coaching. This wasn't an exercise in self-deprecation, but of self-examination; of reflection.

Last week I dropped Gabrielle off at her nursery and adjourned to a little coffee shop down the street to wait. As I sat in Chapter One, I began reflecting on my own personal failures over the past five years in Glasgow - my failures as a husband, as a father, as a leader, and as a follower. My thoughts then turned to the failures of my team... probably because of the previous night's conversation with my friend.

At the coaches training workshop, Keith Webb stated, "Failure is an emotionally-charged word. Discouragement is its constant companion. 'Failure' also has a note of finality or completeness. Black or white. Bad or good. Fail or succeed."

As I continued to reflect on these things, I considered the end result of nieuCommunities in Glasgow. To put it in a black and white context, we appear to have failed, at least to local onlookers. However, while the overall result may not have been what was hoped for, many of the individual actions may have actually moved us closer to our ultimate calling and goal. I can't speak for the leaders or other members of the original team, but I can speak for Jasheen and me. On the way to 'failure,' there were individual successes over the course of our time with nieuCommunities. I mean, we must have done something right, right?
We still have great, ongoing relationships with a large number of the apprentices that passed through Glasgow. In fact, we still see many of them when we're in their neck of the woods or they return to Glasgow. And one mark of success may be the support we recieve from them. Of the three groups of apprentices that we've led, nine of them have supported or are currently supporting us, in addition to some of their parents. We have also continued coaching several of them after their departure. And many of the relationships that were developed while we were a part of nieuCommunities are still thriving.

So yeah, 'failure' happened, but I think it's important to look at every individual step taken, and the success that came as a result of those steps before writing off the entire endeavor as a complete failure.
Although I anticipate more provocative conversations about nieuCommunities, the leadership, and the impact (or lack thereof) it had on the west end of Glasgow, I think I'll be better equipped to shoulder and process my role and responsibility in the whole ordeal by recognizing that not all measures of success or failure can be ascertained by the ultimate outcome of a project.

No comments: