The End Game

In the game of chess, players are most often known by two things: One, their opening move - that is, how they start a game, and their ending move(s) - otherwise called the end game. More often that not, names (of masters of chess) are given to how a chess piece is moved at the beginning of the game, but it is unlikely to find names given to how chess games. This is because the end is always strewn with a certain uncertainty - a void that permeates one's psyche when the conclusion of a matter is reached.

The end comes with a certain admission that though something cannot be completely predetermined, it can be planned from the outset in such a way that the ending of it all makes the beginning and the process worthwhile.

This mindset formed my resolve when I was interned by Microsoft at Sidmach Technologies - the biggest indigenous software solutions company in Nigeria, under the umbrella of the 4Afrika program, which I wrote here.

As the days faded into weeks and weeks into months, certain pointers became more apparent; All of which I took as lessons in my short but rewarding internship.

1. Nirvanka

Going through an article enumerating some newly-added words to the dictionary, a word highlighted by Patricia Marx caught my attention - Nirvanka. It was defined as "a transcendent state of peace that comes from knowing that however ineffectual you are at your job, you cannot be let go because you are one with your employer".

The word that immediately struck me at that moment was "Connection". Yes, the aforementioned definition is an extreme attempt at justifying connection between one and his/her employer - perhaps belittling the subject of capacity and competence, but it buttresses the point, quite pointedly, of the need to develop A CONNECTION with your superior.

The professional world is filled with too much to-dos, never-ending schedules to be beat and probably personal goals to be accomplished, but there should be time to bring out the humane side of us. Asking about your superior's family - and probably his/health, goes a long way in developing a working and cohesive relationship with one's superior rather than delivering on a deadline (of course this is equally important).

To build up a superior end game, create a connection - so I have learnt.

2. The anthem of "we"

No anthem beats the anthem of "we" in the corporate environment. It is more difficult to sing this anthem when you are at the top of the pyramid (or at least you think you are) - the pyramid of knowledge and expertise, that is. And so ending up taunting another's ineptness, incompetence and ignorance on a subject you feel they fall short of.

This attitude, to an extent, gives short term results in high school and probably a university environment. But bringing that to a corporate environment is a huge fail, as that will be a sure path to being self-destruct.

An African proverb says, "If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to far, go together". As part of my end game tactic and from the exposure of my mentors, everyone has something to offer. Intangible maybe, but still something.

Never settle for "I", you may go fast, but you may not go far.

3. The theory of opportunity

An indispensable factor of playing the end game well is by cultivating the habit of looking for opportunity without being opportunistic; Two different things. Sidmach Technologies, where I was interned taught be about the usefulness of the former while discarding the latter.

Opportunity can be aptly described, in my lay man description as "the moment". A line in Eminem's "Lose Yourself" reads, "He's nervous, but at the surface he looks calm and ready...". The moment - that brief interval just before a huge let-down or a huge break through. Opportunity is seizing that moment.

We all have talents, skills, knowledge - whether in-process or established knowledge. Opportunity is being observant of the trends that match your skill or your knowledge, and giving it all you've got.

Sidmach Technologies financed a startup by the side that is after providing an improved healthcare for the citizenry. They recognized the opportunity, and they penetrated the market. In fact, there is a whole committee set up in the company that continually seek to cause a disruption in the way things are done.

You just learnt a new algorithm? A new language? Learnt a new digital marketing strategy? Take note of it, sit still and watch. An opportunity is around the corner. Be eagle-eyed. So I learnt.

Observing an opportunity without being opportunistic gives you an edge in the end game.

4. Performance is not Potential

In his article, "Four Things you Probably Didn't Know About High Potential Employees", Tomas Chamorrro-Premuzic enumerated several ways to recognize potential, especially among employees. This is necessary in part because of the need to recognizing the probability of an employee being able to make a substantial contribution to organizational output in the future. Thus, he was referring to someone - worthy of care and development, who will probably become a key player in the future.

HiPo (High perfomance) programs in companies overtime however, have failed because the focus is almost exclusive on performance. Firstly, he argued that organizations are not very good at measuring performance (for lack of sufficient metrics). Secondly, even when it happens that organizations discern top performers, many of these top performer still tend to fail when made to perform at the next level. In addition, many strong individual contributors are not in the least interested in managing or leading others, preferring instead to focus on being a team-player.

The result of this is a "paradoxical system" that removes people from a job they are rather good at, and re-positioning them in a role they are neither able nor willing to do.

The key take-home is this: your performance at a particular level is great, but being better means that you have to be flexible enough to get to the next stage.

In other words, do not look at your performance at a particular level as a justification for your performance at another level. After this internship stage, I realized that my potential "to be" is greater than my performance "now". This is a paradox, but in it, are ingrained several truths.

5. The flag of Confidence

You have probably heard the statistic that notes that "Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them". This finding comes from a Hewlett Packard internal report.

I came to learn that, more often than not, nothing beats confidence. Confidence gives more shine to your little efforts and makes a huge tell on your learning process which will ultimately affect your capacity to learn and your throughput when put in a productive environment.

Sometimes, it is not your knowledge on the job that matters, but your attitude towards it. Many employers want an optimistic persona. Someone who isn't just willing to learn, but has the exuberance that goes with displaying this willingness.

Keep the flag of confidence flying

6. The Glorious Art of Emotional Intelligence

From Dr. Travis Bradberry's article, "15 Signs You are Emotionally Intelligent", he posits, "people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time".

Amazing isn't it? There is so much focus on "Intelligence Quotient (IQ)" that we tend to lose focus on what matters most - "Emotional Quotient (EQ)". He further went on to say, "Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as being the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. The connection is so strong that 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence".

Though vague in its exact definition, Emotional Quotient generally has to deal with "what affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results".

What are those "tell-signs" that makes us more aware about how intelligent we are emotionally?

Firstly, you know your strengths and weaknesses and lean more on your strengths to achieve results.

Secondly, You are a good judge of character - the ability to read other people: When I started out on my internship, I came in contact with people from various backgrounds and I had to learn, from scratch, to read people - discern their intentions, know the difference between sarcasm and seriousness, and so on. I had to learn that!

What rocks your world in your world wouldn't be what will rock others. Therefore, you have to be a good judge of character.

Thirdly, you don't hold grudges. It is a small world and we small individuals have our small egos to feed in a big way. Haha. Holding on to grudges shows a very limited Emotional Quotient (EQ).

Fourthly, you won't allow anyone limit your joy. In other words, you develop a thick skin to the toxicity of negativity around you. Nothing is more important than your joy. Shake off negativity and focus on productivity - as your normal lifestyle.

The above four (4) tips isn't detailed on the length and breadth of Emotional Intelligence, but gives a rather cursory summary.

7. Achieve your end result at the end

It is always good to define what you need to achieve at the start of any project. Any other thing is just an add-on - an added benefit.

When my internship started, I knew I had to pass my certification exams on the Microsoft Productivity path. No one cares if I know 7 high-level programming languages and can code in Assembly and Machine Languages simultaneously, if I fail even one of the certification exams. So I applied myself wisely by understanding myself and preparing early in other to achieve this singular goal - so did I.

In summary, your end game may not be completely pre-determined, but it can be adequately planned-for. My internship experience has exposed me to the highs and lows of working in a fast paced environment and learning-on-the-go. I trust that this experience leads you and I to greater achievements in the nearest future.