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  • Sherri Makepeace

Owning your vulnerability in your work

The beauty of my job is that one day I can be on the 22nd floor of a building overlooking the Yarra River in the city and the next, gently navigating training delivery to 20 staff in an organisation where many people don't speak English well and despite living in an Australian Community, have minimal relationships with Anglo Saxon business woman.

This was my recent training experience:

The men are sitting one side of the room and the women on the other, and I awkwardly commenced delivering training, adopting as many strategies as I could to engage the group in the very boring subject about complaints management, incident management, whs and advocacy.

There were children running around the room and when I smiled at them would recoil in shyness to their mothers laps almost in tears. There was a beautiful young lady with disability who kept yelling out loudly. The CEO apologised to me for the interruptions and I just smiled and told him not to apologise- we will work with it.

When I tried to engage people in the training by asking for examples, no body wanted to speak up. When someone did, they were way off track and I worked hard to bring it in to context with a smile on my face, congratulation them on their boldness to provide their example.

There was an older gentleman who wanted to talk relentlessly about the challenges of time. "In Africa we have day and night. Winter and Summer, nothing else". Why were people always complaining to him about being late?

Lunch time came and we stopped for a break. The women had made a beautiful traditional dish that was amazing. I was treated like a guest of honour to be served first. When I asked about the sauce I was told it was chilli and despite the look of concern on their face, being a lover of chilli I ladled some on "thank you, I love chilli" still smiling relentlessly. I don't think I need to tell the rest of this story.

I used this time to talk to people individually, as I felt by doing this, I could break down the barriers piece by piece and this did make life easier through the second half of the training.

I made the executive decision that I would not push the training too far this day. I would return another day and recap our learnings.

I announced the training was over and I asked everyone to complete the evaluation sheets. Every single sheet had love hearts, 10/10 and expressions of gratitude.

As everyone finished writing, the room got louder and louder, people talking and mingling and it began to sound like a party. People smiling, laughing and happy. I asked if we could get a photo and the little girl came to me and asked me to pick her up. Everyone crowded around me, trying to stand closer and I could feel the love.

I drove home with a full heart and so much gratitude for life and my career path. x





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