Friday, 23 January 2015

Stepping on to the Path of Choice - Day 55

Day 55 (24th January 2015)
55 years of marriage = Emerald Wedding Anniversary. 
Emeralds are one of the four "precious stones" (with diamonds, rubies and sapphires).
Most emeralds have internal fractures and particles; a pure emerald is very rare.
It is common practice to "oil treat" fractures (usually by allowing cedar oil to permeate
into the stone disguising flaws). However, if internal characteristics are attractive
they are referred to as "jardins" and can add value to the stone.
Illustrated the Gachala Emerald - 858 carats
Gina Chapman Gina Chapman and I first became acquainted on Twitter (her handle is @ChayneDaisy). She is consistently encouraging and an active and popular member of the L&D community. She lives to the west of London (on the Berkshire Buckinghamshire borders) and currently works for a respected local consultancy. Prior to becoming a consultant she was employed by one of the world's leading computing and technology businesses. As well as being an excellent trainer (both design and facilitation) Gina is learning to look after herself - she is an aspiring yogi and keen on gardening and wildlife.   


I have been blown away by the quality of the Advent Blogs - not just the quality of the content, but the quality of the sharing - people have shared some very personal experiences with us all and I for one am very touched by that.  I feel that a great deal of thanks needs to go out to the lovely Kate for curating this year’s series.  Upon the second time of asking me if I would like to contribute and join in, how could I not when she has given so much.  Dear Reader, I have never blogged before and my writing is nowhere near as eloquent as yours - you have been forewarned!

Gina takes to blogging like a duck to water...
“You cannot do this job” was on permanent play in my head for a good 10 months when a change of command happened within our L & D Team.  The team needed to move from L & D partnering within a business unit to working within a practice model as L & D Practitioners.   I am not going to bore everyone with the detail of the various guises this took in the early days  and am going to fast forward to where it ended up.  What I will say is that, as a remote team we became incredibly close and supportive of each other.   We needed to be as we’d been on a hell of a journey, it hadn’t been pleasant and there had been the inevitable people casualties along the way.
Difficult journey
Fast forward 8 months ..... The practice model was still in place and more change was ahoy, due to another change at the L & D helm.   We had a choice of two roles – Content Designer or Deliverer, as our workshops were now to be designed and delivered in-house.  As happens in all change initiatives,  a whole raft of emotions were experienced by all the team.  This is when the permanent play in my head - “You cannot do this job”- stepped up a gear.
Things are not looking good
“Gina, we know you’ll be a great facilitator”….. the choice I thought I had was taken away – too many people wanted to design!  Now, don’t get me wrong, as an L & D Partner, of course I’d delivered workshops; I’d also researched and designed workshops and they were favourably received by the business units I looked after.  They knew me, they trusted me and knew I understood the challenges they had on a day-to-day basis.   On reflection, it was cosy and nice - not many mean people on my patch!    
My new role would be a whole different ball game.  A change of CEO and a corporate-wide change initiative was reverberating across the Company and the word on the mean streets by the coffee machines was not a positive one ..... My role, should I choose to accept it, was to deliver workshops designed by my colleagues, across the whole business, to some pretty unhappy peeps!   The message needed to be consistent and I was told “you cannot change the content - it needs to be delivered as written”. 
“You cannot do this job”  - it was still there, that niggling gremlin, whispering to me.  For a time, though, the reality was I could do the job, although my gremlin was constantly on my shoulder, telling me something to the contrary.
The devil whispering in Maxentius' ear
Peter de Dene window, York Minster
The feedback from workshops was public to all within the L & D Team and published each month.  I used to steel myself to open the spread-sheet and search for my name, to read my course feedback.   Sometimes people said great things, but sometimes people were tough with their comments – par for the course and you can’t please all the people all of the time ….. but in my head, I wanted to please them, I really wanted to help them and even more so, I wanted to be perfect - “winging-it” was not in my vocabulary but “You cannot do this job” was still in my head.  
Sleepless nights started  – I would fall into bed, each night, totally exhausted, but my mind would be racing, unpicking what had happened during the day and replaying what should have happened.   I started cancelling weekend arrangements, because I needed to rest.  I didn’t.  I spent weekends reading facilitator notes which would, in some instances, run to some 100 pages and then I would anticipate possible questions - lots of them.  I wanted to be perfect and expected myself to know everything.  I felt totally out of control and I asked for help each month from a remote and faceless SMT who demanded we complete a ‘Happiness Survey’ each month.   Eventually I was working with a mentor - one of my adorable experienced colleagues - who threw a lifeline of hope to me. Workshops were then being scheduled into my diary automatically by a remote admin team and, if I wasn’t delivering,  I was on the road; if I wasn’t on the road, I’d be reading and preparing for the next day!

It came to a head when I looked in my diary to see I was to deliver two workshops, back to back, to a group of Future Leaders - the facilitator notes which were normally OTT with detail were scant to say the least and no-one was available to talk me through the facilitator pack.    Blind panic set in and my niggling gremlin was now shouting at me - “YOU CANNOT DO THIS JOB”! I got through the first day only because the adrenalin pumping through my body kept me going.  I had no time to gather my thoughts during breaks, as there was always someone wanting to talk with me about their challenges. I knew my evening would consist of grabbing something to eat and spending an evening working out how the hell I was going to run the next day.  I could not think straight and the next day did not happen - I had completely broken down and my boyfriend held me and said “you have to stop”!
Reaching breaking point
..... I was signed off work for 3 months with chronic work related stress.  My Doctor told me I wasn’t to look at a computer screen for at least two weeks and I needed to rest.  My adorable mentor went over and above what she needed to do.  She contacted our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and a lovely lady called me and I went through weeks of counselling. Through our conversations, she guided me through to a path I had not been able to see during my very dark days - it was the path of choice.  
Choose your path
They say the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result and my choice was not to return to a regime which had taken so much from me.   
After 11 years with a Company I had initially loved working in, I left my role seven months ago and it was so the right decision for me.   I am now working part-time for a small consultancy - still in L & D - and giving myself some breathing space to reflect and to continue my own personal  learning journey. A couple of months ago I was asked to design and deliver a Stress Awareness workshop to a group of schoolteachers - it was well received, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and they want me to work with them some more.
My self-esteem has returned and I am now looking forward to what 2015 holds.

 Chariots of Fire, theme tune

1 comment:

  1. Wisdom from my friend - the great Bill Nelson - leader of Be-Bop Deluxe - the man that turned down a job with David Bowie in favour of preserving himself:

    "Do not be afraid of the ‘off’ switch"

    Great post