A few weeks ago I joined Amanda Cookson and Ken Blackwell to chat all things human workplace. It was Wednesday and it was already my third ‘public speaking engagement’ of the week. It’d be easy to assume that I take part in speaking/writing engagements just to tell you what I think. Here’s the truth.
Amanda is a professional coach (Northern Value Creators) and reached out to me when she was doing some research to write an article on reducing workplace stress. We had a coffee and chatted and it didn’t take me long to realise Amanda was the type of person I’d quite like in my gang.
I’ve now been working with Amanda for 18 months, some months I arrive at our session not knowing what I need help with but I leave with: focus, reflections, questions and having learnt something about myself and those around me.
I know on the face of it I absolutely look like I have my sh*t together. I know this because for years, when I was ‘struggling’ people just wasn’t taking my concerns seriously enough. They were brushed off, they told me I was super and I’d be fine. This feeling was compounded by being in an environment where I was told emotion was not for the workplace.
Emotion, not for the workplace? The workplace that is there for humans? Humans that have emotions…because you know, we’re not robots. Wow, I was confused.
In my mind I’d say, “No, I don’t think you understand”, but out loud I swiftly moved on to take the conversation back to them. It was easier that way. It left me feeling like my feelings and opinions didn’t matter. That I didn’t matter. It was a vicious circle.
There are 27 different human emotions – In the 14 years of my working life, I’ve experience every single one. I’m not going to apologise anymore. Here’s the truth.
The largest audience I’ve spoken to was nearly over 1,500 people. I thought I was going to pass out; as I was talking I could feel my heart pumping and sweat running down the back of my neck. ‘They are just people’ I told myself. ‘Imagine them all naked’ I told myself (for the record, that does not work).
A woman in the audience made direct eye contact with me and smiled. As I continued to talk, I glanced back at her, she was nodding, smiling and laughing. At the end of my talk, she came over to me and congratulated me for being ‘so funny, so engaging and so human’. That humanness, that connection, probably saved me from passing out; or worse, running off the stage.
3 years into ‘public speaking’ and I still get incredibly nervous, my imposter syndrome kicks in and my heart races. This is when I look to my tribe, remember what they say, remember they have my back. But still, why do I do this to myself? Am I glutton for punishment? Am I seeking external validation? Have I secretly got a huge ego? Here’s the truth.
There are many defining moments in history that display the importance of public speaking. From Martin Luther King, President Nixon, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela to just recently when when watched by over 30 million people, our Queen: “We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again” – I have no doubt that this speech will be remembered by everybody.
As uncomfortable as public speaking sometimes is, it is proven to unite people and drive change. I treat the time as my time to think, reflect,listen to what you think and question my assumptions to ultimately continue my learning and yes, in case it’s not obvious, I want to unite us and drive change to create human centric workplaces. I’ll also let you into a secret; public speaking is very healing for all those times I was “hushed” and made to think my opinions didn’t matter. That I didn’t matter.
My knowledge has grown, my confidence has grown, my tribe has grown, my career and opportunities have grown. When I bring my whole self to work, warts and all, I perform better. I am engaged, I haven’t taken 1 sick day, I feel connected to my team and purpose and like during the tough times now; I know I am digging deep for my colleagues,organisation and our customers.
To get me thus far it’s taken a mixture of:
- Super coaching from Amanda.
- The continued support and encouragement from my tribe.
- Having a boss that accepts my ’emotions’, believes in me, empowers me and…tells me to chill out when I need it.
- Lot’s of tough conversations, reflection, a shift in mindset and continued learning.
- Learning to trust my integrity; knowing I was doing/saying things for the right reasons.
- An absolute bucket load of resilience, determination and grit.
- Quite a lot of walks / runs / time on the punchbag / playing fifa to release frustrations.
- …and turning 30. I genuinely think I just started to care less about what people thought.
Over the last year or so, there is no denying that I have reconnected with my inner rebel (read more here) that was quashed; to fight my imposter, unite us and drive change. This journey isn’t complete, I know there is still more to come, still more I want to learn and give, still more I want to say. (As you’ll see from the image below, when you know and trust yourself, you may require tape).
Be brave, be human, be you.
If you’d like some recommended reading:
- Moe Carrick – Bravespace Workplace.
- Brène Brown – Dare to lead.
- Megan Reitz and John Higgins – Speak Up.
Note: I love geese equally as much as penguins and no animals we’re harmed in the writing of this blog.
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