Thursday, 23 August 2012

Give someone a chance

I was reminded this week of a program I ran in Ballarat several years ago. With a Mindshop colleague we ran a Mindshop Excellence program with a group of senior high school students.   
What we experienced was nothing short of amazing and a reminder that anything is possible if you give someone a chance. Here are my colleagues recollections....
"…. I witnessed the most amazing person at our last program in Ballarat. Mike Boyle and I arrived on Monday to tackle 4 groups in the one training session. Nothing special here except one of the students was a 15 year old girl. She was profoundly deaf and unable to communicate verbally. I was terrified – how can you possibly train someone with this challenge in just a few hours, in a boisterous group, without setting her up to fail. I wanted to go home but being afraid of the Boiler did not. Well picture the scene. Here we are promising these kids that they have the talent to do anything, given the chance, and all they need is belief in themselves and a few tools.  The student had a signing translator who tried hard to keep up with the Boiler and me, always a challenge as we had a room full of evolving young adults.  
Mike and I watched this girl participate in the group dynamics and we both came to the same conclusion. She was a born leader. She just could not hear or speak.  This student neither needed, wanted nor would accept any special treatment. So with my usual stern face I announced to the group that everyone would be presenting on Friday, no notes, the usual drill.  This always gets their attention. That was it for me. I made a quick visit on Tuesday morning and then did not see the group again until Friday morning for presentation practice. An added challenge was that the group had been told by a much nicer person than me, that they could present with notes. I said no way to this and told them to get up and practice. I was really worried about how to include her – their problem of course, not mine. But what would I do if they had not included her?  I was hoping that she would be changing slides, holding up a chart, pointing to something.  Well they lined up and began. Looked good as each got up to present. Then she stood up and presented. Sign language in front of PowerPoint slides. I have never seen such passion, excitement and enthusiasm in a presentation. She got her message across better than any of the speaking speakers.  She knew the tools, presented insightful comments and passionately made forceful points, all with her hands and body language. 
She was the best presenter of the group. Mindshop Excellence had given this girl the chance to show the world, in this case a room full of senior executives, what she could do given a chance.  There was only one problem. Her signing translator was repeating what she was signing “saying” in a monotone. The practice round was stopped and the translator charged with expressing the passion and the excitement, not just the words. I found coaching the translator was a lot more difficult than the young presenters. Signers “don’t do the passion”.  However after a little persuasion she came good and at the final presentation I was not the only person who had a tear in their eye. The student was magnificent. Her mother came to me crying and begged me to thank Mindshop for giving her daughter the chance to be what she can be. 
I wonder how many other 'overlooked stars' there are in your part of the world, young adults full of talent that may never be realised unless someone gives them a chance. Life is short. There really is more to life than the next dollar. Your VTO could change someone’s life forever. Maybe even yours."