World AIDS Day

In 1998 I started working for an AIDS Service Organisation. Jim took me under his wing. He was in the Education Team, I was the new Volunteer Coordinator.  He was the first person with HIV that I’d met. He taught me everything I knew. He taught me about the virus. How to educate people, what an educational moment is and how to use this to fight ignorance.

He helped me understand why people still contracted the disease when they knew how to prevent it. He helped me understand the impact of stigma and taught me how to care for people with HIV and fight the stigma by treating people like human beings, who deserve love as much as anyone else.

Jim hated World AIDS Day as a single day of the year for people to show they cared and be off the hook the rest of the year. He resented the fact that for people who don’t have HIV, they can do a day a year, whereas everyone with the virus, lives with it every day. And many of them die alone, uncared for, rejected. For many, the self-loathing drove them to further risk-taking behaviour, isolating themselves, reflecting their perception of how they thought society viewed them.

In the years I spent working for the agency it was a time where the population infected was transitioning from predominantly gay men to the street entrenched community, sex workers and those who use drugs by injection. This brought a lot of conflict and tension into the space but our primary focus as health care providers was to be a safe place for people to come without judgement. This was difficult when the gay men judged the street people and vice versa.

But there were also people who used the disease as a reason to live life fully. I got to know these people, the ones who were hurting, the ones who were health-focused, the ones who scared me at first, and even the ones who frustrated the shit out of me. I learned from all of them. I learned to let go of judgement and see the human behind the disease, behind the bad behaviour and hurt, the acting out and the drama. I grew as a person because of my experience with them, because they let me help them. I am so deeply grateful to all the people I worked with, clients, colleagues, co-workers, volunteers.

One of the people who started as a volunteer for me is now the CEO. And the organisation is still full of people who care and are committed to providing a safe place for people to be, and addressing the complex issues associated with living with and preventing the disease. The stigma is still very much alive and fear is still a huge response to the word AIDS or HIV.

Jim passed away within a year of my return to Australia, but his cheeky smile and his quirky ways are still with me 12 years later. Thank you, Jim, I’m forever in your debt.

 

This is post 29 of 45 posts for 45 years.

Review

I’ve been working on the Enterprising Wyndham Project for over a year and had my first performance review today. It was a relatively straightforward process. I was to fill in the sections and my manager adds their comments in discussion, she writes up the outcomes of the discussion and it goes on my file.

I have been working as a consultant and contractor most of the last decade, so it was the first time I’ve experienced a performance review in about as long. Even after working on the performance review cycle of a professional development program as a consultant, I could only speculate about what it was like.

I doubt I have a typical experience but I was glad to go through it. I was able to see the limitations of my thinking and the impact of the lens through which I look at work. Even though the organisation I work for is very progressive and has a strong desire to provide a good experience to their employees, I struggled to think of the professional development opportunity as a loyalty ploy. My manager helped me think about it in a different way.

Tho the work is year to year, and my contract started with a 5-month term, on some level, there’s a recognition that the organisation doesn’t offer a lot of career options. So they can offer development opportunities that will leave them better off than when they started.

She asked me “When we get to the end of year three, and you look back, what will you wish you had learned?” What came to mind was a conference I’ve attended for the last three years and it’s looking unlikely this year. She could see the link to my work in a way that I couldn’t. For me, it was an interest in the Future of Work, and yes, it’s the thing that had me see entrepreneurialism as a key skill in the workforce of the future, but it seemed a stretch to help me develop as a program coordinator of an entrepreneur education program.

The upshot is, she approved it. CMY is paying for me to attend the Future of Work conference! Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked! Not the outcome of the review I expected!

 

 

This post is day 18 of 45 posts for 45 years.

5 Learnings and a Reflection from FUTURE OF WORK Conference

I attended the Future of Work Conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre recently. It was a gathering of a diverse array of organisational psychologists, researchers, co-working enthusiasts, tech junkies, futurists, employers of choice, entrepreneurs, educators and students.

There were about 200 people in attendance and took advantage of all the mod cons of events. Several keynote speakers were present, not via satellite but via Cisco’s teleconferencing technology. They were sponsors and as a result were able to see and hear Guy Kawasaki, Lynda Gratton, and Dave Evans the Futurist from the USA and UK.

The hashtag for the conference, #FOW2014 was prominently displayed and tweets posted on screens outside the plenary room. These days it’s normal for people to be at a talk and be paying attention to a glowing screen in their lap rather than the speaker. Tweeting quotes from the presentation, posting pictures of slides, even asking questions and having dialogue with other participants. This was new for me and I got right into it, more on that shortly, but first, my learnings.

FOW Conference – that’s my blonde head in the middle.

Some of the things I learned:

1) With advances in nano technology and medicine we’ll likely start to live even longer. Organs are already being generated using donor tissue and 3D printers. WEIRD! 

What does this mean for human relationships? Perhaps we’ll start to question the validity and modern relevance of monogamy even more, brining my relationship coaching for opening up to multiple relationships even more in demand. How exciting, sort of! 

Note to self: Let go of the last shreds of shame and caginess associated with incorporating this skill into my professional repertoire.

2) Even when there are forward thinking ideas that go beyond divisiveness, once a discussion on collective intelligence gets oriented around the lack of diversity and inequality, discussion can easily get bogged down in the wrongness aspect of right and wrong. 

Note to Organisers: Be clear about the desired outcomes of a session so that session facilitators are empowered and enabled to steer the conversation towards productive discussion before it goes down the rabbit hole. And participants can balance spontaneously generated responses without taking it on a track that goes way off topic and brings down the whole room. 

3) Twitter is a great way to have conversations during plenary sessions. I am generally not a big tweeter but have found events to be the place I seem to engage most and this conference took my tweeting to a whole new level. Initially tweeting quotes or concepts from a talk, then reflections and questions. 

I especially enjoyed watching the person in front of me retweeting me from their iPad mini! The questions and reflections of other participants were fascinating and particularly questions from @JWatersLynch. The dialogue generated from that was rich and provocative. Another pleasant surprise, when I managed to start including the twitter handle of the speakers, I found I got responses and gratitude for my tweets, it sure makes the world feel smaller and more connected when you can engage at that level! 

Note to Organisers: Include speakers twitter handle and hashtags in presentation/session title slides. 

4) Emailing people you met with a personal note about your interaction is an important follow up action. In one interaction I learned that Google Plus is the social media of business, and a place to put a bit more attention to. Sadly I’ve been unable to incorporate it into Hootsuite. Another interaction I mentioned a company doing similar work to the person so I sent him the name of the company and offered to introduce him to my contact there. I love being a connector. Feels good to bring people together and be completely unattached to the outcome! 

5) When presenter doesn’t purport to have all the answers and asks the audience, it beautifully generates interaction and cultivates wisdom from the group. I loved having the opportunity to contribute when the question of how to make it safe for a group to talk about difficult issues. I just finished teaching a course where the unanimous feedback about our ability to create safety in the group was affirming and heartwarming. 

I piped up with ‘creating a group agreement’ and ‘modeling vulnerability’ to give the group permission to be vulnerable. For example to ensure we stick to the timeline and intention I might cut off a conversation, that’s hard to do, and is a courageous and vulnerable act that has potential risk for the group and my credibility as a facilitator.

It’s something I don’t take lightly. In the past I’ve done it quite delicately yet it was not well received. Since then I’ve had that in the back of my mind when I step in to end a discussion. Thankfully it doesn’t stop me but I’m present to the risk and feel vulnerable doing it. In response to the presenter asking the audience, I talked a bit about powerful vulnerability and how it creates space for transformative moments in groups. This is something I’m quite passionate about. I loved the speakers response, wanting to quote what I just said for the book she’s writing! Can you say ‘ego boost’?!?!

At the end of the conference I was approached by someone looking for a facilitator. We had a conversation that felt like a strong lead. I am delighted and will be following that one up on Monday. Update: I have a meeting next week to find out about the scope to form a proposal. Thrilled with this outcome! 

Last thing of note. Women are caught in a fashion trap. Two of the presenters, one keynote, another in a break out session, appeared to be dressing for the perceived opinions of others. It really felt like they wore what they thought would be acceptable or expected rather than something that expressed their style and personality. This was disappointing on a number of levels. I felt sad for them and wondered what they’d wear if they felt more free to be themselves. I found the attire distracting, noting ill fitting pants or what appeared to be an intentionally let down hem line that was trimmed with lace, antithetical to the stark lines of the styling. 

Why? Why do women who are clearly in positions of power, being asked to speak at a leading conference, why do they still think they have to please someone else? 

I was also disappointed in the feeling that I didn’t have more allies in my recent decision to let go of other expectations and wear what feels right to me. I want more women to express themselves for their own sake, for what has them feeling great, rather than stuff themselves into some preconceived notion of what they should look like. Really, if that’s not the future, I don’t want to go there. Let’s create a future of acceptance, of personal leadership, of pushing the boundaries, respectfully while expressing who we are. It’s our own uniqueness that is a critical part of what we have to offer the world. Let’s step into that fully. If that’s not powerful vulnerability, I don’t know what is!! I admire the people who can wear clothes that augment their individuality and remain stylish. I want more of that in the workplace! 

In essence what I learned is that the future is coming at us, and fast! And that its up to us to create our future, both in terms of how we as a society, relate to technology or integrate it in a way that advances our social development and in terms of getting clear about what we want to do with ourselves and finding ways to make that work. My own entrepreneurial journey has been a profound learning journey and I continue to try new things and learn from them and come up against my own perceived limits and clash against my beliefs about being able to earn a living doing what I love. But ultimately the conference affirmed for me that as the future hurtles toward us, it’s up to me to find my way, and make my way into the world of work, doing what I love and loving what I do. 

Boring Post

I worked a shift with RED today, for a fashion show/awards night for Blue Illusion at the ballroom of the Regent Theatre. WOW, what a gorgeous venue, very Romeo & Juliet. I was glad to know all of the people on the crew, had worked with each of them at least once before. Including the woman I did my first two shifts with who got very annoyed with all my questions. This is the second job I’ve been on with her since and I was convinced she still held it against me. It was killing me that I was the newbie that asked too many questions, because she seems really cool. She barely made eye contact with me today, and when I asked if she needed a hand Continue reading