Always a rather timid, shy woman, I was raised at a time when young women were seen and not heard. I’d sit in the company of those older than myself with my ankles crossed, my hands folded quietly in my lap, and my mouth shut. I listened though. My ears were my own to do with as I pleased! And I learned lots.
I made a good employee who arrived on time, kept her head down and did her work well. I was organized, efficient, precise and obliging.
I was fortunate to have a decent job in a major corporation. The organization had arranged for all of the staff – lowest employee through to upper management – to take part in a team building weekend. Outdoor exercises, challenges & obstacles had been set up to develop and expand on interdepartmental communication and team strengthening.
One such exercise was to have one of our team climb a 20×20 foot vertical wall of looped rope – a mesh net – blindfolded! As a team, the rest of us were to guide her next steps and hand motions to get her to the top of the mesh wall. Note: there were obstacles along the route and we had to plan out the best way to manoever her around them. After all she couldn’t see them!
Everybody seemed to want to have a share in where and how she should proceed. The woman listened and acted on the first voice she heard with each change of step or handhold. And each time it was someone different who thought it best for her to do it their way. And often one person’s view required some backtracking as it turned out to be a false route upwards.
At one point there was indecision as to what next step and handholds she needed to make. The team finally got together but were actually arguing about what to do next. In the meantime the blindfolded woman was holding on for dear life about 12 feet above ground!
I heard the arguments. No one was paying attention to the woman. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I had to do something!
So, in the loudest voice I could manage, I called her name. “Janie! Janie, can you hear me? It’s Marcia!” She answered back that she could hear me. “Listen to my voice and my voice only! Okay? The team will come up with a decision and I’ll be the one to relay the information to you. We’ll get you to the top as quickly as we can!”
And that’s what happened! And Janie made it to the top before her strength ran out!
I’d like to say I got promoted shortly after that. That didn’t happen. But I learned lots about myself and my capabilities that day. I began to step into strengths, skills and capabilities that served me well in the years and decades that followed. I gained a voice and learned how to gather my courage and listen to my heart!