I had been contracted by a local chapter of the YWCA to conduct a 3-day workshop entitled Introduction to the World of Work from Wednesday to Friday, but when I got there on Wednesday morning I noticed two things. One was that my audience was not my ‘target audience’, meaning that my Introduction to the World of Work program is really geared towards 16 + individuals, and the group in front of me was of a wider demographic with probably 5 of the 25 individuals being 16 – 18, the others were 12 – 15. But I did not let that deter me, and I began to run the slides as I had previously intended. It did not take me long in the presentation to realize that I had completely LOST my audience, so I shut of the projector and spent the rest of the time trying to ‘get inside their heads’. Now anyone who has interacted with teenagers can tell you that once you lose them, YOU LOSE THEM. So the rest of the day was a bust!
The second thing that I noticed was that the children seemed a little ‘off’ to me. Not ‘off’ like mentally unstable, but ‘off’ like un-tethered. When I inquired of the coordinator if these children were perhaps from a home, she confirmed my suspicion. That posed another challenge to me, as children who come from the foster care system have issues with self esteem and achievement. They usually are suspicious of adults who seem ‘too good to be true’, and in the face of such adults, usually adopt the response of ‘circling the wagons’ to protect themselves. And there I was, all dressed up in my corporate wear, talking about resumes and interviews. I had truly missed the boat!
I trudged home. Dejected more because I failed my audience than anything else.
That night I thought about it and decided that it would be a waste of time (their time) to continue with the rest of the Introduction to the World of Work seminar, and that instead I should change tack and do a seminar geared towards their needs. And so that night I formulated and created a program that included Overcoming Limiting Beliefs; Effective Communication; Managing Conflict and Financial Literacy. I also decided to dress a little less ‘corporate’, and more ‘business casual’. I also put my hair in a pony tail, as opposed to having it styled as it had been on that day.
Then the rain began. And it rained so hard that the next day, downtown (where the seminar was located) was flooded and the roads impassible, and so the program was postponed for Friday. Friday’s session was as different from Wednesday’s as night from day. We played games (Pass the Message to illustrate how communication can go awry, and Charades to demonstrate the importance of the correct body language), and by the end of the session they were begging me not to leave (two girls actually sat on my lap and told me they weren’t letting me go!). I was only allowed some ease when I promised to have lunch with them, and then it was like a lottery to see who would get to sit beside “Miss”.
I had also told the coordinator that, since the second day had been cancelled due to bad weather, that I would also adjust my fee accordingly to 2/3 the total amount. She was surprised, but for me, that was a no-brainer. It would not have been ethically correct for me to demand full payment, when the full time was not used. Of course I would have to submit a new invoice. I almost skipped home! I had reached my audience and there was no greater feeling. And then when I open my mail, there’s the following message for me:
Dear Ms. Wilba,
Thank you very much for your services!
It means a lot to us as an organization that you were so kind to adjust your curriculum at the last minute to make it most suitable to the group of young people you had in front of you.
Working with homes and less privileged areas on a regular basis, it is hard at times for us to predict in detail the exact age group or educational level of our participants until we meet them. Your interest and flexibility have not gone unnoticed, and we greatly appreciate your professionalism and understanding.
Please let me give you a short explanation of the reason why we had to ask you for a new invoice to redo the check and therefore there is an unexpected delay in your payment:
As a non-profit organization we have to report in detail to our donors.
It is therefore important that we receive accurate invoices for which the checks are prepared. They must reflect the sequel of events and content of the activities we organize.
For transparency reasons the invoices are all approved, one by one, by both the Chairperson and the Treasurer of our National Organization. Those are also the same people who will both sign the check made in relation to the invoice. Unfortunately our Chair person and Treasurer are not on site at the National Office.
We thank you for your prompt collaboration on the preparation of a new invoice; this allows us to prepare the check immediately in the office. We have to wait for the Chair and Treasurer however to come in and sign them. I trust they will be able to come soon – tomorrow at latest as there will be a couple of meetings.
This means your check will be ready at the National Office on Saturday afternoon, and will be ready to be collected from Monday onward.
Please let us know when you wish to collect it, so we can guarantee our presence.
We thank you again for your understanding and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused,
Looking forward to work again with you in the future!
Mrs. C. Affonso
National Program Coordinator YWCA Trinidad and Tobago
office: 627 63 88
cell: 751 07 10
That email means so much more to me than any consultancy fee which I may charge!
For the entrepreneur, continued business is heavily weighed on your reputation and your high ethical practices, and it was extremely heartening to me to have my personal ethical standards recognized in such a manner. True, I received a reduced payment for this workshop than previously budgeted for, but I strongly ascribe to the belief that whatever energy an individual puts out into the Universe, they will be repaid in kind a thousand-fold.
I am now assured of continued business from the YWCA, and since their workshops are on-going, I now have a long-term client in my database.
Sometimes it’s not about the ‘bottom line’, but all about operating in accordance with your belief-system. The Universe will take care of the rest!
Gillian Wilba is a Senior Consultant with Ruth & Naomi Consultancy Ltd.
We want to thank Gillian for her “Guest Blog” post and invite you all to engage with her in the comments section. This is Shilonda Downing for Virtual Work Team LLC.