A Turning Point Story: How Sometimes What You Think You Want, and Need Are Incorrect

And How When You Have All the Information You Can Get to What Is Correct 

A Case Study: Nellie’s Story

“Can you just send the minutes – they’re pretty straightforward to write, and we all know nobody reads them anyway.” 

Now those words may not seem to be words that would cause a turning point, but yet they did. To help you understand why, let me share Nellie’s story and what brought her to this point, the point that was about to cause her to turn. 

Nellie is a WorkLife Coach. She works with individuals, helping them manage, develop and transition their WorkLives to achieve what is important to them at each stage of their journey. 

She does this on a freelance consultancy basis, companies bring her in as when they need her, and through word of mouth, people come to her independently of their company because they want to take responsibility for self-managing their continuing WorkLife chapters.

Nellie loves her work as a WorkLife Coach, and while she enjoys the autonomy of being a freelance consultant, going it alone can at times be lonely. Thinking about this caused her to believe that what she wanted and needed to do was to somehow find a way of being able to tap into being part of an organisation without having to be an employee. Something that would allow her to retain the flexibility and freedom in her WorkLife that was so important to her while also allowing her the support and sense of wellbeing that comes from connectivity and camaraderie. The thing that was missing for her, that brought about loneliness.

Nellie was catching up with Troy, who was her first client when she had embarked on her WorkLife as a freelance consultant. He had brought her on board at his company to provide one-to-one coaching to his team to help them manage their learning and development needs. They had long since become friends.

Over coffee, Nellie shared how she wanted and needed to be more connected in her WorkLife. This led to Troy telling her about the committee he was chair of that may help her wants and needs. 

The committee was one of many located across the UK and Europe that helped a foundation that had been established to improve practices in people and organisational development, to serve the needs of their members. Each committee was made up of people who worked in learning and development. They shared their knowledge, experience and skills in developing programmes that served the needs of the foundation and its members. They did this on a voluntary basis.

Troy said they were recruiting new members and that Nellie and the committee would be a good fit for each other, in line with both their wants and needs. If she was interested (and she was), she needed to submit her CV to be considered as a volunteer member. She did this, and she was accepted onto the committee.

But from the very first meeting, she was questioning if she and the committee were, in fact, a good fit for each other. Nellie is very easygoing and friendly and has always connected easily with people – up until now, that is. Three of the members were welcoming. The remaining six weren’t. They were too busy arguing – loudly! Nellie had no idea about what, but whatever it was caused one of them to storm out, saying he’d had enough and was resigning with immediate effect. 

As soon as he’d walked out the door, another one of them – John, said, “good riddance, he was only a waste of space anyway.” Then turning to Nellie, he said, “so, you’re our latest victim,” laughed and said, “I mean volunteer. Well, your first volunteering role is to take over as secretary from that nitwit. It’s straightforward. If he was able to muddle through it, so should you.” 

Nellie didn’t say yes to this, but she didn’t say no either. That was because she didn’t know what to say. But her non-response was taken as an affirmative. Troy assured her it was straightforward and that he’d ask Michael – the man who had resigned to talk her through the role requirements. He did, and it was true. It was straightforward, but as with any new role, it still required getting up to speed with things. She found herself muddling through, and she was quick to learn when she got things wrong because somebody would be quick in letting her know. She was also quick to learn when she got things right because nobody would be quick in letting her know. 

There were elements of being involved with the committee that Nellie enjoyed: her being secretary and Troy being chair, they got to work closely together, and he took time to bring her up to speed with the various processes and procedures; She enjoyed getting to know and collaborating with the three members – Sheila, Ian and Maureen, who had been welcoming to her at the first meeting – together they planned learning events for their members; She also enjoyed meeting members at these events, and learning more about them and their learning needs.

There were also elements of being involved with the committee that Nellie didn’t enjoy: how quickly the members (who to Nellie did very little) were to critique the work of those that did; She didn’t enjoy how argumentative the meetings were – for reasons, Nellie could never fathom – other than, it’s a meeting let’s argue; Nor did she enjoy the little breakout groups being formed that weren’t inclusive to everyone.

Nellie began to feel concerned about her wellbeing. She found herself becoming really anxious ahead of meetings. She was also anxious after the events because no matter how well they went, one or more of the committee would find something to nitpick. And she was anxious when she had to send a committee email because, again, someone would find something to nitpick about it.

And that’s exactly what happened when following on from a meeting, having written up the minutes, when because Troy hadn’t been in attendance, she had sent them to the vice-chair, Sal, to be approved before she circulated them – she was simply following the process in doing this. But when she let the committee know that she would send the minutes on, once Sal had approved them (as requested by Sal, as he was away for a few days), she received the response from John; I shared at the beginning of this story:

“Can you just send the minutes – they’re pretty straightforward to write, and we all know nobody reads them anyway.” 


As I mentioned earlier, those words may not seem to be words that would cause a turning point. But having learnt about the back story that led up to this moment, perhaps you can understand why, for Nellie, they did. 

On reflection, Nellie thinks they were the tipping point that caused her turning point. She’d had enough. She simply couldn’t take any more. And so, in replying to John’s email, she told all of the committee that she was resigning with immediate effect. She let them know she would meet with whoever took over her role to talk them through the requirements. 

She also let them know the reasons behind her resignation – the argumentative meetings, the constant nitpicking, the formation of little groups that weren’t inclusive. She shared how this had caused her to feel anxious and that she was concerned about her wellbeing. She said it was too late for her, but she hoped individually, and as a group, they would learn from what she had shared about her experience and that they would treat each other and all new members to come, with more understanding, coming from a place of taking time to get to know people for who they are as human beings, and not as human resources.

Epilogue

It took time for Nellie to recover from her experience. She retreated to her place of being alone. It didn’t feel so lonely anymore. Unlike her place on the committee, being alone felt like her safe place. 

She took time to reflect on her experience. Her WorkLife, at times, being lonely had caused her to believe that what she wanted and needed to do was to somehow find a way of being able to tap into being part of an organisation without having to be an employee. 

Nellie questioned if what she thought she wanted was correct or if it was, in fact, incorrect. She had joined the committee because she wanted to fulfil her need for connectivity and camaraderie – to fill the void of loneliness. She still wanted that, but not at the cost to her wellbeing, that the anxiety of being part of the committee had brought about. 

So, what could she do to fulfil her needs?

The answer to that question came in a catch-up over coffee with Troy, Sheila, Ian and Maureen, who, concerned about Nellie, suggested meeting up. Following Nellie’s resignation, they too had left the committee – like Nellie; they too had enough. Her resignation email had caused them to reflect on their experience and to question what they wanted and what they didn’t want. 

What they didn’t want – to be part of a committee that behaved in the ways that Nellie had described.

What they did want – to continue the collaborative work they had already begun – planning learning events. Together they had an extensive network of people they believed would find these events helpful. They wanted Nellie to join them in doing this. They valued and needed her input – her knowledge, experience and skills, along with her personable attributes and qualities – easygoing, friendly, someone who connects well with people. 

Nellie said yes, this is what she wanted and needed too. 

Words Of Wisdom

She hadn’t been wrong about what she had wanted and needed; she just hadn’t had all the information. She now knew that X – the committee wasn’t the right thing, but Y – the small group collaboration was. 

Two steps To Knowing When What You Think You Want and Need is Incorrect and When It’s Correct Assignment.

Step 1: Think about a belief you have had in the past about something you want and need. Consider if that’s something you still want and need. Question if the way you went about fulfilling this want and need was incorrect or correct.

i.e. Through reflection, Nellie realised that what she still wanted and needed – connectivity and camaraderie to fill the void of loneliness, but not at the cost to her wellbeing, that the anxiety of being part of the committee had brought about. She came to learn that the committee was the incorrect way, and the small group collaboration was the correct way.

As with Nellie, you may find what you want and need remains the same – so you weren’t wrong; you simply didn’t have all the information.

Step 2: Be open to finding the information you need, to find what is right, i.e. with Nellie; it came to her over coffee through the suggestion to form a small group collaboration to build on the good work they had already done together. 

A turning point that brings about real change, requires self-leadership, that’s about a lot more than simply fulfilling a want and need.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.

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