Reflections on a Workshop

2016 04 09 08 32 43One of the things I enjoy about facilitating workshops is the interaction between the delegates and their engagement with the topic. As a facilitator I feel it is my job to do what I need to in order to spark the discussion and then simply nudge it as it develops.

Of course, a balance needs to be reached between giving participants the guidance and information they require to empower them and then letting them run with the discussion or the exercise.

Last week I facilitated a workshop on mental flexibility and was once again reminded how powerful the facilitation process can be to give people the space to find their own answers, to think in new ways and to arrive at (sometimes startling) self-awareness.

It is such a privilege to share an experience like that with a group of workshop participants… and is a truly rewarding experience for a facilitator!

A True Story of Human Kindness

Once upon a time, many years ago when I was still working with my now retired guide dog, Eccles, we were walking home from the train station. I suddenly became aware that a car was crawling along behind me – matching my pace as I gradually approached home. Now, I am not one to leap to assumptions of evil intent, but it did start to worry me that some unidentified person was stalking me… if stalking is a word that can be applied to a car… and I stopped some distance away from my home and confronted the driver.

“I’m so sorry,” a male voice said, “It’s only just occurred to me that you might be worried. I’m with the local security company and just wanted to make sure you got home safely.”

I could have ranted at him for not considering the implications of his actions, but instead I smiled and thanked him for checking we were okay… though I admit I did wait for him to drive off before completing my walk home.

As some of you know, I started working with my new guide dog, Fiji, last month. Generally I am proud of how well she is working. However, last week we had a… shall we say less than great walk back from the station and I ended up becoming very lost, and very panicked.

Then a car stopped and the driver asked if I needed help.

With the driver’s help I worked out where we were and Fiji and I started to make our way home. I was aware that a car was crawling along behind me – matching my pace as I gradually approached home. Eventually, as I drew up alongside my home, I attracted the driver’s attention to thank him for his help, and he explained why he had stopped.

It turned out to be the same guy who had followed me and Eccles all those years ago

Imagine how he might have responded last week had I ranted at him all those years ago, rather than smiling and thanking him for his help? Would he have bothered to stop and offer assistance this time round?

Maybe yes, maybe no – but I’m really glad I smiled and thanked him all those years ago!

The PSASA – A Great Business Decision

Cds IMG 0090Here is a photograph of me receiving my certificate of membership as an Associate Member of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa, with Cape PSASA Chapter President 2015 – 2016, Richard Mulvey

In June 2015 I joined the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa and I can honestly say I think it is the best business decision I have ever made for my speaking business.

I have been a member of Toastmasters International for many years and have learned a great deal about constructing and presenting speeches, and have developed useful leadership skills through the toastmasters structured learning programmes.

However, from the PSASA I am learning how to build my speaking business – learning from those who have travelled this journey before me, and those who are experts in their fields of speaking. As a result, I am gaining insights into the speaking industry and the next steps I need to take to build my business. I am grateful to the many PSASA members who have been willing to share their knowledge and experience with me as part of this journey.

This year (2016-2017) I will be assisting the Cape Chapter of the PSASA as a part of the organising committee, and I look forward to an exciting year ahead with our new Cape chapter President, Jason Sandler and his team.

Find out more about the PSASA.

Find out more about Toastmasters Southern Africa.

A Quick Catch-Up

Cds 2016 03 28 13 42 49I have been quiet over the past few weeks – not because I’ve had nothing to say, but rather because I have been busy starting a new phase of my life.

On 28 February I started working with my new guide dog, Fiji. And over the past month my life has been full of change – getting to know Fiji and learning how we can work together effectively. It has been a month filled with learning and fun!

This is not to say that I have been idle – I have several workshops and presentations planned for the coming months, am moving forward with my book “A Different Way of Seeing: Living life Without Sight”, and have started creating a keynote on the leadership lessons I have learned from my guide dogs.

You’ll be hearing more about all of these in the coming weeks, I promise…

Book Review: Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port

Are you involved in a service industry? If you are, would you like to be able to find more clients/customers?
If so, then Michael Port’s “Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling” is a must read for you!

Yes, the title is long, but the book itself is easy to read, flows ell and is full of practical advice on how to grow your network, give value to your clients to build industry credibility,, improve your success rate in attracting new clients, and promoting yourself and your products in a powerful way. The book is also something of a workbook, with exercises that reinforce each of the main points.

I particularly found the chapters on how to promote yourself using different media fascinating and of immense value – they have certainly given me lots to think on as I continue building my own business!

Definitely a book I would recommend!

Overcoming Challenges – Tips to Help You Move Forward 04

So, there I was, sitting in the hospital room, having just been dealt the blow that my eye operation had failed – that I was now completely blind, and likely to remain so for the rest of my life. Often people have asked me how I was feeling, what was going through my mind, as I tried to come to terms with this new position in which I now found myself.

As I said in the very first article in this thread, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had a choice – to go home and give up, and be angry, bitter, dependent and depressed for the rest of my life… Or to go out there and see what life still had to offer me.

By choosing to see what life still had to offer me I took back control of my life – and also acknowledged that the only person accountable for whether or not I would move forward with my life in a positive way was me.

In effect I refused to grant my blindness the right to dictate my decisions.

And taking back that control was a very powerful step that enabled me to start moving forwards towards the rest of my life and my future.

So often we become overwhelmed by our challenges and the obstacles we face in life. Maybe, like me, taking back control of your life and your destiny will help to give you the power and the energy you require to start tackling those obstacles.

Limiting Assumptions – Are You Sabotaging Yourself???

As a workshop facilitator I am always interested to attend workshops given by other industry leaders. On 22 February I was privileged to attend a workshop on limiting assumptions given by Canadian success mindset mentor, Jayne Blumenthal

Very few of us are aware of our limiting assumptions, let alone how those limiting assumptions impact on our behaviour. I was startled to realize how much of my behaviour is determined by the opinions of others – I mean, I knew that I was very aware of what others thought of me, but had not realized quite how much of my behaviour was governed by that and the degree to which it impacts on how I act and how I react.

More importantly, I was not aware of how often that belief stopped me from pushing forward with my plans and goals – I’d always just thought I had a bit of a problem with procrastination… but I’m now being forced to test the truth of my belief.

What are the limiting assumptions that are guiding your actions… and lack of actions? Are those limiting assumptions stopping you from achieving the success you are working towards?

Are you actually sabotaging yourself?

Overcoming Challenges – Tips to Help You Move Forward 03

Continuing the series about what it took for me to overcome the challenge of becoming blind, here are a few thoughts on the role played by positive attitude.

Attitude refers to a default tendency or orientation of the mind. It manifests by influencing the way we react to things that happen to us, usually either in a positive or a negative way.

If my default attitude had been negative, I probably would have responded to the news of my blindness by going home and giving up, being angry, bitter, dependent and depressed for much of my life. If my default attitude had been negative, I would have seen first those things that I cannot do and limited my possibilities accordingly.

But, because my attitude is generally positive, I was able to see beyond the devastating experience that had occurred, to pick up the pieces of my life and continue moving forward.

How do you respond when facing a challenge? Do you react with a negative attitude, and see first the problems and the difficulties you need to fight through? Or do you have a positive attitude and seek for whatever good may come out of that challenge, focussing on what you can do rather than what you cannot?

Testimonial: Hope Cape Town NGO

Below is a testimonial from the event organiser of the Tygerberg Hospital workshop I presented.

Lois Strachan addressed our community health workers at Tygerberg Hospital last week, and all of us were captivated by what she had to say. Not only is her story inspiring and deeply challenging, but she is also a humorous and eloquent public speaker. As a medical doctor I have listened to numerous speakers and lecturers, but I know that someone has made an impact when I retell their entire story to my husband and children, and when I am still thinking about what was said a week later! Lois really encouraged our community workers, who themselves face numerous and varied challenges on a daily basis. She reminded us to be grateful for what we do have, and also that nothing is impossible if your attitude is right. It is a real privilege to listen to Lois, and if you can get her to sing… you are in for a treat!

Dr Susan Purchase, HOPE Cape Town

If you’d like Lois to present at your conference or event, please contact her through her website for more information.

I May Be Blind… but At Least My Legs Work!

Last week I was asked to facilitate a workshop on what it is like living without sight in a visual world at Tygerberg Hospital. When the event organiser and I arrived at the hospital we walked to the nearest bank of lifts, only to discover that they were not working.
No problem – we just went to the next bank of lifts… and they were also not working.
Finally, after walking around the hospital building for around 15 minutes checking each lift we passed without success, we eventually found what felt to us like the only working lift in the entire (huge) hospital.

I know many of you will be asking why we didn’t just take the stairs… Well, my workshop was on the 11th floor.

Enough of my story – why am I telling you this?

The fact is that as we were rushing from one lift to another I could not escape the thought of what this must mean for a hospital, where people often need to be moved by wheelchair or in hospital beds, where people may be on crutches, are aged, or simply do not have the same degree of mobility as I do. Not to mention the vast number of visitors, staff, doctors, nurses who need to navigate the 11floors of the building.

How on earth was that possible with so many lifts out of service? What implications resulted from those lifts being out? And how many unnecessary problems arose because people could not freely move around the hospital? That was when I came to realize that, though I may be blind, at least I have the gift of mobility and though I would not have enjoyed climbing the stairs to get to the 11th floor; at least I had the capacity to do so.

Email updates

Lois shares updates on her book, speaking and the reality of living with blindness. Find out what Lois is up to – subscribe here.