Several years ago I had decided that I wanted to work within an agency on a particular project. When I first mentioned this intention to a few friends, they all laughed thinking that on one in their right mind would hire me. As a speaker and a writer I had taken a number of uncompromising stands and managed to create a controversy or two. They didn't think there was an Executive Director alive that would chance hiring someone used to having an ungoverned point of view.
Although others thought me controversial, I always thought of myself as almosting boringly unoriginal. The idea the people with disabilities were necessarily sexual and therefore needed both training and healthy environments to live it - what made this controversail was only that I said what everyone knew. The idea that abuse was simply wrong and that people with disabilities deserve to live in safe places - was controversial only in that acknowlinging this simply fact meant finally addressing the issue of abuse. I used to give a speech and drive away saying to Joe, 'And they pay me for this shit.'
So I was considered controversial and a bit of a maverick because I simply described the world the way I saw it. Gradually the stances became less controversial because - um, they aren't really. But I still had the wee bit of a reputation of being a loose gun. I didn't think I'd ever end up with an office and a mandate to work within towards change. I didn't think I'd ever end up with a team to work with, to learn from and to grow with. But I did. Ironically, althought I drew up a list of three very strong women, executive directors all, who I thought might be up to an exciting challenge and to the chore of supervising me, my first interview led to my first offer and I was off and running.
In all my years of doing what I do I've given lectures attended all sorts of meetings but have always been kept away from going to meetings of consequence, mistrusted to have the maturity and the politic to speak for the agency. Such a meeting was coming up, a meeting of real importance, my boss called me in and asked me to attend in her stead. I was stunned.
We met several times to go over what needed to be acheived, what the agency point of view was. We discussed issues, argued over wording, and came to a joint response. I had them all ready with me and went to the meeting. As I NEVER have been in this kind of forum before, I was nervous. Part of what made me nervous was the simple fact that I had been trusted with the reputation of an agency that I care about.
I don't know how others felt about what we did together yesterday, but I liked it. I felt that we all heard each other, agreed sometimes, disagreed others, but feedback was given and heard. The work we had done in preparation was well recieved, for the most part.
What I'm really writing about is how nice it was to be trusted. I think employees do well when they carry their supervisors trust. I had one supervisor who made me sit and and review every point I was going to make at a meeting. Another who made me write out what I would say at a conference. A third gave me a list of things I could not say at all. Hence, private practice. But this was nice. The feeling of being trusted is hugely motivating. The need to be trusted is hugely important. I'm not sure I have understood this well in my life or in my work.
Trust. An issue for me on so many levels. After today, one that I'm going to see to a wee bit more.
Another great post Dave. I'd be interested to hear more about your work on sexual abuse. We're just about to launch information for people with learning disabilities on sexual abuse and we're keen to have plenty of other resources to point enquirers to.
Enablescotland, Oh my do we have stuff for you. Drop me a line on my email address and we can chat about what you need.
"almosting boringly unoriginal". That is not a description of you....probably it never was. Your empathy, your view of the world and your ability to put it into words with your marvelous sense of humor. Trusting those who tell you how special you are takes a long time.
You are far, far from "boringly unoriginal." You, Dave, are truly one of a kind. I'm glad you found such satisfaction in carrying the trust of the agency.
You made an excellent point. When you share your opinions honestly and adamantly, you risk alienating yourself from future opportunities by setting yourself up as "opposition" to others.
I'm glad you found your way around to a position of trust while being able to maintain your integrity and share your views with the world.
Both your courage and your success are great examples for those who'd rather play it safe and say what they think people want to hear!
I heard from someone who was at that meeting that you spoke and advocated strongly for people's right to safety. Your voice was important; the trust was not misplaced.
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