Being of Service

I enthusiastically picked  up the phone because one of my favorite persons was on the other end. Uncharacteristically, she sounded hesitant. “Maxine” she started. “I need a favor. HRMATT needs a strategic session and we need a facilitator.” (Human Resources Management Association of Trinidad and Tobago)
I did not hesitate to respond, “Yes, I will do it.”
Then she said. “We cannot pay you. And the session will be held on a Saturday.”
This did not change my decision.

I have been flirting with HRMATT for a couple of years. I have said Yes to HRMATT when I edited articles for its magazine – HRMatters, or when I wrote articles for said magazine, or when I spoke at the last two biennial conferences. Now I finally had a date.

That Saturday I met with the HRMATT”S executive team and facilitated the strategic session. It was a Workshop and these leaders worked. They brainstormed. questioned, championed, resisted, discussed, disagreed and agreed until they landed on some mutually agreed points that they hammered out into strategic statements.

Six months later I attended the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and I was nominated for President. A few minutes after, I was elected to serve as President.

I had no plans of being elected to HRMATT’s executive team. In the moment when nominated I intended to serve and as I had done before, I said Yes.  I can only conclude

  • There is no big or small act of service – they are all equally weighted
  • Saying Yes is powerful and sends waves through the Universe
  • When we show up in service, we too are served.

Will you join me in service?
I cannot promise where it will take you, but I can promise that if you don’t take the first step, you will never know.

What are you not saying Yes to? Where can you be of service?

Maxine Attong is an Organizational Development Consultant and author.  If you found value in the post, please share with your colleagues and friends.

Celebrating Others

I know that there are things that you want to do in your life, that you have not done yet and today I want to encourage and support you to get them done. When I want to do something, I find comfort in the stories of people who have done the very thing that I want to do and celebrate their achievements.
To celebrate these people I have to move beyond the knee jerk reaction of being jealous. When I feel jealous I am petulantly saying, “I wanted to do that, and I did not. I am annoyed that someone else got it done, before I did.” Jealousy is a great clue, that tells me to get off my butt and start moving. Sometimes jealousy can be heavy, creating a thick fog that makes it hard to move. Our duty is to cut through the jealousy so that we can blow it away and create a path for movement.
What works for me? I joyously celebrate when others achieve the things that I want. Their success is a positive and tangible sign that my dreams are possible and can be achieved. I say to myself “If they can do it, I can do it as well.” While I celebrate with and for them, I create positive energy that gives me the momentum to move forward. The accolades, the praises that they get, encourage me to do more, since it’s just a matter of time when I will be in that place.
In the spirit of practice, I am inviting you to celebrate three female authors from Trinidad and Tobago. I am wonderfully connected to each of them in different ways and I only have positive feelings of joy for them and their works.
I am also inviting all closet writers (male and female) to feed off the energy that they have created and get your books published.

Akosua Dardaine Edwards- Recently launched her second book “Nyabo (Madam) Why Are You Here?’ Her first book is “What Did I learn Today?”

Carolyn Correira – Her first Book is “ Thinking out Loud” and I know that she is about to launch her second book.

Pauline Cooper – Her first publication “Tell Them” is now out.

Who are you celebrating today?

Next 28 days

I am in a space of reflection. I am thinking about my next move, what should I do now? What do I want to do for the year end? How do I want to complete the year? I started off the year with ambitions of being. I said that I was not going to plan I was just going to be in the moment and see what happens next. That had limited success, since I ran away with planning trips, book launches, and life in general.
Then I said that I wanted to be joyous and I wanted to do things with joy. I was definitely happier for the year, but I did not always perform with joy. I did things out of desire to get things done, to reap a reward, to follow through on a commitment, and often in the spirit of getting it done I did not focus on the joy.
I said that this year I want to focus on resting. I had no choice in this one, as I increased my activity levels and exercised more I had to rest to recover. I was forced by my physical ambitions to slow down the pace and rest. The value of resting came only after I pushed myself to the extreme. From that I learned that resting is a reward for achieving something.
I was practicing awareness and thought that I got it, only to realize that it is one of those cliche journey experiences with no destination. I cannot reach nth level of awareness – it’s something that I have to keep practicing.
It’s obvious what I am going to do for the next 28 days of the year. I am going to be (no planning). I am going to act with joy. I am going to rest and relax and stay in awareness.
What are you going to do?

Who’s Coming For Dinner? – Blog 87

Sunday morning the plumber came over.  I met him once before when he came under the auspices of a plumbing company to fix a leaking pipe. I asked if he did private jobs and he said yes.  We exchanged numbers because I cannot plumb and a house always needs one.

We agreed earlier in the week that anytime after 10.00 a.m. on Sunday he could come over.   On Sunday morning, at 10.00 a.m. my phone rang, “I am at your home,” said the plumber.

“I am in the middle of something and I will be home in 30 minutes,”  I replied. “Do you want to reschedule?”

“No,” he said, “take your time. I am here.”

Twenty minutes later I returned home. He got out of his truck, greeted me pleasantly and accessed the problem. Then he returned to his vehicle, got the tools he needed and started to work.

After 30 minutes he told me that he needed more bleach to clean up. I suggested that I could complete cleaning after he left, but he insisted, “No. You go get the bleach. I will clean up.”

It was only when I was at the cashier’s register, that I realized that an absolute stranger was in my house. I searched my head for panic, but I could feel no dread, it felt right that he was in the house, very logical and normal that I left him there to get the bleach.

As promised, he cleaned everything up.  I paid him and he went on his way.

I could not help but compare and contrast the experiences that I had with two men over the weekend – one an Ivy League MBA with a long list of clients, and a plumber who attends night school.

My interaction with the plumber left me happy, comfortable, thinking that the world is full of wonderful people and grateful for having met one; while my interaction with the professional left me shocked, uneasy and wondering about professionalism.

Even with this juxtaposition, I knew that without the benefit of those experiences, I would have invited the wrong person to my dinner table; especially if I made the call based on Linked In profiles and Facebook posts.

When I reduce others to what they have done, the who they are becomes less obvious. When I get lost in what others have done, then the who they are becomes secondary.

As I truly connect with people the what fades in the background and the who they are takes center stage. When I observe what others do and listen to what they say and do not say then I experience them as they are.

Who do you invite for dinner?  Do the whats they have done or the who they are drive the decision?

Redefining Service – Blog 85

I am reflecting on the two days that I spent facilitating strategic sessions. I notice how my practice is changing and how differently I show up in front of a group.
My first thought is that I did not stick to the script. Before I do a facilitation, I carefully plan an agenda, with all the games, icebreakers and activities to make the points, to bring the team to realization and at times to wake them up. This time I did not use the games that I planned, because the team was not ready for them. Instead of following my carefully planned agenda I let the team lead and followed the twists and turns that they presented during the workshop.
I also did not achieve the objective. I am results oriented and before the session, I work with the team lead to agree desired outcomes. My belief was that at the end of the strategic session, the team should leave with strategies or projects that they are going to embark on over the next two or three years. These are the things that will address an identified issue, resolve a problem, grow the business or take the business to a whole other level. Not so this time. At the end of the session, there were no plans or projects. Yet, the team lead was satisfied. His team had dealt with issues that previously were unnamable. Together they had defined and understood a nebulous issue that was hampering productivity and together were able to name it, and make it tangible and real.
The third thing I noticed is that I pushed back and challenged harder than before. I am always polite with clients saying,”Thank you,” for contributions. Today I called them on contradictory statements, pushed for the truth and even questioned whether a team member was being the devil’s advocate or misaligned with the team’s overall objectives
As I ponder on what made the difference I realized that I relinquished control of the process to participants and became a follower in the process. For once, the participants guided the process.
I also carefully listened to the participants. When they were quiet I did not force a game on them, when they were silent I listened to their expressions and when they were pensive I left them to think.
I can only conclude that I have become a greater servant of the team. I think that while my intention was always to be of service to the team, I always pushed my agenda. I gave myself ticks in the box for the games and activities that were done and praised myself for wittingly thinking of a game that matched the situation. Today as I truly matched the mood and pace of the team, and stayed with them where they were at and did not shift their focus to where I wanted them to be or where I thought they should be I was truly in service to the team. What a different session.

Do you serve from a position of what they need or what you think they need? What would it be like if you changed perceptive?

Feeling Good – Blog 82

Today I spent the day coaching clients in the South of the island – about an hour’s drive from my home.  As always that was a wonderful experience, an opportunity to serve and hold the space for people to explore the issues that are front of mind for them.

I drove home slowly in blinding rain, grateful that I suffered no skids and made it safely home.

Tomorrow I return to the office and prepare for the facilitation of strategic planning sessions in Barbados.  I am looking forward to ending the week leading the management team through a process that will determine the strategies they want to implement over the next two years.

I had a satisfying day and I am looking forward to ending the week in a different island doing the same thing – being of service.

As I wind down for the evening I can only think of how appropriately Nina Simone’s classic “Feeling Good” fits me today.

How was your day? How are you feeling?

Birds flying high, you know how I feel.
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel.
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life
For me

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life
And I’m feeling good, yeah.

Fish in the sea, you know how I feel.
River running free, you know how I feel.
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good.

Dragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean,
don’t you know?
Butterflies all havin’ fun, you know what I mean:
Sleep in peace when day is done,
That’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me.

Stars, when you shine.. you know how I feel.
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel.
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good,