Have you ever wondered what would be different if you hadn’t met someone who turned out to have a positive impact on you?

Maybe at the time it was a chance meeting. Just a blip on the radar that barely even registered as significant in the moment that it took place. Looking back though, whoa, it registers alright. This one chance meeting. At the right time. In the right place. Something stirs.

A chance introduction to Carole Cameron was like that for me. In late fall 2001, she’s leading an evening workshop, a leading change showcase for an Eagle’s Flight program. The session is in Kitchener-Waterloo, hosted by the local chapter of the Canadian Society for Training & Development.

Carole introduces herself. She puts us through our paces. She’s fantastic. Smart. Engaging. Relatable. A good listener. She has magical powers. She keeps the spotlight on us, the participants in the room – the whole time!

I speak with her briefly afterwards. Thank her. We trade business cards. I learn she is an independent professional facilitator. She’s open and shares a bit of her story. It’s obvious she loves what she is doing.

Looking back on our chance meeting, it’s funny – in a karmic coincidence kind of way. Carole believes that “people are put in our paths for reasons.” And, well, I get it. Because now I know that she was put in my path for a reason.

When we met, a seed was planted. I had no idea I’d end up following a road similar to hers. But I did, and her encouragement and support has been unrelenting.

In Carole’s words, “You know what you need to do; you don’t really know how it’s going to end up. Just act with courage, trust your instincts and go.”

Thanks Carole. I’m grateful you were put in my path.

~ Moe

 

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Carole’s #SHIFTsauce Ingredients

  • Know what you’re good at and narrow your focus
  • Set context in the room; acknowledge and respect people’s realities
  • Ask… then wait and listen; see what happens
  • Don’t take things personally
  • Act with courage and trust your instincts
  • Just be fabulous!

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Carole Cameron talks to #SHIFTsauce

#SHIFTsauce:  When Moe met you, you were an independent facilitator. I understand you worked in HR before that. How did you make the leap?

Carole:  I’ll tell you my story about how I ended up here. I studied psychology in university back when in the ’80s and ended up getting a job in human resources with a little company. Eventually I got a job working in HR with Nestle.

At the time they had this robust training department and this big catalog of courses that you could take. I’d sign up for everything. I found myself drawn to the people who were facilitating and I thought that would be a really cool thing to do. Also, I thought, I can do this; I can probably do it better. It’s not egotistical. It’s Wow, I can do this.

#SS:  It’s affirming.

Yes. And I was very lucky. They were looking for extra facilitators for a big rollout, and I got to do a bit of that. I thought, I really like this, but I didn’t want to move into that job full-time because I had a young son and there was travel involved.

Time went on. One day I was standing in front of the mirror drying my hair when I thought, what the heck. Why wouldn’t I if there is an opportunity? I was recruiting for a bunch of facilitators within the company, internally, so I put my own name forward.

I moved into the training department and they sent me off to learn how to be a trainer. I got all my accreditations. It was so awesome.

At the time, the Executive VP of HR in Nestle was Phil Geldart, who is the king of Eagle’s Flight now. His influence was big, of course, and he was a huge proponent of training. It was the Camelot days of training at Nestle, with a fabulous bunch of people. Phil is an amazing mentor. I learned so much. I started to get good at what I was doing as a corporate trainer.

Then Phil decided to leave Nestle and pursue Eagle’s Flight business full-time, and new leadership came in. That was a defining moment for me. There was a position open as a training director and I applied for it, but it was awarded to somebody else – someone I did not respect. It was a crushing blow. Nothing was ever good enough for him, and essentially I went from hero to zero overnight.

I spent two years grappling with it, and in the meantime, all of these people kept popping into my experience – mostly women who were running their own businesses. And it just kept noodling around in my head that I really would like to do this on my own.

I finally got to a place where I decided that I had two choices ahead of me. One was, I was going to go back to school and get my Master’s in adult education or something. The other was, I was just going to strike out on my own. Somebody said, “If you start out on your own, why don’t you negotiate a contract with Nestle? That’ll be your bread and butter.”

So I pitched that idea. I said I’d been thinking about going out on my own, doing the training thing, and I know you need my services but you do not love working with me. What if we strike a contract so I could work, say, two-and-a-half days a week with Nestle? My boss thought this was the best idea in the world. And then he didn’t have to manage me anymore.

#SS:  Two years working under somebody like that must have been soul-depleting. It could really damage your self-confidence – yet you rose up and did an extremely brave thing. I wonder how you did that.

It was out of desperation. I think I knew I was destined for better things and it was like a burning platform. That’s what it was. I had an idea which I hoped was going to work out but I didn’t know. So I proposed my idea, and he was actually quite supportive. He pitched it to our VP and I got a year’s contract.

#SS:  How did you get your business going at that point?

I used my network. I went to everything, every conference, met up with anyone who was in the business. I called people and asked for advice.

I was lucky because I had so many great connections through working at Nestle and I had the credibility of having that name behind me. I was asked to do outplacements, run workshops – how to write a résumé, how to get an interview, stuff like that. I did so many different things in those first few years which were different and rewarding. I just kept getting opportunities.

#SS:  How did you decide which ones to say yes or no to?

I came up with three very simple rules to guide me. I decided I wanted to do more of the things that I enjoyed and were meaningful to me, and I wanted to do way less of the things that I did not enjoy and I did not find any meaning in. The third rule was, I wanted to work with people who I found interesting, who would enrich my life and bring joy to my work.

When I came to a decision point – Should I do this or not? – I always returned to those principles. Having them was very helpful because you can get tempted when you’re on your own to do things that you’re not good at and then you fail, or you’re not great. And then when you make a decision that’s outside of those three parameters it’s like, I should have known. I will stick to my three rules. I stopped taking assignments that I didn’t really want to do.

#SS:  How could you tell when something would likely bring you frustration?

Two things. I just did not connect with the person involved; we weren’t on the same page; I didn’t really like them very much. Or, the subject matter would not be an area of expertise.

#SS:  If the subject matter is a stretch, that might be a project you wouldn’t enjoy doing?

Yes, because I would be faking it. I can facilitate anything but I would have to be tap-dancing, pretending to know something I didn’t know. It would spend an inordinate amount of time trying to look like I’m good at it. That’s not my comfort level. It’s not worth the stress.

I want to be working with subject matter that I know, that I believe in and that I can speak to from personal experience. Narrowing your focus is a huge advantage. Know what you’re good at.

#SS:  Has there ever been a time when you said yes to a project only to discover that it shouldn’t have made it through your three-rule filter?

I’ll tell you this story. I agreed to do a program for a municipality that requested training to fix a problem. It sounded kind of interesting. But sometimes training isn’t the solution. It’s a management problem or a systemic problem – or they’re just covering their butts. In this case, it turned out to be a hostile, unionized audience. They were prisoners in the room and I was brought in to sell a message they didn’t care about.

#SS:  How did you handle that?

I changed my mindset and openly acknowledged what’s going on: This is mandatory training. We’re here together for a day. I will try and make the experience as pleasant as possible for everybody. How does that sound? Even if you only get one little golden nugget or useful thing out of it, your day has been well spent and you’ve been fed. So let’s do our best.

That was a huge learning. It made those situations really good.

#SS:  Setting the context.

Yes, setting a context of reality. There were great outcomes from that. There was appreciation. It was like, oh my gosh, this was the best thing ever. That reaffirmed my approach, so I just kept doing that.

#SS:  Even when your audience wasn’t actually hostile?

Yes, to set yourself up contextually. It boils down to knowing your audience and how they may perceive you. For example, you work with a national client and you’re sent to an outlying area. Here I am, this person from head office in Toronto, the centre of the universe, coming out to tell you how to do your job. That is a strike against you. You need to recognize that and overcome it. Plus – I always say this – I’m this blonde chick from HR who’s come here to tell you how to do things properly. And being blonde doesn’t help.

#SS:  Really?

Being a nice, happy, bubbly blonde doesn’t really help with your credibility.

#SS:  How do you put the goods on the table as far as that’s concerned?

I just say that.

#SS:  You say, “I know, I know…”

Yes. I know you may be thinking, “Who the heck is this girl?” Back in the day, I was young and I was blonde and I was from Toronto. There’s three strikes against you.

#SS:  But once you set that context and you put it on the table…

Then that’s over.

#SS:  Did you feel then that you had to be extra amazing in front of the room, to counteract what you had just acknowledged they might be thinking?

I always think I have to be extra amazing outside of that.

#SS:  For your audience to come to believe in you and your ability to help them succeed, that may be a leap from what they might have been feeling at the beginning. How do you get there after the initial acknowledgment of possible bias?

I try to find something right in everything that somebody says. I do that deliberately: find something right in something that someone has said and then either ask a question about the other part that may be not quite what you’re looking for or not quite on track, or just add a piece that maybe they’re missing.

I think it’s just respecting that people are bringing stuff into the room, and to hear what frustrates them or what they don’t agree with, or what they’re thinking about. They’re not challenging me. I don’t take it personally.

That’s one of the buttons right there, to not take things personally. The classroom is a place to explore and think about things – and to think about how you think about things. To have the opportunity to have people say those things out loud is learning for them. To have the opportunity to have their voice heard.

#SS:  And to hear their own voice saying something?

Yes. Sometimes participants say something out loud and they realize, “That doesn’t sound quite right.” Or, “I’m not really sure.” Other times they’ll say, “You know, I said that earlier on but I’m rethinking it now.”

I don’t feel the need to be the centre of the show. I’m very comfortable with my role as a facilitator, which is to ask questions and facilitate discussion rather than to lather wisdom onto people. I think that people appreciate that mindset.

I’ll often ask questions like, “This slide says this; what do you think about that? Do you agree, disagree, do you think it’s true, do you think it’s not true? What do you think about that?” And then I wait. And wait.

#SS:  So silence plays a role.

Yes. I’m comfortable with that. I do quite a bit of train-the-trainer stuff, and that’s one of the things I teach. You ask a question and then you wait. Because people have something to say. They’re processing. They’re thinking about how do I want to express it, do I want to express it, does she really want me to say something? So I just wait.

And then they say it. Because they have to. Because the silence is unbearable. That’s part of my secret sauce. I can wait. I can listen.

That’s also part of my personality. I’m an introvert. I do not need to be talking all the time. I do not care to be talking all the time. I’m quite happy tossing something out there and listening and seeing what happens.

#SS:  You wrote a book about introversion, published in 2009 – well before introversion became a hot topic. What inspired you to write it?

It sprang from the incredible – and I hate to use the words “life changing,” but it was true – experience I had when I discovered what introversion and extroversion were, through studying and being certified in the Myers-Briggs tool.

It was like, oh my gosh, that is so me. It explained everything – right from when I was a kid and feeling uncomfortable. My mother would send me to the store to do something and I would make some excuse because I didn’t want to have that interaction. Or my mom would say, “Go across the street, there’s Cindy.” Or if we were camping, “There’s a little girl across the way, they want you to go play with her.” I was like, “No, I’m perfectly happy.”

I felt misunderstood and judged. So when I learned this whole introversion thing, it was like, oh man, I’m not a freak. And I felt very compelled to share that story in a way that was accessible and not academic.

The title is Splash: An Introvert’s Guide to Being Seen, Heard and Remembered, because those are the things introverts say: “I feel invisible. I feel I have no voice. People don’t remember me. I’m not memorable because I don’t make an impact.” It’s so common, and it was my own experience. You’re sitting in a meeting and you say something brilliant but you don’t say it loud enough. Then someone else says it very loudly two minutes later and it’s like, I just said that. It’s so frustrating.

That is what my book is about. I just wanted to say my thing, write it down in my own voice. It was really fun to do. I sent out surveys and had focus groups, and I also incorporated the personality type or temperament part into it.

#SS:  Do personality type and temperament continue to play a big role in your work?

Yes. I try to include both types of instruments in leadership or communication as much as I can. It’s so helpful.

#SS:  How does being an introvert affect your work as a facilitator?

It’s challenging in that there’s a great deal of energy involved in facilitation, and I get pooped. But overall, I think it has really helped me be effective because I’m not a preacher. I’m okay asking the question and listening to the answers. When you really listen, you can probe and help everybody feel a little bit safer.

#SS:  What is it like having introverts as your clients or audience?

People make assumptions about people who are introverted or process things on the inside or don’t speak up. I allow people to be in whatever space they’re at. I allow for small groups and buzz groups and stuff like that, so that people who don’t want to speak in a large group can share their voice in a smaller arena. If someone isn’t forthcoming, I do not make assumptions that they have nothing to offer, that they’re not thinking about a question or issue, that they’re not engaged, because I know that’s not true. I can tell someone who is not engaged. I can tell when someone is being thoughtful, which is completely different from being disconnected. I don’t find it a challenge.

#SS:  You recognize and respect their ways and their strengths.

 I think they’re very lucky to have me.

#SS:  I think they are lucky to have you. And I’m curious… what’s a “buzz group”?

Oh that would be, turn to your neighbor and talk about a challenge you faced, or something like that. That would be a buzz group.

#SS:  I wanted to pick up on something you said earlier: “Know your strengths.”

You know, I went through a really hard personal situation years ago. I wasn’t sure where to go, what to do next. I got some really good advice from someone who said, “You can’t answer those questions right now. All you can do is just be fabulous.” Just continue doing what you do. Do it really well. Sooner or later things will happen to inform you about making the decisions that you need to make. In the meantime, don’t stall out, don’t stop doing anything, just continue to be fabulous. This is my motto. Just be fabulous.

#SS:  This is fantastic.

That’s my motto.

#SS:  “Just be fabulous” should be a T-shirt. It should be everything!

Exactly. And the other thing that came out of that time, that sticks with me, is the word “courage.” I kept that word in my mind purposely. This word kept me going because I had to make tough decisions and I had to live with them. I had to move forward. You know what you need to do; you don’t really know how it’s going to end up. Just act with courage, trust your instincts and go.

#SS:  Which is what you did when you left Nestle to start your own practice.

Someone said that to me in those moments, “Be careful that you’re not running from something, that you’re running to something.” I took that, but I was running from something. I’m so glad I did. Actually, people are put in our paths for reasons.

#SS:  Your work now must sometimes make you that person – put in someone’s path to help them do hard things.

If people want to learn something or they want to develop and they have the oomph to do that, I will support them to the nth degree. But I’m not one of those save-the-universe type people. I’m not soft and mushy; I don’t do what I do for the good of mankind. I don’t know why that’s important for me to say; it has to do with type, I guess. I just think if people want to take the time to invest in themselves then I am going to give them their money’s worth.

#SS:  It sounds to me as if there an element of respect in there. Respecting people for what it is they’re trying to achieve, and not respecting the mentality of people who don’t take things into their own hands. We have talked about you earning their respect as well.

For me being seen as competent and credible is very, very important. Not just likable. But that’s me. Everybody does it for different reasons.

#SS:  It also comes back to one of your rules, to only work with people you respect and who bring joy to your work.

Yes. I try to hang out with awesome people. Moe is a perfect example. He is an extraordinary facilitator and an extraordinary person. If he asked me to do something with him, I would say, “Absolutely.” I want to see what this guy is doing because it’s him. He is so inspiring, so fabulous and so passionate about what he does.

I will sign up to be a part of that. That’s how I continue my education. I read stuff, but mostly, I try to work with people who are awesome, and observe them.

Plus, you learn so much stuff in your classroom from people. Honestly, I would say every other time I’m in a class and someone gives an answer, I think, “Wow, I am totally stealing that idea because that is the best answer I have ever heard.” People bring so much stuff to the class. There’s always something.

 

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Carole’s #SHIFTsauce Ingredients

  • Know what you’re good at and narrow your focus
  • Set context in the room; acknowledge and respect people’s realities
  • Ask… then wait and listen; see what happens
  • Don’t take things personally
  • Act with courage and trust your instincts
  • Just be fabulous!

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Curious to learn more about Carole and her work. Check out her website at Creative Performance Solutions or find her on LinkedIn.

 

Moe Poirier is the Founding Partner of Shift Facilitation. For over 15 years, he has honed his craft as a facilitator and a designer of training. He is on a mission to have corporate trainers reinvent themselves as change agents and value creators in their organizations.