A vision speaks
On the radio a few days back, I was listening to an interview with a Toronto high school teacher who is blind. She doesn’t have any sight at all and ‘blind’, not visually impaired is how she introduces herself to most students. She did indicate there would be one or two groups during the year where she would refer to herself as ‘visually impaired’ in order to keep ‘em guessing.
Does she have some discipline problems? Sure, you could have superman x-ray vision and there would still be some students trying it on, but she said it was helpful to mention integrity in the introduction talk to a new batch of grade nine students. Along with asking them ‘what color is my dress today’, she will say something along the lines of “most of you know that due to the fact I can’t see, there are some actions that you might be able to get away with that you would not otherwise, but I believe if you have integrity, in doing the right thing, then the fact that I may not be able to see and catch you will not be relevant.”
It seems to work for most of them.
However, it doesn’t stop the students from calling her names. She is strict as an English teacher (with software to help with presentation and grading) and is often referred to as the grammar Nazi.)
Listening to her talk reminded me of Brad, who worked for me a collection department at a financial institution a few years back. He was visually impaired and could not read the information displayed on the screen. A special government plan provided the software that would select the necessary data and convert to audio for him. His training enabled him to be a speed listener and if you were a customer on the other end of the telephone, you would not know a difference.
All of us worked hard but had a lot of fun too and that meant you had to be able to give and take as far as teasing was concerned. We were all in agreement, including Brad, that outside of the fact he couldn’t see very well, he would be treated, for better or worse, just like anyone else on the team. In some respects we tossed Brad into the pool on the first day when he showed up for his first day on the job in a new sports jacket. We could tell it was new because the price label was still on the sleeve. Did we tell Brad? Sure…at the end of the day. He was a bit embarrassed at first, all of us would be, but quickly laughed and was tickled to be one of the gang. He managed to carry his own quite well.
The students in high school conducted themselves to a higher standard when their integrity was brought into the discussion.
Where am I heading with this? Well, in many ways, having vision is the ability to see what is invisible to others.
First of all, there is a pool of candidates like Brad who may be an asset to your firm. There is some additional work involved, I won’t candy coat it, but worth it in the end.
Also, you or someone on your team may be called upon in the future to deal with an F.O.B., (Friend of the Boss). This is defined as a friend of the boss, a very important customer, local or federal politician, member of the royal family; you get the idea – someone in a position who believes they should receive preferential treatment.
Whether they should or should not receive special terms is not relevant. They expect them.
“Mr. Lyon, we are aware that you have a special relationship with members of the senior management team at our firm. As such, I am sure you would not expect us to request that you treat this outstanding account in an expedited manner, paying quicker than your normal practice. I am equally certain that you would expect us to treat you with our gold standard, the one we show to all our customers, which we believe is very good. Can you and I work together now to bring this account back to a current status?”
How is your vision?
Tim Horton’s franchisee Mark Wafer hired Clint Sparling, who has Down syndrome, about 20 years ago. He’s been his best employee since and over the years; Mark has expanded his pool of employees with disabilities into every department, including management.
While I am sure that it does his heart good, Mark is quick to point out that it’s just good business – with positive results on the bottom line. He has found that people with disabilities tend to be hard diligent workers, low absenteeism and turnover, safety rates improve and good customer service.
Talk about serendipity, the story about Mark and Clint was in an article in today’s Toronto Star newspaper article by Barbara Turnbull. : http://tinyurl.com/ooeujcv
Truth be told?
In the collection business, we made a few ventures into hiring people with disabilities. Some worked out well, others…not so much and that becomes a challenge. Believe me, it is emotionally very difficult to let someone go who has a disability, but if they are unable or unwilling to meet the minimum requirements for the position, it still needs to be done.
Please share your experience with others and if you are considering a hiring experience that may net you some exceptional employees, make you and others feel good and (perhaps) work very well on your bottom line, check out the site that Mark Wafer launched today with the help of Lt.-Gov David Onley.
Canadian Business SenseAbility www.senseability.ca
“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
SenseAbility is one thing, CollectAbility is another. It is a bad idea not to provide training but it is criminal to provide it to the wrong people. The CIA (CollectABILITY Index Assessment), on-line, less than ten minutes will tell you if someone ‘has what it takes.
Public Programs coming up:
Toronto: October 9
Vancouver: October 21
Calgary: October 23
Nelson, B.C.: October 27