A few months into a new role, this would be my third visit to one of my favourite sites. I looked forward to visiting because everyone involved in the contract, from the senior managers and HR to the Health and Safety team, were friendly, hard working and supportive of one another. These qualities were particularly true of one supervisor, let's call him Dave.
Arriving at the front desk to sign in, Dave greeted me with his usual beaming smile and two mugs of steaming coffee in hand. "I wondered if you had time for a chat?" said Dave, gesturing to a meeting room, "I want to show you a project of mine." I readily agreed, and we headed off; my curiosity peaked.
The first thing I saw as we entered the room was the flipchart paper on the wall facing me, which bore the title 'Your Health and Safety Induction Journey'. Under the title were detailed maps and drawings illustrating the safety procedures for each role on the contract and visitors.
"Dave, this is fantastic; talk me through it", I said. Dave beamed and enthusiastically launched into an explanation of his redesign. He aimed to create a bespoke contract specific induction programme. "At the end of the day, I want everyone to get home safely", said Dave. "What was the feedback from the regional health and safety team?' I asked. "Oh, you're the only person I've shown the plan to", said Dave. His face fell, smile fading.
I was shocked to hear this. Before meeting Dave, the regional health and safety team had already told me of Dave's passion for health and safety and their excellent working relationship. It was clear how much they respected and valued him, as did the management team. I was about to ask Dave to explain when he suddenly said, "I'm going to trust you; I have an impossible dream". Dave's impossible dream was to become a health and safety advisor and join the regional team. However, he said this was unthinkable because of his severe dyslexia.
I thanked Dave for revealing his aspirational dream and told him I was also dyslexic. He seemed surprised, but at least a partial smile had returned to his face. But I now had to ask Dave a potentially tricky question. "So Dave, I'm curious. Was there a purpose in telling me of your ambition?". Dave looked a little sheepish and said, "I wanted to see how you reacted, and you seemed like the safest person to tell first. You didn't laugh or agree that my dream was impossible, so maybe it isn't". Then it was my turn to break into a big smile before saying, "Right, Dave, I'll make the coffee, and then you can tell me your plan".
Over the next three years, Dave worked on each phase of his plan. Every stage contained a specific set of goals to achieve. Upon completion of one goal set, the next began. This process continued until the entire phase finished. There was plenty of practical support for Dave on his journey. The contract and operations managers helped Dave improve his computer skills and grow his confidence in written communications. A dictaphone for recording site inspection notes, extra training, and mentoring came from the Health and Safety Team. Finally, Dave agreed to undertake two QCF qualifications I had arranged for a training provider to deliver for on site staff, which he successfully completed.
Numerous unexpected obstacles emerged along the way, but Dave had expected stepbacks. He continued to remind himself of his ultimate goal, adjusted his plan, sometimes splitting a phase or a goal set in two and moved forward. He never stopped smiling; he never gave up, and even when things got tough, he dug deep, sort support and kept going.
Three years later, I was back visiting Dave for the final time. I was leaving the company for a new role. When I arrived, Dave was waiting, as usual, coffee mugs in hand and smiling broadly. We entered the meeting room, sat and then Dave burst out excitedly. "You're not the only one starting a new job. Next month, I'm moving to a new role with the Health and Safety team. I've passed the first of my professional qualifications too." When the congratulations finally ended, I asked Bill what was next for him. "Oh, that's easy," he said, "the next stage of the plan starts."
Almost a decade later, as I listened to our lecturer outline the two prominent hope theories in positive psychology, I was reminded of Dave. While each model's concepts differed, elements of one described Dave's approach and attitude. A clear, achievable goal, neither impossible nor a certainty, and aligned with an individual's values and skills. Agency or willpower is the determination and commitment to progress toward a goal. In addition to being heard by others. Waypower is the motivation required to create pathways and alternative pathways when obstacles arise to reach a goal. Favourable and specific emotions may accompany the identification of a goal or those that trigger memories of learning when we encounter difficulties or hurdles along the way (Synder, 1994 & 2000).
Dave's dream job, the clearly defined goal, high hope and supportive colleagues and leaders created an ideal environment for Dave to explore and realise his potential.
Suppose you were to create the right conditions, expand your focus, open your eyes a little wider, and shift your gaze in a different direction. In that case, you, too, might see talent everywhere, including your own.