“I’m so nervous I’m sweating. I want to leave. I don’t think I can do this.”
I stood next to Geralyn to offer support. The presentations were just about to start. She was sweating. Profusely.
“I’m serious. I don’t think I can do this.”
She was serious, but she was also looking for encouragement, for reassurance that it would be OK. She was at the edge of what felt like a cliff and wanted to take a leap, but she just wasn’t sure she could reach the other side. She was afraid of the fall.
For the past year now…
We’ve been offering a 60-day professional development opportunity at Leo Burnett, a world-renowned creative agency in Chicago. The program, entitled Leo Leaps, helps people choose and pursue a question or project that is meaningful to them. The Ei team teaches skills and mindsets from design thinking, and builds a community of support and accountability to help participants complete their projects while absorbing helpful content they can apply to the rest of work & life.
The program culminates with a Storytelling Night, where participants share their learning with friends and colleagues in a 4-minute presentation (think short TEDx Talks). In a program where learning projects are self-directed and range from learning French to re-designing the company’s on-boarding experience, Storytelling Night serves as a common deadline for getting work done.
Back to Geralyn…
She had already cried and vomited earlier in the day. We reached out to encourage her and she wrote back:
“I’m so nervous. I really hate public speaking. I don’t know how people do this…I almost didn’t come to work today but then I knew all of you would be disappointed. I would’ve been disappointed in myself. I just feel ill.”
It was her turn to present.
She walked up to the front, took a deep breath, laughed nervously, and began. She talked about how much she loves meeting new people, how she always knows what to say.
Recently her best friend had started dating a man who is deaf. When she was with him, she didn’t know what to say. She felt awkward, and sad.
So her leap was to learn sign language. She took a class and was slowly learning some basics. And then, right there, on the 21st floor of a massive high-rise in downtown Chicago, in front of her peers, Geralyn taught us how to sign: Pizza. Beer. Toilet.