The rain poured down so hard it formed a veil, one that I couldn’t see through but I hoped my driver could. As we pulled up to the UN Base in Entebbe, Uganda, he tried to get the car as close to the building as possible so I wouldn’t get soaked.
I was in Entebbe to do a couple of workshops on motivation and teambuilding for OIOS (basically the UN Police) and specifically the chiefs, managers and staff who work with UN Peacekeepers.
As the driver nudged the car as close to the building as possible I hopped out into the deluge and immediately sunk up to my calves in water. Looking like a drowned rat, I floundered about, splashing through the water and getting thoroughly soaked as I ran towards what looked like a building.
A few minutes later we found the right one and as I opened the door to what I thought was going to be dry refuge, a whole other scene hit my eyeballs.
Part of the roof had collapsed from the rain and staff were literally shoveling water out of the training centre. I watched warily as the lights flickered.
“Did I sign that life insurance form for this training?” I wondered to myself. Check.
Pushing aside worries about getting electrocuted I simultaneously flapped my clothes around, trying to get the worst of the water out of them, while I surveyed the scene. I felt water dripping down my neck and between my shoulder blades.
I was set to start training shortly. Like really shortly.
There was no place to dry out so I soldiered on.
These were folks used to working with Peacekeepers in very tough situations so what’s a little water?
Have you ever found yourself in a sticky situation where you had to go on stage, do a presentation, give an interview etc. and you weren’t looking or feeling your best?
I have your back (whether it’s dry or not).
I’ve done workshops in situations where:
- Bears have wandered by (yes we were inside)
- Whales were jumping
- There was no heat and people’s teeth were chattering they were so cold
- There weren’t enough seats and people were pretty much stuffed into the venue like sardines
- I wasn’t told the training venue had changed and the new venue was an hour away
In all the cases, including this one, my mantra is ‘never let them see you sweat’ because that only makes the client and the workshop participants nervous and that doesn’t lead to good learning.
To keep myself relaxed, and more importantly, my training participants relaxed, I have three tricks that I can pull out of my hat in an instant. They are fast, they work instantly and they’re free.
- Smile. Seriously. It may be the last thing you feel like doing but you’ll trick your brain into thinking you’re happy and you’ll automatically relax.
- Breathe out longer than you breathe in. Works like a charm, every single time. With each long exhalation, stress says adios and disappears.
3. If you have access to a private space (aka a bathroom or private office) pretend you’re a starfish; put your hands on your hips (or even better in the air) and stand with your legs further apart than you normally would. Hold this position for 60 seconds and your cortisol levels will go down and your testosterone levels will go up, which is just a fancy way of saying you’ll feel a whole lot better.
Whatever your version of floods, caved in ceilings and being soaked is, remember, don’t let them see you sweat. You can keep yourself relaxed and your workshop participants relaxed by smiling, breathing out realllllly long and standing like a starfish.
Try it the next time you’re in a pickle and let me know how it goes. Me and my still soggy shoes will be waiting …. with a smile.
“Now it’s just another show
You leave them laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away.”
– Joni Mitchell
I can totally hear that song in my head now!
Mary Okello says
Quite a good read, thank you
Thanks Mary; the experience sure gave me lots to write about.