Some kind of leader

written 6.2.17

During the past 2 days at work, I attended a training about Motivational Interviewing (MI).  I think it was an okay training.  I don’t think I can use much of it in working with sex offenders.  That’s an entry for another day.  Today was the second day of the training, and I noticed something that I feel compelled to write about.  I even made a note in my notepad during the training so I wouldn’t forget.

I would never label myself a “leader.”  I would never ask to supervise a project or be someone’s boss.  When I have been asked to take on a supervising role, I have said, “No, thank you.”  I’m not an extrovert.  I don’t want to be in charge.  In every class I took with Dr. Sofranko during college, he said that because we (the students) were in college, it was almost inevitable that we would all end up managing/supervising others at some point in life.  At that point in my life and for many years after, my Sass Level was well below zero (0).  Still, every time Dr. Sofranko made that statement, I thought to myself, “I’ll show you!”  Honestly, the first time I heard him say it, I’m sure my Internal Panic Alarm sounded.  But, every time after that, my internal response was to accept the statement as some kind of challenge he was issuing.  It’s not lost on me that my job title is Community Supervision Officer.  I’m not supervising other employees.  I’m supervising sex offenders who live in the community (insert helpless, maniacal laughter).  This is the first time I am having this realization.  Good lookin’ out, Dr. Sofranko.  May you rest in peace, especially knowing that you were right about so many things.

For the MI training, we were situated in groups of 8.  I have no issues with anyone in my group.  I approach my job with the philosophy that the job of everyone in my department is difficult.  End of story.  As is usually the case, there was not an obvious leader in my group.  When someone had to speak for the whole group, we all looked at each other hoping it would be someone else.  That’s my default setting.

I know work trainings are often boring.  Sometimes they are/seem pointless.  I know that.  I also know that sometimes trying to make the best out of a less-than-perfect situation keeps the situation from seeming so awful.  Time passes easier, one’s mood doesn’t sour as much when one tries.  I think?  That’s been my experience.  Easier said than done.  I know that, too.  Maybe attitude is everything?

Early in the day yesterday, I realized that I would not be able to use much of what we were being taught because of the nature of the population I supervise.  That happens.  A lot.  My initial response to this realization in any situation is to feel frustrated.  Damnit.  I need help with my work.  I need to learn new skills to help me work more effectively with sex offenders.  But I’m the only person in my department who needs this.  Eventually, I replace frustration with some other feeling: apathy, being reasonable, etc.  I chose being reasonable yesterday.  Okay, I have to sit through this training.  I’ll make the best of it.  I’ll listen, I’ll take notes, I’ll try to do the exercises correctly.  I might even participate in discussions.  If I pay attention, I may learn some things that I can use, here-and-there.  Not everyone in my group took this route.  Okay.  We’re all different.  No problem.

We were working on an exercise that required us each to write responses to, I think, 5 different statements, discuss each of our statements as a group and choose one that we believed was the best out of all 8 options.  When it seemed like my group was kind of disorganized, I tried to become some kind of leader.  I got the impression that nobody wanted to do the exercise, nobody wanted to share their answer and nobody wanted to choose the best one.  Work trainings are often boring, and we always have work to do in our offices that is, honestly, more important.  We didn’t have much choice and I didn’t think it sounded like much fun to have nothing to say when it was our turn to respond.  No, we wouldn’t get into trouble, but it wouldn’t do our image any favors.  Not to mention, there were supervisors in the training (supervisors, like bosses).  And it’s just not in my nature to blow off tasks I’m asked/told to complete at work, no matter how meaningless the task may seem.  We are professionals, and I think we should each present as such, especially when we are being given a presentation by another professional to whom we should show respect if only because he is a person who is trying to help us be better officers.  I believed that part of being respectful was completing the exercise as instructed.

My stint as “some kind of leader” was pathetically brief.  Working with the responses and body language of some of the people in my group when I tried to bring some order to the chaos, I decided to be quiet.  That was the end.  I didn’t try again.  When we did other group exercises, I kept my input to a minimum.  I definitely did not try to lead, nudge or direct.  My motivation was primarily internal – the way I interpreted their responses and body language – the blank stares, the lack of responses, the mumbling.  Did they think I was being too bossy?  Did they think I was a bitch because I tried to “take over?”  Did they think I was some nerdy loser who was paying attention and trying to learn?  (FYI: “nerdy loser,” party of one right here because learning IS fun and knowledge IS power, motherfucker).

I can’t say the exercise was easy.  I understand the fear of being wrong in answering a question in front of a group.  It’s not fun, but it’s a good way to learn.  Just as much as the next person, I hate finding out that old, cliché advice is accurate.  Still, if my group gave an incorrect response, what would happen?  The presenter would give us feedback about how to improve our response?  We’d gain a better understanding of what we were doing?  That doesn’t sound so bad.

My intention was to help my group.  It didn’t work out.  It prompted me to think about the discussions of referring to girls as “bossy” as if this is a negative trait.  I have never been bossy.  I have always been quiet.  A few times, I have sat quietly while I knew the “boss” was getting something incorrect, and I didn’t say anything.  I don’t want to seem like a know-it-all.  I don’t want to seem like a bitch.

Throughout the training, we worked in pairs and used real life examples to practice the techniques we were learning.  One of mine that came up more than once was my desire to be more assertive.  I am so much better than I used to be.  Just, so much.  I can’t even tell you.  BUT, there is much more room for improvement.  I want to be more assertive.  And, even though this desire was on my mind during the training, when I had an opportunity to work on strengthening my assertiveness, I didn’t take it.  Given the circumstances, I may have been considering “choosing my battles” over exercising my Assertiveness Muscles.