18 February 2011


Skills Canada recently hosted a one day workshop for high school students and I participated as a mentor. I was asked by one of the students what I thought was the most important skill that a trades person could have.

Often in our education at community colleges, the focus is on the hard skills and for good reason. It is essential that we have knowledge of the internal workings of a four stroke engine to use an example from my trade. In the classroom, knowledge gets passed to all students equally. But learning onsite is all about the relationship between people. Knowledge in the real world is passed from master to apprentice often under conditions that don't leave time for learning. Communication has the potential to greatly enhance that learning experience.

Good communicators ask for opportunities to learn. Good communicators can ask the right questions that can greatly enhance their ability to learn. Good communicators are often chosen for supervisory positions. One of the reasons is because they can articulate what is needed and direct others with clear communication. Good communicators are better advocates in the workplace and contribute to healthier work environments.

Communication is by far the skill that is most important to success in the trades.

Going Forward

We were not all fortunate enough to grow up in families where our needs were always met – many of us grew up in environments that were not nurturing. Childhood trauma, poverty, bad parenting, alcoholism, abuse and neglect are just a few of the reasons why children grow up with a distorted view of the world. When a child can’t trust the primary caregiver, it leaves a lasting impression. Children are often torn between a desire to move forward and an obligation to protect the family secrets. Roles become reversed and the children become parents.

The story does not end there. The real tragedy is that sometimes the problems we inherit as children interfere with our success as adults. I have met a lot of adults who have not managed to put their past into perspective. Having experienced a substantial amount of trauma in my own life, I can certainly appreciate where they are coming from and what the challenges are.

There are others though who are taking back their lives, doing the work to understand the past and then making better choices for the future. I am delighted to meet other entrepreneurs who have put their past into perspective and then used their experiences from childhood to make the world a better place. As we chat together the one thing that we realize is that putting the past in perspective is essential to moving forward. The other thing that we agree upon is that we gained a lot of skill in those difficult places and we are using those skills in our businesses.

We acknowledge that it was not a battle that was easily won and there were certain steps that we followed. Accepting and acknowledging our past was key combined with a willingness to forgive and let go. We all speak about letting go of shame that was not our own. We then accepted that we were adults and as adults we have control over what happens to our lives from here on in.

A friend of mine imparted a wonderful piece of wisdom recently when she said. “When we made mistakes in the past – we were doing the best we could with the tools that we had. Now we have new tools and with those tools we are making better decisions.” I thought that this was a profound piece of advice – we can’t change where we came from but we can certainly control where it is that we are going.

Choose to be the best that you can be!!!