This is a short story about doing the right thing by people, regardless of what they look like, their story, or how they show up.

It is my belief that If you can see the good in someone or their potential, and they can demonstrate that they’re prepared to work for an opportunity, I believe in trusting that they’ve got the capability and the motivation to do what they say they want to do…

I was once working for a company, let’s call them company ‘H’ for the benefit of this story. I’ll never forget our CEO at that time, he was an incredibly opportunistic and limitless thinker. One day myself and three other heads of department received an email from our CEO informing us, he had received a letter from a gentleman, saying he’s looking for an opportunity, and could we provide him with one…

Now, this particular gentleman was suffering from a brain degenerative disease. He was looking for an organisation in London to give him an opportunity so that he could add some value and get back into the workplace. He’d had a long career, with 20 years behind him. Previously he had built his own business and did a lot of great things in his time. 

But, because of this impairment/disability which sadly started in his mid 40’s, he could no longer run his own business and ultimately had to find a different way to live.

Whilst the other three heads of departments weren’t interested in the perceived “extra care” it would take, I looked at this situation, and I thought…this guy has something about him and is just trying to make his life better.

He’s trying to create something even though he’s experiencing life-changing hardship. 

He was basically asking if he could come and work for us for free, just to put his brain and skills to good use and ultimately contribute something positive. 

I asked around the team and I said, look, if we brought someone in, would that be okay? Could we find something for him to do? Could he add some value to the team in some way?

It was a yes! 

I went back to HR and got the sign-off. The decision was to bring him in for 12 weeks. During this period he wasn’t to be paid, but we’ll definitely put him to good use and see what he could do… 

What was there to lose? 

Well, it turned out that he was incredibly intelligent! One of the side effects of his condition was spatial awareness disability, he couldn’t remember where the toilets were, so he would have to draw maps of the building, to remember how to get places he couldn’t remember.

I learned it was his short-term cognitive functions that were his biggest challenge. But, once he knew how to do something, he did it really well. In fact, given the circumstances, he began to thrive!

Towards the end of the 12 weeks, he asked if he could stay longer, he stayed for another two months, still no pay. At the end of the five months, I managed to get some headcount signed off in another department, and we got him a contract!

Getting back into employment gave him the confidence, tools, and techniques needed to learn how to be able to operate in a corporate environment with a disability. He needed to be in a corporate environment to do that. Obviously, we gave him that much-needed opportunity. 

Most people wouldn’t have, because it would require time, it would require investment. 

I get it, it’s quite scary for some people to deal with something that they don’t know anything about. Dealing with someone that’s got mental health issues, whatever it might be, it’s quite difficult for some people. But, in this case, just by providing someone with an opportunity, it turned out that they could actually self-manage, self-direct, self-develop, and add a lot of value.

I am a true believer in providing opportunity, a true believer in people knowing exactly what they need, and they are powerful regardless of what society labels them as. If society labels someone with a disability, fine, but it doesn’t mean that they’re less capable than any of the rest of us. 

I’ve seen videos on YouTube where men and women without legs have completed IronMan competitions and climbed mountains.

Wartime amputees have reversed the terrible pain of phantom limb syndrome with hundreds of hours of mirror treatment.

The point I am getting at is, I don’t think it’s our physical or mental state that determines our capability or what’s possible for us.

It’s the human spirit and will.

Zoe Williams, Founder & CEO of Luminary Mindset Consultancy