"We were not made to live as brutes" CONT’D

on BLOG, Career Coaching, Coaching, development, transformation 2 Mar, 2014

"We were not made to live as brutes" CONT’D

My wishes for Easter 2013 had the form of a description of a mass in an Italian penitentiary.

Today, after almost a year, I want to share a very unusual – or even unique for a career coach – and enriching experience: a series of motivational interviews I conducted to select some workers in a maximum security prison.

First of all a bit of history. A year and a half ago, I was asked to manage a project, that generated in the most refusal: to create a food production hall in a penal institution. A few weeks ago, finished bureaucracy , overcome delays due to both parties and completed the work to turn a warehouse in an environment suitable for the production of food, I met the prisoners previously indicated by the direction of the prison, to know and select them.

The plenary meeting was quite heavy emotionally; my attitude was to treat candidates abstracting from their condition, without denying it at any time. To treat them as individuals in an environment of exclusion and punishment. I see myself sitting in the chair in the small classroom, with a dozen inmates who look insistently at me with eyes full of feelings unknown to me. I thought of "The house of the Dead” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, read more than twenty years ago: of nothing else.

The day after, I had individual meetings with each candidate to assess their motivation and this stage was very challenging. The “suit” of the engineer and especially of the coach helped me, but several times they left me naked. What did we talk about? About satisfaction and commitment, promise of reliability, "I've never done a day off in my life", the willingness of doing something beyond the usual push-ups and card games. We talked about working to forget, working for a normal life, working to imagine, about dreams, construction, about an example for their children. A positive example. We talked about poverty and needs, need to travel with the mind, need of money and redemption. A redemption transubstantiated in a food that "comes out"; I had not thought of that.

"What did I bring home?" the coach would ask. A different point of view, completely different. A new perspective towards work, freedom, the obvious that is never such, homesickness, privileges. Every prisoner pointed out to be a serious and respectable person, sending me a lesson of trust, humility and impudence.

À propos : I'm not “happy” to go to jail , I have no voyeuristic, expiatory or “martyr-like” pushes. Sometimes, when I have to go to the jail, I fight against an unnatural desire to stay in bed. But I get up and I go there, as for a sort of civil service, as something that gives sense to me and to my work, as the price that must be paid. For being more fortunate, for having get less wrong.

“Nothing grows out of diamonds” [quotation: Fabrizio De Andrè, “Via del Campo”].






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