I was invited to deliver an interactive online lecture to the leading women of the European Blind Union. The participants were managers in Spain, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovak Republic and Poland.  They represented their national organisations for the blind and partially sighted and they too were blind, with the exception of one of the participants. Many had their videos on and this I appreciated so much. They could not see me but we established a trusted connection and this led to a highly interactive morning.

Our theme was ‘Driving organisational change against all odds’.

People who can see are able to observe facial expressions, assess body language as a whole, choose their space in a group, observe group dynamics and even mirror behaviour. They can also get away with momentary distraction.

Blind or partially-sighted people rely heavily on specific skills to stand out and be heard in (competitive) professional settings.  They need to meet higher standards than sighted people regarding their preparation, choice of words, the timing of their response and the ability to listen between the lines.  They have to be more strategic in meetings, build a strong identity and reputation for their knowledge and skills and master different ways to increase their influence and charisma both online and offline. I believe that sighted people in business would benefit greatly if they were to enhance their listening skills and apply approaches that influential blind executives have learned to master.

I admire all the women I met during this seminar. Their resilience, perseverance and desire to learn have made it possible for them to achieve progress in their endeavour to make life easier for blind and partially-sighted people across Europe. They still have a long way to go,  but they are making impressive strides in bringing about change in challenging times and circumstances.

Janet Poot