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Building my support team led to me having a successful life.
There is no one size fits all to building a support team. It is one of the most intimate, challenging and reflective things you will ever do, whether you receive support or provide it.
Why I built a support team
I started building a team after a bad experience with a service provider. They could not meet my needs and didn’t respect or understand where I was coming from. They didn’t give me the flexibility I needed.
During this time, I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere in my life. I felt like I was existing, instead of living or succeeding. This is the reality for many people with disability when they express the need for more flexible support to match their ever-evolving life. And when they don’t get it, they fall behind.
I decided to leave the provider, but I had nothing to fall back on. For people with disability, often the expectation is they have to live with what they are given. To get myself out of this position, I started interviewing support workers who responded to my job ad on Mable.
Meet my support team
Initially, it was very hard. When you are a person with disability who’s never had a choice before, you don’t know who you are, how to describe yourself, or what kind of support will suit you.
A good friend who is now my lead support worker filled in the gaps in my support until I found someone on Mable.
My first support worker was similar in age to me and we shared similar views and creative minds. This helped us build a connection.
Over time, my process to build a support team has kept changing. As life changes, I continue to learn what I need. And as I begin to enjoy the support I have, I can find support workers with qualities that align with me.
Today, I have a diverse team of 6 support workers. All of them bring unique qualities.
I do different things with them based on their personalities, strengths and their skills and qualities. This means I have different support workers to meet different goals and projects.
I have a main support worker who has been with me for years. She is a confidante, an advisor and a mentor for me and my team. She is my voice when I am not in the room, and the connection between my team and my family.
Even though I am the boss, she oversees my team, and makes sure I am going in the right direction.
Because of how intimate support work can be, and the big responsibility my support workers have, trust is very important.
Trust might include listening to personal phone calls and taking notes, listening to confidential information relating to my business, and being with me during my most vulnerable times.
Each of my support workers is unique, but they have one thing in common. They understand the vision and the ambitions I have and support me in a way that aligns with who I am.
How you can build your team
If you want to build your support team, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Think about what you enjoy doing
- Find people who share your beliefs. It may be helpful to have someone that you trust on the journey with you
- Take your time. Building a support team can be a long process
- Know that it is okay to change your support and let people go. Sometimes, building a support team is about finding out the things we don’t like in support workers too. You don’t need to give people a reason. If you don’t know why it’s not working, that’s okay too.
Remember, you are the captain of your team. It may be hard, but I promise you, it is worth it in the end.
Uli Cartwright is the founder of Life is a Battlefield, where his team of people with disabilities, support workers and industry leaders use advocacy and consulting to bridge the gap between society and people with disability.