Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Hate training days ? & Why is a good lunch so important ?

Arty breakfast bar photo I just liked & had to include...
Ever feel like you are in prison ?
Corporate training events aren't always something that busy professionals look forwards to....
Clearly, it is motivating to see time and cash invested in your longer term development (provided it's not part of a disciplinary process !), but training days & longer can be rather hit and miss  I find.  

I have attended many and even run a few myself but I'd always wondered why a standing joke response  was "It was a good lunch" ? 

Mal Maison, Oxford (castle)
Having hidden under the radar for a number of years, essentially due to logistical family challenges, I finally succumbed to renewed impetus from our enlightened head of school and the inked in development action in this years performance achievement process that stated that I would attend a teaching case writing training event.  I have written lots of case studies, I sense they  are quite good.  Why do I need to develop this capability further I pondered ?
Appealing Irreverent Hotel Brand Personality
I will be brutally honest, I only signed up for this because it was located in Oxford (a nice place to visit that is a couple of hours from my home) and the recommended hotel was a Mal Maison.  I like their sumptuous use of bold velvet like colours and textures that are very much out of the mould.  Better still, not only one of the few hotel chains I actively prefer and will pay a premium for, the Oxford property forms part of the historic castle site & some of the rooms are tastefully renovated from the prison block.  

"If I have to go, at least I'll enjoy the hotel experience."

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie - Out ! Out ! Out !

Emotive ex-Prime Minister
I have a pro-business orientation, borne out of 16 years in marketing roles at a leading Footsie company that looked after its staff pretty well.  Honestly - I have found working in the left leaning university sector quite an eye opener.  BUT, even I was surprised to schmooze into the opulent coffee area and find a dazzling portrait of Lady Thatcher on the wall.   Now, I should have paid more attention at silly-0'clock when I had been directed to the Thatcher wing at the gleamingly new looking Said Business School building that is bang opposite the train station.  I took a quick iPhoto and pinged it to my colleagues, to validate my shock and awe.  I can't ever envision this happening in our institution !  But it is beautiful Oxford, where endowments are huge and money talks.  
Oddly, given my profession, I'm not a great participant at big room events.  I like a personalised learning experience, I need to interact extensively with others as I learn.  I switch off quickly if the pace is too slow or content less relevant to me.  I can keep myself entertained by looking at the participants and the room set up (the exec ed Thatcher wing offered luxurious facilities that included a power socket in every desk, beautiful natural materials and a comfortable environment that was just right), but this only lasts for so long.

So about the 'Good lunch' ?

Healthy puddings - an oxymoron ?

Now that's a cheese board:  pilots be jealous !
A veritable feast even Maggie would have been proud of.  Look ! Friendly staff, lots of high quality choice, hots, colds, even a cold meat antipasto platter.  Puddings and a cheese board to die for.  Never mind the diet, or the soporific effects a heavy lunch often deliver in the graveyard shift.  

So why do I remember sarcastic comments about the lunch ?  I guess, if you don't want to attend a training day, but are given no choice but to... Or you are profoundly jaded by visionary mantras being extolled by 'the management' and would rather just get on with your nice little job, the highlight of the day might really be the lighthearted interaction over lunch.  A hot, pleasant and free lunch.

Perhaps my personal enthusiasm had missed this perspective historically ?

Table politics:  Pixar culture fable

The long rectangular table gave me the perfect spring board to share my power positioning story gleaned from reading up on Pixar this summer.  SIDEBAR context: I have been looking to write something about the clever gender appeal Pixar animations achieve, counter pointing Disney's pink princess prowess with more masculine stories that delivers box office busting whole family (& no-kids grown ups too !) audience appeal.  In seeking to establish the now popular Silicon Valley collaborative, flat organisational culture, John Lassiter ran team meetings that purported to be highly egalitarian.  Perhaps the power of the Pixar product offering has been driven by the frequent open feedback screenings, that encouraged everyone to critique work-in-progress and offer up creative solutions.  However, the long rectangular table shape and the use of name cards that positioned the most senior staff at the centre had the effect of marginalising staff who sat on the extremities, who felt less engaged and able to make their contribution.  Solution, if I remember correctly, a large square set up and absolutely NO name tent cards pre-allocating seating.  

Royal Holloway MBA
We have been having a similar issue this year with our MBA teaching space and successfully changed the rooming in favour of collaborative hollow square, seminar style seating, that is so much more effective.  
It's better: A round the table

Sometimes unconscious, simple things = big impact.

Justin O'Brien: Daring to be different ?
Contrary to the expression 'You can't teach and old dog new tricks' - I got a lot out of my teaching case writing event.  Yes the lunch was amazing and yes the setting and personal space created by just two days away offered a very good tonic.  But my thinking was challenged in a highly positive way, I have already improved two cases I have been using and submitted them for publication, with more to follow.  Learning already put very much into action.  And clearly my motivation is high - when was the last time you read a blog post (this interesting ?...) about a training event ?

Justin attended a two day case writing workshop hosted by The Case Centre and highly recommends the experience.  Find out more by linking here.