The extra mile – what grew from the Trainers Network Northamptonshire
The outcomes of networking events often go unrecorded.
Here’s one story of what grew out of the Trainers Network Northamptonshire.
In June 2014, I attended my first Trainers Network Northamptonshire meeting. I was chatting to an affable man over coffee. It turns out he was Alan Berck-May, and he lives only a few miles from me. We arranged to meet for the ubiquitous coffee (you can put those thoughts of hearts and flowers away right now. This isn’t one of “those” stories!). We found a common approach to many things, and chewed the fat about some of the challenges of self employment, mainly around getting your message – the value you can deliver – in front of the right audience.
Much of the time, those coffees don’t lead anywhere but we’re both big fans of collaboration. We talked about local networking groups; I’d spoken at most of them a couple of years ago when Face to Face in the Workplace came out, so we wanted to offer them something that would maybe be a bit different to a straight talk.
We were aware that better productivity/bottom line is the holy grail for most employers, and as trainers we know that the role of line managers is critical in achieving this. Yes, it is about ‘employee engagement’ – a term that has become hackneyed and overused, but at least provided us with some research and statistics that underpin what we do. We decided
to work around the topic of engagement without actually using the phrase!
Over many pots of tea, ideas were scribbled on pieces of paper; mainly various
iterations of scenarios and flowcharts. Two things emerged. One was the process that employers need to follow to get staff to go the extra mile, the second was the fleshing out of a typical situation of how it can all go wrong.
…and then we started learning. We discovered that writing a script, constantly editing it and trying to learn it off pat didn’t work for us, maybe because we are not professional thespians. What did work was having a storyline with main points to ad lib around. We also quickly realised that demonstrating how to get it wrong was only part of the story, so The Extra Mile became a story of two parts.
The Extra Mile
The first tells the story of Max, who gets a new job that he is very enthusiastic about and well equipped to do. I play the part of Jackie, his line manager who never explains anything, doesn’t delegate effectively and is never available. Needless to say, Max has his confidence and willingness destroyed pretty quickly. Part Two is The Exit Interview. Jackie’s boss tells her she has to talk to Max about why he resigned, which gives us an opportunity to talk about how Jackie should have managed him.
We also learnt that you get what you pay for. We gave our precious ‘Extra Mile’ pencil scribble to a cheap designer. A friend looked at what came back and said ‘My ten year old could do better than that!’ We gave it the designer that did my branding and paid a sensible price. She did the A4 illustration for our leaflet (which has our details and Top Ten Tips and the back), and also animated it in Powerpoint so that we can build it up a step at a time. It was definitely money well spent.
I also learnt the fine art of setting automatic transitions in PowerPoint. We decided to use slides as a backdrop. For Part one of the story, we started with a blue sky and the shining sun. as the story unfolds, the clouds gather and turn black…. Until we get to Part Two, The Exit Interview.
While the exit interview unfolds, we reversed the order of the slides so that we get back to the sunshine by the time it ends. We added quotes from recent research to fade in and out, just to reinforce that the points we make are backed up – it’s not just our word – and that Max’s experience is all too common.
We end the session with our ‘The Extra Mile’ model, plus time for questions. We’ve had great feedback so far (you can see some on our page here). Our experience so far is that people enjoy it, find it easy to identify with, and are happy to discuss the issues it brings up. We can do the whole thing in half an hour, but the beauty of it is that we can easily adapt it for pretty much any amount of time. It is easy to add exercises around ‘What should Jackie/Max do?’ ‘Which of these issues exist in your workplace?’ etc, or explore some of the themes more thoroughly. A half day would be ideal, but you could build a whole programme around it. It would make a great taster for a potential client too, and is also a great tool for analysing existing practise and looking for the areas for improvement. It’s a great addition to my training kit.
The best thing, for me, was having the chance to share thoughts without the pressure of deadlines. We fitted the preparation in when we could around our work commitments.
Training is a strange job where you usually have people around, but they are delegates or clients, not colleagues.
Thank you, Trainers Network Northamptonshire, for giving us a platform for sharing ideas and collaboration. I’d love to hear other stories of what transpired from meeting at the network!
Lastly, if you know a group that you think would enjoy The Extra Mile, or have any questions, do get in touch.