A day in the life of: "I desperately want them to do well, but know I can’t give them the answer."
We're always curious to hear how our members and contributors tackle the challenges that the ever-changing world of L&D throws at them. We've got a wealth of experience and knowledge across the site, and what better way to showcase the diversity of our community than to get them to walk us through an average day?
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Jane Hodgson is a Management Trainer at Grahame Robb Associates Ltd.
07:00 - Rise and shine! Down to breakfast in the hotel. Quick caffeine fix, toast, banana and off we go. I’ve had the same breakfast every day for two years now – I have a high threshold for boredom with food – I lost 20kg about two years ago just by switching to healthy food, so no fry ups for me anymore. I’m unusually quiet in the van on the way to the venue because I hate early mornings, no matter how many articles I read about successful people getting up at 5am etc., it just doesn’t work for me.
08:00 – We meet the rest of the trainers at our midlands site about 15 minutes away – half of the team are employees (like me) the other half are associates that we use regularly. Today is a sales conference for 260 people and we’ve been brought in to do an energiser to wake people up. It’s day two of the conference and there’s a suggestion that a few of the delegates have taken full advantage of the mini-bar the night before. We’re warned off by the organiser that today might be like herding kittens. We’re an experienced team and not fazed by this - nothing we can’t handle.
10:00 – The event is set up; We have 100 different activities to be completed in 2 hours – some physical, some desktop, some just for fun. The event organiser (their boss) is briefing the teams and trying to get everyone’s attention. It’s rowdy, but good natured. Some late-comers stagger in to the main hall to rapturous cheers and jeers from their colleagues. Apparently, some of them didn’t get to bed until 6am. Rather them than me.
10:45 – Being a ‘classroom’ trainer, I’m relatively new to these types of events, so I’m desperate to get involved in facilitating some outdoor activities. I take a team outside to do a problem-solving challenge laid out on the grass. I desperately want them to do well, but know I can’t give them the answer. I bite my lip as they repeatedly come up with the correct solution, only to dismiss it as something they’ve already tried. They haven’t. I watch them struggle until I can take it no longer, and give some subtle coughs that would not have been out of place on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
11:45 - Nearly all of the challenges are done. There’s a last-minute scramble to get them all finished, but dead on the two hour mark the whistle goes. The team gathers up all of the footballs, face paints, playing cards, climbing gear and so on and starts packing up. We have three centres, so there’s some confusion over what goes where; archery kit is going to the south; the robot is staying in the midlands. We check in with the client that they’re happy (which they are) and that they’re OK for us to leave.
12:30 - Short drive to our outdoor learning centre to unpack and then repack the van with more kit that’s being moved around. Everyone’s hungry and the hotel have just sent word that we can help ourselves to what’s left of the client buffet. Nice offer but we don’t fancy having to drive back to the hotel and most of us are keen to get on the road. I check my emails before we go. My out of office is on but I always check just in case there’s anything urgent. There isn’t so we head off.
14:00 - Me and my colleague Joe get in the van and wave everyone else goodbye. They head off to their respective workplaces and wish us a safe journey. Joe’s iPod gets plugged in and an eclectic mix of pop, rock, folk and country provides us with the soundtrack to our road-trip back down south. Thankfully Joe and I have similar tastes in music so there’s no argument about what we listen to. Joe also has some Billy Connolly on there and we laugh along to stuff we’ve both heard plenty of times before but still can’t get enough of.
15:30 - Lunch! A stop at Warwick Services is a particular favourite of ours because you can get a healthy meal there as well as the usual burgers and fries. So, jacket potato, toilet break, coffee and on the road again. Meal times when you’re travelling are nearly always irregular and eating healthily when you’re away so much is a massive challenge. Before my weight loss, lunch would have been a Wispa and a packet of crisps, but now I make more of an effort.
16:00 - Playing the number plate game. Take the last three letters of a number plate and come up with a place name that uses all the letters, in the right order, starting with the first one. UKN – Uzbekistan! SEO – Sierra Leone! MYN – Myanmar! Hours of fun.
18:00 - Arrive back at our Winchester office and Joe and I go our separate ways. I’m starting to feel numb now, so get out and walk around for a few minutes. I’m still smiling to myself about some of the feedback from the client. A handful of people had come up to us at the end to shake our hands and thank us for a fantastic event. Some days, I swear I have the best job in the world.
18:10 – Catch up with my boss who’s still in the office; he’s telling me about a new client that he’s working with and how they’re putting together a global leadership programme. It all sounds very exciting and I hope I can be involved in it. I love the fun events like today but leadership development is my passion and this sounds right up my street.
19:00 - Arrive home, exhausted and hungry. I switch off my phone. I’m very conscious that whilst I have chosen this life of being on the road and working long hours, my partner hasn’t, so when I’m at home, the phone gets put away. I love my job, but I love my down time too. On this particular evening it’s TV; catching up on show’s I’ve missed whilst being away. On another evening, it could’ve been my drama night. I co-wrote a play last year as part of the British Art Show and that took up a lot of my time in the evenings and weekends. But tonight, I’m sitting in front of the TV and not moving until bed-time!
22:00 – 10 minutes of purposeful breathing – 4 seconds in, 4 seconds out, in through the nose, out through the mouth. I do this every night before bed as it clears my head and relaxes me. The thoughts of the day just gently fade and I become aware of my breath, in, out, chest rising and falling. My head hits the pillow and then zzz…
Now, tell us...
What would you say are your main passions or things you champion at work?
Positivity. That’s my passion. Often a colleague at work will wish me ‘good luck’ when heading off to work with a new client, for example, and my response is always the same: “you don’t need luck when you’re awesome!” OK, that might sound a bit big-headed, but what I mean is, I work hard, I practice often and I believe in myself – luck plays no part of my success. I’m not unrealistic, I know there are plenty of things that I’m not good at, and I’m absolutely fine with that, but I’m not one these people that relies on luck to get things done or blames luck when things don’t work out.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
The variety – no two days are the same. I’m predominantly a leadership trainer and most of what I deliver is classroom-based but in the last year or so I’ve done a number of outdoor sessions too. I have a huge fear of heights and so, this year, during a training course around resilience, I used some of the techniques we teach to overcome my fear. I climbed a 45-ft pole, walked across our catwalk beam to another pole and down the other side. I don’t know many jobs where you can face your fears and challenge yourself like this.
What keeps you up at night?
I really do try not to worry about stuff that I can’t control. If I am awake at night it’s usually because I’m travelling the next day and I’m running through the logistics over and over. I’m a hopeless traveller and I get very nervous. Thankfully, we have a lovely lady called Gill who sorts out my hotels, flights etc., but that’s not to say I won’t mess it up by arriving late or going to the wrong terminal. I’ve turned up at airports before without having a confirmed flight before now. I’ve worked across four continents for over 14 years, but I still get flustered when it comes to organising travel.
One tip you’d pass on to your peers?
Don’t wait for permission to be excellent. I’ve delivered training all over the world and worked with everyone from surgeons to bin-men, from software developers to fork-lift truck drivers… I always hear excuses about how there’s no point trying to raise standards if the boss isn’t going to do the same or how the system is designed to suppress any efforts to improve. I always tell them that other people’s behaviour is not my concern, I can only be the best me that I can be. It’s as simple as that. Now, if we all take that view, then we can move mountains. If we don’t, then at least I know I’ve done my best. Don’t wait - be excellent.
Assume you couldn't do your current career, even if you love it. What would be your ideal job?
I’d love to have been a paramedic. This really taps into my interest in people and service and what better motivation than knowing you’re saving lives. I’m sure it’s not that simple and I know they are under a lot of pressure, but I really admire the work they do. Whilst I’m a decent first aider (I was a volunteer with St. John Ambulance for a number of years), I’m not sure I am patient enough to learn all the biology and science behind what they do, so hats off to those people, they do an amazing job.
Who's your hero?
Dr Martin Luther King Jr. I am on a decade long (so far) quest to visit all 50 states of the US and a few years ago I drove across the Deep South. When I was in Memphis, I learned all about the civil rights movement and his role in it. Of course, I knew quite a bit before going there, but visiting the Lorraine Motel where he was murdered really hit home. His dignity in the face of hatred is totally inspiring and I think his work is still relevant today, sadly. If a man in his position can lead with compassion and kindness, then we really have no excuse, do we?
You can have five people from history at your dinner party. Who would you invite?
After a trip to Key West in Florida I became interested in Hemmingway, not so much for his writing, although of course winning a Nobel and Pulitzer prize are no mean feats. But he led a very colourful life, from his efforts in World War 1 to his four marriages. He seemed quite the character and I’d love to spend time listening to him tell us tales of his travels in Cuba or the times he reported from the Spanish Civil War.
I’ve always been drawn to eccentrics and there are none more eccentric than Salvador Dali. I am very interested in art and I actually do love his work; I’d relish the chance to discuss it with him, but I know I may not actually get much from him, or not much that made sense at least. Nonetheless I think he’s bring a touch of colour and energy to any dinner party.
I’m a massive film fan and Sellers has always been a favourite. I’m intrigued by him. Hugely prolific and of course creator of much loved characters from Dr Strangelove to Inspector Clouseau; I’m always keen to see beyond the characters and people who worked with him describe him as “outrageous” and “selfish”. I get the impression that he was the archetypal ‘sad clown’ and that fascinates.
A woman ahead of her time. She was the first First Lady to really have a career in her own right. Up to that point the First Lady was supposed to take a back seat and do charity work. But that wasn’t Eleanor’s style and she continued to speak publicly, write a newspaper column and make public appearances. Her quote “No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent” has stuck with me through the years and whenever I need a confidence boost, she’s right there with me.
One of the Hollywood Ten, Trumbo was blacklisted for Communist sympathies by the House of Unamerican Activities (HUAC). Despite this he continued to work and even won two Academy Awards, although writing under a pseudonym meant he couldn’t take credit or collect his awards. What strikes me most is that his desire to create is SO strong, he finds a way, even when all the odds are against him. He finds a way and continues to do this thing he clearly loves, as though he just can’t help himself. I love people with a passion and Trumbo is the embodiment of that.