2June 2014 – I started work with the CIPD – 4 years – wow! 3June 2017 My Granddaughter was born! Still not old enough to be a granddad – but hey ho. As these anniversary’s approach I am reminded of a bigger on – a 30 year one….
So if my memory has not played tricks with me, I did my last paid shift as a postman on Saturday 4 June 1988. I started that job in October 1980, two days after my 17birthday. That June, it was a sunny day, and I was doing a delivery that I had done a number of times before, but not my favourite one. I finished my shift late morning and headed home. On Monday 6 June I started my new role as a Delivery Manager in the same office. Things were about to change, and in ways I could not imagine. For starters I was now line managing both my dad and younger brother (it made for interesting family conversations!). I was called into the Area Managers office and was asked if I wanted to take over the running of the Youth Training Programme for the office, looking after the three trainees on the programme. I initially said “no.” Why? Why would I say no to this opportunity? Well the guy who was doing it used to complain continuously about the amount of paperwork it involved. The Area Manager (Malcolm was his name) looked me up and down when I explained that to him. He gave me a stare (he had steely blue eyes I recall) and said “son,” (I was only 24at the time..) “let me give you some advice, don’t rely totally on other peoples view of the world.” As I was digesting this, he added “have a go a this, make it your own, and if in 6 months time you tell me the paper work is too much, I will take it off you, how does that sound.” Again I was thinking. He then did the killer statement, “this is so much more than a bit of paperwork, there are so many opportunities with this, you never know what it is going to throw up.”
I agreed I would give it a bash. The paperwork ended up being relatively minimal, and 6 months later we were planning an exchange trip with the Dutch postal service for the YTs to experience the Dutch approach. Fast forward three years and I had done the Cleveland Way walk, supported two outward bound weeks, the visit to Holland and an amazing whirlwind week around the football grounds of the then 1and 2Division football clubs collecting items to auction for Children in Need AND been promoted to the Area Youth Training Manager, in charge of 50 YT placements! I still wake up panicking, thinking what if Malcolm had said “Ok, I hear you – I will find someone else.” ???
That additional responsibility to my delivery manager role led me, as mentioned, to becoming the Area Youth Training Manager in 1991, and then when that job disappeared under a re-organisation, led me to becoming a Trainer, then Training Manager, then Training and Development Project Manager, then Recruitment and Development Manager, then Head of Personnel and Development all over a 10 year period. The change over those ten years at the time seemed phenomenal, the move from chalk and talk to facilitation, the move from acetates to basic powerpoint, the move from training to learning the move from being a member of the Institute of Training and Development (ITD) to a Fellow of the CIPD.
Looking at that ten-year period, it seems bonkers that the change could get any more expansive. However, the last ten years has seen a change even more explosive. From a personal learning point of view I know I have learned more about my profession and contributed so much more than at any other period I have been involved with L&D. I have a brilliant powerful insightful informative network. And in that network are two of the YTs I looked after back in the late 1980s. One, Ian, I was privileged to be best man for at his wedding, the other Kiernan who was my first ever experience of interviewing a candidate. The interactions with them (now mostly via social media) reminds me of how far I have come, and a sense of pride of being involved in their development.
One of the joys of my current role is my interaction with L&D people across the world. The opportunity to learn from their situations and challenges is really powerful and really does help me in striving to be a better practitioner. I am writing this just after finishing an L&D programme for a group of HR/ L&D team and Line Managers for the Civil Service on the Cayman Islands. They have a goal of being world class. And boy are they up for it. I know, I a incredibly lucky. But is it luck? What is it that has led me being here in this wonderful setiing? Well a lot of hard work, learning, studying, applying, experimenting. I remember once saying in an interview, “I am not afraid to step off – regardless a kerb or a cliff – if I can see the benefit of stepping off.” It got me the job! But there are things I am afraid of. Doing a poor job for a client, messing up a brief, letting down a student, being away from home and not getting the balance right with home life. My first Area Training Manager back in 1992, Keith, said to a group of us “Training is not a job, it is a vocation.” He was so right.
Some of the people who are on programmes I facilitate, are younger than the number of years I have been involved in learning. One or two have been in their very late teens. I am seeing some amazing people with an incredible confidence and breadth of knowledge to take L&D into a fantastic future. I do sometimes however wonder, and comment, “how do you know all this and at your age???” This with a hidden thought to myself “what if I knew what they know at their age.. where would I be now?” Then I have a reality check. In the words of Andersson and Ulvaeus “I am where I want to be /doing what I always wanted to do” (well since 1988!!). However the sentiment of the song goes on to say “When the crazy wheel slows down/ where will I be/ back where I started?” (lyrics from Chess- the musical- “Where I want to be”). Going back to being a postman is not on my radar!!
So as I approach my 55birthday this year – I ask myself how much more I have got left to give? In times of years, if I have 7-10 years full-time work before I formally retire – what will the change be like in that period, where will I fit in, will anything top the ride I am experiencing now? I do, however, know where I want to be when this crazy wheel slows down. I want to be behind the wheel of a campervan exploring the half-dozen or so routes I have in my head around Europe and finding stuff out about places I have seen on maps and in travel brochures. So I guess the learning will never end. And as for the advice Malcolm gave me, I have since adopted the habit of considering other peoples advice, and then making my own mind up, not being dictated by their view of the world!