Vox pop: What are your best and worst experiences of management training courses?
Nick Bird, head of talent, Kier
I can’t imagine why we’d want to tie up anyone in clingfilm! We run leadership programmes for line managers, middle managers and senior execs, then we also have a programme for directors where they attend a course at Sandhurst. They’re all designed to stretch and challenge people, but for their learning needs, not for the tutor’s pleasure.
On one of our senior exec modules, we’ve introduced professional actors into the fray, who work with the participants in small groups – it’s called “forum theatre”. Because of the quality of the actors, it seems quite real. The delegates are given a limited brief – for instance, dealing with aggression, or someone with personal issues – then they have to fish for information from the actors, so it reveals their management style.
Nigel Wilson, director of local roads, Europe, Aecom
There are good courses and bad ones. I’ve taken lots from the good ones and absolutely nothing from the bad ones. The good ones have all been founded in the theory and fundamentals of management, why people respond differently and how you might apply techniques to get the most out of people. The bad ones were what the chairman in the business I used to work for called “candy floss” – fun on the day, but with no substance.
Sometimes there are bizarre and abstract exercises like asking you what kind of animal you’d be. I’m gregarious, but also quite private, so I don’t want to tell people that. On one training day in the 1980s, there was a Polish puppeteer, who kept dropping in on the group, picking up on things that had happened, and then made you have conversations with his puppets about them… it was just really, really odd.
Nick Wright MCIOB, contracts manager, Kier Construction
I’m on a two-and-a-half-year modular programme, where we look at leadership styles and skills. We recently had two days with a psychologist who gave us a different perspective.
We looked at the Myers Brigg analysis personality types, then we tested our knowledge in role plays with actors. Then there was a “push-pull” analysis, looking at the psychology of how people react in certain environments and how you get the best results out of them.
We were encouraged to look at the areas where we need work and are less rounded, but also to develop the things we’re already strong at and not model ourselves on other people.
Carol Bailey, director, communities and regeneration, Lakehouse
My experience of workshops and training is largely very good. Hands-on construction people can be nervous going into a training room, but very often they leave feeling inspired by the whole experience.
We’re running leadership training from Lakehouse for around 65 or 70 managers across the business, and we also run courses for our site managers and resident liaison officers (RLOs).
It’s a cliche, but it really is a tool-box – things you can use if things go wrong. We use role playing, where we swap roles: the RLO will play the resident, the director will play the site manager, so it also shows you how you’d feel in someone else’s shoes.
Talfryn Farrell, senior contracts manager, Vinci Facilities
One “game” we played was having a leader and “deputy” get a team of blindfolded people to form a square shape with the rope at their feet. Only the deputy was allowed to talk to the team. But they forgot to clarify that the blindfolds must stay on at all times – so our leadership tactic was to say to the team: “Okay, take your blindfolds off and make a square with that rope!”
We missed a few vital leadership lessons, but also taught a lesson to the facilitator – never leave any wiggle room.
Tell us about your experiences below