Recently completing a secondment at my Head Office and returning to store, I had been struggling to remember what made me a good manager. The Retail Trust had attended a couple of my company employee forum meetings and I regular suggest them as a support to my colleagues. On the Retail Trust website I noticed the count down to the first Foundation Oxford Summer School (OSS). They were offering a scholarship to attend and I figured it would be a great opportunity to meet managers from other companies to compare notes.
First day of school, it just happened to be Keble College and I’m 28 years old. Attending the orientation day at Bira with Jeannie and Kay, I was well packed, informed and ready for an intense 5 days. Last minute nerves, I stopped in Sainsburys for apples and chocolate. Accessorising my office dress, with a chic orange plastic bag. I didn’t think much of it until I saw the coach of smartly dressed delegates. Very conscience of my appearance, chocolate and plastic bag hidden away and apples in pocket. Why? We were all retailers and Sainsburys was well represented.
Darren Blackhurst was a great introduction to the week as his approach to leadership is very reassuring. All the characteristics highlighted as being associated with a leader were demonstrated on stage, very inspiring. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a very ambitious person, but I do enjoy improving myself. I came away feeling okay that one day, with vision, I can have it all. Once I decide what ‘all’ is for me.
Having completed my Insights profile questionnaire online and discussed it with my line manager and a couple in my team. I was interested to know what I could learn about myself from the evening session about Insights. It was scary how true some of the statements were. More so, when my line manager now has a copy of a ‘how to manage’ my colour type, in his possession. On meeting my fellow delegates it was a common theme. I guess we all wanted to know how this was going to benefit us. However, by day five we were all talking in colours. Green’s seemed like the underdog, but maybe it just felt that way as we’re so sensitive. Insights does have it practical applications within team dynamics. How you chose to communicate with different types can lead to less conflict, ideally. Blues preference types like facts, where yellows love details, get it wrong and people switch off.
Tackling the case study, four hours sounds like a long time. We completed it, but had some learns as a group. We had to overcome working with a new team, an unfamiliar project and presenting to even more strangers. The difference not planning makes is often missed in the day job. Even with the comfort of knowing Alan Sugar wasn’t sitting across a table waiting to announce ‘you’re fired’. Relaxing wasn’t an option. Traci my Group Director (GD), on more than one occasion, gently reminded us of the time requirement.
Philip Hesketh talk gave a different spin on maintaining all types of relationships that was usefully to the task on the day. Knowing what is important to your customer and those around you, saves time. Just ask, sometime we make things more complicated than necessary. Not anymore I hope.
Move over Gene Kelly, the City Challenge was one of our proudest moments as a group. Well, once we got over not being first, third is respectable. All the planning, strategy and determination kicked in. Believe me; I didn’t expect to be running around, regardless of what it said in the planner. However, you get out, what you put in and Nick our task team leader for the challenge, made his vision clear. The change of pace, from being inside, was welcomed. There was a lot to do, but mostly in a room of some description.
Toni Eastwood talked about succession planning and how this builds the face of your organisation, it was interesting. A poor plan can negatively impact on performance. As someone who has progressed in their company I can see why. Tying into people, the theme of the day, Patrick Marr from Leading Edge and the team who worked with us on Insights covered the importance of good coaching technique. I thought my coaching was good but learnt I need to listen more. That is one thing I’ll be able to use with my team.
Self praise is no recommendation; however by Thursday lunchtime we had cracked building a proposal and presenting it back. We had gone through the GROW model and were ‘performing’. The change in our team was visible and not just the pictures. We were more confident, from learning each others boundaries. Our objectives for the week covered and a City and Guilds certificate on its way. Having attended on a scholarship in my own time, I want to come back for the Academy. With what Toni Westwood said in mind, when I debrief with my line manager I will put my recommendation forward to have delegates on the Foundation next year.
Nearly nine years, with the same company, it’s nice to come away with contacts from varied industries to bounce ideas off. Getting to know each other over the course of the week was made easier with the socialising around classes. It’s not often I will talk to a trainer from Swarovski about how to lead my team. It helped to make it an experience. Back in store I am already putting my action plan into practice. Hopefully next month I will see the results. However, of all the speakers Kate Barrett, Retail Weeks 2012: Rising Star was the most powerful for me, as I could see how her career path related to mine. Showing the possible opportunities available in the retail sector.