Saturday, 26 October 2013

Trustee Training

We're working hard on succession for our church trusts and business boards.  For sure, we know that the rising generation will not be prepared to become a fresh pair of legs under an old burden.  They must have a say in shaping for the future.  So, much was to hang on the inter-generational training day that Mick conceived after conversations with our Birmingham-based charity lawyers, Anthony Collins. 

Mick puts a lot into shaping our culture, and it's more that cosmetic.  Well in advance we received an informative programme brief, and I got a schedule of table groups.  The key business players and central office teams were under orders to make themselves - and other people invited - available for the day.  Viv and I drove down together.  He's been 'in attendance' at Charitable Trust (JACT) meetings for a year or so.  It's part of his Professional Development Group programme experience - another initiative running to deliver more sustained input to significant employees going forward into management. 

Cornhill Kings Room was purposefully laid out for the job, and Farhad, Mick's PA, was busy.  Simon, our 'facilitator' for the day, stepped forward and made introductions.  It turned out that he attends the Methodist Church where Mick's family were members, and Mary and I married.  As the 50-plus delegates straggled in, Simon repeated the process.  This, too, was more than cosmetic.  It became apparent during the day that he'd remembered an impressive number of names. 

I was due to lead a group from the Church Life Trust, the top-level instrument for our Regions' organisation.  This would be a new challenge, as I'm most embedded in JACT (the Jesus Centres charity) and our Group businesses board.  Life Trust embraces Multiply, and I wondered if this was how I qualified.  In the event, owing to a few absences, I did end up with a JACT group.  It was just three of us: Jayne and Stevo, from Northampton Jesus Centre, and me.

Simon briefly previewed the day's programme, designed to introduce us into running effective meetings.  The he got us straight into an icebreaker activity.  We had to draw - or write - on a post-it note, what fired up our energy in the work situation and away from it.  Then we had to mingle round and explain it to as many people as possible.  I wrote Research on both halves.  This provoked a snort of derision from Stevo, which wasn't a promising start.

Simon's first session was aimed at challenging mindsets that say the most important component in a meeting is the tasks in hand.  No, it's the people, in all their diversity, ability and experience.  He bobbed from flipchart board to flipchart board (there were three tactically placed at different points in the room), and back to his projector.  Then each table had a go at breaking down the question "what's the big issue facing us" into as many contributions as we could harvest, followed by a synthesis to render all the material into one or two key points.  It was a serious challenge.  In the end, Simon sent round 'flying moderators' to slash through the excess where groups were struggling with the consolidation process.  Brilliant.

Our flipcharts were scooped up for Simon's secretary to compile our final offerings, so that after the coffee break we had the results neatly on the screen.  This had all relied largely on in-house focus.  Session two went the other way - producing an analysis of major environmental factors.  Our table was given the one word the Economy.  This had to be exploded into a set of concrete objectives, by which our Jesus Centres could respond to prevailing circumstances, and plan ahead to remain relevant as trends moved forward.  Over lunch, all this was typed up, too.
After the lunch break, Stevo and I took a stroll.  We exchanged notes on Myanmar - where his parents have just landed for six months' church work, and our community initiative in Northampton's eastern development, where he lives with his family.

Now it was time to tackle techniques for handling change processes, and to demystify buzzwords like brainstorm.  More contributions, more lists; flipchart sheets everywhere.  The activities bounced along, followed by cheers for those who had worked hardest at scribbling down everything.   Simon remained firmly in control of the clock, whilst thanking us for every contribution, and somehow managing to turn it to use.  In the finale, the room broke into two, and we competed for even the wackiest suggestions to make meetings more effective. 

"I've no idea how I'll use all this in the meetings as we have them," Jen commented afterwards.  No, I can't see us deliberating while remaining standing up, or taking the agenda in reverse order.  But it was a glimpse of the fact that we could, if so inclined.  

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