Friday, 11 May 2012

Influencing, horse whispering and segways

Must be the season for awaydays - this week is was our Executive Team - me and the 3 Assistant Directors. We try and get away together once a year for some quality time. This year we took forward some of the things raised last week at our SSB awayday, especially around governance, prioritisation and feedback loops. The other big area we looked at was influencing skills - how can we use different techniques to increase our influence in the University, and how can we improve our relationships with our key stakeholders. Lots of work done, a very useful time and more importantly, lots to do now we're back.

Yesterday evening, as part of looking at different skill sets, we watched a film, Buck. It was a documentary about a horse trainer, Buck Brannaman who was the inspiration behind the film the Horse Whisperer.  A survivor of serious child abuse, he is now a horse trainer, using techniques based on an understanding of how horses think and communicate to train the horse to accept humans and work confidently and responsively with them. It was a brilliant, very moving film, and we used it as a basis for lots of discussion on rapport, empathy, negotiation, feedback and other skills. Well worth a watch. Have the hankies ready!

We also try and do something a bit fun, as we encourage other teams to do on their awaydays. This time we had a go on Segways. A couple of us had tried them before, but these were off road ones, and we spent an hour at lunchtime today in the pouring rain speeding round the hotel grounds going through potholes, puddles, woodland.  Interesting the amount of protective clothing they made us wear - overalls, kneepads, elbowpads, body protection jacket, full helmet - compared to the simple bicycle helmet we wore last time! A little OTT I think, but great fun anyway. I know I've said this before, but they really are amazing feats of engineering

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