As I am still pretty new I am no expert on our Grant Thornton systems and intranet. One day before Christmas I found myself looking at the firm’s Learning Zone page (an online system which allows us to book internal training courses) of the intranet to check up on a Bradenham Course I am booked onto. I was exploring the Learning Zone, clicking odd buttons to see what would happen when suddenly I received an email to say I had booked myself onto a workshop named “Insightful Conversations”. I checked out the course description and decided it sounded pretty fun so asked the permission of my line manager to whether I could go, and as I had a free date in my diary I could.
There was some pre-course work that involved watching a couple of YouTube videos and jotting down comments and so I thought I was going to be in for a jolly day at the new Birmingham office. On arrival and the shiny, glass building in the heart of Birmingham, I was whisked up to the eleventh floor in a lift that would put Charlie’s Great Glass Elevator to shame and greeted with tea and biscuits – a fantastic start. The course was introduced by two facilitators, one who claimed to be a trained hypnotherapist (which had me spending a vast part of the day trying to avoid eye contact) and we were set to introduce ourselves to the group with one interesting fact; mine being that I have played on the courts at Wimbledon with Tim Henman. So far so good.
From this point on my day changed, I got into the activities with gusto, I had to think, and think really hard, so hard by brain ached, but the results really were fantastic. We learnt how to remove obstacles to progress through coaching people to solve problems for themselves, helping people through the process of coming to their own conclusion instead of simply giving them the answer. We also spoke about how many of our everyday conversations are shallow, unfulfilling and without risk, meaning we do not actually get all of the information that we actually require, or sometimes miss the point entirely. We covered the art of “active listening” whereby you do not listen only to the words that come out a someone’s mouth, but also pick up on the subtle signals such as tone, pace, body language and what they don’t say in order to conduct a more effective conversation. Yes, I understand it sounds like some sort of therapy session but you’d be amazed just how “insightful” it was! It was amazing how by practicing these techniques on each other how many of us realised new ways around barriers we thought we could not conquer, such as how to request better training, and how to ask for more responsibility. I certainly found myself thinking that I had so many more options than I had realised for my particular obstacle of meeting new people in a new city.
The day ended around 5pm. It certainly wasn’t the easy day of chat that I had perhaps hoped for (although we were provided with a free lunch) but was far more valuable for both my work and personal life. I have come away a toolbox of how to have more effective conversations, a new way of thinking about ‘bumps’ in the road, as well as a few sweets from the bowl on reception. Luckily at Grant Thornton we are offered loads of personal development courses internally, because as a brand we realise that people and good relationships are our most important asset. Whatever your situation, I would encourage everyone to take all the opportunities that are offered to you, whether that be extra-curricular at university, optional training at work, or a workshop offered through a careers service, because you may also come away with amazing things that you never expected to learn, and if that fails at least you may be left with a few sweets from the bowl on reception…