Promoting faith in the future
Wright, N. (2003) 'Promoting Faith in the Future' (Interview with Nick Wright), Training Magazine, Personnel Today, March, p34.
TM - How long have you been in this job as Learning & Development team leader?
NW - 5 years.
TM - How long have you been with your organisation, Tearfund?
NW - 5 years too.
TM - What does your role involve?
NW - Tearfund is a Christian development and relief organisation employing around 500 staff in the UK and overseas. My role involves leading a team of Training & Development specialists engaged in staff development at individual, team, group, leadership and organisational levels.
TM - What are the best and worst things about this job?
NW - It’s a real privilege being part of an organisation and in a role where my personal values and aspirations are so closely aligned with those of the organisation and my work. The flip side of this coin is that there is a real danger of personal burnout. Wisdom and discipline are very important survival factors.
TM - What is your current major training project or strategic push?
NW - We’re currently developing forms of leadership support, based on coaching, mentoring and action learning, that will help leaders deal with increasing degrees of organisational and global complexity and change.
TM - What did you want to do for a living when you were at school?
NW - I think I swung from wanting to be a vet, to studying philosophy to becoming a social worker.
TM - What was your first job?
NW - Working as an apprentice in industry after leaving school at 16. I hated it.
TM - What was the best career decision you ever made?
NW - Leaving my job in industry when I became a Christian at the age of 21. I moved straight into community development and human rights work as a full-time volunteer.
TM - And what was the worst?
NW - It’s tempting to say, ‘Starting my apprenticeship in the first place’ but I learnt so much through that experience that it wouldn’t be strictly true.
TM - How and why did you become a trainer?
NW - By accident really. I worked for another voluntary sector organisation that had really expanded beyond its capabilities and found myself running training events and reflective seminars to help reduce some of the terrible stress that staff were experiencing.
TM - Which of your qualifications do you most value and why?
NW - I studies BA(hons) Theology at London Bible College and MSc Human Resource Development at South Bank University in London. The Theology course was definitely the most difficult whereas the HRD course was the most inspiring. This fairly unusual combination of Theology and HRD has proved incredibly valuable in my line of work.
TM - What was the worst training course you have ever experienced as a delegate?
NW - A very frustrating 1-year course in Supervision & Consultation where the facilitators did very little in the way of effective facilitation. So many learning opportunities were lost.
TM - Do you think that evaluation is holy grail or an impossible dream?
NW - It depends on what we try to evaluate really. I believe it’s right to try to evaluate impact and there are things that can be measured tangibly. On the other hand, there are important things that can’t be measured scientifically. I guess it’s a bit like the age-old tension between reason and faith.
TM - How do you think that your job will have changed in five years’ time?
NW - I think there will be a growing shift away from a fairly conventional single-organisation focus towards inter-organisational/international strategies and approaches to staff and organisation development.
TM - What do you think will be the core skills for your job in the future?
NW - An ability to network cross-organisationally (including cross-nationally and cross-culturally) in order to establish mutually beneficial, strategic HRD alliances.
TM - What advice would you give to someone starting out in training and development?
NW - Think carefully about what attracts you to the role. For example, do you most enjoy managing training processes (assessment, design, evaluation etc.) or, perhaps, doing stand-up training delivery? My sense is that there is increasing distinction between these two disciplines within the Training & Development profession, with many organisations employing the former and contracting in the latter.
TM - What is your preferred terminology? (for example people development , training…)
NW - I prefer ‘development’ as an over-arching concept/term and tend to consider things like ‘training’ and ‘learning’ as potential contributors to it.
TM - What are your favourite buzz words?
NW - Organisation development. Insight. Reflective practice. Transformation.
TM - Which buzzwords do you most loathe?
NW - Performance is probably my least-favourite word. Racing cars and circus acts spring to mind rather than real people.
TM - Are you good at self-development?
NW - I try to be, paying regular attention to my own spiritual, personal and professional development.
TM - What self-development have you undertaken in the past twelve months?
NW - Examples include working towards a certificate in psychology of management, writing articles in various journals to have my ideas tested in a public arena and receiving mentoring from an external consultant.
TM - How do you network?
NW - I tend to network quite widely with people in similar and contrasting roles and sectors, although maintaining active contact is something that I do find difficult owing to other distractions and work priorities.
TM - If you could have any job in the world what would it be?
NW - What I’m doing now.
TM - Describe your management style in three words or less?
NW - Intuitive. Proactive. Consultative.
TM - Do you take work home with you?
NW - No. Home time is primarily for my wife and two little daughters. I do, however, run my own freelance development consultancy (Paradigm) on a part-time basis too.
TM - What is your motto?
NW - Christ first.
TM - How would you like to be remembered by your colleagues?
NW - As a person of Godly vision, wisdom, influence and integrity.
TM - Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
NW - Wherever God calls me to be, but here in Tearfund is fine by me.
TM - Which courses and learning experiences have been most useful for you?
NW - Coaching by Rudi Weinzierl, a radical social worker in Germany. Exploring strategic horizons with Mike Wilson, a former colleague. Being mentored by Brian Watts, a freelance consultant. Learning to be a good husband and father.
TM - Which is the best management book you have ever read? (please list correct title, author name and publisher)
NW - Gareth Morgan. Images of Organisation. Sage.
TM - Which training gurus ,management experts or business people do you most admire?
NW - Gareth Morgan. Edgar Schein. Peter Senge.