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Kay Buckby

The Mindful Trainer


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“Learning and Development is a profession, and I feel saddened when people tell me ‘I just decided to be a trainer’.”


We're always curious to hear how our members and contributors tackle the challenges that the ever-changing world of L&D throws at them. We've got a wealth of experience and knowledge across the site, and what better way to showcase the diversity of our community than to get them to walk us through an average day

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Kay is a Management and Leadership trainer, facilitator and coach. She has recently celebrated 21 years working as part of The Development Company team. 

So Kay, tell us about your average day...

No two days are the same, and that’s why I’ve stayed at The Development Company for 21 years. I was a bit of a job-hopper before, as I tended to stay 2-3 years in jobs until I felt I wasn’t being challenged with anything new.

My job is all about new projects and clients – one day I might be travelling to London to facilitate a meeting at a Canary Wharf client dripping in money, and the next day I might be working in a corridor, a cupboard or coffee shop. These have happened to me!

The best ever training venue was on a hot August day in the Maidstone Film Studios, where we moved the course outside under the trees. And that’s the benefit of being a facilitator – all I need is a flipchart stand, pad and pens!


06.00 - I usually get up around 6am, and I like to use this time to meditate – I’m currently using the ‘Headspace’ app. I’ve practised meditation for 14 years now, and it helps me enormously in both my personal and professional life. I am not a routine person, and I have found that meditation helps me clarify how to use my time and where to focus my energy. It’s stopped the scattergun approach I used to take to my life.

I love the outdoors only on dry, warm days, which living in England can be challenging!  I usually take a 20-25 minute brisk early walk around the village, whatever the weather. It does benefit me, as the fresh air and sight of the Saxon Tower as I walk past it, always inspires me. It is magical to live so close to a 1,000 year old building.

We treated ourselves to a proper coffee machine a while ago, and I start the day making a black Americano for myself. I felt an addiction to coffee a few years ago, and I remember driving to Southampton to a client, and not being able to find a coffee shop open at 7.30am. I felt ‘on the back foot’ all day having not had a coffee, and so I decided to limit my coffee intake. I now start the day off with one, drink fruit teas and peppermint teas as my staple hot drinks, and I have another coffee late afternoon as a treat. I also drink 4 pints of water a day.

09:00 - Louise and Adrian work in our large, modern style converted loft space, and I love my downstairs office. I have a relaxed working space, with lots of pictures, ornaments, wreaths and fresh flowers. 

I check emails 2-3 times a day when I’m in the office. I usually check them around 8-8.30am, then I have 30 minute slots throughout the day working on them. I think people can be a slave to their inbox, and they forget the priorities of their job. I’m yet to see a role profile that says ‘Must have a clear inbox’ as a KPI yet. When I’m working with a client, I don’t check emails. This would distract me, and I don’t want anything to be whirring at the back of my mind when I am facilitating or coaching.

I am project-driven, so I decide what goals I will achieve in the day, and decide how long to spend on each. I decide then what time my day will end, and I keep to this. As every day is so different, I might be writing a proposal, doing course design, coaching session preparation, making client calls, accounts, admin., booking flights, writing film scripts, writing blogs, collaborating with learners, doing a webinar, CPD etc.

11:00 - We have a tea break around this time. Once a week we will get coffees in from the coffee shop in the village. It gives us a chance to catch up with each other on a personal level. We will sit outside in our garden on a warm day, or in one of the offices, and take 20 minutes to rest. Once a week we have an informal team meeting, to catch up on actions from the last Strategy Day, updates, lessons learned, knowledge sharing, etc.

I am project-driven, so I decide what goals I will achieve in the day, and decide how long to spend on each.

We hold Strategy Days twice a year, off-site. Some clients are surprised at a company with just 3 people having Strategy Days, but we find them hugely beneficial. We might do a SWOT, a competitor analysis, look at market trends, go into the Disney dream room, etc. It helps us decide ‘What not to do’, which is the secret to any strategy as Michael Porter would say. It keeps us focused.

12:30 - Lunch on an office day is an hour. Occasionally, we go to the Northamptonshire Tea Room of the Year 2016 – Jeyes on the Square. Mostly, we stay at home and have a salad or a bowl of soup. I love vegetable soup, and in the winter, I make a huge cauldron of it on a Sunday, and we enjoy it through the week. I relish a relaxing lunch hour on an office day, as when I’m working I don’t enjoy my food too much, as I’m usually preparing for the afternoon session.

If I’m on my own in the office, I will put the phone through to our professional call handling service, and go for another 10-15 minute walk. Paying for the professional call answering service is worth every penny, as if I need a quiet hour they handle my calls as if they are right by me. And I get my quiet time.

15:00 -  After another tea break, I’ll watch a TED talk, and continue the project work. I am not a fan of Skype, I’d much rather meet someone for a coffee and catch up face to face.

17:00 -  I usually spend the last hour of an office day on my own network – the Trainers Network Northamptonshire (TNN). I started the group in 2010, and we meet 4 times a year. Finding venues, trainers to run sessions, and maintaining the website, blogs, social media and Mailchimp newsletters to members takes an enormous amount of my time.

One of our TNN events was hosted at Volkswagen in Milton Keynes (which I wrote a blog about), and our host, Serena Dolby, said ‘How do you do this all the time? I’m exhausted!’. It’s lovely when people remember to thank me, as it’s rare a week goes by without meeting with a potential trainer, negotiating a venue, etc. The collaborations, opportunities to share with my peers who are passionate about learning, and personal and professional learning is worth every second. It’s a not for profit group, and we’ve been copied by a few network groups, which I always find flattering. I like connecting people, and I feel I’m a natural networker. I don’t like ‘forced’ networking – my belief is that be yourself, as we buy from people we like.

The collaborations, opportunities to share with my peers who are passionate about learning is worth every second.

18:00 - I love good food, so I’ll prepare dinner from scratch. I was brought up using vegetables from Dad’s garden, and fresh meat from the butchers, and fresh fish from the fishmongers. I’m a good ‘basic’ cook. During the week I might do a quick meal of roasted vegetables with salmon or chicken, or a risotto with prawns, grilled tuna and black olive salad or a mid week roast, which I find is an easy meal to make.

20:00 - I have recently got into wreath making, so I will spend some time in my craft room making wreaths. From November, my craft room is a Christmas bauble wreath factory, but at the moment I’m making an Easter wreath for my house. It’s a bit early I know, but wreaths store nicely hanging from picture hooks in the house. I’m using beautiful plastic Easter eggs to create a huge wreath for us. I also make sweet trees, cards, and dried flower arrangements. It’s relaxing, and gives my creative side another chance to play.

23:00 - I usually turn in after a bit of social media – Facebook, Instagram and a bit of reading. I like reading autobiographies. At the moment I’m reading ‘Anyone Can Do It’ by Sahar and Bobby Hashemi on how they built Coffee Republic from their kitchen table. I was privileged to hear her speak at a local networking event, and she is inspirational.

Now tell us...

What would you say are your main passions within L&D?

For me, Learning and Development is a profession, and I feel saddened when people tell me ‘I just decided to be a trainer’. This, I find, happens a lot.

I attended a course in London on ‘How to write email newsletters that get read’. It was death by Power Point, and really soul destroying for me. I learnt nothing other than how some people think presenting is training. When I asked a question, the presenter flipped back to a slide, re-read it to me, and said ‘Do you understand now?’. That type of experience gets learning and development a bad name.

I learnt nothing other than how some people think presenting is training.

I have been in Learning and Development since 1989, and I keep myself up to the minute by attending conferences, so I can network with my peers and find out what they are doing. I have attended DevLearn in the States for the past two years, the ATD Conference for three years, and Learning and Technology recently.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

There are two parts:

  1. The people. People fascinate me, and I love it when someone shares their learning experience with me. For instance, I was just leaving a clients a while ago, and a comment was made about how useful the motivation cards had been in managing people.Which is the second part:
  2. Creating. I’m a creative, and I love designing new activities, training sessions and courses no one else wants to put together. The motivation cards were an activity I designed and to hear the difference they made at work – fabulous, that’s what my job is all about. I wrote a blog about it.

Which tools & apps do you use the most for work?

I don’t use many apps, however I do love the collaboration you can gain with closed facebook groups, Slack and Yammer. It enables me and delegates to share learning, questions, TED talks. I’m amazed how few L&D people use social media.

One tip you’d pass on to your peers?

Be kind to yourself. Training, facilitating, coaching – they are exhausting, as we have to be in the here and now and learner or others focused. Having to drive home after a day training can be so tiring, once I come off the trainers high. I have learned to look after me more.

I chose to work a 4 day week three years, and actually our turnover has gone up since then. Who cares, because my quality of life is superb now, the best it’s ever been. I used to block out 5 days and I realised one day I was shattered. I see fellow trainers Facebook posts, travelling and staying away and my head spins at the thought of it. I have a Post-it on my computer saying ‘Be Kind to Kay’.

2 Responses

  1. Great to read about what
    Great to read about what other L&D professionals are up to. I think this clearly showed what a ‘good’ L&D professional looks and behaves like, and I identified and agreed with the parts Kay described about being creative, and non-creative (death by PP) and being kind to yourself – it’s amusing how others sometimes think us L&D folk just rock up to the gig and perform, like there’s no planning, or creative thought poured in before hand, or that we might have a post delivery crash.

    1. Thank you Ian. My post was
      Thank you Ian. My post was wrongly assigned, hence the lateness of my response. I really think being kind to ourself is something that is so valuable, and it takes time to learn it. Thanks for your affirmations on it showing what a ‘good’ L&D professional looks like. That really matters

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Kay Buckby


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