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alison uzzell

Roots Personal Development


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My ‘back to the floor’ experience


Wow!  Now that was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity.  Last month I took the role of Front of House Coordinator for the Iorchestra, part of the Universe of Sound.  I managed a team of staff and volunteers in a temporary interactive music exhibition tent in the English Riviera.

I was attracted to this two week post as I felt it’s good to be reminded of what it’s like working with customers, like the delegates that attend my training events and also to keep it real in the classroom.  I also wanted to test out my interpersonal skills, how good am I?  I talk the talk but can I walk the walk?

Knowing I was out of my comfort zone, not knowing a lot about orchestral music or instruments and totally reliant on my interpersonal skills I began my first shift.  Project Manager Edward Mackay assured me that I would be great and gave me some pointers, my instructions, handed me my radio and straight into leading my first Team briefing!

On a very steep learning curve I was away, I utilized my teams skills and knowledge of how it had been so far during this last half term week, we anticipated it was going to be busy. 

I realised it was ‘ok’ not to know everything about the project, as my team would know.  Often debated in the training room, it is all about how you respond and the action you take that matters you don’t have to know all the answers.  The visitors I met were pleasantly surprised I wasn’t a musician or an expert and this helped as it broke down some of the barriers there are around orchestral music and we instantly had a connection in that we were learning together!

Week one under my belt I had everything running ship shape, I began my second week again totally out of my comfort zone.  I thought week one was tough, I was not prepared for what my first shift of week two had in store.  It was a totally different animal with organised school groups booked in to visit on the hour every hour from when the doors opened.  We facilitated large groups of school children from 25 – 60 and their teachers around the installation as well as the general public, it was very intense but very exciting.  There was a real buzz in the air everyone had a fantastic time and it was great to see the kids getting so much out of their experience.

I made sure I spent as much time as possible working side by side with my team supporting them and leading the way in wowing our visitors.  Our working environment was quite challenging, the music was loud and dramatic at times, we welcomed on average between 700 – 1000 visitors a day with a very small team of 4 or 5, so breaks were difficult to manage.   Not only was it important to ensure that our visitors had an amazing experience it was as important to make sure that my team had a great time, as this would impact on our visitors. 

With any product the customers experience is either a positive or negative one based on the interactions they have with the individuals they encounter.  I watched my team in action in the interactive percussion area and they had a skilful way of managing everyone in the groups so they all had a go on the instruments, without the noise levels getting out of control and spoiling it for others or the feeling of being herded like sheep.  Not easy I can tell you!

I would try to notice visitors on their way in with a smile or a “Welcome” and find an opportunity to meet them on their way out and ask them how it was.  In the training room I often feel that we work really hard at making sure that first impressions are a positive one and often we forget that the last interaction is probably equally as important, as this is the one they are left with. 

Being able to interact with people is a skill and one that comes to me easily, but I recognise that this is not the case for everyone.  Mel, a volunteer said to me after her first day that she was so proud of herself as she suffers with anxiety and this was a big step for her working with people and wearing a t-shirt that said “Talk to Me”.  But she really enjoyed it and it was a huge boost for her.

I really enjoyed going back to the floor, it’s easy to forget what our delegates face day to day and how challenging their roles can be.  I recommend opportunities like this to any trainer we can still learn a thing or two and need to make sure our own skills are razor sharp.

Ali Uzzell

Roots Personal Development Ltd

July 2015

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