missrachelsmith

Posts Tagged ‘Art journal

Training and development

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If there’s one thing you should learn about me, it’s that I don’t really do easy. And I don’t think that CILIP Chartership is an easy qualification, which is probably why I’m really enjoying it. Working towards Chartership is making me think, it’s making me reflect on what I do, and it’s making me take responsibility for my personal development as an information professional.

My Chartership journey is also challenging me to have a go at things I never thought I’d do. I can now add the words ‘accredited customer service trainer’ to my list of professional achievements. Flashy, isn’t it? But not at all easy. I want to use this post to reflect on my journey to becoming a customer service trainer for the library and what I’m learning from it.

The journey begins

Improving the customer experience of the library service is a key part of the library’s strategic plan for the next five years. As an organisation, we’re exploring various ways of doing this, including looking into Customer Service Excellence status and ensuring that all staff members undergo customer service training. Providing a great level of service to my customers is something I see as a priority in my role, so when the opportunity came up to become a customer service trainer and deliver training courses to my colleagues, I threw my hat in the ring…

Train the trainer

I was excited to hear that my head of service had chosen to put me forward for training and assessment to become a customer service trainer, along with three other colleagues. I hastily scrambled together a training-focused version of my CV, and went along to a ‘train the trainer’ session. At the time, I sketched out my thoughts about the day in my Chartership art journal (please excuse rubbish phone camera images!):

On the left hand page, the trainer, ‘Deborah’, discusses great and awful customer service, surrounded by the training materials we’d be using. I felt that there was a lot of information hurled at us during the 5 hour course, after which we would be left to deliver customer service training sessions to our colleagues. My confusion about conveying the course content is expressed on the right hand side of page one.

Page two, and it’s my turn. I’m in the spotlight, delivering the ‘Excellent Customer Service’ course to a faceless audience. And back in March, with the only training I was going to receive under my belt, I felt distinctly uneasy about that.

I didn’t feel that the train the trainer course was enough to thoroughly familiarise myself with the course materials, and actually, the course materials themselves weren’t all that relevant. The customer service training programme we’re providing was originally designed for the tourist industry – there are sections about increasing customer spending, the importance of tourism to the local and national economy, and so on. My workplace, a university library, doesn’t operate in the arena of tourism. We are not a commercial business. So there was a lot of preparatory work to be done between the trainer briefing and the first sessions, which were arranged for June, to ensure that the training we were going to deliver would be useful.

Be prepared

I met with the other three in-house trainers to organise the administration of the sessions and plan how we were going to deliver the training. It was decided that we would split down the day-long course into two half-day sessions. Two of my colleagues took the first half of the course, and I worked with another member of the academic liaison team to deliver the second session, which included providing information to customers, meeting specific needs and handling complaints.

What were the big challenges for me? Well, I actually found getting to grips with content I hadn’t written quite difficult. Normally, if I give a presentation or deliver a session, I’ve put the content and activities together. And I think that’s the way I learn and remember things – by creating and doing. It was important for me to look at the course content in quite some depth to really understand what I was trying to get across, and what I was asking the course participants to do.

Something that I’ve definitely taken from the experience is the importance of communicating with my colleagues. There were a lot of emails going back and forth between the trainers about what arrangements had been made, issues arising and adapting the course content. When I tailored activities to make them more relevant, or added in new slides to illustrate a point, I had to ensure that I kept my colleagues up to date and explained the rationale behind the changes I was making. Keeping up with the correspondence amidst one of my busiest periods in the academic year (the exam term, Library 24/7 and the start of the redevelopment work at the main library) was tricky, and next time round, I’d hope to improve on this.

And the session itself?

I’m never very good at accepting compliments, but the feedback from participants was positive. A number of participants highlighted the second session, and some of the sections that I led, as the parts they found most valuable about the course.

In terms of how I felt about the session; the course participants were a really nice bunch of people and were generally enthusiastic about thinking and talking about customer service. The session was quite relaxed – we presented sitting down, and there were lots of opportunities for discussion. I had been quite nervous about leading the training session, even with one of my colleagues by my side, and the participants’ attitude and the general atmosphere definitely made me feel more confident.

Next time…

We’ll be running a second set of sessions over the summer, and next time I’ll be concentrating on the first section that I’m presenting, which I feel was the weakest part of the material I delivered. This was partly due to ‘start of the training session’ nerves and also because I had spent less time looking at this section. We also slightly overran the three hours we’d allowed for the session, so my colleague and I also need to think about timings and whether we need to cover less material, or cut one or two activities.

Providing customer service training courses to my colleagues has also been an important training and development activity for me. I’m directly contributing to a key aspect of my organisation’s strategic goals, my increased knowledge of customer service is feeding back into my front-line duties, and on a personal level, it’s been a great opportunity for me to develop my communications skills in a range of ways.

So not easy, but I don’t do things because they’re easy.

Written by missrachelsmith

June 29, 2011 at 16:08

Reflection | noitcelfeR (or: my BIG IDEA)

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One thing I’m learning from the Chartership process is that writing reflectively is really quite difficult.

Now, I’d say I’m fairly good at writing. I can write in a range of genres, formats and registers – I’m equally comfortable with constructing a notice, putting together web content, creating my infamous Mills and Boon attempt or writing an academic essay. In fact, I would go as far as saying I talk the talk a lot better on paper than I do in person. But I don’t think I’m necessarily very good (yet) at reflective writing.

Why is that? It’s obviously not the writing itself which I find difficult. It’s what I’m writing about. I can describe a professional development experience competently, and I could shape this nicely into a set of notes or a report, no problem. But reflecting upon an experience? Tricky. I’ve been trying (and you can see some of my attempts elsewhere on this blog; e.g. here, or here) and I don’t think I’ve been entirely unsuccessful, but I’ve been starting to feel like this in itself is a skill I need to develop.

So – I thought I would try and find some information to help me out. Decided I’d start with a book hunt in the Library and I managed to find a couple of books which I’m rattling through in my spare minutes. I had a quick Google search for ‘reflective writing’, which came up with some useful PDF guides from other UK academic institutions. I’m also thinking that a bit of database/e-journal searching, particularly for articles to do with reflective writing and librarianship, might be the next step.

But what I really wanted to talk about today is one of the books I found on my ‘I need to improve my reflective writing’ mission, and my BIG IDEA. I’ve just been looking at Winter, Buck and Sobiechowska’s 1999 book ‘Professional Experience & the Investigative Imagination: The ART of reflective writing’ (strange mix of cases used in the title, but hey ho). I’m not going to provide any sort of close critique of this publication, but the general idea is that your typical report-style reflective piece isn’t the only way to go. In fact (disclaimer here: Winter et al. don’t go as far as stating this in their book, so this is only my opinion) I find that generally the times where you find yourself writing reflectively in a professional context can have a number of other constraints and influences. When I fill out evaluation forms for the training events I attend through work, I generally lean towards the positive, because I’d like to be able to attend such events in future; when I look back over my year in my annual appraisal, I want to make sure that particular areas are covered, so I concentrate on these. Given this precedent for reflecting upon development activities and personal performance, it’s no wonder I find it difficult to write reflectively.

Back to ‘Professional Experience and the Investigative Imagination’: Winter et al. put forward the idea that another way to reflect upon professional experiences is by writing creatively. And this is when I had my new BIG IDEA. I would say that I am a creative type – in fact, I’d say that my creativity is one of my strengths. And I get quite a lot out of exploring things in a creative way. So although some of the things Winter and his colleagues put forward didn’t quite work for me, I could totally see why taking a different approach to reflecting on professional issues and activities might be something to consider. And I have considered it. And I think it’s a good idea.

So – alongside my blog, writing for publication and the various reflective avenues I have at work, I am going to start a Chartership art journal. An art journal is kind of like a scrapbook, and often includes writing, images and collage – have a look at some Flickr examples if you’ve never come across them before. I’m choosing to create an art journal, rather than any other kind of creative medium, as it combines both words and pictures, both of which are representative (rather than abstract) ways of communicating. I bought a sketchbook at the weekend, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to start using this soon – I’ve already got some ideas. And I’ll post my work here when I have something worth sharing!

Written by missrachelsmith

April 11, 2011 at 17:27