TALES OF A TRAINER
June 1st 2020 marked the beginning of my 17th year with MDT International. It’s been a blast. Over the years, it’s been suggested that I should put pen to paper and capture some of the memories. So, in these weird lockdown times, I hope you enjoy the birth of Tales of a Trainer.
For this first blog and via my LinkedIn account, I ran a poll to see which ‘tale’ from my first year as a trainer would get the most votes. It was close but Mistaken Identity in Port Harcourt Nigeria won the day securing 50% of the votes cast. My run in with the President of Paraguay got 42% of the vote and it will be the feature of my next blog.
Mistaken Identity - Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 2005
As I approached the end of my first year as a trainer, I guess I must have been doing something right … or wrong … I mean there’s no way they’d send a rookie trainer to the Delta Region of Nigeria to deliver 2-weeks of training to an industry Super-Major unless they had supreme confidence in his ability – right 🤔
My devoted wife put it another way. They probably want you to be kidnapped and they won’t pay the ransom … helpfully adding, and neither will I … Cheers Darling 😊
I’ll admit to being slightly nervous, given Nigeria’s billing as one of the more ‘colourful’ O&G locations, but my love of new places and adventure were the over-riding emotions … and, I mean, I bet in reality it’s so much safer than the stories that you hear!
Arrival - Making You Feel Safe
Met by client rep. holding my name card before I’d got to passport control; whizzed through immigration and baggage collection like a rock star and then placed in a mini bus for the high-speed transfer form airport to hotel.
To make me feel safe, in our vehicle was a dude riding shotgun armed with a very large assault rifle. And our mini-bus was sandwiched between two jeeps – with each jeep comprising driver; 1 front passenger (plus assault rifle) and 4 heavily armed ‘protectors’ in open air back of jeep area.
Sometimes it’s useful being an Accountant as I was able to quickly work out that little old me was being protected by enough fire-power to over-throw a small country … and all to make me feel safe … strange that it was having the opposite effect on me!
Welcome to Nigeria
We get the course started and as part of my Intro. slides I make a big issue of telling the students that all phones must now be placed in mute mode.
Oooooft – I’ve never experienced anything like that first 30-40 minutes. Mobiles going off left, right and centre. And an introduction for me to an interesting aspect of Nigerian culture. My training style is very much about trying to encourage debate and discussion among the course participants. Not all cultures warm to that approach but I needn’t have been concerned in Nigeria!
Nigerians LOVE to ‘discuss and debate’ ... EVERYTHING and ANYTHING, and a classic ‘debate’ goes something like this:
Person 1 offers a view (loudly)
Person 2 offers a different view (more loudly)
Person 1, having not listened to a word, repeats their view (more loudly)
Person 2, now irritated, repeats their view (more loudly)
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Each segment louder (& longer) than the last … and then, just when you think a boxing match is about to erupt, both parties start laughing (loudly), hug each other and do a slightly strange but intricate hand shake / fist bump type thing.
Anyway, after that initial shock, a really successful first week of training, a brilliant group to be working with - full of engagement, fun … and many, many very loud debates – what’s not to like? Really looking forward to week 2 … but, for now, it’s the weekend
By early Saturday afternoon I’m starting to get a bit of cabin fever. My cell, sorry, I mean, luxurious(!) room is overlooking the back of the hotel. Over a tall, prison like perimeter wall I can see some kids playing football. I hatch a plan.
Strictly speaking and in accordance with my security briefing, I cannot leave the hotel grounds without an escort. But during that first week, I’ve built up a great rapport with the hotel manager – a guy from Liverpool (go figure!). I ask him if it would be ok / safe for me to go and watch the kids playing football. During daylight hours – no problem, but there’s no direct access from the hotel – he gives me the directions I need and off I go … sans escort!
The final approach to the ‘pitch’ is along a dirt track, then I’m there, in a small clearing and I stop to take in the scene … but as I stop so does the ‘end to end cup final’ … and for one brief moment, all of us are frozen in time ... before the players charge in my direction all speaking (loudly) at once. I become aware that even at a young age these lads are already honing their ‘discuss and debate’ skills … the two loudest are debaters are embroiled in Man United v Arsenal.
Once I restore a degree of calm, I realise that the one single thing all of the kids agree on is that I must be a scout from the English Premier League … the debate is about which of the top sides I represent. Is it Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea or … Bolton (the power of Jay-Jay Okocha). I try to explain that I’m actually just an Oil & Gas Accountant (turned trainer) from Scotland … but, they are having none of it. They allow me to take part in their game and proceed to run rings round the ‘Scout’ as they try to secure their dream move to the promised land of the English Premier League!
A great experience … (against advice) I’d popped my digital camera in my pocket ... so I’m able to close out Tales of a Trainer Part 1 with an image. Love the young fan in the ‘stand’. Good Times!
Join me next time for the President of Paraguay … and yet another case of mistaken identity.