My name is Mike Page. I am 34 years old and have spent the last 9 months working as an Assistant Forest Manager in Tilhill’s Central Scotland office in Dunblane. My route into forestry has been long and winding and although that isn’t particularly unusual, my CV does seem especially ‘varied’. I spent my twenties studying a first degree in Scottish Ethnology, working as a bouncer, a scaffolder, a shelf stacker, selling skis, completing a five year stint in the Royal Artillery and training to be a baker/patissier.
While I clearly enjoyed variety there was a nagging sense that I needed more direction, so I completed a Morrisby Profile test. This consists of a series of subjective questions plus a battery of psychometric tests, the results of which are merged and analysed in order to suggest jobs to which the subject might be best suited. Mine said I should be a ‘Forester’ which sounded grand (Land Rover, dog, shotgun, chainsaw etc.) so I went to my local college for two years, the University of Cumbria for a final year and then applied for my current job with Tilhill Forestry. I’m still pinching myself that it’s all worked out.
My focus for this article is the recent Tilhill training I have attended and will continue to attend entitled ‘Unlocking Potential’. The first of four two-day sessions was last week and took place in Gretna. Five colleagues from Tilhill and four from BSW (Tilhill’s parent company) met and received training from Ian Redmond and Damian Palin of Explore Training.
The two days were a mix of group discussions, presentations and team exercises covering a wide variety of topics. Three in particular stand out:
In the first session of the day we met and introduced ourselves to one another, then stopped and assessed what kind of impression we had made. I confess I hadn’t given much thought to this in a forestry context. Generally we are working with the same clients or contractors most of the time so the time for first impressions has passed, but it’s useful to consider how others see us to give opportunity to adjust as necessary. My perception of my own face (serious, but wise and engaging) may not match other peoples’ perceptions of me (grumpy).
On the second morning we had a very useful Q&A session with George McRobbie, Managing Director of Tilhill Forestry. George gave us his frank views on price trends, use of technology in the industry and the challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit. George also sits on the BSW board so was able to provide insight into the evolving relationship between the two companies.
The final session was a group exercise based on the management of change. Each team played the role of team leader explaining to their workforce (enthusiastically played by the other teams) that they were required to move to a 24/7 shift pattern. The news was singularly unpopular and we had to field hostile questions (‘my daughter has ballet on a Tuesday and Thursday, can I be kept off the rota those nights?’) without making any unwise concessions. It was a genuinely uncomfortable 15 minutes and provoked a good discussion about the line between positive and patronising.
Everyone enjoyed the sessions and it was great to spend time with our peers from bothTilhill Forestry and BSW. The next session is in July and the process concludes next April with a ‘Dragon’s Den’ presentation of a new business idea to the board. I am already working on my smile.