Career file: Promoting faith in the future

Nick Wright, 42, T&D manager of Christian development organisation
Tearfund, explains why his job shows that theology and HRD are compatible

How long have you been in this job?

Five years – for as long as I have been with the organisation.

What does your role involve?

Tearfund is a Christian development and relief organisation employing around
500 staff in the UK and overseas. My role involves leading a team of training
& development specialists engaged in staff development at individual, team,
group, leadership and organisational levels.

What are the best and worst things about this job?

It’s a real privilege to be part of an organisation in a role where my
personal values and aspirations are so closely aligned with those of the
organisation and my work. The flip side is that there is a real danger of
personal burnout. Wisdom and discipline are very important survival factors.

What is your current major training project or strategic push?

We’re currently developing forms of leadership support, based on coaching,
mentoring and action learning, that will help leaders deal with increasing
degrees of organisational and global complexity and change.

What did you want to do for a living when you were at school?

I think I swung from wanting to be a vet, to studying philosophy, to
becoming a social worker.

What was your first job?

Working as an apprentice in industry after leaving school at 16. I hated it.

What was the best career decision you ever made?

Leaving my industry job when I became a Christian at the age of 21. I moved
straight into community development and human rights work as a volunteer.

What was the worst?

It’s tempting to say starting my apprenticeship in the first place, but I
learned so much through that experience.

How and why did you become a trainer?

By accident, really. I worked for another voluntary sector organisation that
had expanded beyond its capabilities and found myself running training events
and reflective practice seminars to help reduce some of the terrible stress
staff were experiencing.

Which of your qualifications do you most value and why?

I studied BA Hons Theology at London Bible College and MSc Human Resource
Development (OD) at South Bank University in London. The Theology course was
definitely the most difficult whereas the HRD course was the most inspiring.
This fairly unusual combination of Theology and HRD has proved incredibly
valuable in my line of work.

What was the worst training course you ever experienced as a delegate?

A very frustrating one-year course in supervision & consultation where
the facilitators did very little in the way of effective facilitation. So many
learning opportunities were lost.

Do you think that evaluation is the Holy Grail or an impossible dream?

It really depends on what we try to evaluate. It’s right to try to evaluate
impact and there are things that can be measured tangibly. But there are
important things that can’t be measured scientifically. I guess it’s a bit like
the age-old tension between reason and faith.

How do you think that your job will have changed in five years’ time?

I think there will be a growing shift away from a fairly conventional
single-organisation focus towards inter-organisational/international strategies
and approaches to staff and organisation development.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in T&D?

Think carefully about what attracts you to the role. My sense is that there
is increasing differentiation between three disciplines within the training and
development profession, particularly a three-way divide between trainer,
manager of training processes and consultant.

What are your favourite buzz words?

Organisation development, insight, reflective practice and
transformation.  Conversely, my least
favourite word is probably ‘performance’. Racing cars and circus acts spring to

Are you good at self-development?

I try to be, paying regular attention to my own spiritual, personal and
professional development. Examples include working towards a certificate in
psychology of management, writing articles in various journals to have my ideas
tested in a public arena and receiving mentoring from an external consultant.

Up close and personal

How do you network?

I tend to network quite widely with people in similar and
contrasting roles and sectors, although maintaining active contact is something
that I do find difficult due to other distractions and work priorities.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

What I’m doing now.

Describe your management style in three words

Intuitive, proactive, consultative.

Do you take work home with you?

No. Home time is primarily for my family.

How would you like to be remembered by your colleagues?

As a person of Godly vision, wisdom, influence and integrity.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

Wherever God calls me, but here in Tearfund is fine

Which courses and learning experiences have been most useful
for you?

Coaching by Rudi Weinzierl, a radical social worker in Germany.
Exploring strategic horizons with ex-colleague Mike Wilson. Being mentored by
Brian Watts, a freelance consultant. Learning to be a good husband and father.

Which is the best management book?

Images of Organisation by Gareth Morgan, published by Sage.

Which training gurus ,management experts or business people
do you most admire?

Gareth Morgan, Edgar Schein and Peter Senge.

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