Phil O’Connor, 40, people development manager at Halfords, on ensuring development
works on a practical level and the importance of listening to people
What was the most useful course you ever went on or learning experience
you ever had?
An in-house Boots training and development programme, which was facilitated
by some talented consultants who opened my eyes to real development approaches.
What was the best management book you have ever read?
Anything by Charles Handy and Stephen Covey. Everyone seems to use them but
I find all their books invaluable. Another great bible is Coaching for
Performance, by Sir John Whitmore, which is simple,effective and a good
foundation for learning.
What was the worst course you ever went on?
All those on project management.
What did you want to do for a living when you were at school?
Play lots of sport.
What was your first job?
Packing cardboard at Woolworths.
What was the best career decision you ever made?
Returning to Halfords.
What was the worst career decision you ever made?
None – they got me to where I am now.
Which of your qualifications do you value and why?
None, but I value every bit of learning.
How many minutes is it since someone senior in your organisation said: "People
are our greatest assets"?
Oops, back to loathed buzzwords.
Evaluation – holy grail or impossible dream?
If you can’t see a difference or don’t have an ambition, why do it?
How do you think your job will have changed in five years’ time?
Why worry? I could never have got the answer right five years ago.
Appreciative Inquiry has reassured me that certainty is not real – just a
pretence we enjoy trying to guess.
What do you think the core skills for your job will be in the future?
Keep learning, challenging and listening personally and with other people.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in training and
Stick with it. It can be lonely at times, but it’s great fun.
How do you network?
I don’t have a formal approach, but I do chat to and listen to lots of
people and love to share and debate ideas sincerely.
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
Manager of the England Football Team.
Do you take your work home with you?
Of course, it’s part of my life.
What is your motto?
There’s always next season! Focus on what works well and keep doing it
better and more.
How would you like to be remembered by your colleagues?
As a top bloke who makes development usable – not mysterious.