Wednesday, May 07, 2014


On Friday, I went to our residential centre in Buckinghamshire to shadow the centre manager, Martin.  At London Youth, we're given the opportunity every year to take a day and go and shadow someone of our choice.  It's open to everyone and you can shadow anyone from the CEO to an outdoor instructor to the communications team.

I met Martin on our team day.  He is 6'7 and full of jokes.  Our team day consisting of dressing up in the style of the decade you were born in (there were a lot of 70s and 80s themed costumes floating around) and going to various youth clubs around London and helping out.  We gardened, cooked and then spent an hour playing "crab" volleyball, where you crawl around on your feet and hands.  It was a great day, and we even had a speech given by a young person at the end of the day, in keeping with our mission for youth.

So because of that fun day, I decided that Martin would be an interesting person to shadow, as well as learn about his job and how he runs a residential centre with a budget of £1.2 million.

The day started out on the property, showing some people from the council around.  He showed them the recently installed outdoor obstacle course and tunnels, the low ropes, the archery, the paths, the heritage tress and the grotto (from the 17th century! and the legend that goes with it).  We then slowly made our way to the house, where the council people received a full tour and a mention of Prince Philip's past visit.

After the council visit, we grabbed lunch (fish and chips served on Fridays!) and he sat down to chat with the school group that was in.  He asked the kids what their favourite part of the week was (storytelling in the grotto, sweets bought from the tuck shop, the low ropes course!) and what could be better.  Afterwards, he told me that it's essentially the best way of receiving quick and truthful feedback.

Despite leaving math behind in high school, I've always had a bit of an obsession with numbers, so I asked to be taken through the mammoth budget he manages.  It was interesting on what he has control on and what he has absolutely no control over.  For example, the weather: as this winter's been quite mild, he's made an unexpected saving on heating and gas bills.  However, he has had two replace two staff members within a month, which has increased his staff budget, in terms of the handing over and overlapping of existing and new staff.

It was refreshing and fun doing something completely different for the day.  Martin and I both work at the same organisation, but we have very different priorities.  I think many companies would benefit from introducing shadowing days to allow their staff to gain a larger perspective of the organisation.

No wonder I wanted to shadow Martin.  Everyone seems to like him.  He has fantastic social skills - he can communicate to 8-year olds at his centre to outdoor instructors to Prince Philip (our patron).  

This week, I leave London Youth, and man, has it been a ride!  From travelling up to Manchester, hanging out with Welsh families and meeting councillors in Lancashire, I've enjoyed bringing the project around the country.  I will be sad to miss the exuberance and creativity of London Youth!