Kevin Keegan. Liverpool and Newcastle legend. European Footballer of the Year. England Manager. Hilarious football pundit. Famed interviewee. Green Cross Code Man. Singer. Mighty Mouse. King Kev.
What a man. I met him in Blackburn during the 1994-1995 football season. It wasn't something you'd forget, and it helped me remember the last time I was involved in a formal capacity as a trainer without too much trouble.
Yes, roughly 22 years ago was my first and until now only experience as a trainer.
You can read more about my King Kev adventure at the end of this blog.
If you are reading this just because of King Kev, you can skip there now. It's worth a read if you value kindness and thoughtfulness and a demonstration that football can have a heart.
Please feel free to stay and read the rest first though!
The training bit
So, back in 1993 I was transferred from Hull Benefits Office to the national headquarters of the Benefits Agency in Quarry House Leeds.
It was a great transfer, it took me away from the simmering excitement of the social fund (crisis loans and my speciality of dealing with PVs - the Potentially Violent) to the relative security of the Cross Benefit Unit with our imposing HQ and bright ideas.
I had two roles in my two years at Quarry House. The first was as part of a team who redesigned the Benefits Agency Contact Form. This form was used up and down the country collecting data about benefits claimants and it was one of those forms you needed a degree to complete and it took too much time (and therefore money) for staff to help the general public to fill in.
So we redesigned the form and it became a one pager in a pad that took minutes to complete and saved the tax payer millions.
When that was done I was put in a team training Benefits Agency staff up and down England & Wales on the big expensive new and shiny Benefits Agency reception management system, complete with colour coded waiting lists and integration with other systems (that didn't work!). That role took me, along with my Geordie colleague George, to places like Nottingham, Bath, Wrexham, Blackburn, Sunderland, Bristol and London to train staff before its big roll out.
Until 2017 that was the first and last time I was formally engaged in a training role.
Skip forward then to a chance conversation 22 years later with the RICS in May 2017 and I found myself part of a mediator skills training team in Warsaw, Poland. I loved it. Then another chance conversation with CEO of ADR-ODR International - Rahim Shamji - saw me invited to train as a trainer so I could do the role more frequently as part of the ADR-ODR Faculty.
The training was amazing and not only developed my skills as a trainer, but gave me a welcome refresher on my mediator skills as well.
That was earlier this year, and today I complete three consecutive weeks as a member of Faculty for ADR-ODR, helping around 100 law graduates to qualify as fully accredited civil and commercial mediators.
It's been a great experience. I can't begin to explain how much I have learned from my fellow Faculty, but also from the students themselves. I will definitely be a better, more effective mediator following this experience. I have seen how being a trainer can keep you current, keep you on top of new techniques and learn, learn, learn, learn.
The students have been a great mix of law graduates from Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of the West of England in Bristol, and BPP Law School in London. They have come with a mix of experience from places like Malaysia, Mauritius, Greece, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ukraine, the Bahamas, the U.K. and elsewhere. The students have been a credit to their universities and it is a reflection of the growing importance of mediation that so many law schools are supporting their graduates through this programme.
In all ADR-ODR has trained more than 350 students in 8 universities across a four week period. A huge undertaking and one completed with minimum fuss and maximum collegiality.
For me I will be at a loss for the next few weeks. Back in my office and not on my feet helping and guiding the next generation of mediators and learning from them daily. Its felt like being part of a close knit team for the first time since I left CEDR in 2015. I will miss it.
A huge thank you to the team at ADR-ODR. Kelly Thornton has administered the whole thing. What a job. Overseen of course by Rahim and the other lead faculty. I've worked for all three weeks under the amazing guidance of the mighty Pamela Whitehead - and I survived! I've worked closely with Sharon Crooks, Miglė Žukauskaitė , Sophia Giannoupolou, Jenna Bhata and Aneesha Bhunjun. I didn't have the chance to work with other colleagues from my training cohort, people like Anna Plevri, Claudia Caluori, Cressida Burnett, Ali Nouraei, Zoe Giannoupolou, Kelly Thornton and Rahim Shamji. I look forward to next time, and I'm hoping it will be sooner rather than later.
So, if you are a lawyer or a business person or you run law or business programmes in the education system, in the U.K. or anywhere else, and you are reading this and you are longing for some inspirational life changing training, to develop skills which are transferable and work in all sorts of business and person situations, why not get in touch and get details about upcoming ADR-ODR open courses or your own inhouse training. Not only will you get some amazing training, but you will allow me to feel part of this great team for a little longer.
Call me for more information on +44 (0) 7454 977767 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The bit about King Kev
Winter 1994. I was staying in the Swallow Hotel in Blackburn. I'd travelled from Hull via Leeds and George and I were minding our own business when we saw the Newcastle United team walk in. This was exciting for me because as a Liverpool fan I honed in on King Kev.
For George it was crazy, as I mentioned earlier he was a Geordie (i..e. born and bred in Newcastle) -
and a crazy Magpie (i..e. Newcastle fan).
Not shirking from my responsibility I asked King Kev for an autograph for my nephew Daniel, aged 7 or 8 at the time (this was a good four or five years before I had children of my own). King Kev being King Kev, he considered that his autograph wasn't enough. So he led us both in to the private dining rooms and took us round the table, introducing us to the full Newcastle United squad and management! People like Barry Venison, Rob Lee, Phillip Albert, Ruel Fox, Lee Clark, Paul Kitson and the late Pavel Srnicek.
They all signed a sheet of Swallow Hotel headed A4 paper and sent best wishes to Daniel. King Kev got them to write their name in capitals under their autograph so Daniel could work out who was who.
Wow that was amazing enough. But there was more. The next morning, after Newcastle had played Blackburn Rovers (who eventually won the Premier League that season under the guidance of King Kev's replacement at Liverpool in 1977, and my absolute hero, Kenny Dalglish), the team happened to be leaving and boarding their coach at the same time that George and I were leaving to start our journey to the local Benefits office for training.
A small boy was outside with his dad. He was about 7 or 8 and was decked out in a full Blackburn Rovers kit. He pounced as he saw King Kev and asked for an autograph. King Kev then proceeded to write but the pen didn't work. The coach was full and ready to go but King Kev went back to reception so he could get another pen and sign the autograph. Nice. But there was more!
That evening we went back to the hotel and overheard a receptionist talking to someone about "the amazing Kevin Keegan". Apparently he had wanted to take the boy on the coach to meet the team, but they had no time so instead he took the boy's name and address and promised to send him a full Newcastle United kit signed by the complete squad. The boy had started crying he was so made up.
I'd like to think King Kev was true to his word. What a man. What a legend. What a mediator he could have made. There's still time King Kev, you can sign up to one of our open courses now.
"...and I'll tell you, honestly, I will love it...Love it..." (If you don't understand this reference see https://youtu.be/_Yenzdq5g6o)