Again it was snowing when I landed in Paris.
It had been thirty years almost to the day since I’d last visited the city, so I was looking forward to reminiscing on my journey from Orly to the Holiday Inn at Marne La Vallee.
I have a good Scot’s tongue in my head so I quickly got myself prepared for the next part of the journey by asking the way, making use of what little French I remembered.
Quite proud of myself for changing directions at two train stops, I was undaunted when I arrived in deep snow at Disneyland Paris, to discover that I should’ve disembarked about three stops earlier at Noisy Le Grande. Thankfully the taxi driver accepted the hire and drove me back; many had decided to do only short journeys because the weather and road conditions were so bad, so I was lucky!
My late arrival around 9pm meant I was probably going to miss dinner so I settled into my room, spending the rest of the evening preparing for the next day’s workshops.
I enjoyed breakfasting with others from IHG that I’d met on previous trips but I was eager to start my day’s work – this was something I’d never done before; attempting to deliver motivational training, partially at least, in another language.
Thankfully I had IHG’s Anne-Marie Aucouturier to help with translation; Anne-Marie had participated in the ‘Will to Win’ workshop in Den Haag so was familiar with the outline of the session and had grasped the concept easily.
I introduced myself and the content of the session to the Parisian sales, marketing and hotel general managers, in the best French I could muster – engaging my participants in their first challenge; understanding my Scottish accent.
I spoke slowly and used French in my PowerPoint presentation to further reduce or eliminate any language barriers there may be. Wherever there seemed to be a lack of comprehension, Anne-Marie stepped up to fill the gap – ensuring everyone was in the flow.
Each session that day, as is always the case, brought slightly different challenges but none were so huge, they were insurmountable. Everyone participated fully; enjoying the relaxation aspects to it which were integral to building trust and communication within the groups.
At the end of the day I was ecstatically exhausted!
As I was thanked by those taking part I realised how the day had impacted upon them; smiling, they were visibly opening up to their colleagues and communicating more animatedly than before. As we stepped into the foyer some were already congregated for the evening trip to Disneyland, chatting and sharing experiences. I was high-fived on more than one occasion walking through the crowd!
I decided not to rush to meet the deadline for the bus leaving this time – instead I would relax in my room for a while, shower and dress for dinner – before re-joining the others for a nightcap in the cocktail lounge.
Of course I wanted to know what everyone thought about the sessions, so I could hardly keep myself away from the returned evaluation forms – after kicking off my shoes and pouring a tea, I sat down to read them.
I was delighted with the responses; ‘improved confidence’, ‘increased trust in colleagues’ and ‘confidence in the team’ were among them. Nothing remotely resembling negative had been reported back.
You can also imagine my surprise at finding at least three of the same replies to one question; what did you most enjoy?
The answer; l’ambience.
My trepidation had been unfounded and the job was done. I could relax more – and allow myself to feel a great sense of achievement, something I rarely feel strongly. I remember laughing as I thought, ‘if I can achieve l’ambience in Paris, I can do anything!’
It had been confirmed; we’d just had a very successful first day of IHG’s Winning in 2013 Conference in Paris and everyone was feeling much more confident, including myself.
In under five weeks I’d been to three cities, training management and staff from nine different European countries; it was fun and exhausting …but exhilarating at the same time.
I better understand the working mindset of people in the hotel trade, how important it is to trust others and to communicate effectively; now I have an even greater respect for the energy that is required to do those jobs.
Thank you to IHG, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental hotels for providing me with such insight and for the wonderful hospitality I received in each city.