We were, after all, spending a whole day's training in a room with the most beautiful outlook in England.
The large, floor to ceiling windows gaze out across a glorious stretch of white sand, and today, the sky was cloudless and deep blue. It felt warm - unusually warm for an early Autumn day.
Before the meeting got started, I sat outside with my cup of tea and thought how very lucky I was to be sitting in front of such an amazingly peaceful scene.
At coffee time, we took it in turns to look through the telescope, observing all sorts of sea birds, the lighthouse, the prom and the windmills. It was an excellent piece of kit and we apologised to our colleague for laughing at him when he first admitted to buying it.
As the meeting progressed, we talked about how to provide excellent customer service. Going the extra mile, making a connection, taking ownership of problems....all the usual stuff that gets bandied about on these occasions. We know the answers, we know how to do it, we would never let our customers down...
...Little did we know, however, that all this bragging was soon going to be put to the test thanks to the watchful eye of the telescope...
At lunchtime, we set it up on the balcony of the building. Our venue is designed to look like a ship and I felt like I was on the deck, eating my sarnies and observing all the landlubbers below. Every now and then, someone would have a look through the telescope and our birdwatching colleague would reel off the names of all the birds diving into the sea.
|Our Meeting venue|
Two men wearing lifejackets were struggling to get the engine on their little boat to work. I've watched my husband doing a similar thing with a lawnmower a few times - madly yanking the cord - sweating, swearing, huffing and puffing before giving the useless machine a good kicking. Maybe the man with the starting cord had already tried to give the engine a good kicking because somehow their boat was full of water. We knew this because we were able to see the second man frantically using his welly to bail it out.
The telescope was passed to another colleague, who just happens to be a volunteer lifeboatman. After a couple of seconds, he rang the coastguard. The little boat continued to drift as the two men desperately tried to get the engine started.
'They've got loads of tattoos,' one of my colleagues observed, 'Its amazing - you can almost make out what they say.'
The volunteer lifeboatman's bleeper went off. He had been called into action. He gave his apologies and sprinted off like Bruce Wayne to the Batmobile. We continued to watch the drama unfold from our position on the deck of the ship.
The coastguard's landrover flashed past - its blue light matching the colour of the sky and its siren wailing towards the shore. The seabirds scattered.
We were now fighting over a turn on the telescope. The Lifeboat had been launched and was roaring and leaping over the waves towards the two stricken men in their knackered boat.
'Let me see! Let me see!' we argued. We were desperate to see if our colleague was on board the rescue boat.
'It's him! It's him!' someone yelled.
Our new HR manager, who was joining us on her very first day at work, must have felt a little bemused. Not only was she was joining a team of people who brought along pens, paper and a telescope to a training day, but they also interupted lunch to save the lives of those in peril on the sea.
The lifeboat towed the little dinghy back to the safety of the shore. The tattooed men, one still clutching his welly, looked relieved, embarrassed and exhausted.
Our lifeboatman returned and told us to our disappointment that it wasn't actually him out there doing the rescue. His fellow volunteers had beaten him to it, and one of them looks just like him - even through the bionic eye of our telescope.
We took our seats for the afternoon session, discussing the qualities required to be a good manager in a sports centre and the 'tools' that are needed to help us achieve this.
'Empathy,' someone said, 'Experience, communication skills...'
'...And a bloody good telescope,' it was suggested after a pause, much to the delight of our birdwatching colleague, who's object of ridicule had now become the most essential tool in the quest to achieve world class customer service....
All in all, it was an extraordinary and rather unexpected kind of day at the office!