Communication & Influencing


Kieran Collingwood

Kieran Collingwood

"I do feel a lot more confident when having difficult discussions".

Verified by an engineer

Working as a Lead Support Engineer at Hitachi Rail in north London is a job that keeps Kieran Collingwood on his feet. Every day is different, but might see him conducting safety reviews or inspecting fleet defects, managing people in his team, communicating with other departments, and discussing issues with customers and external stakeholders – not to mention regular travel around the country.

Kieran was promoted to his current position earlier in 2022 from a Systems Engineer position. Prior to that, he was a Team Leader, also at Hitachi Rail starting in 2015. Kieran began his career aged 16 as an apprentice with First Great Western in 2010, gaining his qualifications and a wide range of experience within that firm. He holds an NVQ level 3 and a level 5 HND. 


Why the Communication & Influencing course?

“For me, communication is one of those areas where I think you've always got some areas where you can improve” Kieran explains. Through self-reflection on his own career, he believes there have been times where “I think, ‘maybe I could have described that a little bit better’”, where something could have gone wrong or where he could have been misunderstood. This general awareness of the importance of communication was in the back of his mind.

Then, after being promoted to his new role as Lead Support Engineer in August 2022, Kieran was looking to build up his skillset with relevant training – and that’s when he received an IMechE email that mentioned the course. Since a large part of his new role would involve speaking with a wide variety of stakeholders, it seemed very relevant.

More broadly, he adds that when he’s read investigation reports into things that have gone wrong in the rail industry, “one of the points that's always pressed upon is that something was miscommunicated or misunderstood”. Given the complexity of the rail industry, learning to improve how information is transmitted would certainly be beneficial.

What was your experience of the course?

Kieran attended a three-day-long, online course with five attendees in total (including one of his colleagues from the Bristol depot) in September 2022.

He explains that the first day mainly covered the kinds of conversations we have with people and looked into speaking and listening skills. There was a particular focus on reflecting on your context and location – thinking about who you’re talking to and adapting accordingly.

The second day of the course moved onto behaviour analysis, “which is something that I hadn't consciously thought about previously”. While he was of course subconsciously aware that we talk in different ways to different people in different contexts, openly analysing people’s behaviour patterns was eye-opening, Kieran says.

Finally, the third day of the course went into difficult conversations and influencing. The difficult conversations part of the training looked at ways to approach situations like giving bad news to a customer or negative feedback to a colleague. The course instructor explained how to “plan out how you want the conversation to flow, and make sure that you're armed with the facts”. What’s more, there’s also a psychological element at play. Kieran says: “it’s about mentally giving yourself that push, thinking, ‘yes, I'm going to go and have that conversation now’”.

On the influencing aspect of the course, Kieran relays that the attendees were given a variety of interactive tasks to practice their skills. One of the key things he learnt was that asking questions is a much more effective way of influencing situations than “barraging your target audience with information”.

The course was very interactive in general Kieran says, with a good mixture of presentations, interaction and groupwork, videos and other resources. “We all felt quite involved in the course… it wasn’t just reading from a PowerPoint” he notes.

What are the three reasons someone should attend the Communication and Influencing Skills course?

  1. Learn about behavioural analysis and how to use that in conversations with different audiences.
  2. Gain confidence in different kinds of communication scenarios.
  3. Use techniques that help influence projects and workplace situations for better outcomes.

What impact has the training had?

 “I do feel a lot more confident when having difficult discussions”.

Thanks to the methods he picked up on the course, Kieran says he has felt much more confident going into difficult conversations than he would have previously – “particularly when it’s related to a customer”. Some of his firm’s clients will come to meetings with very detailed questions. The course content on planning and preparing for conversations certainly helps here.

But the course has also paid off when having very different kinds of exchanges too. “One of the things I've been doing day to day [in the new management role] is conversations that concern people's personal issues as well” he explains. The course gave him tools to help “handle them sensitively with that individual and making sure that they get the support that they need”.

What’s next?

While Kieran’s energy is mainly being taken up by his (relatively) new role, he does plan to progress his current status within the IMechE in future, with an ambition to move up to IEng status through building up his CPD. But with such a busy job it’s not always easy: “it's finding the time to sit down and almost shut myself away and put ‘Do not disturb’ on my Teams calendar” he laughs.

Communication & Influencing

  • Duration:
    2 days
  • Location:
    London, Sheffield, Bristol
  • CPD Hours:
  • UK-Spec:
    D, E