Lots of people can talk about golf and explain the mechanics of a perfect swing; they can even play golf, but only a few are consistent tour winners!
A few days ago I was invited to an evening function by The Chairman’s Network, a group in London that provides interesting discussion platforms for senior business executives in a relaxed atmosphere. This meeting was held in the offices of one of the UK’s most prominent private equity groups, Lloyds Development Capital (LDC). They are one of the leaders in mid-market private equity, not just because they have the backing of a big bank (there are many investment groups with far more money to spend), but how they think and act with their customers and clients.
Hence their sponsorship of the evening’s Chairman’s Network meeting.
I have the dubious honour of attending several such meetings by various groups , and I even speak at a fair number, and to be honest, I find most of them an interesting evening, if my family is out and I have nothing better to do! I’m not cynical on the whole, but I have been to enough of these meetings where the people presenting are either academics with no real world scars, or “wanna-be” players in a game that is far bigger than they are.
But this meeting was different, and I will also add, inspiring, even for an old goat like me. The evening’s speakers were Masters in the craft and art of “the people business”. And what business isn’t a people business when you get right to the heart of it? Okay, maybe investment banking!
Anyway, the two speakers were Humphrey Walters and Patrick Dunne. Two of the most outstanding Masters of building winning teams you’ve never heard of. Both tend to shun the media and self-promotion, but get results on a scale most advisors and consultants only dream about.
Humphrey has the directness of a South African coupled with the instincts of a fierce warrior, all wrapped in a professional and mild-mannered approach. No screaming and yelling, no berating, just honest input that leaves a dysfunctional team (the England National Rugby team, a round the world yacht racing team, a corporate board of directors) squirming with no room to wiggle and no excuses for their miserable lack of performance. His keys are simplicity, optimism, and an unshakable belief in the power of people working together.
And Humphrey is the Director of Performance at LDC! How many investment firms do you know of that believes in the power of people so much that they have a Director of Performance?
Patrick works in a different area, but no less complex and challenging. His skills lie in helping young troubled teens in conflict situations, often times life and death scenarios. How do you deal with a big angry teenager with a knife who wants to kill someone? Most approaches only make things worse, or temporarily better. Patrick his Leap Confronting Conflict foundation are looking for a quantum change, and more often than not they get results, again with directness, respect and common sense skills that work in the real world, not in the rarefied training room of an off-site executive retreat. Patrick also takes his conflict resolution skills into corporate boardrooms. We could use more open and honest conflict in boardrooms to avoid more big bank meltdowns like RBS and the CEO who railroaded his board into bad decisions.
Here is Humphrey Walter’s entire approach (talk about simple and direct):
- Get the right players in and the wrong players out!
- Do it for a cause, not the glory or the money
- Build and maintain pride in your organization
- “Teamship”: Define how the team will operate (“Why would anyone want you on this team?)
Talk is cheap, results pay the bills!
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress