The Master’s Touch . . .

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 andmartin_johnson_1114688c 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. leap 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

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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4 Responses to The Master’s Touch . . .

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks John- Spot on!
    ” His keys are simplicity, optimism, and an unshakable belief in the power of people working together “. Great words to live by to attain significant, measurable and sustainable results.


  2. John, it’s a small world. I have not been very good at keeping in touch with my old MBA class at Cranfield School of Management but Pat Dunne was in my class then and I knew him well.


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