IT Services | Leadership Team | Development
Our IT services client, in business for over 10 years, was experiencing double-digit growth and had built an 8-person leadership team to direct and deliver an expanding service portfolio over a wider UK footprint. The team comprised 3 founding directors and 5 heads of function who had joined over the previous 12 months.
The team’s capability to make decisions and achieve goals together was at an early stage. As such, this under-development had become a potential risk to further company success.
Over the 12-months the team had been forming, attempts to develop a robust process of collective decision-making had been buffeted by the demands of operational fire-fighting. The team had yet to fully form and work out the fundamentals of team working, and find a rhythm and balance between managing operations and leading strategically.
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The company’s growth was in danger of slowing. The founding directors were are risk of carrying an ever heavier load. Risks and opportunities were not being recognised and managed.
The Managing Director wanted a practical offsite experience for the expanded leadership team to explore collective decision-making and achieving goals together.
We created an experiential programme that explored psychological safety, self-awareness, connection, bias, team roles, collective sense-making, and decision-making models. This involved a mixture of indoor work and outdoor exercises, featuring some competitive fun and some deeper work.
“Massive thanks for your time and efforts. It was a hugely enjoyable and productive and I know from speaking to the others that they felt the same.” Leadership Team Member.
DESIGN & DELIVERY…
Location impacts the way people think and interact. Going offsite was important to get away from a busy office environment and provide literal and metaphorical space to think and engage more deeply.
We selected Falkland Estate, Fife which provided great workshop space and out-the-door-access to an inspiring landscape of woods, waterfalls, open fields, and hills.
Programme elements included the following:
#1 Safety, Disclosure, Storytelling.
We established ground rules for the day by inviting participants to identify what they needed to give of their best, and then invited them into a powerful disclosure exercise (which they had prepared for in advance). This was designed to promote self-awareness and create a foundation for connection and trust, and provide a process they could use back to the workplace. You can read more about this here.
#2 Score Orienteering.
A number of check points, each of different value depending on distance and difficulty, were laid out around the estate. The team was divided into competing sub-teams. Their objective was to collect as many points as possible within a fixed time-frame after which penalty points would escalate quickly. The exercise was used to encourage reflection on the balance between strategic thinking and operational execution, to notice how a plan (the map) is not the same as reality, and to explore how choices and trade-offs were made in a team setting under pressure of maximising return (points) on investment (of 4 team members over 40 minutes).
“I must admit I was one who had a panic attack at the very thought of outdoorsie stuff but I actually really enjoyed it! It was a great location too.” Company Director.
#3 Grey Decision Making.
Using a walk & talk format around the estate, we provided the team with a number of moral and ethical business dilemmas to discuss in pairs and as a whole team. This allowed the team to explore their lived values and biases. We also explored the notion of thinking before acting – to determine desired outcomes and mindfully selecting a response rather than instinctively reacting and risking unintended negative outcomes.
#4 Team Working & Decision Making Frameworks.
Colleagues were invited to explore a number of team working and decision-making frameworks, and using the experiences of the day and their experiences at work to identify the principles and values that would help guide decision making in their specific context.
The day closed with a simulated cycling accident in which one rider was expected to need hospital treatment, and the other expected to continue their journey. Colleagues were invited to approach each casualty (mannequins) and write on the respective high viz vets the behaviours, processes etc. they were going to leave behind and the behaviours, processes, experiments they were going to take forward on their team journey. The resulting high viz artefacts served as the core of a team charter.
Key outcomes from the day were:
- Enhanced connection and trust across the team, and how this now provides the foundations for team effectiveness (after Lencioni).
- An understanding of diverse team roles (after Belbin), and the need to cover off underplayed roles to get the most out of team meetings (for example).
- The importance of common principles around which to approach difficult team decisions on a consistently robust basis.
- Commitment to implementing some basic ways of working such as a rhythm and structure for separate operational and more strategic meetings.
We will follow up with the team to ensure momentum is maintained and that changes, however small, are implemented (after Syed, and the concept of marginal gains leading to significant change over time).
In the words of the Managing Director:
“I knew that if we were going to maintain our growth and establish an effective leadership team, then we would need to invest in them as individuals and as a collective. Bringing them together around a common purpose and challenging them to think differently, as we did on our experiential offsite with The Fresh Air Leadership Company, has already empowered them in their day to day work, and has them thinking more strategically and more joined up.” Managing Director.
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Footnote: Safety & Qualifications
In addition to our two-person team being highly experienced business leaders and facilitator-coaches, they were also qualified outdoor leaders and first aiders with appropriate insurances. The event was covered by a series of method statements and risk assessments, the latter drawing from our externally audited Health & Safety Policy and Risk Management System.