Established in 1991, Cooper Partnership is one of the country’s leading professional landscape, townscape and environmental consultancies. The practise has built a reputation for its innovative and practical approach, close client contact, excellence of design and unrivalled track record for landscape master planning. The practise has won many awards and has clients from across the UK and an extensive range of public and private commissions.
The seven members of the Senior Leadership team found themselves in the depth of this recession losing business and having to undertake a variety of emergency strategies to keep the company profitable. It was a painful time, further compounded by the major shareholder, who was an integral part of the senior leadership team nearing his retirement and wanting to sell his shares in the business. These external and internal factors were understandably placing a serious strain on team dynamics, so much so that a once harmonious team were becoming resentful, stressed and unhappy.
This was a challenging assignment. The team had been operating as individuals and teams within teams for some time and were hesitant to take the risk of making team changes at a time of real uncertainty. In this case, VBL took a combined approach and used a combination of consultancy, team facilitation and team coaching to develop a programme fit for meeting the challenges. VBL also encouraged Cooper Partnership to appoint a Non-Executive Director to be an advisor and mentor to three Directors and to the team as a whole.
The objectives for the team development were to: learn how to celebrate each other’s strengths, develop actions and behaviours to work effectively as a management team, develop strong communications skills individually and collectively as a management team, and build a strong basis as a team to make Cooper Partnership ‘Fit for the Future’.
Because this was a senior leadership team, there were no line managers who were outside the team to help with the needs analysis and design of the solution. So, VBL worked with the team over a period of time to understand the history and current behaviours that were impacting on the team. This required a number of consultancy days and involvement in team meetings. The first stage was the creation of a team development day based around MBTI so each team member could understand the strengths they each brought to the team, and celebrate the differences of each other. This was a complementary team with a wide range of preferences. The day also included a ‘Thinking Environment’ which enabled the team to identify some key issues in a well managed and structured way.
The team have learnt some key skills around how to run a business during a difficult economic time. They are all using some simple and valuable techniques that speed up decision making, resulting in team consensus. Today they look and sound more professional and are once again earning the respect of their staff, not just for being great architects and planners, but as business people capable of working in a performing team. The team are now able to understand that the complementary skills were a benefit rather than a hindrance to the future development of the company. Since the team development day, the team have taken their learnings and, in a sustainable way, applied these without the support of a VBL facilitator.