• Simon Jones

Putting people first – why collaboration is key (particularly in a board room war zone)

What do you do when your leadership team can’t stand each other?


Operating in financial restructuring the last person a CFO wants to see sitting in reception is me! That said, to date, there are none I have worked with that wouldn’t now act as my referee.


Why? Because creating a culture of collaboration is important to how I operate and has proven invaluable during periods of high stress for business leads dealing with organisations in flux or distress.


How? One of the things I ask clients to accommodate is a daily 20 minute 'Round Robin' every morning with the stakeholders to do through the previous day events and the tasks to be achieved that day and get a feel for how those in the decision-making role are feeling. The secret is to turn this from headmasters’ study to a collaborative experience AND to acknowledge this may be a time of stress but ‘we are all in it together’. As human beings are all different, hold different views, opinions, lived experiences and understanding and acknowledging these in a business context allows for productive discussion and progress to be made. In that 20 minutes it is about being human, assessing the wellbeing of those involved as well as the task in hand.


At its simplest ask a question and if the response is “fine / OK / good” (which mean zero), dig deeper and listen, empathise, be kind and find practical ways to help.

More on this in my next article ‘Building a people company’.


And at its hardest…


In an exceedingly difficult team environment once whereby two of the leadership vehemently disagreed with each other – I mean this has escalated to hatred creating a hostile, awkward, unproductive situation – a team nightmare. After a few weeks (embarrassingly) I spoke to my Dad, who incidentally was a coal miner – he was just amazing this day – he said, the two individuals had taken the disagreement about an “issue” into a dislike for the person – and that what I needed to do was to show both of them that although the disagreement was real, each of them were doing what they thought was best for the situation and were not “bad” people.


I moved our daily Round Robin Meeting to just before lunch and made it mandatory the team all had lunch together in the cafeteria afterwards, with ONE rule – over lunch no (I mean NO!) shop talk. After about a week or so of these lunches, you could see the two individuals softening to each other, finding out more about their family lives and more importantly ganging up on me about football (I am a proud Swansea City fan, and they were not). This clearly helped, they saw each other as relatable people not just a person to ‘workaround’ and this made for a much more productive work environment.


Those far more eloquent than me can describe the psychological transformation, but in my humble opinion they simply realised gradually that – quite rightly they had a different opinion but that was simply a professional matter and that in fact they liked each other, had mutual professional respect and work is work but people are what ultimately are what matters. After a short while, at board meetings they started to back each other up and look out for one another and the business resulted in a more favourable outcome as a result.


Your people make things happen - without them you can't hit your business goals – and when they aren’t collaborating this can be like pouring fuel on the flames.

If you are interested in discussing these or any other business issues please do get in contact simon.jones@fortitude.com