Improving Board Performance
"I help directors and boards become more effective by clarifying goals, improving communication and applying good corporate governance.
"My clients call me when they want to bring structure and clarity to their thinking. I can help you identify core issues and make the complex simple, holding the space for you to create your own solutions."
You can download a detailed CV for Richard Winfield here.
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Consultant, coach and facilitator
Richard is the founder and principal consultant of Brefi Group, which provides an integrated approach to management and professional development. He is an international corporate coach and facilitator, helping directors and boards become more effective by bringing structure and clarity to their thinking.
Brefi Group operates internationally, providing an integrated package of strategy consultancy, facilitation, coaching and training.
With a strap line of 'Releasing human potential', Brefi Group's mission is to help individuals and teams in organisations discover and achieve their potential so that they can become more effective with less stress.
Visit our comprehensive web site and check out its wide range of information and free resources.
Richard Winfield – Thought leader
Richard is a thought leader in the coaching world: he has edited the CorporateCoach e-newsletter for more than ten years, is the author of the 'Corporate Coaching Masterclass' series and is the developer of Invisible Coaching®, including the Coaching on a Credit Card® natural coaching system.
Originally an award-winning chartered transportation planner, Richard has three academic degrees, including a master's degree in management, is a Master Practitioner of both NLP and Wealth Dynamics, and has been trained in leadership at the Disney Institute in Florida.
Richard is co-founder of the Landor Publishing Group, has been a member of the Board of Governors of the International Association of Coaching, and for six years represented Birmingham's business and professional services community as a board director of Birmingham Forward.
- Coach and facilitator to directors, boards and partnerships
- International speaker and course designer
- International corporate governance specialist
- Scenario planner
- Author: Corporate Coaching Masterclass series
- Award-winning public transport planner
- Newspaper, magazine and books publisher
You can contact me direct. Use our contact form to describe your need, or call me on: +44 (0) 121 288 3417.
PS: If you would like to receive a weekly personal article from me about coaching and its applications, then please register for CorporateCoach.
Here's my story
How did I get from a civil engineering degree, through careers as a public transport planner (winning three awards on the way) and as a newspaper publisher, to becoming a globe trotting coach and facilitator working at board level?
And where do corporate governance and coach training fit in?
Let me tell you my story…
First signs of a future
My father and his brothers, and my mother’s brother all went to Solihull School. And I was fortunate to be able to do the same.
Solihull was built on the Greeks’ concept of educating the whole man. Nonetheless, like many boys’schools, the heroes were those who were successful at sport, or else in the cadet force. Neither of these applied to me. I didn’t enjoy any sport and I left the cadet force at the earliest opportunity. However, as a result of a new headmaster and what seemed to me to be a freakish decision, in my last year I was made head of school.
I had stayed on to sit the Oxford entrance exams and after that I had two terms with very little academic burden. Head of school was more than ‘head boy’. It was a junior position in the management structure. I had my own study, two fags! and even my own lawn.
Whoever had selected me must have seen something special and this was certainly where I first demonstrated an innate belief in the value of people. The school was divided into three parts covering the age range from seven to 19, and each part had a range of active clubs and societies. During my time of office I visited every single one, including a meeting of the German Society at which they were discussing Kafka’s The Trial, in German, which I did not speak. I also travelled with each of the sports teams on an away match.
My belief was that it was important that people should be recognised. I saw my visits as a form of corporate approval, even an anointing.
I have always had a sense of being ahead of the game; I really value being involved in a first, and have been able to indulge my desires on many occasions.
After academic degrees in civil engineering and then transportation planning, I was head hunted to join the systems applications group in the research division of Marconi.
This small group was charged with developing civil applications of military technology and job was to design, develop and commission a bus location system for London Transport. This involved early radio telemetry which measured the rotations of a bus wheel so that my computer program could plot where the bus was along London’s congested Route 11. As you might expect, this was the first such system in the world.
I learned a lot about project planning and discipline. In the first year I did not write any code but drew a complete set of flow charts, from which the program would be developed. When I did write code, it was again a discipline in good practice. Although the computer filled a fairly large room, it had a capacity of only 21k. I wrote in machine code and every time my program exceeded the limit, I had to go back and improve it ? so my code was very elegant. What a pity that Microsoft was not launched in this period!
Marconi was a very paternalistic company. It had its own housing estate and its own sailing club. The products it made were very high quality.
Shortly before I arrived, Marconi was taken over by Arnold Weinstock’s GEC. This company was very different and sent in its accountants. This was a big shock to the employees, who were being asked to cut costs. What they found difficult to appreciate that anything over engineered was wasteful and that the strength in any link in a chain stronger than the weakest was superfluous. It was my first experience of corporate change.
From there I moved to a small specialist transportation consultancy in Winchester.
Working on the Southampton University mainframe, I wrote the code for a public transport planning program.
One of my jobs was to compile a directory of new ‘unconventional’ public transport systems like the monorails and minitrams being built in airports and expos. (Designing the directory was my first experience of publishing.) As a result of this I was able to win a contract to undertake a feasibility study for unconventional transport in Croydon. The government had had the cheek to commission a Minitram study in Sheffield and the Greater London Council were so upset that it was not in Lodon that they wanted their own.
I managed a consortium which also included an architect, a civil engineering consultant (Mott Hay & Anderson) and a leading social research company. Here I had my first experience of focus groups to discover what real people really wanted.
At the time I was ready to move on, one of our competitors was experimenting with a minicomputer. This was met with much derision by my colleagues. What was the point of using a computer that took 20 minutes to run a program. My view was different, having worked hands on with my ‘own’ computer in London. Maybe the Southampton mainframe could run my gravity model in a few seconds, but the practical turnaround was 24 hours. And since I have always had a tendency to omit the odd comma or other critical symbol, I would much have preferred to have a service that could be repeated every 20 minutes.
A move to Wales
I had always wanted to be a farmer. I was very lucky that I moved to Solihull in the summer of 1960, which was a real scorcher. Also, Solihull School was 400 years old and the quatercentenary celebrations meant that there was more than usual time off.
Our house was on the edge of the green belt and for the next two years, until GCEs and A levels caught up with me, I spent all my time on the adjoining farm, making hay, feeding pigs and cleaning out calf sheds.
I had planned to go to agricultural college, which involved physics, chemistry and biology A levels. Fortunately, as it turned out, I did not get on with the biology teacher’s approach to learning and I was forced to give it up and take maths instead. I loved maths and ended with three maths A levels and went into construction instead.
Nonetheless, I still had a hankering after a return to farming. In the 1970s John Seymour popularised ‘self sufficiency’, that is, living off the land. This was to be for me, and on St David’s Day 1975 my wife and I crossed the Severn Bridge for me to take up a new (a first) post responsible for public transport planning in the new county of Dyfed.
A year later I got my smallholding and became a fully fledged peasant!
I learned that ‘self sufficiency’is not quite what it was made out to be. Rather than living off the land, you actually needed rich parents, so you could become a hippy, or a well paid job.
Farming is directly relevant to the theme that has gone through my life. It involves being grounded, accepting things for what they are and animal husbandry is an extreme form of stewardship for others. Smallholding also involves a strong degree of interdependence with neighbours.
In fact, I learned a lot about self sufficiency, but my personal self sufficiency as opposed to economic self sufficiency. If an animal was sick, or a pipe burst, I had to deal with it. If the cow’s teats were cracked so that she found it unpleasant to be milked, that was something we had to deal with together.
With cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry I had the time of my life.
At the same time I had the first of my dream jobs. I started with a clean sheet and had considerable freedom to develop public policy and practical strategy. Dyfed represented about a quarter of the land are of Wales, bounded by sea and mountains with very few points of entry. Perfect for a public transport planner. It was unusual in those days. There were two different railway regions and two different National Bus company subsidiaries, in each case north and south respectively. In addition, there were 28 independent bus companies.
Because I effectively controlled their purse strings through the allocation of the subsidy that enabled them to survive, I had a close relationship with them collectively and, in many cases individually. Here I was able to develop my interest in management teams.
Because of a requirement of the 1978 Transport Act for local government to publish public transport plans, which included a definition of need for transport and then each year an assessment of performance in terms of having met the defined need, I was able to commission consultants for us to develop a technique for assessing need for transport in rural areas (this was directly equivalent to what is now required by the Corporate Governance Code!). This involved more work with the public and with focus groups.
We were successful and I won three awards for my initiative: an international silver medal from the Chartered Institute of Transport and prizes from the Institutions of Civil Engineering and of Highways.
I loved my time at Dyfed. It enabled me to indulge my academic bent in terms of social research and development. Each year I would attend the international PTRC multistream planning and transport conference and present a paper on what I had been up to. In my last year I gave three papers on different subjects, and later was sent to Spain to join an ECMT Round Table. This was soon after the demise of Franco and the country was having to learn how to do things in a democracy. This event was about devolving school transport responsibility to the regions.
I nearly missed it. I went to a travel agent and enquired about Santiago. They were about to sell an air ticket when I noticed a huge difference in travel time between the outward and return journeys. When I asked about this, it was pointed out that Santiago is in Chile – I wanted to go to Spain, which means Santiago de Compostela.
Years later I missed a flight in Munich and had to change my ticket. As I walked away from the counter, I noticed that I had been given a ticket to San Francisco; I was actually on my way to Sofia, in Bulgaria, where I was teaching coaching.
On another occasion on my way to Sofia I was stuck in Frankfurt, I think. The onward flight was delayed and it was some time before we could get any information. It seemed that the airport was being bombed! In fact,what had happened was that there had been an old munitions dump nearby, which had started to explode. There was no military attack and I was able to fly on later.
One of the reasons I was able to enjoy my job was that the County Surveyor for whom I worked was an intelligent man who kew how to delegate – i.e. he knew how to recognise someone he could trust ;-)
Unfortunately he had a heart attack and his deputy was the opposite. Morale in the department sank, with a lot of grumbling. I began to think that if I wanted one day to reach his level I did not want people to be talking about me like they were about him.
So I applied to take an MSc in Management in Cardiff.
An entrepreneur emerges
While I was there I received several consultancy projects. It was the time of Mrs Thatcher and a move towards free enterprise. I am good at exams and alos enjoy interviews. So I have led a charmed life where work is concerned. I decided that I should try myself ’in the jungle’. That’s how I got into consultancy, and I have never really escaped.
I set up an office and equipped it with photocopier, computer and printer. My ‘computer’ was a Tandy, with 64k memory, a genuinely floppy disk drive and no hard drive.
I continued to attend transport conferences, though noticed that I was not treated nearly so well now that I was ‘trade’.
The beginnings of a publishing career
After a couple of years I was approached by a transport journalist with an idea for a specialist newsletter.He recognised that he could not organise a business and reckoned that I would fit the bill. Generally professionals from the different transport modes do not talk to one another. What he had in mind was a monthly newsletter ‘briefing’ that would contain a distillation of all research, technology and policy developments in land based transport. It suited my interests and my entrepreneurial juices, so we set to work.
Once a month he would come to Cardiff for a weekend and we would work through the nights producing our product. We created galleys on the Tandy, printed them out with a daisywheel printer, photo reduced them, cut them up and then stuck them onto A3 sheets with Pritt Stick. Finally I copied them back to back on my A3 photocopier – no small task onto airmail weight paper; photocopiers, anyway were not reliable in those days. Then I would collate fold and pack them to be sent worldwide. We were very successful, except that we had significantly underpriced it.
Nonetheless, I learned my craft, both publishing and journalism.
When we were established we had the opportunity to bid to take over the publication of the Chartered Institute of Transport’s magazine, Transport. We were successful and we put together a team and were about to take on an office in London. Unfortunately, my partner and the director general of the CIT did not get on and he reneged. We lost the contract, but did receive a generous compensation. But we were all set to go, with nothing to publish.
Clearly the planets were in alignment at that time. The government was about to announce its major reorganisation of the bus industry, selling off the National Bus Company and deregulating bus services. Reed International, who published a weekly newspaper and a weekly magazine both covering buses and lorries. They had called in consultants who, logically, had pointed out that the bus industry and freight transport were unrelated ? except in so far as they both ran vehicles with wheels.
The logical thing to do would have been to reorganise and publish a lorry magazine and a bus newspaper. What they actually did was to close the (excellent) newspaper.
Here was our chance.
The week they closed we announced the launch of a fortnightly newspaper, Bus Business. Then we negotiated with the Department of Transport to organise a conference at which Transport Secretary Nicholas Ridley would announce the Government’s plans.
We were off!
I love to work at board level helping directors structure and clarify their thinking. You can read about facilitation here: Richard Winfield – corporate facilitator.
Or you can contact me direct. Use our contact form to describe your need, or call me on: +44 (0) 121 288 3417.
PS: If you would like to receive a weekly personal article from me about coaching and its applications, then please register for CorporateCoach.