Case Studies – Jon Arden (Opsrey CSL)

Jon Arden, MD of Osprey Consulting Ltd shares her experience of being a Band of Bosses® member

What was the reason you decided Band of Bosses® was right for you? Why did you feel you needed Band of Bosses®?

When I joined BOB, it was me and my fellow owner, with a few other people, who I trusted to a greater or lesser extent. I think when you’re in that job … I wouldn’t say it’s lonely, but it can be isolated. It’s good to be able to talk about things, outside the business, that you can’t talk about inside it. It’s good to share common concerns.

With Band of Bosses®, there’s also an element of de-stressing. Sometimes, through hearing everybody else’s problems, it gets you thinking and putting things in perspective; that, “Actually, our problems aren’t quite as bad.”

And also, it’s nice to give a bit back as well. So, the way I saw Band of Bosses®, some of the businesses were bigger, some were smaller and I thought, I can learn from them and I may be able to give something back too.

“There are no egos in there. I really like that. It’s a very equitable group of people.”

What are the key things you’ve gained from being a BoB member?

Friendship, first of all, because I really like the people in Band of Bosses®, and I’ve got a great connection with those people. There are no egos in there. I really like that. It could easily become a bit of a ‘willy waving’ thing, but it’s not. It’s a very equitable group of people.

With Band of Bosses®, I have gained a keen perspective on how I run Osprey, from listening to the experiences that the other BOBs have. For example, one of our BOBs has had constant personality conflict that she dealing with inside the office over a long period of time. I’ve had the opportunity to hear how she’s been dealing with it and her way has been different to me. I would have ‘broken some plates’. I would have thought, “I’ll break some plates and I’m going to worry about the fact that I’ve broken plates later. I’m going to take the view that anything is better than what we’ve got now.” So, listening to others has taught me how to just take my time a bit more and not jump in.

And that’s useful in building the succession planning for the next Managing Director. We have a lot of situations where I will walk the ‘MD in waiting’ through some things, and I pick up and use things that either Hil has said to me, or techniques that she has used, or things I’ve picked up from the meetings with the others BOBs.

For example, conflict prevention and how to deal with people. Giving people the space to do the job and trusting people to do the job. And it’s far easier to say it than it is to do it sometimes. You’ve got to hold your nerve. I used to be very hyper and jumped in, and got the job done. I’ve realised that doesn’t help your people to improve. Some of the techniques are almost subliminal things. I know I’ve walked away from a BOB meeting and thought, “I really must do that.” And then I find myself thinking, “I’ve started doing such-and-such, and I never used to do it.”

The other thing that I’ve gain from, is the coaching. I’d kicked around the idea of getting coaching and the potential benefits of it, but had never taken it beyond that. Now that I have the coaching, bouncing ideas has been really useful. I can see times in the past, where I’ve made decisions that have cost us. I try not to make the emotional decision, but I’ll be honest, it does happen.

For example, we had a saying inside the business for a while, and we’ve stopped doing it; which is good. We always sacked the person who’d risen to the top of the s*** pile. But there would always be someone at the top of the s*** pile. There always will be. It’s a pile, there’s someone on top of it. And so, the idea of always sacking someone at the top of that pile meant, you go, “Right, I’ve sacked him. I’m all right now.” But no, because someone else is now at the top. The coaching with Hil has changed that. I needed to do it a different way and Band of Bosses® has really helped with that.

“Hil cuts through a problem, immediately seeing through that problem; particularly when we’re talking about people and processes.”

What’s it like working with Hil?

It’s bonkers, isn’t it? No, seriously, it’s really good…and a bit bonkers… at the right times.

When I was looking at coaching before, the coaches I was looking at were all people with the same or similar background to me. But then I went with Band of Bosses® and ended up with Hil, whose background is completely different to mine. And that’s worked really well. The world works the same, regardless of what you’re doing.

Firstly, Hil cuts through a problem, immediately seeing through that problem; particularly when we’re talking about people and processes.

Secondly, Hil makes me more efficient. She gets me and keeps me on track. So, there’s accountability there. Hil doesn’t take what I say as read. She’ll challenge decisions. But, I think what Hil does is, she never just says, “Well, why did you make that decision?” She always takes one step beyond it, and talks about your mindset. Hil discusses the process behind my decision. The things that go deeper; because that decision has been made, you can’t really go back and change it, but the thought process and the approach to problem solving, that led up to that decision is the thing that will reoccur time and time and time again. You made a decision; it’s gone. Something similar will come along and Hil delves deeper with questions like, “So what were your thought process? How do you deal with it? What would you do next time?” It’s something we’ve talked about a lot, and while some of the changes have been subtle, there have been changes. I’m probably on top of my game more than I’ve ever been before.

Band of Bosses® is often described as fun. Do you think that’s important?

Yes, it is. I think it’s very important, because being a boss is serious. The day-to-day is generally serious. You’re dealing with people, and by dealing with people, you are dealing with problems. Being able to break out of that space and forget about it for a while is a good thing. Band of Bosses® acknowledges that everyone has potentially got ‘all that stuff’ going on outside of the BOB bubble, as it were. But in the BOB bubble, there are no problems. There are issues we want to talk about, throw around and think about, but everything’s okay, because we’re in that BOB bubble. So yeah, BOB being fun is important.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about working with me, and/or becoming a BoB?

Of course I’d recommend Band of Bosses®. It brings a lot of benefits.