We spoke to Tarnia Robertson, Managing Director of Ufford Park Hotel, about the way the ‘Five Behaviours’ programme has helped transform her management team
Ufford Park is a hotel, spa and golf course based near Woodbridge in Suffolk. It’s a family business and since its inception 27 years ago, the hotel has grown from 25 bedrooms to 90. During that time its headcount has grown from around 20 to 125, including 15 senior managers.
Tarnia Robertson took over the business in April 2015 after a number of years leading its marketing department. Since then, she has overseen a £1million refurbishment programme, upgrading the bedrooms, golf course, pool, gym, restaurant and function rooms.
As well as upgrading the business’s key assets, Tarnia was keen to implement better management and people practices to drive the business forward. She had been using a local company for day-to-day HR, but there was no strategic people plan in place and communication between key staff members, who principally work in shifts, was limited.
In 2017, Tarnia brought People Director Jude Owens into the business, initially to put in place a 1-3-5 goal setting system to help implement the new business strategy. But Tarnia also wanted to make her senior team more accountable; having been inspired by Patrick Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, she was keen to implement some of its principles into her business.
Jude, a qualified coach in running sessions on the Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team programme, was happy to take this on.
The Solution – ‘Five Behaviours’ programme
Jude kicked-off the process at Ufford Park by carrying out DISC survey personality profiles across the senior team, which were then shared in a detailed report. Discussing the DISC results helped the team understand how to work more effectively with people of different strengths and weaknesses (read more about DISC profiling). Then each of the five behaviours was explored, in the following order:
Jude facilitated a session to help the senior team understand why others might respond to situations in a particular way. ‘We all spoke about something that nobody else knew,’ Tarnia remembers. ‘That was really powerful and has made us a lot more compassionate now we know why people are the way they are.’
The next session was on conflict. ‘It transpired that most of us didn’t like conflict at all!’ says Tarnia. ‘But it meant we weren’t dealing with things properly.’ Productive conflict (explained in more detail here) doesn’t come naturally to most people but Tarnia now sees that it is key to resolving problems. ‘If I can see that someone isn’t happy in a meeting I’ll ask why they disagree and facilitate the discussion from there,’ she says.
The lack of challenge in meetings meant that people were not fully buying into new processes. Now, Tarnia encourages the team to talk through any concerns. ‘If no-one challenges you in the meeting, you’d think something had been agreed, but then it wouldn’t happen,’ she says. ‘Now I make sure that if you disagree, you say. Otherwise you commit to it.’
Holding people to account means that disciplinary procedures need to be followed through rather than just threatened. Jude coached each head of department so they knew the right steps to take and introduced continuous performance reviews on a monthly basis. ‘Monthly meetings head-off problems sooner,’ says Tarnia. ‘We also pull people up on their attitude as well as performance.’
With the Five Behaviours programme drawing to a close, Tarnia is able to see the difference it’s made to her business’s culture. ‘We now have a more positive, can-do attitude in staff, which has been quite a dramatic result. We trust each other and are more accepting, and the senior team also hold each other to account more, which has made my life easier!’
It hasn’t all been plain sailing and there was some staff turnover to get to this point, although Tarnia says that a lot of the changes were long overdue. ‘The programme highlighted things I already knew but didn’t have the courage to do anything about,’ she says. ‘But we follow proper procedures now – we deal with bad behaviour and poor performance.’
Ufford Park has just rerun a team survey that looks at how everyone rates their interactions and those of colleagues. The results show that the team has significantly improved its ‘five behaviours’ – all of which are now considered to be an ‘area of strength’ for the team.
Moreover, Tarnia now feels she has ‘a good stable management team now that I can move forward with.’ This comes with recognition of the role that People Puzzles has made in transforming her team. ‘Jude has fitted in here so well,’ she says. ‘She is knowledgeable and very good at what she does.’
Tarnia’s innovative approach has already been recognised externally by the Institute of Directors, which last year awarded her with its ‘Family Business Director of the Year’. With a team that now matches the newly renovated facilities, Ufford Park is robust to future challenges and ready to move onto greater success.
What are the Five Behaviours and how do they help businesses?
The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team programme is based on the theory behind the book Five Dysfunctions of a Team by renowned business coach Patrick Lencioni.
The book stresses that to work effectively, a team must:
- Trust one another
- Engage in conflict around ideas
- Commit to decisions
- Hold one another accountable
- Focus on achieving collective results
Jude Ownes, HR Director.