Barrell on... strong leadership and need to talk

As tree consultants in the planning sector, we deal with hundreds of developers and councils across the country.

We see a range of work ethics, giving us a reliable feel for who has got it right. Most startling are the extremes of that range, from the highly efficient and organised — generally located around the centres of urban affluence — to the utterly incompetent, which can pop up anywhere but are most prevalent in the provinces. Most disappointing is how few are at the right end of the spectrum.

Without exception the best performers, whether corporation or council, rural or urban, have remarkably similar organisational characteristics. Strong leaders are always there, but they do not sit at the top as an inert figurehead. Invariably, they actively construct a team spirit that gets teams working in a way that delivers more than the sum of each individual's capacity. Synergistic working really is smart because it enables hidden value to be accessed from the most unlikely places.

Our immediate future in the urban realm will be starved of funds but with a heavy burden for quick action, driven by the tough targets of the Climate Change Act 2008. We are out of time for trial and error — tried and tested is what we need. Climate change will have to drive a culture change if we are to mitigate and adapt, enough and in time. Flagship companies and councils are leading the way, so what can the rest learn from the best?

Talking is a good place to start, a skill that seems as good as lost in this internet age of rushing and remoteness. Why waste time phoning or meeting when an email will do the same in a fraction of the time? It is not coincidence that the smartest operators talk a lot, place a high priority on personal contact and capitalise on the confidence that creates, leading to more successful working.

Good communication is a tried and tested recipe for success. It is obviously important and sounds so easy, yet so few do it. Why is that?

Jeremy Barrell is managing director of Barrell Tree Consultancy

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