Chief Executive Officer

Chief Executive Officer

Part of a leading international manufacturing group, this UK subsidiary distributes a wide range of speciality B2B solutions to customers across various vertical markets. The company, which has an established local presence, was seeking a CEO to lead the UK business following the planned retirement of the former incumbent.

The emphasis of the role, which reports into Switzerland, was on leading the team in the development and implementation of a clear commercial strategy, building demand via a wide and varied customer portfolio whilst managing relationships across manufacturing operations in Europe and the US to ensure the timely availability of goods. Therefore, the brief was to find candidates with relevant sector knowledge and the ability to lead the business to deliver profitable growth through new and existing customers/markets/products.

The search focused on the identification of GMs/MDs in similar businesses along with strong commercial leaders in bigger environments with the ambition and credibility to make a step up. This led to a varied shortlist including candidates with a proven track record at this level and others with strong commercial credentials and clear ongoing potential. Ultimately, the business appointed a highly successful senior commercial manager from a major competitor with the headroom and drive to move into a bigger, broader role offering increased levels of autonomy.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.


Rising to the Challenge

Rising to the Challenge

By Tony Gascoyne

Last week I spent an interesting and thought-provoking day attending London First’s flagship event – Building London, a one-day housing and property summit. As well as local and national government representatives, it gathered together influencers in the property and construction sector to tackle London’s big development questions. Of the many discussions throughout the day there were a couple that stood out that potentially are impacting the recruitment and talent market and the sector that we operate in.

As one might expect there was no shortage of debate around Brexit. Overall there seemed to be a consensus that whilst the property and construction sectors were operating in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, this would straighten out over time and that patient investment is not overly under pressure, as the United Kingdom will still need housing to accommodate population growth. Economically it was felt that Brexit hadn’t yet had considerable impact on rental or build, however, transactions have stagnated since 2014 and some office clients have arranged back-up infrastructure outside the UK and of course we haven’t even left yet.

If there is an interruption to the supply of materials, then this would have a knock-on effect for the nations’ ability to construct the required numbers of housing and office space. And whilst there are opportunities to use technology and processes (new brick panel delivery and factory pre-fabrication) to offset skills shortage and speed up construction, there remains the fact that around 28% of all the capital’s construction workforce is from the EU (according to the ONS). The industry has already flagged that there is an increase in skills shortages as EU citizens re-assess their options.

Whilst ‘Talent’ is a complex area, fundamentally in order to attract the right talent and enhance a company’s prospects, there must be the infrastructure in both living and office space to support this and this is true for companies in London or the rest of the UK.

As a nation we need to provide high-quality and affordable accommodation for our growing population, but also to do it in such a way that the new housing is integrated into the communities where it sits. In London the affordability of accommodation is a problem as both rental and buying prices are out of reach of many individuals. There is less desire by new graduates to work in London, evidenced by the fact that around 60% of their intake from 2018 opted for roles outside the capital, predominantly due to accommodation costs. (Recent research by PWC) These decisions ultimately have a knock-on effect to the talent pools and pipeline of major businesses operating from London bases.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, one of the most talked about topics was Build to Rent (BTR). During one of the panel discussions, Pete Gladwell from L&G thought that perhaps we need to have a change in the way we approach renting and treat housing as part of community infrastructure, as opposed to a commodity.

‘If it is affordable, of high quality, and available with flexible rental agreements, would people be happy to live there longer term?’

Providing high quality, purpose-built accommodation designed for student living is a model adopted by student accommodation providers and examples exist elsewhere e.g. in Germany, where often people will stay in the same premises for decades with a regulated rent.

Build to rent (BTR), therefore focuses on the longer term not short-term profit gains and partnerships between businesses engaged in house building and the finance industry are allowing county councils and housing associations to build rentable homes, using investment from outside the industry; such as Pension Funds and Private Equity.

The property and housing challenges in London, and across the UK, are complex and the summit played an important role in bringing these all together. The business challenges can be boiled down into having the right skills available and the right leadership. At Wickland Westcott we offer leadership solutions ranging from finding the right people (permanent and interim recruitment) through to developing new and existing talent (assessment and coaching) as well as enabling effective teamwork (team facilitation and Board reviews). We may not have a silver bullet, however, like the property and housing summit we bring people together and look for solutions, whatever the leadership challenge.

For more information on our services please contact Tony Gascoyne on 01625 508 100 or email him at tony.gascoyne@wickland-westcott.email.


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Trust and Team Performance

How to capitalise on ‘conflict’ within Leadership Teams

By John Milsom

I’ve been reviewing the research that sits beneath the development of teams lately and recently came across this article by Simons and Peterson of Cornell University. This study is focused on pin-pointing the reason why both successful and unsuccessful leadership teams highlight “Conflict” as the basis of their high or low performance.

In other words, the authors were trying to explain how it is that successful leadership teams tell stories of fierce debate leading to the development of brilliant solutions, while unsuccessful management teams tell stories of the same fierce debate preventing decisions being made and creating divisions that undermine their efforts. Their research findings are clear, and worth keeping in mind by anyone looking to build a high performing leadership team.

Within their research Simons and Peterson differentiated between ‘Task Conflict’ and ‘Relationship Conflict’. The former relates to disagreements about tasks, issues and problems that teams face. The latter relates to disagreements based on interpersonal incompatibility, and typically includes tension, annoyance, and animosity among group members.

Previous research had shown some contradictory results about the way these different types of conflict impact on team performance. Although some studies showed that Task Conflict enhanced team performance and Relationship Conflict reduced team performance, other studies had found the two forms of conflict to be highly correlated, with one leading to another. This doesn’t make sense without there being some mitigating factor. It also doesn’t help leaders to build teams in a way that capitalises on the positives of conflict without experiencing the negatives.

Through a rigorous and statistically robust study of over 70 similar organisations their results revealed three factors that prevent healthy disagreement about tasks from leading to the kind of unhealthy interpersonal conflict that has the potential to derail teams. The three factors they identified were:

  • High levels of Trust between team members.
  • Structured processes that provide a safe and controlled context for differences of opinion to be aired, and then decisions to be reached quickly.
  • Clear behaviours that exclude “loudness” (i.e. raw aggression) within teams.

Of these three factors, it is the first, the development of high levels of interpersonal trust between team members, that was found to be most powerful, and the most important factor in supporting the performance of teams. From a statistical point of view, this finding was highly significant (p < 0.001).

The implication: If you want to build a high performing team, then stimulate conflict about tasks and problems whilst mitigating the risks of disagreements becoming personal by building trust.

Leaders should also look to provide structure that allows issues to be explored in an objective and constructive way that doesn’t allow individuals to derail or prolong the conversation, whilst also take steps to ensure team members’ behaviour does not become disrespectful.


Wickland Westcott specialises in assessing and developing senior teams and individuals. If you would like more information on how to choose the right leaders for your organisation, or if you are looking for input on the development of Partners please email John Milsom at Wickland Westcott (john@wickland-westcott.email) or call him on 01625 508100.


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It’s a Two Way Street

It’s a Two Way Street

By Jerome Bull

Accepting a job with a new employer represents a significant and often daunting decision.  Whilst employers tend to be increasingly thorough and scientific in the way they assess candidate suitability, how do you satisfy yourself that the job opportunity is right for you?

Recruiting companies use a range of techniques to assess job applicants for any given role.  They often require candidates to go through a multistage process involving interviews with a variety of people and, increasingly, the completion of psychometric tests and/or simulation exercises.  This extensive data-gathering enables organisations to make well-informed, high quality decisions about the individuals they recruit.

Having successfully reached the end of a challenging selection process, candidates understandably tend to be delighted to receive a job offer, particularly in a competitive marketplace.  Relatively few, however, invest the same level of effort to research whether the opportunity is absolutely right for them.  In undertaking their due diligence, we recommend that candidates address the following questions before making the leap:

1. Is the role clearly defined?


It is important to understand the background to any appointment, and to ensure that the role is well defined with a clear set of deliverables. If expectations are not set appropriately at an early stage in the relationship, it is difficult to measure your contribution and thereby satisfy your employer that you are delivering.

2. Is the company’s strategy well thought-through, commonly understood and realistic?


Most companies will have a mission and vision including a set of clearly stated aims.  It is worth discussing at interview how the strategy was formulated, who was involved and what measures are in place.  You need to be satisfied that the strategy is robust and achievable, and that the required resources are available to deliver success.

3. Does the company have a successful track record?


Company accounts for PLCs tend to be readily available on their website, providing full details of their financial performance. Whilst it is less easy to research organisations not publicly listed, details are accessible via Companies House, and it is worth searching for on-line press releases. You should aim to identify and explore trends associated with company performance to understand the health of the business.

4. How will the move be interpreted by future employers?


This is particularly relevant when candidates are faced with the prospect of changing sector, moving from a large to a small company and/or shifting from a functional role to a generalist post (or vice versa).  Under these circumstances you should consider your long-term career aims and reflect on any gaps in your CV before reconciling this with the skills and experience you will gain from making the move.  Is there a match?

5. Can the organisation offer longer term career prospects?


It may be worthwhile exploring the organisation’s people development policies to establish whether or not future career prospects are likely.  Candidates with aspirations beyond the role offered should seek evidence of people moving up through the organisation.

6. Is the chemistry/culture fit right?


It is critical to meet a representative sample of people including a range of prospective colleagues to ensure that there is fit from a cultural perspective.  Many organisations will have a set of explicitly stated values and these are helpful, but a more realistic feel for the business can be gained by directly experiencing the working environment.  Is it busy?  How do people dress? Is it open plan? Do people appear enthusiastic and upbeat? Are ideas welcomed?

7. Was the selection process professionally managed?


The recruitment process, and the way it is managed, often tell you a lot about a company – speed, for example, tends to indicate a positive intention to fill the role.  How long did the process take?  Was it structured?  Who was involved? Were you kept informed? Was it two-way?  Were promises delivered on?

8. Is the remuneration fair?


In a competitive and ever-changing marketplace, it is sometimes difficult to gauge the value of a role in terms of salary and benefits package.  Given the current economic climate, candidates are more inclined to make compromises in the belief that the dynamics of the market are against them.  This is not necessarily true, however, as good people are always in demand.  Make use of contacts and on-line resources to benchmark salaries and always believe in the value that you bring.

If you are considering a job offer and would like to discuss the relative merits of the opportunity, please contact Jerome Bull, Head of Industry Practice on 01625 508100 or email him at jerome.bull@wickland-westcott.email.


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Chief Technical Officer

Chief Technical Officer

This company is a world-renowned British luxury yacht manufacturer with a reputation for innovative design, exhilarating engineering, jaw-dropping performance and breath-taking attention to detail. Following the retirement of the former incumbent after 53 years’ service, the business was seeking its first externally-appointed Chief Technical Officer with the vision to deliver the next generation of market-leading products. A key appointment to the Executive leadership team, the successful candidate would also play a significant role in shaping the ongoing growth and success of this iconic business.

Wickland Westcott was retained to undertake a global search into the luxury yacht sector, engaging industry design authorities with the credentials to successfully lead an established team, balancing design innovation and ethos with a greater emphasis on process and governance. The bias of the search was towards high profile European manufacturers exposed to comparable challenges in terms of design styling, structural engineering and efficient and repeatable production. However, it also included other well-known brand owners, design houses and suppliers of bespoke-built mega yachts.

The longlist consisted of candidates with executive-level experience gained across several market-leading motor yacht companies in Germany, Italy, France and Holland, yielding a shortlist of three. The appointed candidate brings a wealth of experience and unrivalled pedigree gained with an Italian boatbuilder where they shaped the design function following several acquisitions whilst launching a series of highly successful new ranges across multiple brands. Their design credentials are second to none and, in addition to their strong industry profile and first-class leadership skills, they hold patents for various design innovations and technology breakthroughs

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.


Tony Gascoyne

Tony Gascoyne

E: tony.gascoyne@wickland-westcott.email
T: +44 (0)1625 508 100

Tony has over 20 years’ experience as a recruiter with significant experience in finding senior management roles including MD and head of function level in a number of sectors including; Pharmaceutical, Media & Publishing, Education, Property and Technology.

At Wickland Westcott Tony utilizes his considerable experience to work across the interim and contract markets, with some forays into retained search, when required. Tony believes in providing a high-quality service to both our clients and candidates, by ensuring that we meet the key-stakeholders to understand their challenge and by making sure that candidates are fully vetted and profiled in person, allowing him to provide the client with the most suitable individual.

He is a keen, though mediocre, runner and is the treasurer of a local running club in West Sussex; also living by a river means he also likes to dabble in boating and kayaking. Other interests mainly revolve around family and the local community.

Site Manager

Site Manager

Our client is an international leader in the baking industry, producing one of the industry’s broadest ranges of products for customers in more than 100 countries. As part of their growth and expansion plans, they were looking to redesign one of their key manufacturing sites, introducing new equipment and processes. As this was a specific discrete project and they did not have the available resources onsite, they felt it would be an ideal opportunity to engage an interim.

Given that the project was being carried out to tight timescales, based on the delivery of new capital equipment and minimising any ‘down time’, it was important that, as well as being immediately available, the interim had the experience and capability to ‘hit the ground running’ and get to grips with the aims of the project and the physical constraints of the site very quickly.

Wickland Westcott was able to identify a strong interim Project Engineer who had carried out similar pieces of work for other food manufacturing companies and who had a comprehensive suite of software packages which enabled effective project planning and the design of floor plans to enable the most efficient design solution. The interim was able to not only ensure that the project was carried out to timescales and budget but was also able to offer independent advice and alternative ideas to further improve operational efficiencies.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.


Finance Business Partner

Finance Business Partner

Providing a hybrid interim to work across finance and the business

Our client – a major UK based plant and site equipment provider – had identified the need to engage an interim to help them develop more effective financial control systems and identify areas where savings could be made to improve margins and provide funds for growth. The role was more of a hybrid role than a typical finance position as it involved working closely with the business to identify where there were issues with the accounts, to improve the accuracy of the figures and determine where funds could be released to help finance growth plans.

Wickland Westcott was able to identify an interim with a track record of carrying out similar roles with other organisations and who had, along with a strong finance background, excellent communication and stakeholder management skills. The interim also had the ability to work on a consulting basis to get to the nub of the key issues and propose innovative solutions to improve financial performance.

The interim has proved to be such a worthwhile addition to the team that they have now been offered a permanent position.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.


Chief Technology Officer

Chief Technology Officer

Converting an Interim to a Permanent Member of Staff

Our client, a global healthcare knowledge provider and publisher was looking to recruit a permanent Chief Technology Officer but was having problems identifying a suitable candidate. As the incumbent CTO was due to leave imminently, the HR Director asked Wickland Westcott if we could provide an interim for 3-6 months whilst they carried out a new recruitment campaign.

The role was a difficult one to fill, requiring knowledge of specific technologies and applications, as well as strong management experience and the ability to operate as an advocate for the effective use of technology throughout the business (which had traditionally been reluctant to fully embrace the benefits of technology). Wickland Westcott identified three short-list candidates, focusing equally on their technology experience and on their stakeholder management, leadership and communication skills.

One of the interims was offered, accepted and started the next week. After only a few weeks in the role, the CEO and HR Director met with the interim and – as the interim was a stronger CTO than any of the permanent candidates they had seen – they offered the interim the permanent position, which the interim accepted.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.


Chief Information Officer

Chief Information Officer

Reacting to an urgent requirement

Our client, a trade union and professional association based in central London, was looking for an interim Chief Information Officer on a short-term basis to cover for the absence of the permanent CIO due to illness. The role was to manage the support team, which was critical to ensure ongoing service delivery, and the development team, which was running a number of important new projects.

As well as needing an experienced interim to start immediately, the key challenge was that the client was only able to offer a contract on a three day per week basis and the assignment was short term (between four and eight weeks). Despite this, Wickland Westcott was able to identify two experienced interims within 24 hours, one of whom was interviewed, offered and started the following week. Along with excellent technical experience, the interim was a strong leader who could act as an effective figurehead whilst the permanent CIO was off work.

Wickland Westcott have adopted the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which, amongst other things, sets a minimum expectation level for gender diversity for each search assignment.