The British & Irish Lions: The Ultimate Team – What we can learn from elite sport in a post-covid setting

02 June, 2021


Steve Cummings is an Operations Director on the management board, representing the firm’s design services disciplines at Pick Everard. His role focuses on the development and maintenance of strong client relationships, in particular with contractor, developer and consultant clients, ensuring that the teams are set to deliver the highest quality design solutions. Here he considers the importance of client-focused working relationships and how they have developed during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The British and Irish Lions squad was recently announced to face South Africa; if you don’t follow rugby, you might be wondering where I am going with this, so let me just say, a Lions tour is the ultimate test of skill, endeavour, experience and character in the game and is widely considered as one of the greatest tests in elite sport.

The very best players and coaches from four nations coming together to form a close-knit group, with the aim of demonstrating that they are the best at what they do; and of course, to win.

This is our vision for Pick Everard; to identify and attract the very best people within the industry into our national team and to put us in a position where we deliver the very best service for our clients. Delivering Better Together.

The last year or so has presented us all with unique challenges, especially when it comes to our professional relationships. Where once we would be able to meet clients for a coffee, a lunch or on site to catch up, overnight the likes of Teams and Zoom became part of our daily diet and the ways in which we were able to maintain and build relationships shifted dramatically – something we all had to adapt to pretty quickly.

Of course, there are both advantages and disadvantages to a world of online communication. As an industry we are more agile than before as we have wholesale embraced new ways of working, but it is interesting to consider whether these new methods simply serve a ‘business as usual’ approach or have they allowed us to consider more deeply how we manage our working relationships and our effectiveness in working practices.

We have all been given the opportunity to reflect and consider whether our ways of working were as effective and meaningful as they could be – and we have been able to challenge ourselves and make changes for the better. We are benefiting from many hours less a week spent travelling to the office and to meetings, we can harness that extra time, become more productive and spend the time doing things that more positively affect our projects and clients.

Making time to connect with colleagues and clients is now a more deliberate act as we are less likely to happen upon someone at a networking event or while grabbing lunch near the office, so the ways in which we communicate and deliver for our clients has shifted. Perhaps the move to online communication has allowed us a ‘little and often’ approach rather than always trying to plan a big catch-up to discuss a project, we are maybe more minded to have a quick Teams call or pick up the phone. It will be interesting to see what tech may evolve as we continue to utilise online tools to enhance our relationships, complementing the return to more in-person activities.

It goes without saying that as a consultancy we put out clients first, but we strive to go further than that, putting them at the heart of everything we do and ensure our working methods are targeted as such and designed to deliver results through collaboration and strong working relationships – something which we have had to really focus on since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, as we have all been forced to adapt to working remotely.

In my view, there is no replacement to a face-to-face meeting, coffee or lunch but the way we have learned to adapt over the last year has enhanced the opportunity to touch base with people more frequently and informally.

Going back to the Lions analogy, a key element of delivering the very best for your clients is picking the right team for the job. Just as Warren Gatland and his coaching set-up will consider the strengths and weaknesses of their own squad, they will do the same with their opponents – and in doing so, pick the right team to do the job. The same is true at Pick Everard; we select our team to suit the needs of our clients and work together in an environment based on collaboration and mutual respect to deliver shared outcomes and if you look after and invest in your people, then the reward and success will ultimately follow.

Taking this approach requires a commitment to those relationships. In taking the time to get to know our clients, what they need and what makes them tick, going above and beyond the brief, we are able to nurture strong professional and often personal relationships, based on shared experience and earned mutual respect, which ultimately ensures we deliver and succeed together. As consultants, our role is often to challenge and ask questions designed to tease out the best outcome – something that is easier when your working relationships are strong.

And this is at the core of what we strive to do and has enabled us to set the goals we need to achieve towards our vision – DELIVER BETTER TOGETHER. We want to dare to be different, building the very best creative teams with quality running through every strand of our service; one that is working together to achieve a shared experience, outcome and to deliver great results. Much like the British and Irish Lions.

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