Honesty and fear lead the agenda

"PEOPLE who get to the top of organisations tend to be driven by things that don't make them very good with people."

This is hardly the sort of talk that a company seeking to win business from senior executives might be expected to utter. But, then, Francis Macleod is not one to shy away from blunt talk.

His business - as its name, Foundation Team Building, might suggest - is dedicated to going back to basics in management development. Its courses are aimed at the "over-cours- ed - those who have done MBAs etc", according to Mr Macleod, and the focus is on such issues as fear, trust, honesty and openness.

The problem of course - as Mr Macleod recognises - is that both those offering the course and those looking to attend it have got to be prepared to practise what they preach.

And Mr Macleod and his three colleagues know a little about this difficulty, since they were, until late last year, involved with running the Leadership Trust. The organisation, based in a former hotel outside Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, is still in operation, but, as was reported in these pages last November, their defections were prompted by concerns over the way it was being managed - the very thing it was seeking to teach clients.

Mr Macleod, a barrister by training, became involved in executive development when he moved to Herefordshire in 1988 after giving up the law. He met somebody who worked at the trust and signed up because he had always enjoyed "people issues". He became chief executive last year.

Although he set out to update what, in the words of one participant, had become "rather stale and fuddy-duddy", he maintains that "there is a lot of good at the Leadership Trust". What he and his colleagues are doing is to update that.

As an organisation with lower running costs than those that set themselves up in smart premises, Foundation Team Building claims it is not dependent on high numbers of participants. But by the end of this year, it reckons 160 people will have attended its open courses in a Midlands hotel.

"We're seeking to differentiate ourselves," says Mr Macleod. "We're sending a laser beam out into the market."

The emphasis is on "helping people implement what they learn", and the focus is on just those people who do not always rate the ability of lesser mortals.

"People at the top have to realise that people are a lot more perceptive than they give them credit for," he adds. Then they would know why there is such scepticism about such in-vogue concepts as mission statements. "Everybody is different and everybody has to be handled in different ways. But that doesn't mean you have to pussyfoot around people all the time."