Sir Ian Wood - from psychology to £multi-billion company

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Sir Ian Wood - from psychology to £multi-billion company

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Sir Ian Wood, who joined the small family business in the 1960s, is now retiring a billionaire at the age of 70. But it wasn’t really about the money, it was about the people. Interestingly, after gaining a first class degree in psychology from Edinburgh University he decided to take three months out to see if he could help his father with the fishing/boat repair business. He stayed on, and now the global Wood Group employ 43,000 people world-wide in the Oil and Gas Industry.

Interviewed by Douglas Fraser, Sir Ian explained that he was not a risk-taking Buccaneer, he’d always taken calculated risks--identify the risk, see how you can mitigate that risk, and then make a decision. He acknowledged that mistakes had been made, but the key thing was to learn from them.

Asked if delegating power was difficult, he said not at all. People have made the business a success, really high quality people. They always try to get the best people and they have had a really good team of people for a long time. Sir Ian said that one of the most satisfying things is seeing how you do delegate and how successful it is; and frankly, how you can delegate power to people who often can make a better job of doing something than you could do it yourself. Sheard and Kakabadse (2004) suggest that - guiding practice, to facilitate senior managers, to become more effective at developing high performing teams - will directly contribute to an increase in the organization's productivity.

Returning to his early start Sir Ian was asked about the time he nearly became a University Lecturer. Fraser asked how important was that psychology training, bringing the mind-set of a psychologist to management? It was very difficult to discern, but Sir Ian guessed it was an interest in people that had always been his prime focus. He couldn’t say if that was what had driven him, but what psychology does do, he said, is give you a good insight into yourself and also a good insight into other peoples’ behaviour. Dunning (2006) discusses the critical importance of accurate self-knowledge for attaining success and fulfillment. Sir Ian had no regrets about not becoming a lecturer. He clearly needed space and he would never have got that in a University environment.

After leaving school Sir Ian was going to be a doctor, but he first went off to South Africa on a scholarship to spend three months with some business people who were gold mining and diamond mining. He thought, ‘Gee Whizz, this is maybe not such a negative thing as I thought it was.’ He returned to study psychology instead, as a sort of compromise. (His mother had always wanted him to be a professional). When he left University Sir Ian had every intention of going back to do an assistant lectureship and PhD. His father had a small fishing and ship repair business but wasn’t in the best of health, and there were some issues in the business. He said to his mother and father at the beginning of the summer that he would like to come into the business for three months and see if there was any way he could help. Working with the half dozen boats in their fleet Sir Ian didn't find it difficult to help, simple things like using a secret code so the boats could all talk to each other, to share information and all catch the same fish. At the end of the summer he said, to the constrernation of his mother, he’d like to do another year in the business. [And so began the Wood Group.]

Sir Ian’s prime motivation is business development and achievement. His interest is in getting people together, getting opportunity together and the strategy right. This, he said, is where he does understand his psychology. It’s the satisfaction of seeing teams of people achieving things, the business growing and development. Fiedler and House (1994) discuss opposite perspectives on leadership.

Sir Ian’s focus is now more on philanthropy. He explained that as a global company you can’t help see the huge black holes of poverty and despair and inequality. If you are getting the benefits of being a global citizen then you have the responsibility of being a global citizen. He also thinks the world is a fantastic miracle. It’s an incredible privilege to be here, and part of that is handing over something better than you got. They don’t give money; for example, with tea growing, they look to see how they can help the farmer get the best yields and prices.

BBC Radio Scotland 10/11 November 2012

What about these entrepreurs and 'The Entrepreneur's Wound'? A different perspective?

Insights? [No facts here; just a way of thinking about the dynamic behind the person based solely on the information gained from this one interview]

- Father youngest from family of ten children - team background/influence? - large family/peer group.
- Sir Ian, on leaving school - intended to be a Doctor - his interest/help others? - or mother's ambition/influence; be a professional?
- Teetotal? [abstain alcohol] Where does that come from? Personal choice or background? Show willingness to conform in one area? Most of life travelled Economy Class on planes. Workaholic-16-hour working days. Work ethic? Values?
- South Africa experience - "[business] not so negative after all" - experience of different world/independence - formed own view? - where did a negative view of business come from?
- Psychology a compromise - why? mother? Finished degree, summer helped in business, decided to continue rather than return to do PhD, [said to mother] "..hate to tell you this but...not what she wanted to hear [wanted son to be lawyer/professor]...difficult time for a couple of months"
- Major influence in life? Make a success to prove he was right? ...to not let mother down? ...as good or better than professional?
- Eureka moment - visiting Texas/oil - creativity? Opportunity - to prove/succeed in own right ?[not the family business?] Sir Ian acknowledged his success part down to 'being in the right place at the right time'.
- US oil execs patronising "threw a few breadcrumbs our way"- afront/challenge?
- Confident of success - conviction? [emotion side/emotional intelligence/developed in family environment?]
- Family highly valued - business teams same model?
- Employer of choice - get the best people
- Approach to Philanthopy - same as family/business - don't give money/invest in/foster and develop the team! Same theme?
silmcoach
Greatest wealth - happy heart, peace of mind :D

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