Richard Winfield - Founder of the Brefi Group
Facilitator | Trainer | Mentor | Board Advisor
Facilitator | Trainer | Mentor | Board Advisor
Thank you for visiting my page. I help directors and boards become more effective by clarifying goals, improving communication and applying good corporate governance.
Clients call me when they need to bring structure and clarity to their thinking. I can help you identify core issues and make the complex simple, holding the space for you to create your own solutions.
With more than a decade travelling internationally to consult, facilitate and train corporate governance and director behaviour I have developed and tested a wide range of training materials.
These are now available on line as multi-media courses and resources.
Corporate Governance Masterclass
Specialist Career Coach
Creator of The Directors' Academy
Richard Winfield's expertise has developed over a series of careers and specialisms, always combining his love of learning with his talent for systems and communication and a commitment to helping individuals and teams realise their potential.
The result is a rounded individual with comprehensive international experience and knowledge that is both broad and deep.
“Recognise him for his sharp interventions and a wicked sense of humour. If you think he is being direct, notice the warmth in his eyes. He is driven by curiosity; he wants to make things clear.” Jason Jackman
Director Public Affairs and Communication
I contacted Richard because I was dissatisfied with my current role. After two sessions on Zoom I decided that I would be happy to stay for a couple more years but, in the meantime, lay the foundation for a new role thereafter.
Richard has always loved working in corporates and specifically with senior management teams and boards of directors. He is committed to helping improve board performance, because that is where the leverage is.
Corporate governance is another process supported by formally approved systems , and is a natural sequel to Investors in People. Richard has implemented board performance evaluation and directors appraisals, and run director training workshops in the UK and overseas.
Richard loves to apply his systems thinking live, working with senior teams internationally.
Corporate retreats and team away days should be an important element of every company's top level programme. Strategy meetings, scenario planning, skills training and team building all benefit from an experienced facilitator with a comprehensive grounding in corporate processes and an ability to manage an agreed programme structure with a light touch.
Richard developed the New Directors Handbook and the Essential Directorship Masterclass multi-media online training programme from the workshops and Masterclasses he has delivered in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Africa.
He is able to offer very flexible programmes in response to the specific requests of his delegates by drawing on his considerable archive of PowerPoint presentations.
For ten years Richard attended the major international coaching conferences and learned the latest thoughts and techniques from the masters - and from practitioners like himself. As a result, he was invited to join the Board of Governors of the International Association of Coaching.
An exercise he developed to teach coaches in Sofia, Bulgaria, has developed into the very simple but powerful 'Coaching on a Credit Card®', and been expanded into 'Invisible Coaching® - the art of natural coaching'.
As a systems thinker and an enthusiast for the latest developments, Richard has often been involved in the development or testing of new ideas and programmes. He supported the first local authority in Wales and the first magistrates court in the UK to achieve Investors in People status.
Henley Management College commissioned him to advise their client in Abu Dhabi on how to introduce Management Charter Initiative competencies and his exposure to a South African approach to scenario planning led to evolution of the Brefi Group approach.
Richard has sat on several boards as an NED/Governor. These include an innovative engineering company backed by Electra Risk Capital, The International Association of Coaching and Birmingham Forward, where he represented them on the West Midlands Business Transport Group.
He has launched and built several businesses with colleagues, and successfully negotiated their sale to blue chip companies. He has trained and mentored senior managers and directors of SMEs and international companies.
Richard honed his communication skills as a publisher, firstly of an international transport policy newsletter. then as the co-founder of the leading trade newspaper that recorded the deregulation and privatisation of the bus industry. These were followed by of transport policy texts by guest authors.
As an author in his own right, Richard 's titles include Reflections of a Corporate Coach, Stories from a Corporate Coach and the New Directors and AIM Directors Handbooks.
Richard Winfield started his career as a transportation planner focusing on public transport. He designed, developed and commissioned the software for the world's first bus location system, on London's longest bus route !!.
He then project managed one of the earliest feasibility studies into the use of automated personal rapid transit systems, and won three wards for his work in determining the need for transport in rural areas.
Richard has a long standing practical involvement in the outdoors. For some years he combined a small livestock farm with his professional life, he has designed and built four ponds and spent a holiday working as a cowboy.
This creative relationship with nature is directly parallel with the approach he takes with his clients, seeking to bring out their natural talents and provide a structure within which they can develop and grow successfully.
"Richard puts you at ease without you knowing it. I thought I was having a casual conversation with Richard but by the end I realised that he had identified an entirely new perspective of my skill set. That's the power of a good listener!"
John Morris, Director Public Affairs & Communications.
"We approached the exercise with an element of cynicism - after all, we know the business better than others right? How wrong we were. Through careful and thorough pre-meetings and detailed analysis thereafter, Richard brought together the strengths and exposed the weaknesses in the organisation. The resulting clear actions have improved business no end."
Nigel Payne, Chairman, Hangar8
"Thanks for the two days if your valuable assistance and expertise. The structure was most successful and in your quiet and diplomatic way you kept us on track. It was a most worthwhile exercise and we really progressed our strategic thinking."
Kevin Foo, Chairman, Victoria Oil and Gas
"Richard Winfield is the most passionate and effective advocate of coaching I have yet encountered. His blend of integrity, attention to detail and insight ensure that his corporate coaching approach is one you can trust - giving a sure foundation to build upon."
Lex McKee, Productivity Coach, Trainer and Mentor
“Thank you for facilitating our meeting last week.
It's amazing how much clarity and harmony can be achieved by an hour or so of quality interaction and reflection. Great feedback from the team and raised levels of enthusiasm for new monthly meetings. Neil has already organised the next one in the Midlands.
Thanks again for your expert intervention.”
John Skivington, Director, LHC
“Richard was a very capable facilitator who understood the brief that we set. He facilitated from a position of knowledge and experience, but did not impose this on the group; he kept the meeting flowing and managed the time well.”
Ann Bentley, Director and member of global board, Rider Levett Bucknall
“Having an external facilitator enabled people to say the things that concern them that possibly they would not raise normally. Everyone felt listened to and that what they had to say mattered. By agreeing processes/the way forward and having individuals take ownership and others supporting that person in their ownership has really helped move the organisation on.
“It has brought things to the surface, made difficult conversations easier to have and really cleared the air, if not necessarily on the day with all the follow up work that happened after. “Our direction, operationally and strategically is a lot clearer now that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet!
Paula Fowler, Managing Partner, Fisher Jones Greenwood
“This project was well organised with the right mixture of internal and external input. All member feedback has been positive and for the first time we have individual and organisational development plans, which are already being implemented.
“Richard Winfield listened to our requirements and delivered a quality process, which he managed professionally from beginning to end.
“The fact that we have positive feedback from all our members and effective outcomes speaks for itself. A very well managed project.”
Chris Almgill, Chairman, Worcester Community Housing
“Thanks for a stimulating two days, which has resulted in my senior management team reviewing the way they work, plan and implement. The biggest change has been in how they work together as a team! We are now already using 10 minute brainstorming sessions very productively. We are very pleased that a number of important business issues have been identified and already worked upon with the next steps clearly identified. In summary, excellent.”
Roger Randall, Managing Director, Biomet UK.
“Thorough, competent, knowledgeable and an excellent communicator capable of articulating his knowledge in a well paced manner.”
Richard Pearce, Birmingham City Council
"The retreat organised by Oando PLC and facilitated by Richard was extremely professional. The team enjoyed the retreat and followed through actions has changed their behavior. The facilitation style was very easy to follow and interesting. The outcome of the retreat was also used to develop the outline of the Quarterly Management retreat."
'Demola Ogunbajo, Manager, Avaizon Consulting, Nigeria
"Thank you very much for delivering the training for NF Gold team.
"We enjoyed working with you, and I was personally very happy to see how responsive you were in adjusting the program when required. We went through a lot of material, and I am convinced that the participants will be able to recall and hopefully apply many of the techniques presented in the sessions."
Dejan Popovic, Director, New Frontier Group, Austria
"The day exceeded our expectations and a great deal emerged which will be very valuable going forward. You brought a refreshing and innovative approach to the day and the personality profiling which you did in advance and used to illustrate board behaviours was inspirational."
Peter Maskell, BHSF, UK
How did I get from a civil engineering degree, through careers as a public transport planner (winning three awards on the way) and as a newspaper publisher, to becoming a globe trotting coach and facilitator working at board level?
And where do corporate governance and coach training fit in?
Let me tell you my story…
My father and his brothers, and my mother’s brother all went to Solihull School. And I was fortunate to be able to do the same.
Solihull was built on the Greeks’ concept of educating the whole man. Nonetheless, like many boys’ schools, the heroes were those who were successful at sport, or else in the cadet force. Neither of these applied to me. I didn’t enjoy any sport and I left the cadet force at the earliest opportunity. However, as a result of a new headmaster and what seemed to me to be a freakish decision, in my last year I was made head of school.
I had stayed on to sit the Oxford entrance exams and after that I had two terms with very little academic burden. Head of school was more than ‘head boy’. It was a junior position in the management structure. I had my own study, two fags! and even my own lawn.
Whoever had selected me must have seen something special and this was certainly where I first demonstrated an innate belief in the value of people. The school was divided into three parts covering the age range from seven to 19, and each part had a range of active clubs and societies. During my time of office I visited every single one, including a meeting of the German Society at which they were discussing Kafka’s The Trial, in German, which I did not speak. I also travelled with each of the sports teams on an away match.
My belief was that it was important that people should be recognised. I saw my visits as a form of corporate approval, even an anointing.
I have always had a sense of being ahead of the game; I really value being involved in a first, and have been able to indulge my desires on many occasions.
After academic degrees in civil engineering and then transportation planning, I was head hunted to join the systems applications group in the research division of Marconi.
This small group was charged with developing civil applications of military technology and job was to design, develop and commission a bus location system for London Transport. This involved early radio telemetry which measured the rotations of a bus wheel so that my computer program could plot where the bus was along London’s congested Route 11. As you might expect, this was the first such system in the world.
I learned a lot about project planning and discipline. In the first year I did not write any code but drew a complete set of flow charts, from which the program would be developed. When I did write code, it was again a discipline in good practice. Although the computer filled a fairly large room, it had a capacity of only 21k. I wrote in machine code and every time my program exceeded the limit, I had to go back and improve it ? so my code was very elegant. What a pity that Microsoft was not launched in this period!
Marconi was a very paternalistic company. It had its own housing estate and its own sailing club. The products it made were very high quality.
Shortly before I arrived, Marconi was taken over by Arnold Weinstock’s GEC. This company was very different and sent in its accountants. This was a big shock to the employees, who were being asked to cut costs. What they found difficult to appreciate that anything over engineered was wasteful and that the strength in any link in a chain stronger than the weakest was superfluous. It was my first experience of corporate change.
From there I moved to a small specialist transportation consultancy in Winchester.
Working on the Southampton University mainframe, I wrote the code for a public transport planning program.
One of my jobs was to compile a directory of new ‘unconventional’ public transport systems like the monorails and minitrams being built in airports and expos. (Designing the directory was my first experience of publishing.) As a result of this I was able to win a contract to undertake a feasibility study for unconventional transport in Croydon. The government had had the cheek to commission a Minitram study in Sheffield and the Greater London Council were so upset that it was not in London that they wanted their own.
I managed a consortium which also included an architect, a civil engineering consultant (Mott Hay & Anderson) and a leading social research company. Here I had my first experience of focus groups to discover what real people really wanted.
At the time I was ready to move on, one of our competitors was experimenting with a minicomputer. This was met with much derision by my colleagues. What was the point of using a computer that took 20 minutes to run a program. My view was different, having worked hands on with my ‘own’ computer in London. Maybe the Southampton mainframe could run my gravity model in a few seconds, but the practical turnaround was 24 hours. And since I have always had a tendency to omit the odd comma or other critical symbol, I would much have preferred to have a service that could be repeated every 20 minutes.
I had always wanted to be a farmer. I was very lucky that I moved to Solihull in the summer of 1960, which was a real scorcher. Also, Solihull School was 400 years old and the quatercentenary celebrations meant that there was more than usual time off.
The house we moved to in Solihull was on the edge of the green belt and for the first two years there, until GCEs and A levels caught up with me, I spent all my time on the adjoining farm, making hay, feeding pigs and cleaning out calf sheds.
I had planned to go to agricultural college, which involved physics, chemistry and biology A levels. Fortunately, as it turned out, I did not get on with the biology teacher’s approach to learning and I was forced to give it up and take maths instead. I loved maths and ended with three maths A levels and went into construction instead.
Nonetheless, I still had a hankering after a return to farming. In the 1970s John Seymour popularised ‘self sufficiency’, that is, living off the land. This was to be for me, and on St David’s Day 1975 my wife and I crossed the Severn Bridge for me to take up a new (a first) post responsible for public transport planning in the new county of Dyfed.
A year later I got my smallholding and became a fully fledged peasant!
I learned that ‘self sufficiency’ is not quite what it was made out to be. Rather than living off the land, you actually needed rich parents, so you could become a hippy, or a well paid job.
Farming is directly relevant to the theme that has gone through my life. It involves being grounded, accepting things for what they are and animal husbandry is an extreme form of stewardship for others. Smallholding also involves a strong degree of interdependence with neighbours.
In fact, I learned a lot about self sufficiency, but my personal self sufficiency as opposed to economic self sufficiency. If an animal was sick, or a pipe burst, I had to deal with it. If the cow’s teats were cracked so that she found it unpleasant to be milked, that was something we had to deal with together.
With cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry I had the time of my life.
At the same time I had the first of my dream jobs. I started with a clean sheet and had considerable freedom to develop public policy and practical strategy. Dyfed represented about a quarter of the land are of Wales, bounded by sea and mountains with very few points of entry. Perfect for a public transport planner. It was unusual in those days. There were two different railway regions and two different National Bus company subsidiaries, in each case north and south respectively. In addition, there were 28 independent bus companies.
Because I effectively controlled their purse strings through the allocation of the subsidy that enabled them to survive, I had a close relationship with them collectively and, in many cases individually. Here I was able to develop my interest in management teams.
Because of a requirement of the 1978 Transport Act for local government to publish public transport plans, which included a definition of need for transport and then each year an assessment of performance in terms of having met the defined need, I was able to commission consultants for us to develop a technique for assessing need for transport in rural areas (this was directly equivalent to what is now required by the Corporate Governance Code!). This involved more work with the public and with focus groups.
We were successful and I won three awards for my initiative: an international silver medal from the Chartered Institute of Transport and prizes from the Institutions of Civil Engineering and of Highways.
I loved my time at Dyfed. It enabled me to indulge my academic bent in terms of social research and development. Each year I would attend the international PTRC multi-stream planning and transport conference and present a paper on what I had been up to. In my last year I gave three papers on different subjects, and later was sent to Spain to join an ECMT Round Table. This was soon after the demise of Franco and the country was having to learn how to do things in a democracy. This event was about devolving school transport responsibility to the regions.
I nearly missed it. I went to a travel agent and enquired about Santiago. They were about to sell an air ticket when I noticed a huge difference in travel time between the outward and return journeys. When I asked about this, it was pointed out that Santiago is in Chile – I wanted to go to Spain, which means Santiago de Compostela.
Years later I missed a flight in Munich and had to change my ticket. As I walked away from the counter, I noticed that I had been given a ticket to San Francisco; I was actually on my way to Sofia, in Bulgaria, where I was teaching coaching.
On another occasion on my way to Sofia I was stuck in Frankfurt, I think. The onward flight was delayed and it was some time before we could get any information. It seemed that the airport was being bombed! In fact, what had happened was that there had been an old munitions dump nearby, which had started to explode. There was no military attack and I was able to fly on later.
One of the reasons I was able to enjoy my job was that the County Surveyor for whom I worked was an intelligent man who kew how to delegate – i.e. he knew how to recognise someone he could trust 😉
Unfortunately he had a heart attack and his deputy was the opposite. Morale in the department sank, with a lot of grumbling. I began to think that if I wanted one day to reach his level I did not want people to be talking about me like they were about him.
So I applied to take an MSc in Management in Cardiff.
While I was there I received several consultancy projects. It was the time of Mrs Thatcher and a move towards free enterprise. I am good at exams and also enjoy interviews. So I have led a charmed life where work is concerned. I decided that I should try myself ’in the jungle’. That’s how I got into consultancy, and I have never really escaped.
I set up an office and equipped it with photocopier, computer and printer. My ‘computer’ was a Tandy, with 64k memory, a genuinely floppy disk drive and no hard drive.
I continued to attend transport conferences, though noticed that I was not treated nearly so well now that I was ‘trade’.
After a couple of years I was approached by a transport journalist with an idea for a specialist newsletter.He recognised that he could not organise a business and reckoned that I would fit the bill. Generally professionals from the different transport modes do not talk to one another. What he had in mind was a monthly newsletter ‘briefing’ that would contain a distillation of all research, technology and policy developments in land based transport. It suited my interests and my entrepreneurial juices, so we set to work.
Once a month he would come to Cardiff for a weekend and we would work through the nights producing our product. We created galleys on the Tandy, printed them out with a daisywheel printer, photo reduced them, cut them up and then stuck them onto A3 sheets with Pritt Stick. Finally I copied them back to back on my A3 photocopier – no small task onto airmail weight paper; photocopiers, anyway were not reliable in those days. Then I would collate fold and pack them to be sent worldwide. We were very successful, except that we had significantly underpriced it.
Nonetheless, I learned my craft, both publishing and journalism.
When we were established we had the opportunity to bid to take over the publication of the Chartered Institute of Transport’s magazine, Transport. We were successful and we put together a team and were about to take on an office in London. Unfortunately, my partner and the director general of the CIT did not get on and he reneged. We lost the contract, but did receive a generous compensation! But we were all set to go, with nothing to publish.
Clearly the planets were in alignment at that time. The government was about to announce its major reorganisation of the bus industry, selling off the National Bus Company and deregulating bus services. Reed International, who published a weekly newspaper and a weekly magazine both covering buses and lorries. They had called in consultants who, logically, had pointed out that the bus industry and freight transport were unrelated ? except in so far as they both ran vehicles with wheels.
The logical thing to do would have been to reorganise and publish a lorry magazine and a bus newspaper. What they actually did was to close the (excellent) newspaper.
Here was our chance.
The week they closed we announced the launch of a fortnightly newspaper, Bus Business. Then we negotiated with the Department of Transport to organise a conference at which Transport Secretary Nicholas Ridley would announce the Government’s plans.
We were off!