In this GC People Leader Series interview, GC Partner Simon Court talks to chief executive Serge Dive about what makes him tick and how his GC Index profile has underpinned his decisions to change career and chase the idea of his latest venture, community-driven events company, This is Beyond
You have a very strong Play Maker profile. Play Makers think in terms of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’; so, from the ‘I’ perspective how has this Play Maker approach to leadership reflected in how you have made a success of This is Beyond?
The profile describes me well; I am a bit of an all-rounder. I want to be good in most things and excellent at something. In football terms I think I would be the player-manager. I have done most of the jobs and understand what they demand – I can empathise with my team members, sense tension in them, and try to provide the support that they need. Play Maker is my most natural proclivity – I enjoy teamwork (one of our core values) and enjoy seeing a team functioning and enjoy creating a community that works. We have created a community with a belief system and we work for one another; the organisation is founded on the power of bringing people together – a core Play Maker trait.
What we do is a bit like climbing Everest in flip-flops so we need to take care of each other and be accountable to each other. To manage the inevitable tensions that arise we have a habit of building on each other’s ideas rather than pulling them down. And we strive for as much diversity as possible to make the team stronger.
Another vital element of This is Beyond is our focus on transformational rather than transactional opportunities. We constantly strive to go above and beyond. We want the team to feel inspired and to learn. We want our events to have a transformational impact and my Gamechanger proclivity is behind this. My vision of life is that you can choose and that it is more interesting when you take more risk – people want to go on that journey with you. It’s risky to play it safe – if you have a moon-shot strategy people pay attention. I always want to be the best at what I do, and I want us to be head and shoulders above the competition. Our goals are so elevated that they demand attention.
What skills have you had to learn along the way to make the most of your proclivities?
If you want to make something a success you need to spend time with others to articulate and explore the ideas that you have – a sounding board for your sanity. When I was younger I used to become a bit protective of my ideas and would find feedback hard to hear and accept. I have learned that a strong team around you, with different proclivities, accelerates your ideas and makes them stronger. And when it comes to delivery, I now tap into my playmaker skills to be more supportive of others than I used to be. My instinctive approach to management was “…did you get it? Good, get on with it!” – I have learned that some people need more than that from me, more encouragement and support on a regular basis.
I have also learned to be constantly curious. If you want to be creative you need to drill down into a topic so that you know your stuff, your know-how becomes unconscious, only then do you start to become a real expert, to connect the dots – everything slows down, and you can begin to see things more clearly. So, you need to be obsessive about the topic.
When have you felt that your role was most in tune with your proclivities? When was it least?
My first business was a luxury online travel agency – and I brought a lot of drive and obsession to it. I created a profitable business through a lot of hard work. But when I did a stocktake, I realised that although I enjoyed running my own business, I missed contact with people, convincing them that the impossible is possible. That same reflection helped me to realise what I needed to do: I understand luxury travel and travel shows – what about a luxury travel show?! This is Beyond is much more in tune with my proclivities.
I love what I do now. I am at my best finding, articulating, selling ideas and bringing people together. But it isn’t just about bringing them together, it’s also about how that togetherness is maintained. A large part of my role as a Play Maker could be described as the guardian of the collective and ensuring that cohesive group remains cohesive. I can inspire the team and customers. I constantly think about the future so tend to procrastinate about the present. A good business requires a balance between obsession about the future and pragmatism about the present. The business requires good foundation work on finance, HR, compliance etc. So, I am looking for a COO who will ensure that whatever we do, we take care of the current business while I take care of the future, what I am best at. I want to be able to say to the team, as we take on our ambitious vision,” …we’re going to do this, but you’re going to be safe.”
Who do you like to have around you, people who complement your proclivities and get the best from you?
Aside from looking for a COO who can be a complement to me, by obsessing about the present and ensuring we are operationally effective and secure. I also value people who will build on and contribute to creative ideas. People who ‘plus’ an idea rather than simply critique them.
As This is Beyond continues to grow, we need a wider variety of people and proclivities; every job has its own demands and we try and hire the best person for the job. Diversity and inclusion have become essential to our organisational health and our culture of curiosity, integrity and teamwork require us to ensure a strong mix of proclivities for This is Beyond to continue to flourish.