Strengthening leadership and collaboration in a European Institution Management Committee
As a complex pan-European institution, The European Patent Office asked Performance Consultants to help them create team alignment around a common vision by working with them on real-life issues and practical interventions through executive coaching, team coaching, coaching training and capability development sessions.
“With Performance Consultants’ help, we turned into an effective team. Together we worked on items such as tight budget execution, developing “good” governance, effective performance management (starting from zero). I would have found the job very difficult to handle without the help I received from Performance Consultants”
Alison Brimelow, President, European Patent Office
The European Patent Office (EPO) is the executive arm of an intergovernmental organization that has 38 member states. With over 6,000 staff, its mission is to support innovation, competitiveness and economic growth across Europe through high-quality and efficient services.
The EPO values are trust, fairness, mutual respect, adaptability, collaboration and a commitment to excellence. Its vision is to contribute to a safer, smarter and more sustainable world.
The President of the European Patent Office (EPO) wanted to harness the power of a group of individuals to create an effective Management Advisory Committee (MAC) to run the EPO at a time of fundamental change. The vision was to lay the foundations for a truly global, integrated, sustainable patent system. The Top 3 priorities of the EPO President were: balance the budget, social partnership, and deliver on the IP5 initiative. The team had to hit the ground running in addressing the stark lessons of accrual rather than cash accounting, how to develop useful management information, and how to bring the EPO governance into the 21st century.
Integrating both the EPO board work agenda and team development was important. The President of the EPO wanted to generate a team spirit and mutually supportive leadership styles to ensure individual contribution and long-term effectiveness of the Management Advisory Committee.
“We focused on team alignment, learning specific skills that would help us become an effective team. From that early time in our working together as a team we began using the tools that we had learnt… It showed us all that there are different ways of being powerful and effective. It was a delight to see that new joiners also took to the way we did things as well.”
Alison Brimelow, President, European Patent Office
Over 18 months Performance Consultants supported the MAC in developing its team alignment and individuals through executive coaching, team coaching, coaching training and capability development sessions. The work included the following elements:
Expert facilitation – A series of offsite facilitation sessions that focused on team alignment, learning specific skills and tools to create an effective team. This included the use of practical tools and interactive exercises to embed behaviours and enable individuals’ full contribution to the team.
Executive coaching sessions – Each of the top team members worked with a coach to demonstrate how there are different ways to be powerful and effective in real-time situations affecting the EPO. 1:1 coaching for individuals allowed for behind the scenes capability development and extra support in preparation for MAC work meetings and day-to-day challenges.
Team coaching sessions – the MAC worked on key strategic elements such as visioning, values, behaviours and stages of team development. This was done to generate team spirit, shift perspectives and transform instructional leadership behaviours into coaching leadership style that was mutually supportive.
Coaching Feedback – After observing MAC’s work meetings, Performance Consultants would provide coaching feedback to build the capacity, coaching skills and commitment for self-development at individual, peer-to-peer, and team level.
During the process Performance Consultants worked with the dynamics of this complex pan-European institution, focusing on its board room and individual challenges and taking the systems perspective required in designing coaching interventions at the EPO.
In working with the Management Advisory Committee (MAC), team facilitators helped the team to flow and work well together over time. In the President of the EPO’s own words “We saw transformations around us in the team and individual colleagues. It was a delight to see that new joiners also took to the way we did things as well.”
In terms of the President’s 3 top priorities of balancing the budget, social partnerships and delivering on the IP5, The MAC of the EPO were able to work with EU Commission to raise the profile of patenting and IP in Europe from relative obscurity to greater prominence and a heightened level of public scrutiny; get political interest in what the EPO was doing and demonstrate that the EPO was engaging with countries in talking about IP and patenting and correcting various misconceptions.
The MAC were also able to create better integration, co-ordination and work-sharing between the five largest patent offices. Timeliness and high quality of work-products as well as confidence-building and coordination between offices were essential ingredients for these schemes to be successful. The MAC were also able to make IP processes more efficient by eliminating unnecessary duplication of work with a view to enhancing both quality and efficiency.
Reflections with Sir John Whitmore