A new attitude for GDS International


I’m in America this week – New York, to be precise, after one week in our Miami office. I like these working trips for all of the usual reasons: meeting and talking with our people face-to-face, looking people in the eyes, from senior management to new hires.

But I also like the limits that time imposes. Five days to make a difference.

In the late 90s I remember reading about Barry Oshry and his theory of systems leadership. In short: organisation after organisation, regardless of the business, the size, or country they’re in, will display the same self-defeating patterns of behaviour. It’s systemic, based on his idea of tops, middles and bottoms. Bear with me!

Bottoms are plagued by invisibility and vulnerability. It’s us against them.

Middles face consistently conflicting priorities and demands – torn by tops and bottoms.

Tops are characterised by complexity (‘an endless series of ambiguous and unpredictable issues to deal with. So they streamline and pull away from the organisational reality.

Instantly recognisable, isn’t it? From Saturday jobs to golf clubs and at every stage in between: tops, middles and bottoms carving out their own niche and pulling against the collective good.

What has this got to do with time limits? We are trying to invest GDS with a new attitude. Being forced to demonstrate it in just five days has really clarified my thoughts and actions. Nothing clears the brain like a deadline.

What are we doing? In Q3 and Q4 2013, we are making some changes. We are making them bravely and collectively – supporting each other to achieve a solid, mature financial performance in 2013 and a fantastic platform for growth in 2014.

We believe this year must be about everybody winning. Contributing to the company, feeling valued and well managed, and having a clear picture of what we are working to achieve.

We need to move our collective mindset.

We have been scared to develop programmes, to lead with content, to invigorate the schedule, and to invigorate the sales process. We have not wanted to change. We have stood still. Today we STOP being defensive and regressive.

We will capitalise upon the fantastic opportunity of having 75% repeat revenues. We will use this opportunity as the platform for good, efficient, and profitable growth in 2014. We will start exciting our business with innovative, progressive standards and developments. Today we START being progressive and aggressive.

(That is aggressive in the way we learn, move forward and chase goals, NOT in the way we deal with each other or our clients).

What will happen? We wait to see. But at least we should achieve caring tops, focused middles and happy bottoms.


About Spencer Green

Spencer Green founded GDS Publishing Ltd in October 1993 to specialise in industrial, government-led publications for the burgeoning Chinese market. The company launched over forty business-to-business titles, was name-checked alongside Tony Blair on China’s national news as ‘best for Chinese business’, and – following a move into India – deemed to be ‘of national importance’ by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. In 1998, GDS Publishing became GDS International and launched its first conference, Enterprise China. The hugely successful Enterprise series of conferences was rolled out across China and Latin America in the next two years. In 2000, GDS International launched its first Senior Executive Summit under the ‘Next Generation’ banner. This became the catalyst for nine years of 25% year-on-year growth... and 40% growth in 2010. In 2011, GDS held over 70 Summits for C-level Executives from a wide range of industries and across the globe, and eight digital marketing conferences. Today, GDS International is determined to become the world’s no. 1 business-to-business media and services company. It’s going to be an exciting journey! Spencer is married to Emily. They have two children, Finlay and Maya, and live in Bristol, UK.
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