Oct 292014

According to Sir Walter Raleigh, the English explorer, in ‘On the Life of Man’ (1612): ‘What is our life? a play of passion; Our mirth the music of division …. ‘. This was written during his sentence for life imprisonment after being accused of high treason in 1603. At first, he was condemned to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment and he was released in 1616 to make a final gold mining expedition to South America.

WalterRaleigh was born in around 1554 to a Protestant family in Devon and was the son of Walter Raleigh and Catherine Champernowne – not many of them around! He was an English aristocrat, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy and explorer and the cousin of Sir Richard Grenville.

In 1591, he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, without the Queen’s permission, for which he and his wife were sent to the Tower of London. After his release, they retired to his estate at Sherborne, Dorset. In 1594, Raleigh heard of a ‘City of Gold’ in South America and sailed to find it, publishing an exaggerated account of his experiences in a book that contributed to the legend of ‘El Dorado’. After Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Raleigh was arrested and charged with assisting Spain in attempting to put Arabella Stuart on the throne. At his trial in September 1603, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. However, the evidence against him – possibly cobbled together by the Earl of Salisbury who viewed Raleigh as a rival – was so weak that he was reprieved but imprisoned again in the Tower of London.

He was released in 1616 to lead a second expedition in search of El Dorado. This was unsuccessful and men under his command ransacked a Spanish outpost. He returned to England and was executed today, in 1618, under the terms of his original death sentence.

Oct 282014

Family Wise Limited is all about working as a team. We have dozens of cases, contracts and projects on the go at any one time and, in order to ensure that we consistently produce outstanding research and provide excellent customer service, everyone has to be play their part. That doesn’t mean that the company is full of clones! We are all individuals here and have our own unique strengths that we bring to the team.

TeamworkTop-performing teams are built on a balance of roles, with each team member performing a role (or roles) that reflect their abilities. Some people are more outward-looking, firmly focused on contacts and opportunities, while others are real ‘doers’ in the team, self-disciplined and reliable, taking team ‘to do’ lists and turning them into positive action.

When a team is performing at its best, you will usually find that each team member has clear responsibilities. Just as importantly, you will see that every role needed to achieve the team’s goal is being performed fully and well.

Dr Meredith Belbin studied team-work for many years and he famously observed that people in teams tend to assume different ‘team roles’. He defined a team role as ‘a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way’ and named nine team roles that underlie team success.

He characterised those roles into three groups: Action Oriented (Shaper, Implenter and Completer-Finisher), People Oriented (Coordinator, Team Worker and Resource Investigator), and Thought Oriented (Plant, Monitor-Evaluator and Specialist). Each team role is associated with typical behavioral and interpersonal strengths and there are several sites which detail the strengths of each characteristic and also the weaknesses.

The Belbin Team Roles Model can be used in several ways: you can use it to think about team balance before a project starts, you can use it to highlight and so manage interpersonal differences within an existing team and you can use it to develop yourself.

What do you think? How does your team stack up? Belbin maintains that there is no such thing as the ‘ideal’ team, just that some people are more suited to some tasks than others. When thinking about your team (and no doubt some names sprang to mind while you were reading those descriptions on the link provided above!), consider how wide a coverage of those roles you have achieved and whether the balance you have struck is right for the task at hand.

Oct 272014

The Welsh poet – Dylan Marlais Thomas – was born in Swansea on this day in 1914. The son of a schoolmaster, Dylan worked as a journalist before publishing his first book of poems at the age of just twenty. His works include Under Milk Wood - a radio ‘play for voices’ which was first broadcast by the BBC in 1954 – and the rather oddly titled autobiographical short-story collection Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, which was published in 1940.

Under Milk WDylan_Thomas_photoood has become a classic: in Thomas’ characteristic poetic style, he paints a humorous portrait of a Welsh seaside town as the people go about their daily lives. The characters include the fastidious Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, blind Captain Cat, would-be wife murderer Mr Pugh and the promiscuous Polly Garter!

Although Thomas was appreciated as a popular poet in his lifetime, he found earning a living as a writer challenging, which resulted in his augmenting his income with reading tours and broadcasts.In the 1950s, he travelled to America, where his readings brought him a level of fame. His time in America cemented Thomas’ legend, where he recorded works such as A Child’s Christmas in Wales to vinyl.

Dylan was known for his exuberant and flamboyant behaviour. During his fourth trip to New York in 1953, he became gravely ill and fell into a coma from which he did not recover. Thomas died on 9 November 1953 from chronic alcohol abuse. His body was returned to Wales where he was buried at the village churchyard in Laugharne.

Despite writing exclusively in English, Dylan Thomas has been acknowledged as one of the most important Welsh poets of the twentieth century and is noted for his ‘original, rhythmic and ingenious use of words and imagery’.

In ‘Poem in October’ (1946), he wrote:

My birthday began with water-

Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name

Above the farms and the white horses

And I rose

In rainy autumn

And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.

Oct 262014

Regular readers of my #52Ancestors posts will know that I am lucky enough to have – in the family archives – a letter to my great-grandmother from her mother regarding our family history, written back in 1924. That letter includes many snippets of information which I have painstakingly researched over the years to work out the connections and find out more. One particular piece of information bemused me for many years:








Writing about photographs, Ellen Laura Gosling (born Baynham) writes that ‘the old lady …. was G. Baynham’s Aunt Dunt = her mothers sister‘. Hm…. Well, G. was more than likely going to be Granny Baynham, i.e. Ellen’s mother, who was born as Maria Jaycock Steer and became a Baynham in 1863 when she married William Baynham.

103 The Grove

Photographed here at 103 The Grove, Ealing in around 1915, ‘Granny Baynham’ is pictured on the right and Ellen Laura Gosling (nee Baynham), the letter writer, is sat at the bottom of the steps.

All we knew from my grandfather’s tree was that Granny Baynham’s mother was called Sarah Delamore and became Sarah Steer on marriage to Joshua Steer. But he had no idea where, or when….. Well, we do now! Holborn St Andrew on Boxing Day in 1814 (Source: Guildhall, St Andrew Holborn, Register of marriages, 1813 – 1815, P69/AND2/A/01/Ms 6672/1): 

M1814 D STEER Joshua DELAMORE Sarah

Delamore is an unusual name and, although Sarah (as Steer) was recorded in both the 1851 and 1861 censuses (where her birth place was recorded as ‘Harrow, Middlesex’), searching the parish registers for the 1790s in Harrow, there were no Delamore baptisms. But, there was a Sarah DOLIMORE (Source: London Metropolitan Archives, St Mary, Harrow, Composite register: baptisms Apr 1735 – Dec 1812, DRO/003/A/01/005):


Other children born of James and Mary included James (bp. 1785), Elizabeth (bp. 1787), Anne (bp. 1796) and John (bp. 1799) with the surname consistently written as DOLIMORE. So, the key was to find which of Sarah’s sister’s was ‘Aunt Dunt’. Using a whole pile of wildcards (*) in the Ancestry London marriages and Banns collection, up popped Elizabeth DOLLIMORE marrying Charles DUNT!

And so, the mystery was solved…. Have to love those surnames which are never written the same way twice. Mind you – if Shakespeare couldn’t manage it, what chance did the rest of them have?

Oct 252014

teamWhen a team first comes together, you cannot expect it to perform well. Forming a team takes time and teams often go through recognisable stages as they change from being collections of strangers to becoming united groups with common goals.

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first came up with the memorable phrase “forming, storming, norming, and performing” in his 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” He used it to describe the path that most teams follow on their way to high performance. Having worked in many-a-team over the years, I can certainly concur with his analysis…. And of course, behavioural styles and character strengths of the team will also have an impact….

Forming is the stage when most team members are positive and polite. Some might be anxious, as they have not fully understood what work the team (or the individuals) will do. Others are simply excited about the task ahead. This stage can last for some time, as people start to work together and also as they get to know their new colleagues.

The next stage is storming where people start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage. This is the stage where many teams fail. This often starts where there is a conflict between team members’ natural working styles. People may work in different ways for all sorts of reasons but if differing working styles cause unforeseen problems, individuals can become frustrated.

FormingStorming can also occur when members of the team challenge the role or authority of other members of the team. If there are not clear definitions of how the team will work, some may feel overwhelmed by the expected workload or uncomfortable with the working style of others. Strong relationships and solution-focussed colleagues are needed to proceed to the norming phase and not let the team fail as a result.

The norming phase is when people start to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues’ strengths and respect each other’s role within the team. When team members know one-another better, they might socialise together and feel able to ask each other for help and provide constructive feedback. People develop a stronger commitment to the team and its objectives and good progress towards the collective goal is often a direct result.

There is often a prolonged overlap between storming and norming because, as new tasks come up, the team may lapse back into behaviour from the storming stage.

Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Performing ….. when hard work leads, without friction, to the achievement of the team’s goal. The structures and processes that have been set up support this well and the individuals understand their role within the team. It feels easy to be part of the team at this stage and people who join or leave do not disrupt performance.

So, what stage of team development do you think your team is at, from the descriptions above? What could do to improve the team’s performance? Or do you prefer to work independently….?

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