I think Sean Doyle, the CEO Of British Airways, has done a stellar job since taking over the role and that British Airways now offers a very compelling intercontinental product, at least in its premium cabins. But what can we learn from Doyle about what drives success and how we might pursue it?
Career Advice From British Airways CEO
Doyle spoke to The Sunday Times, offering six pieces of career advice that I find quite on-point:
1. Build long-lasting relationships. People do business with people as much as they do with organisations. Invest time in building good relationships with colleagues, customers and stakeholders.
So true. The importance of your network is often critical in climbing the social hierarchy and relationships that may be quite distant can still play a pivotal role in opening doors.
2. Clarity is key. The saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” is spot on. A good culture requires a clearly understood purpose with your people and clarity as to what every colleague needs to do.
Spot on. Ambiguity kills morale because it makes people tiptoe around hoping they are doing the right thing but fearful they are not. Defining roles and expectations clearly is a basis for sound leadership.
3. Embrace change and be agile. Understand that change is constant and businesses need to transform to survive. Not every new idea will work, so fail fast and move on quickly.
This is particularly true in the airline industry, which seems to cycle between feast and famine on a much short time horizon than other industries. But agility is necessary for any business to grow over time.
4. Get out into the business. Engage in conversations with colleagues in all areas and listen to what they have to say. The unvarnished version can be uncomfortable, but you will learn more quickly about issues emerging in your business through informal front-line conversations than through any other feedback.
This is very important and sometimes even micromanagers can surround themselves with a bubble that provides details of the wrong kind. Not every employee has a valid point, but the law of averages tend to apply. Better to understand the mood of the room before walking in than after.
5. You are constantly interviewing for your next role. Don’t get distracted and overthink about your career progression.
Take one day at a time. Many of the grandest opportunities in my life have come unexpectedly.
6. Always beware of the eager to please. The more senior the role, the more often you will hear people tell you what they want you to hear, as opposed to what you need to hear. Having people in your team with good judgment, who are brave to speak honestly about the challenges in your business, is invaluable.
Key point here and perhaps the most important. It is critical that you surround yourself with people who will be candid rather than tell you what you want to here and that also requires you, in whatever role you find yourself, to have thick skin and a certain teachable humility. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything yourself so you must surround yourself with people you trust who respect you enough to tell it like it is.
The British Airways CEO has offered six pieces of career advice that I found helpful enough to reproduce and comment on. I think life tends to fly by and we often get stuck in the status quo and miss out on great potential for career and personal growth by not being aware of those who are eager to please.
In whatever role you find yourself, take stock of your progress today and contemplate Doyle’s tips, which are relevant to just about any occupation.
image: British Airways