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Really good people need a really good understanding

I interviewed Barbara Cassani, the founding Chief Executive of Go Fly, the low-cost airline spun out of British Airways in the late 1990s and later sold to another low-cost airline, easyJet, in 2002.

Talking of the days when she was building Go Fly, she said:

‘Everyone told us what we were trying to do was unachievable. It was a pipe dream. So how did we do it? How did we beat the odds? I believe that this was because we gave really good people a really good understanding of what they needed to do in order to make this crazy idea a success. There was just so much power in that clarity of vision. Everyone – from pilots to receptionists – could see and feel and taste success.

I found it was so important to involve and talk with every single person in the company on the journey. I believed that everyone, whether it was the receptionist or my most senior colleague who ran operations, every single one of us was important to the success of the airline.’

Damon Buffini is one of the best-known figures in the world of private equity. He was chairman of Permira, one of Europe’s largest and best known buyout firms, until 2010, when he stepped down to focus on deals. He has years of experience in appointing leadership teams to build Permira’s investments into better businesses. He, like Barbara, says that great communication depends on the clarity of your vision framework.

‘I often think that poor communication is the result of not being clear about the direction you want to go in, or the goals you are setting. People will forgive poor communication technique if they are able to get a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and how they fit into it. You have to explain to your team with crystal clarity where you’re going, what they need to do and why it’s a good thing for them and the people they serve.

That means you have to be incredibly clear in your own mind as to what it is you want to achieve, over what period of time and what actions are needed to get there. You have to be explicit about what you expect from the people who are going to deliver those actions. You must take the time to articulate your vision and share it widely. Thereafter, leadership is all about being able to inspire people in the different ways they need to be inspired.’

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