An interview with Carolyn McCall

Interview with Carolyn McCall OBE

Discussing the importance of telling the truth in the business and how to make things happen.

What advice would you offer to other business leaders on managing relationships with shareholders?
What I've done with my CFO is to be open and transparent about everything, so there are no surprises for shareholders. We're in touch with them, we have constructive dialogue with them and we listen to them. Most importantly, look for their point of view. It's also about treating all shareholders the same. They all have the right for you to be open with them.

What does bold marketing leadership look like?
Bold marketing leadership means that you're represented at the executive table. It's a bigger role than just advertising. It's about making sure the whole organisation understands the consumer and the customer, it's also about insight and understanding the changing trends of consumers. Marketing leaders need to be vocal - they need to bring the voice of the customer and the voice of consumer to the business. Marketers who stick to the comfort zone of communications are not being bold enough.

What is the most valuable lesson you've learnt about leadership?
People make things happen. Even if you think you've communicated something, you have to do it again and again. You can have the best strategy, but if you don't engage your people to want to deliver it, they won't. Even when you think they've got it, keep communicating.

How do you attract talent?
You need to get the right talent in the first place. Talent attracts talent. We're systematic about it and have a management session at the executive board level where we scan the whole airline and look at questions like... Can we make more general managers? Can we move someone from ops to commercial? We encourage movement within the company, so for example, we've just moved someone great from the legal team into procurement. It's about attracting our own people because you have to have your own talent pool. A strong brand is important. People like working for great brands. Our brand values of being pioneering are in our employee brand too, it's not distinct or separate. Whether we're running ads for pilots or people in our commercial department there is the same distinctive, innovative brand with clear architecture. We also run bespoke talent programmes.

What is your golden rule?
Always be straight, always be honest. And by that, I don't mean it's about speaking your mind, but that you should always be open and honest. People trust you and that trust is all important. If you're not trusted, everything takes so much longer to achieve. If things are tough, be open and honest. If things are good, don't mislead people and say it's bad. If you keep crying wolf, they will stop believing you.

What would you tell your 17-year-old self?
Find something you really like doing. I've always loved my jobs which gives me huge momentum.

Guilty pleasure
Veuve Clicquot.

What are you reading?
The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

Tell us a secret
I have no secrets.

Carolyn will be speaking at our Annual Conference this year on 26 November, themed around resetting the agenda. Head to our Events Gallery to find out more and book tickets.