When I applied to be part of The Marketing Academy and Reuters decided to follow my progress it was Carolyn McCall who was one of the highlights who featured in the video. It was right at the beginning that I hoped to be one of the ‘chosen ones’ for the Lunch & Learn. The lunch & learns are a special part of the scholarship where a select group of around 8 scholars get chosen to attend a lunch with someone at the top of their game. On this occasion 29th August 2012 it was Carolyn. Initially not on the list, not one to miss an opportunity a last minute cancellation meant I had a few hours to get myself from a meeting in central London to Luton Airport.
We arrived at the easyJet orange hanger at Luton Airport to sit on the Aeroplane seats in reception waiting in anticipation where we were greeted given a brief intro and overview and then given a behind the scenes tour of the Luton and the running of easyJet which felt quite akin to an episode of Airline however not quite as much drama.
It was amazing to see the operation room where flight attendants need to check in an hour before their flights and the clarity and importance of data. Up on the board you can see in green or red if the flights have left on time or not. It is amazing to understand just by sharing this information you go a long way to engaging employees to help them understand what they can do and need to do to make sure the flights are on time and really focuses the mind.
As a frequent easyJet flyer it was really interesting to understand their positioning making flying easier and more affordable. With Carolyn coming from a sales background in Media the challenge was to join easyJet with a view to turn the airline around with customers in mind. As we discussed the challenges of people in organisations and having the right people on board it reminded me of the Jim Collins approach of ‘Having the right people on the bus.’ It was also made clear how important the operational side of the business was who have most contact with the customer and how important it is for the marketing and operations teams to work so closely together. Low fares are simply not enough there is a focus on a friendly service and ultimately if something goes wrong you will be looked after.
What was inspiring about the session was to see Carolyn’s passion and high energy. Her commitment to getting things done, being approachable at the same time tough and firm when needed. Whilst she admitted it is all consuming and she never really switches off she seems to really care which was refreshing. A typical day could often start at 4am, being at the airport with the first shift before the first flight, checking-in with the teams often flying to one of their bases, meeting local politicians, building relationships with all the different stakeholders as well as keeping a balance for time with her family. Constantly on email and accessible she recalls at the beginning challenging honest emails coming through that as things have turned around they’ve now changed and regularly receives positive messages it is a great benchmark to understand very quickly how things are going.
Leaving the orange hanger in Luton I felt honestly humbled to have been given the opportunity to understand a bit more behind the scenes about easyJet as well as getting to experience first hand an inspiring leader who I believe to be an amazing role model for people in business today. I hope one day for our paths to cross again or to have the privilege to work with people like Carolyn who displayed what I think it means to be a great leader today. To have a clear vision, passion, drive and the energy to deliver and inspire. Thank you to Carolyn and her team for their time and allowing us in. Where are you going?