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4D Leadership

4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development

Twenty years ago the accumulation of skills, knowledge and experience (‘horizontal development’) was sufficient for business success. Today, it’s not. 4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development, offers a new approach of ‘vertical development’.

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Stretched thinking

Carolyn McCall, CEO FTSE 100

When I joined easyJet in July 2010, one of the things that stood me in good stead was that I’d come from running a media group (Guardian Media Group with newspapers and digital, radio, regional papers and magazines) where there was lots of complexity in terms of relationships.

I created an executive leadership team forum almost as soon as I arrived, where the top 50 leaders in easyJet meet every month so we can debate, discuss and shape the strategy before it goes to the plc board and also it is where we discuss the key issues we face.

After establishing that forum, we then created a very effective management conference twice a year with around 150 people in easyJet. They are our leaders that have the most to do with managing our people. We’ve done that for two years now. They really buy in because they feel they’ve been involved in all the key areas. They are very motivated by the strategy and our cause, which Alan helped us develop. Our cause is to make travel easy and affordable.

I spend lots of time in the bases. We have 23 bases across Europe where we base aircraft and people. In the beginning, I went out and spoke to people around the airline, particularly the crew and found out what was wrong. There were loads of issues and problems, but we are now turning things around. For the first six months I was here, I didn’t get a single positive customer email – it was all complaints. Now I get 10 positive emails to one negative. Our head of ground ops has a board where she puts up all the positive customer feedback. It’s her greatest aim to catch up with the cabin crew in terms of the number of compliments.

I continue to get out into the business. I talk to lots of customers and I fly the network all the time. I work on the plane and listen to the crew. I really enjoy working with the teams – I will floor walk, go on the ramp. It means I can really understand how they work.

Our staff like to be able share their views and I want to listen. A big shift that I wanted to make is that I want our people to be open and to tell me the good and bad. I want them to challenge us. If there is a complaint about something, I will always reply.  By being out around the business as much as I am, they see my face, we chat informally and I answer questions. They can see that I’m a human being, that I really care. I think the majority of our people would say that I really mean what I say and work hard to deliver what I promise.

I also started up a weekly call in the second month I was here. When I go to a base, I only ever see about 10 per cent of the people who work there; many are either up in the air or on rest days. I wondered how I could connect with those people I wasn’t seeing.  So I record a call every week, wherever I am – even if I’m on holiday. We also put a transcript of the call on our intranet and people can access the call on any device. I talk about the things that are important in my week, about where we’re at with punctuality, whether we’ve won an award. I also talk about some of the problems we’re facing and I ask if they have a view to let me know. The whole point of the call for me was letting everyone know what was going on at the airline at the big picture level, but also to enable people to hear my voice and be comfortable about interacting with me.

In terms of the wider culture, a lot of people are shifting, but openness comes with time. Cultural change is very difficult to achieve. We’ve made really good progress, but it takes a long time to rebuild trust with people, you just have to keep going.

Alan is very intuitive about people. I like to be able to discuss the team and the team dynamics with him. He’s a great facilitator. He’s a bold facilitator. He can facilitate some very knotty discussions. He helps a lot in that way. Alan brings strength and objectivity. He helps us get to an end and is quite challenging, but we always come up with an outcome at the end. That’s very useful.