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                                       Just Another Lunch…

Good evening dear reader & welcome to my world for another week. I prepare my message today, reflecting on ‘just another’ Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce luncheon I attended yesterday. I frequent these functions for a variety of reasons, which I have covered before & no doubt will do again. Yesterday, we had the privilege of listening to Rob Fyfe, the previous CEO of Air New Zealand.

Rob Fyfe is a man whose career successes are legend. He was the chief executive who turned around the fortunes @ Air New Zealand; now he is one of the driving forces behind Icebreaker, the Kiwi merino clothing success story. Just some of his gems I recall follow.

If you had asked Fyfe early in his working life if he would ever cry on national television, he would have said, categorically, "No". But the ability & willingness to show his emotions grew as his career did. Ask what he achieved being New Zealand's best-respected CEO, Fyfe selects understanding what motivates him & what he is really good at.

At university he studied engineering because he had a real interest in problem-solving. “I seem to be able to quite easily grapple with some challenging & complex issues without a great deal of stress…” As I listened, I found myself reflecting on the serenity prayer: ‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…’

For example, his management style is famously hands-on & personal. He does a lot of verbal & face-to-face. People do not want to hear you espouse a management theory you read in a book. People actually want to know who you really are as a person & what you stand for."

He found early on people did not want the nicely crafted corporate view. He does not believe in mission & vision statements ~ “how many baggage handlers understand them anyway…?” The more honest he was in his emotions, the more effective he was at getting people onside, at getting them to want to achieve.

On the surface his life as a CEO seems charmed. He has, however, faced adversity & from it has come highlights. An example he shared was the Air New Zealand A320 crash at Perpignan in France in 2008. Another I expect would have been, as I recall reading at the time, when he announced the airline's heavy engineering facilities were to be shut down, which put 1000 jobs at risk.

Fyfe has learned no matter how bad the news, how difficult the situation, transparency, honesty & courage in being straight forward & inclusive with employees pays huge dividends. For example, every month he went & spent a full day working around the business in various roles from toilet cleaner to check-in agent, flight attendant to engineering assistant, baggage handler to call centre agent. It was even suggested at home how he can clean a toilet bowl which has been used 350 times by as many people, when he does not do this @ home.

"His goal was to show respect to employees across the business, to learn about the various roles required to make the business work, to share ideas, uncover innovations & improvement opportunities & share the challenges and opportunities facing the business."

Air New Zealand's engineers ended up being some of Fyfe's strongest supporters after the 2008 Perpignan crash. Three of the New Zealanders' who died were engineers. It was, Fyfe believes, the fact that he dealt with the tragedy so honestly & showed that he cared passionately about them that such a strong bond was created.
On reflection I gathered he has learned from experience his career moves were based on the next challenge & to be the best he could possibly be at everything he did. Clearly, the pace of change may have left some “scratching their heads”, but I suspect not for Rob Fyfe, his final comment: “@ 55 he is still to decide what he wants to do when he grows up!”

So, thankQ Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce for an inspirational luncheon speaker & not “just another lunch…” On this occasion, like many, both the personal development & networking one can achieve is truly worth the investment of your time.

Thank you for taking the time to be with me once again & I hope my journey may encourage you also. Until next weekend, this is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes & to you all, a splendid week.

Kenn Butler
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