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The Big Business Interview - In aviation, COVID made change essential

August 19, 2022, 10:43 GMT+1
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  • Resilience and adaptability helped her flight training company through the challenges of the pandemic, says Katie Broadhurst
The Big Business Interview - In aviation, COVID made change essential

How do you set goals?

Our goals are driven by the wider company vision; from there we cascade our company strategy and departmental priorities, before setting individual goals.

But it’s important to note that every goal is shared, as we are one team. This makes us stronger and by collaborating we benefit from wider experience and ideas - and of course, there’s no such thing as a bad idea when brainstorming solutions to goals and challenges.

In fact, we’re so fast paced that sometimes we forget to take a breath and celebrate how far we’ve come. We should, though, as we’ve achieved so much.

How do you motivate staff?

By making sure our team knows we care. We care that they feel safe, enjoy their work and know what is expected of them.

Motivating staff means giving them autonomy to do their jobs and make decisions, knowing they have back-up and support. We also provide them with a modern work environment and facilities, and by offering fresh fruit, biscuits and even pizza sometimes too.

What’s really important when motivating our teams, though, is treating them as individuals and understanding that they have different needs and different personal goals.

We embrace everyone’s individual journey and that’s where we take a lot of pleasure - from seeing our teams thrive and grow, and the positive impact they have on the business and people around them.

What significant changes have you led successfully in your company?

One of the big challenges I faced was how to ensure our students and instructors remained both motivated and safe whilst studying remotely at the outset of the pandemic.

Teaching via video conference requires a unique set of skills and it can make it a great deal harder to monitor students, and ensure they understand the fast-paced and technical content we deliver. 

Likewise for our students, studying remotely and spending a lot of time alone could leave them feeling isolated and without support. So, our task was to put strategies in place to ensure they and the instructors remained engaged.

As a business, we were delighted to see the enthusiasm and dedication they all showed in adapting to their new environments.

How have you learned from any mistakes?

Every day is a learning day, and that’s what enables us to grow, isn’t it? We all make mistakes, be it at work or in our personal lives and in our industry, aviation, resilience is a keyword.

When we get something wrong, resilience is what keeps us strong, and helps us to learn from our experience.

It’s what makes us better, kinder, and stronger as individuals, and as a team. One thing I’m very proud to see in my team is how if one team member makes an error or faces a challenge, they all pull together – it’s what makes us so special.

What challenges have you overcome in your work as a leader?

Where do I start? Personally, some of my challenges have turned into things to celebrate. As a business, we train commercial pilots and when our students graduate, they often have a short period of time where they are waiting for airline recruitment windows.

At this point we often snap them up to fill gaps within our internal teams. This then creates a significant challenge, as it does generate some staff churn. We are delighted when they leave to take up airline roles, but the challenge then exists to fill our vacant posts, often with more graduates.

So, as you see, it’s a short-term problem, but a wonderful one.

Katie Broadhurst is Chief Talent Officer and Board Director at Leading Edge Aviation