The secret of good management is to trust people to do their jobs and not micro-manage them, the Forum heard.
Robert Yeowart, Chief Financial Officer of Formula 1 team Sportpesa Racing Point, said he liked to give clear goals and then let people get on with their tasks.
“In my previous role at Mercedes, I made mistakes and learnt lessons from that,” he said.
“We hadn’t booked hotels for the grand prix in Monaco and I was getting frustrated with the team. I think there was an element of them waiting for me to tell them what to do because they were used to me giving them tasks.
“We worked through it, but I learnt quickly and changed my approach after that.
“Setting clear goals and trusting people to get on with the work made a big difference.”
John Bevan, Chief Executive of dnata Travel Europe, agreed but said that he also believed in strong leadership.
When he took over at dnata, he brought in heads of their netflights and travelbag businesses, to give them direction.
“All businesses need direction and strong leadership helps create that direction, so one of the first things I did was to re-introduce managing directors into our businesses, so those people had responsibility for everything.
“Leadership isn’t about them doing it on their own but building something with a team.”
In recent years, both admitted the workplace had changed where focus had shifted to the needs of staff, particularly younger members.
“When I first started, I’d be happy to have a job stuck in the corner making tea for a month. I’d have stayed there two months if I’d had too,” said Bevan.
“What I see now is a big difference in expectation, when someone comes in, if the kit doesn’t work or we haven’t quite got enough desks for them and they are asked to hot desk, they’re not happy.
“We had people not staying because they didn’t think the ‘onboarding’ process was smooth enough. We have near full employment in the South-East and if you do not keep them happy, they leave.
“As an employer we have to make the first impression good and not say ‘you’re the new boy, sit over there and make us cups of tea’.”
Yeowart said he saw a great sense of self-worth among young people and they had great energy and ambition.
“It is different, but it’s a generational thing. We have had to change.”
In addition, both also highlighted that they strive to avoid a meetings culture at work.
Yeowart said previous employers often had meetings until 5.30pm, when people had to start their work, which was unfair and bad for morale.
“The interactions now are quite short, you can have a quick chat with people on the phone and comparatively, my diary is pretty clear.”
Bevan said that at his previous employer, a well-known online travel agency, they had too many meetings.
“We regularly had meetings to prepare for meetings and it was just non-stop. For a big board meeting, you might have two or three meetings to prepare for those meetings.
“Where we are now, we still have a lot of meetings, but people are a lot more practical.
“If you can empower your leaders across the business, they can get on and do things and then maybe have quick meetings across the teams.
“Our board meetings are now down to one hour and a half per brand. They used to last a whole day.”
Communication within big organisations that consisted of a lot of brands was an issue.
Beavan noted “email is one of the worst ways of communicating because, depending on your mood, an email can sound different. Face-to-face is ultimately the best.”
dnata is moving into new offices in Preston. Bevan said they would be open plan, with no separate offices and no eating at desks to ensure people get away from their computers and socialise.