Interview Transcript

How do you, as a leader, keep grounded or keep your head, when there is pressure, both from the market, from investors, from the board, in delivering? Whether it’s Boeing versus the A320 or Airbus versus Boeing. How do you really manage that pressure?

In my case, frankly, I’ve always believed in surrounding myself by the strongest possible team. When the pressure is really on, that’s when you really do rely on your team, to produce the goods and to help you through the difficult times. I’m a great believer in teamwork, a great believer in letting people do their jobs and not micromanaging them. When things really get tough, your team really shines. That’s when you can all pull together and, if you have a good sense of teamwork, installed in the team, then you really discover that when things get tough.

It’s easy for anyone to manage a situation which is always very positive. You really see the quality of your people when things get tough and you can still produce results. I take no personal credit for anything that was achieved. Whether it be in the good days or the bad days, I think the important thing is to be supported by a strong team and my job was to create the kind of atmosphere in the working environment, that made people satisfied and gave them the motivation to really pull together and pull the stops out and, if necessary, work all night and all weekend, when the situation required it. I must say, I had a fantastic team in China and I’m very proud of everything that they achieved.

How did you build that team?

When I went there, I must say that one of my biggest concerns was that I was inheriting a team that was already in place and knew what it was doing, whereas I was a new arrival in China. But they welcomed me very warmly, when I arrived and I quickly realized that the people who were already there, before I arrived, were already a pretty good team. My predecessors had done a pretty good job, in a much more difficult market environment. So I was able to start from day one.

Then over the years, as and when we either expanded or needed to replace people, I took a lot of time to make sure we got the right people into the right jobs. That’s something that I’ve always done, as a manager, both in Toulouse and in Beijing. I think HR and the selection of people is one of the most challenging and important parts of a manager’s job. It’s important, therefore, to be supported strongly by a very good HR department, that can present the right kind of people to you and give you some options, so you can select the best possible people for the job.

Building the team is often just identifying who is going to fit in. You may, on paper, have somebody who looks a lot stronger than somebody else, but that doesn’t have the personality or the personal skills, to fit into the team and get themselves accepted. It’s not easy. I don’t think there is any way to describe it in a scientific way. It’s just a question of feeling, of putting together a bunch of people who enjoy what they’re doing and keeping them motivated.

How do you look at character, especially at Airbus, for example, in that type of business, where you’ve got to be operational in the business and delivering on certain milestones, on such a complex product? Are there any certain characteristics that you look for in managers, that would signal to you that they’re execution focused or really the right person for that type of role?

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