This article was originally published in Loganair’s FlightLOG magazine, December 2018.

She’s also the financial writer and TV personality ‘Mrs Moneypenny’, and, just for fun, she has a private pilot’s license! 

We are delighted to have her combine her passions for business and flying in FlightLOG.

When Rona Fairhead, the Minister of State at the Department for International Trade, requalified as a pilot last year, she will have been amazed by how little has changed in the cockpit since she first learned to fly a couple of decades ago. Sure, navigation can now be done on your phone, and there is no longer the need to get out a slide rule to calculate the wind effect on your planned journey, but the technology in the cockpit is essentially the same as it was then, and even for years before.

Take the altimeter, for instance, the instrument that displays how high you are. It might be on a digital display these days, but the technology behind it has not changed. An aeroplane’s height is calculated by measuring the air pressure outside and comparing it to – and this bit is crucial – the air pressure on the ground beneath you. Pressure falls uniformly with height, so just knowing the two measurements will – hey presto! – tell you how high you are.

The air pressure outside is measured by a little device on the outside of the aircraft as it is going along. The measurement on the ground changes as you fly along and is updated via radio, so you can type it in.

I am sure you will agree that knowing how high you are is a pretty key piece of information when you are flying a plane, and so all this measurement is crucial if you are not going to fly into the side of a mountain. I am a great believer in measuring the things that matter, in business as in an aeroplane. If you say that certain things matter, but don’t measure them, then don’t be surprised if other people don’t put the same emphasis on those things that you do.

Take teamwork, for instance. If you say you value teamwork, do you measure it for the purpose of staff performance reviews? In my executive search business, that I ran for 16 years before coming to Heriot-Watt, I used to ask staff to list all the roles they had worked on during the year, and then list who had supported them in that work. If they claimed to have worked alone, even on a single project, I would explain that was not desired behaviour. Equally, I asked people to list all the colleagues they had supported during the year and cross-referenced that with the first list. Failure to help others, or allow others to help and support you, was penalised in bonus allocations.

Measuring the incidence of teamwork is crucial – just as crucial as measuring the height of a plane - if that is the behaviour you value and seek. Remember – measuring the things you value is critical, if you don’t want to end up only valuing the things that you measure.
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