Neil Pickstone
by Neil Pickstone
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It takes a lot to inspire me - some would say even more to make me humble! And as much as my team and I headed to Bullhorn Engage to make friends and influence people, two incredible presentations put paid to these aspirations, and made me sit down and listen.

Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger, the architect of the Miracle on the Hudson was immense. If there is only one thing you take away from Sully’s presentation, it is the paradox of success, outlined as follows.

Success is built on failure

When interviewed about the epic day that Flight 1549 landed on the Hudson River, Sully was quick to point out that: “Everything we know in aviation, every rule in the rule book, every procedure we have, we know because someone somewhere died... We have purchased at great cost, lessons literally bought with blood that we have to preserve as institutional knowledge and pass on to succeeding generations. We cannot have the moral failure of forgetting these lessons and we have to relearn them." 

Essentially, success is built on failure and the ability to not only embrace this failure but also provide an environment where it is celebrated is critical for growing companies. Most business schools will tell you: fail early, fail fast, fail cheap but what they might not stress enough is the need to encourage the sharing of personal and professional failures throughout the company. Make no mistake (or do!) but sharing failures to share learnings is tough to implement, but that is why rivers and planes can be compatible, and why none of the 155 people died that day. It also struck me that this skilled leader was able to recall every second of that potentially fatal day and spent 10 minutes explaining the the first 4 seconds of the flight.

Cherry on top thinking

And this is my brilliant segue to introduce the remarkable Joyce Russell. Purely because this woman knows how to make tough decisions as shared with us in her fireside with Art Papas at . As the powerful leader of one of the biggest corporations in the US, Adecco, Joyce has proved that gender is not a barrier, but more importantly it has espoused Joyce’s philosophy to drive a business environment that truly strikes a balance between strength and kindness. As a result, consideration is central to Adecco’s culture.

Joyce’s ‘cherry on top’ thinking and adoption of Suzy Welch’s 10/10/10 rule as her go-to for making tough decisions allows her and her team to be decisive, thorough and ethical under pressure and at the same time remember how to be thoughtful; to make small gestures that demonstrate great compassion. This is critical in this age of authentic leadership and the need to provide environments that engender life/work integration. It is also just good business, the meaning of which we sometimes forget.0

Needless to say the rest of our time at this great event was spent listening more and absorbing the great knowledge that was so generously shared. Sure, we did make friends and influence people, but the most valuable outcome from this year’s Engage was the lessons we learnt and the impact the learnings will have on Volcanic as we grow our team across the globe.

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