easyJet’s McCall shows actions speak louder than words

Screen Shot 2012-06-15 at 09.12.33An interview with easyJet's CEO Carolyn McCall in Marketing suggests she is a leader who leads by example, showing that actions do indeed speak louder than words. And this leadership has delivered good growth for the company,

When Carolyn joined easyJet in 2010 the airline was going through, sorry, turbulent times indeed. Average punctuality rate was a puny 51.3%, pissing off passengers, but also cabin crew and pilots. As the article says, "The airline was known for its larger-than-life founder Sir Stelios, but, more than that, for its unreliability." Last month on-time performance was a record 94.2%, and 79% for the full 2011 financial year, with profits for the year up 16%.

1. Focus first on sausage, not sizzle

When a brand is in trouble, the best place to start is usually with the product "sausage", not trying to add emotional "sizzle". This is especially the case of a service business like easyJet, where getting the basics right is crucial. For McCall this meant really understanding what the pilots and cabin crew needed to get punctuality back up. "When I started, I had so many negative emails from pilots and cabin crew, all saying 'this is wrong, that is wrong, no one listens to us'. It was a constant barrage,' recalls McCall in the interview. Her dedication to the cause meant going through her over-flowing inbox at night.

But eventually things turned a corner, as she explains: "It was Easter 2011 and I was on the first day of a holiday. I saw an email from a pilot and groaned". But this time the message was from a pilot thanking her for his stable roster, which meant he could spend Easter with his family for the first time in five years.

2. Lead by example

 A comedian doesn't try and convince you he's funny, he tells you a joke. And in the same way, brand leaders should spend less time telling people about the brand vision and focus on actions than demonstrate the strategy.

In McCall's case, this means not telling cabin crew about delivering good service, but rather delivering service herself. During the interview with Marketing, which took place on an easyJet plane, "She walked up and down the aisle with a bin bag, collecting passengers' rubbish." According to the interview, "It is a task that she carries out every time she flies on one of her planes."

3. Launch hero extensions

McCall has also used innovation to help improve performance and demonstrate that change is happening. Again, this is far more effective than just relying on communication. Innovation includes "speedy boarding", where you can pay to get on the plane first, a service that has driven extra revenue. The company is even trialling allocated seating, so you can avoid the fight for a seat altogether.

In conclusion, Carloyn McCall shows that brand leadership is not about asking people in the company to "live the brand". Its about you personally demonstrating the right behaviours and leading by example. People may doubt what you say. But they will believe what you do.