Everyone on board— Auckland


Air New Zealand’s laid-back chief executive isn’t bothered about business speak and motivational babble. His is a hands-on, direct approach. And that means being able to communicate with everyone from the hallowed customer to company check-in staff.

ANZ, Air New Zealand, Airplanes, Rob Fyfe

Straight-talking Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe doesn’t do management speak. Ask him a question and he might tell you a story about his daughter, or tell you about Butch, the cleaner who showed him how the soap holders were too low. Chumminess has long been part of his appeal as CEO. “You can talkto people about vision and mission and values and stuff,” he says, “but you go and have that conversation with a baggage handler on the flight line and they will just completely tune out.”

Fyfe has been responsible for the turnaround of a company…

The rules

01: What time do you like to be at your desk?
I don’t like being at my desk. With iPhone and iPad, I can be accessible from anywhere in the world. If I’m in Auckland [two days a week], I normally get my first batch of emails done during the warming up before my spin class starts at 06.00. I’m normally in the office by 07.30.

02: Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership, an MBA school or on the job?
If you have the right attitude and personality you can learn everything you need to know on the job.

03: Describe your management style
Business is simply about people and relationships – my style is centred around open, honest communication and being very accessible to both customers and employees.

04: Are tough decisions best taken by one person?
Ultimately business is not a democracy. But we discuss the hard issues openly.

05: Do you want to be liked or respected? Neither. I want to be recognised as being honest and as having integrity.

06: What does your support team look like?
My support team is 11,500 Air New Zealanders. I can find myself calling on any one of them.

07: What technology do you carry on a trip?
iPhone, iPad, Bose headphones for the aircraft – and a Jambox Bluetooth speaker. I always work with music on.

08: Do you read management books?
I haven’t read a management book since I left university and probably didn’t read as many as I was supposed to when I was there.

09: Run in the morning? Wine with lunch? Socialise with your team after work?
I try and get to the gym six times a week. I socialise whenever I can with Air New Zealand employees – it helps me get an understanding of the company.

10 : What would your key management advice be?
Be accessible, don’t over-complicate life and don’t shy away from tough decisions.


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