Over my years working within the aviation industry, I’ve had the pleasure in meeting some interesting people. In our series of interviews, we wanted to talk to people who have great careers and fascinating stories to tell. Scott Bateman MBE (known as Scottie to most of his many followers on social media!) is one of those characters and I’m pleased to say he gave me a little of his time…
Scottie has one of those careers that only very few people can to say they’ve been successful at every step – he puts his ability to be agile in business as a key factor for success.
His CV is a fascinating read; RAF pilot, NHS, the police, founding a charity, delivering complex community emergency health provision, creating a MOD response to a national crisis, an airline pilot (B747 and now the latest Airbus A350, for those aviation geeks out there), an entrepreneur, a risk management expert – with a special interest in unmanned aircraft (drones – and film producer. I wanted to find out how such a varied background impacts on Scottie’s business outlook and drill down on what advice he would give to a senior corporate executive — particularly when it comes to how experiences of different cultures, motivations and business strategies can benefit the corporate world.
Scottie told me that when working within the Police, he saw how the Force moved senior officers into corporate secondments to learn from different environments; ones that are driven on profit. What can executives learn from a placement in the opposite direction?
Scottie said: “Taking senior leaders out of the public sector and placing them within a corporate industry provides individuals with the ability to look outside – to reflect and see where rigid structure is beneficial, and where a more autonomous employee can deliver for a business. More and more of the corporate entities that I consult with are doing this to see what they’re missing, or to enable their leaders to problem solve and see the business world from a different perspective.”
Being agile in business is essential
Generally people with Scottie’s background – military and/or the public sector, such as the police – tend to stay in the same or similar organisations for their working career and typically find it hard to transcend to another sector. Within the corporate world, people move about more frequently. Scottie believes one of the vital skills people need to do this successfully is agility.
“A person’s ability to be agile is in line with a person’s success when moving from one company to another. Your ability to be a chameleon and swiftly adapt to and match a new culture, will determine your success. And to do this you must have self-awareness and methodologies to become that chameleon.
“Leaders need to be able to shift to meet the marketplace – you can’t take something that might work within the military sphere and expect it to gel within the corporate world, but there are things that can work and offer learnings. Adaptability and problem solving is definitely a key learnt strength within the military and aviation. To be able to use those skills in the corporate world is also vital – not only for seeing changes within the corporate or consumer markets, but to actually solve issues and crises successfully when they occur.”
But, as we know in executive search, cultural fit is paramount. Scottie can’t stress enough how important it is to be sensitive and adaptable to a company’s culture. He believes if you get this wrong when coming in as a leader in a new role or career change, it’s a complicated task to try and win back the trust and respect of employees you may have just started leading.
So, what else can we learn from Scottie’s extensive career? Well the answer is, a lot. Scottie’s career began in the military and what he quickly realised is that the training and skills you get in the RAF, in particular as a pilot, provide an acute ability to assess risk.
Scottie explained a helpful strategy to deliver organisational change within a business from something that is used heavily in aviation, it also allows leaders to adapt styles to the situation they find themselves in and reduce or omit risk and issues. It goes like this:
N – Notice. This sounds obvious, but you must ‘notice’ the issues that are primarily impacting the business whether these be internal or external. You’d be amazed how many businesses are blind to certain risks until too late. Without capturing these you cannot start to Understand the key challenges and move forward.
U – Understand. Being able to understand the needs and culture of an organisation to allow you to Think Ahead. This is split into 3 areas:
– Infrastructure (in Scottie’s case a plane) – what do we have and how can we use it?
– Path (strategic plan) – what are our strategic goals and how can we translate those into a Path follow
– People (culture) – understand the organisational culture and use that to promote your “Path”.
TA – Think Ahead. Adapting your style to any workplace culture needs thorough planning and this is especially true when being a change agent within the organisation. Thinking Ahead, planning through project life, allows you to embrace small incremental changes that when you look over the horizon lead to significant cultural and organisation change.
Like with many entrepreneurs, Scottie has one key piece of advice (interestingly, our series of interviews is highlighting this point) that failure is not always a bad thing. There are so many opportunities to learn from a mistake and or project that hasn’t worked, and they should be used to improve, grow resilience and develop skills. In Scottie’s iteration as a film producer, production ideas are often thrown out – but each piece of feedback provides invaluable information to learn from.
This comes from the man who interviewed Donald Trump on board Air Force One for his first ever production idea – watch the programme here on National Geographic TV. But, as he clarifies quickly, he’s had many ideas since then that haven’t come to fruition!
I was also very impressed with how quickly Scottie jumped into action to support pilots up and down the country with a charity he set up to offer grants for those who’ve lost their jobs. We all know how difficult it’s been for the aviation industry – Scottie has put his training and skills into action and thought how he can offer real help, right now for those who’ve lost their jobs. I would implore those interested in the aviation industry to take a look – Pilots Together – and support it where you can.
Being positive is something we should strive for, no matter what sector we’re in. Our world has changed forever, and Scottie’s parting advice is to all consider how we interact with each other, over video or face-to-face; being positive and smiling makes a huge difference to people. Negative cultures and bad manners are pervasive – it’s so important to be positive, professional and consider your body language and attitude when meeting with people, especially now as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and try to deal with the social and economic harms that have been caused as a result.