The Right Stuff

Selection for Airline Industry

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Albert Consulting has served as a consultant to clients such as ERICSSON, GAMBRO, KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET, SAS, SCANIA, STORA ENSO, WALLENIUSREDERIERNA in assessing candidates for different managerial positions and levels from first line managers to CEOs.

IF IT SO HAPPENED that we ran into a porcupine in the woods, we would probably be scared by the animal's sharp spines - especially if it bristled up aggressively. If, by the same token, we were standing face to face with a little piranha, we would hardly be scared at all. With its small size and, to an uninitiated, its lack of outer signs of dangerousness, it might just as well pass for an ordinary, harmless fish.  Now, porcupines, in actual fact, turn out to be pretty harmless creatures. Whereas a shoal of piranhas, as we all know, easily put away a living body in the twinkling of an eye...

Without overstraining the parallel between animals and human beings, it's obvious that animals have an ability to camouflage some of their characteristics to improve their chances of survival. By and large, human life is also a matter of survival: to adapt to the possibilities afforded us in the society we're living in. Some of us are treated generously: life has given us security, warmth, love and frustrations in pretty well balanced proportions. This has made us into, perhaps not unproblematic, but decent, honest, candid and stable people. Others, not to say most people, have had different experiences causing them to develop survival mechanisms and patterns that are no longer adequate considering present realities. We have among us little porcupines who protect their delicate inner life with a spiny exterior, although nothing threatens them any longer. They may seem tough and self-assured, but if you approach them they can't quite cope with the situation. There are also people who behave very modestly and seem insignificant - as far as externals go - but who possess a personal strength that is impressing and in some cases even awe-inspiring.

When we're engaged in recruiting we often meet people who show their interest in a specific job and who really have a professional knowledge and experience. They may also have demonstrated positive personal qualities and made a favourable impression on managers and subordinates. Our reaction in this situation - "that’s it, he's the right man" is a very likely one. But once established in her/his new position the appointee starts creating problems - despite the qualities we observed. His/her image of cooperativeness and diplomacy towards people turns into a conflict-avoiding attitude and incapability to make the necessary decisions. Her/his competence and working capacity was to a great extent built up to strengthen his tottering self-confidence. This functioned in a subordinate position: there was always an authority to apply to, and he also received more praise than criticism. As a manager he couldn't count on that kind of assistance, and the demands and the critical examination he was subjected to made his self-confidence waver. Everyone wondered, of course, what had happened to this skilled, competent and amiable co-worker. The thing is, nothing had happened to her/him. But s/he had got a new job, and the new demands meant that his personality didn't quite fit the bill.

In Selection and Succession Planning, we must keep in mind that it falls on us to see to it that Personal Capacities be assessed in a satisfactory manner, as a supplement to the technical Task Skill assessments. There are plenty of skilled and knowledgeable people in every airline and company: engineers, technicians, economists and legal counsellors. A minority of them also possess the personal qualities required to shoulder managerial responsibility. It's therefore of vital importance that focus is on these personal capacities when potential candidates for managerial positions are to be identified. Albert Consulting has a more than 30 years of identifying all necessary aspects of an effective leader.