It Begins With People

What revolutionary move can ensure your organization connects with the next generation?


Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of Apple Retail and former CEO of Burberry, explains that she considers herself in "the human business." She talks about the importance of trusting and focusing on the people on your team and in your organization. When we focus on getting the right people in the right place at the right time, and building relationships, we win.

"I always say that we're in the human business," Angela comments, "and it's our job as leaders to put the right people in the right place, at the right time."

Watch this video to learn how identifying talented people is just the first step in building a successful organization.

Angela: You know, with me, and I hope with all of you, as a leader, I always say that it begins with people. I always say that we're in the human business, and it's our job as leaders to put the right people in the right place, at the right time. I mean, I often tell my team that it's like playing a chess game, and if we do that, we win.

One of the first big choices that I made when I started with the company, it was actually a big reason why I joined the company, is my partner, Christopher Bailey the Chief Creative Officer of the company, he didn't have that title when we started, but he was one of the most brilliant brand visionaries. We had worked together before, and I trusted his values. I trusted his vision. He became the chief creative officer shortly after I joined the company and we said, "Anything the consumer sees would go through him." And we knew in this digital age that there is one internet, there had to be one pure laser point of view, and that was a big bold move. He never had been in that position before, but because I trusted him, with trust, I knew together we could do this. But equally important, was the chief technology officer, because John was sitting, I said," John you're sitting at the back of the bus and if we're going to transform the company, I need you to move to the front of the bus. I need us to use technology as our greatest differentiator and I need you to drive the bus with Christopher so that we can do these amazing things." And again, John shared the same values, the same vision, so we all trusted each other. And it might sound like an unconventional relationship, or an unconventional way of doing things, but I will tell you, that's how the entire senior team works. That's how we build the culture at Burberry. Not just at the senior level. These relationships permeate throughout the entire company.

The runway show, which the Wizard of Oz in the back of the room is probably putting up here now, this was an event, in London that took place twice a year, and it was very exclusive event. A thousand people could come, that was it. Because of the way the John and Christopher and their teams now work together, these shows are streamed with a couple hundred media partners all over the world. We stream them live in 3D. This innovative team came up with a tweet walk in partnership with Twitter. And so we've also, they've done the most amazing things, so we've also put governing councils in place and we created a new council.

And again, we're a big public company, so I'm not talking to you just about fluffy, soft things. But we put a governing council in place called the "Strategic Innovation Council" that Christopher chairs. And he unites every month for one day, has an offsite, with the youngest most innovative thinkers in the company. And the remit of that council is just to dream. And then we take the more middle-aged executive council and we've told them that they're new remit is to execute it. Use all of their functional expertise to execute that vision. So we've actually flipped the traditional hierarchy in the company, and given a voice to the next generation.

John: Oh my goodness. Angela: But you can't do that without trust. And that has been how we've built this amazing culture at Burberry. John: Angela this is amazing, I want to make sure that all the sites on the leadercast caught what you just said. You basically put the leadership creative role in the hands of the young people, and then looked at people who would be older, our age, and said, "Look, now you've had experience, you've got a lot of wisdom, you're going to guide them. But they're going to create, and you're going to support them." You just absolutely flipped the role. Where you usually think of the younger people doing the support for the older people, we older people be the support of the younger people, which just absolutely ensures that for the next generation of Burberry, you're connecting with that generation.

Now, if I were you taking notes, before we go on, I would be taking notes on that because I think she's really helping us. She's really helped me. When I saw this interview and when I went through that, it really spoke to me. "John, you're getting old." That wasn't the time to laugh. No. "John you're getting old, and so you've got to make sure that you've pushed down the decisions, the creativity, to the next generation."


Angela Ahrendts

Angela Ahrendts is the senior vice president for Apple Retail, a global leader in consumer electronics, who she joined after being the chief executive officer of Burberry, the global luxury company distinguished by its 155-year Britis...

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