GIVEN Claire Silvester works for a global industry-leading provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul services for fixed and rotary wing aircraft operators, it is no real surprise she is a high-flyer.
And while her career may have taken off, Claire has her feet firmly on the ground as she navigates her course as a progressive-thinking HR Director for Vector Aerospace UK
Claire has made it her business to spread her wings and reach out to the people in the company, embracing the culture and making sure HR is a proactive driving force for communication rather than a back-seat onlooker.
She also credits Naked Leader founder David Taylor as an inspiration in her thinking as she and her inspirational team work on ground-breaking projects such as Internal Coaching and Continuous Improvement Programmes.
‘Vector started Internal Coaching two years ago and we now have a band of six coaches,’ explained Claire. ‘While they possess the nuts and bolts of what a coach needs, sending them to events such as those run by Naked Leader (NL) allows them to hone their skills and act as a reminder that there are alternative methods.’
Claire – who describes NL’s Elephant in the Room event as ‘mind-blowing’ – has known David for a decade. Four years ago, Vector Aerospace was looking for a pre-dinner speaker for an off-site event involving 80 managers. The opportunity to work together had suddenly presented itself.
‘My colleague, David Sephton, Information Services Director, said to me, “What about Naked Leader?” We both agreed it would be a perfect fit,’ recalls Claire.
‘David Taylor came along and gave a wonderful talk, just about himself and his philosophy and since then we have worked with him every year.’
Recently, Claire has been working with a ‘great bunch of fired-up, newly-trained leaders in the business’ and has been working with NL to bring some clarity of thought to these individuals and what their new skills mean to them.
‘Having had six months to put their training into place, now is the time to focus in on additional improvements,’ adds Claire. ‘In my experience everyone needs a clear path when doing something different or working on new skills.’
So in a 24-hour exploratory session, hosted by David [Taylor], Vector Aerospace gave its shiny new leaders time and space to explore where the business needed them, allowing them to focus and develop to deliver even more.
The issues were varied. They might include aspects such as ‘blockages’ that needed to be addressed – such as something that might be hurting teams – or exploring how to bridge the gap from where a leader is now to where it is they want to be.
‘The day was a real success from the feedback people have rushed to share, and most have good strong paths for more change and improved performance,’ adds Claire, who believes – rather like an aircraft needing an unobstructed runway – proving yourself is so much easier if your path is clear.
Claire has honed her own dynamic skills to suit her role and complement the company’s needs and offers up three defining points which she believes are required to be a successful HR professional. She is happy to share them here.
- People come to HR for a advice, generally about a complex or evocative issue. Listen to their issues and then – and only then – provide them with a clear plan that covers commercial issues, people impact and their role in all this. It really ensures repeat business. Always have a fail-safe plan for the unexpected up your sleeve as being prepared for the unexpected is the HR ‘wow’ factor.
- Don’t be a passive support department, be an income generator and compare your success to winning new business in dollar terms. Look at how sales teams promote their “wins” and do the same. Ensure your key suppliers come to you with this ethos, so your HR brand is protected, no matter who provides it. Trust fully those in your team that you trust.
- Find the bright lights in your organisation, those people who are breaking new ground or fully engaged. They don’t normally sit around the top table, you have to be out and about to see them and hear the opportunity calling. One of my bright lights said: “I have a conscious choice to make and to use my leadership skills to ultimately be the person I need to be for the business. David made that crystal clear. It’s down to me.” That sort of quote is music to an HRD or MD’s ears.
So, Claire’s philosophy is to get alongside people and work with them, finding out what makes them tick while making her department a central hub for communication and bridge-building.
Her enthusiasm, endeavour and burning ambition to succeed means she makes it her business to feed back to the organisation – to her boss, the union and senior management. ‘It’s not about policy and procedure, it’s about HR being a link between people so we can break down barriers,’ she concludes.
Adopting an eclectic approach and finding an equitable balance between people and procedure to ensure the smooth running of a company may not be all plane sailing. But with Claire Silvester on board, Vector appears to have landed on its feet.