How do you go from air traffic control to professional services? Ronnie Corbett tells us about his journey to Grant Thornton.
After 20 years as an air traffic controller, I was ready for a change. What really pushed me over the line to start looking was the arrival of my son, Jamie.
Air traffic controllers typically work shifts their entire career, which takes its toll and is a stress on family life. A big part of my job was incident investigation and I had a real passion for getting to the bottom of why something had happened.
I felt I could add something unique to the firm. When I spotted the role at Grant Thornton, I saw similarities with what I had done before, and I felt I could add something different to the firm.
Importantly, I was met with open mindedness regarding my unusual background. I knew success in my new role would depend on a culture that was open to new ideas.
The use of Teams for meetings has been much better than I expected. It works. Before joining the firm, not meeting people face to face was something I perceived as a challenge. As I discovered, it was nothing to worry about, perhaps because the firm is now so accustomed to meeting online.
"I was met with open mindedness regarding my unusual background. I knew success in my new role would depend on a culture that was open to new ideas."
Centred around people
Grant Thornton feels like it’s a firm centred around its people. What struck me the most is the strong sense of culture and values. I had a similar sense when I was in the RAF. The firm’s wellbeing days, for example, speak to the fact that people here are valued.
There is no training manual for someone with my background joining the firm. While the learning is a challenge, the bigger question is how to take what I’ve learnt from aviation – whether it be incident investigation, ‘just culture’ or human factors – and apply it in a way that works for Grant Thornton.
It will be the abundance of knowledge and experience of the people within the firm that can help me figure this out. In my view, it feels like anything is achievable at Grant Thornton. There's a sense of collaboration, and greater accessibility across the hierarchy than what I have experienced before.
"In my view, it feels like anything is achievable at Grant Thornton. There's a sense of collaboration, and greater accessibility across the hierarchy than what I have experienced before."
A just culture
I come from a working environment that has a ‘just culture’. This means recognising that as humans, we are all fallible and that errors occur frequently. These errors are viewed as an opportunity to learn and prevent future adverse events, and so the culture enables people to feel safe sharing in their errors, omissions and near misses.
I strongly believe that a ‘just culture’ shouldn’t be reserved for only safety critical industries where others could benefit, such as our firm. I’d feel successful if I played a role in embedding some of that culture into Grant Thornton.
By turning up to root cause interviews with the right mindset, you can help us find solutions to problems and improve quality. It never feels nice being interviewed and potentially asked some challenging questions, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to arrive with the right mindset.
We’re not looking to apportion blame to individuals, our focus is on wider systemic issues. The interview provides us with crucial information, from which we establish root causes and try to find solutions. It's also your opportunity to make a positive contribution towards improving quality. On value – we are aiming to prevent reoccurrence of problems, the benefits of which should be felt across the firm.
Be more Bernard
My proudest moment is when my wife Sarah gave birth to Jamie in our lounge at home. I can remember it as if it were yesterday; she was incredible. A distant second to that would be my time in Iraq. I feel great pride for my work there. I’ve never felt so continually stretched and uncertain about what might happen next, it was a truly unique experience.
I’m inquisitive, enjoy solving problems and love meeting new people, so I’m lucky that working in root cause analysis requires all of these things!
When Sarah and I went sailing in Croatia, we met a German man named Bernard, who was with his family on the same yacht as us. He had competed in the Olympic games in kayaking and had become a prominent businessman. He never stopped laughing and fooling around, he had time for everybody and seemed ever present in the moment.
We now have a saying - ‘be more Bernard’.
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