Paul Barron

Paul Barron

paulbarron

Paul was previously CEO of NATS, President of ALSTOM UK and MD of Ruston Gas Turbines (now Siemens). He was awarded a CBE in 2000 an in 2013 received the Association of Colleges Gold Award in recognition of his career achievements. Paul is now a management consultant with Human Alchemy.


It was exactly a year ago when I wrote the article “Don’t bet against Trump” and I get no comfort from how it turned out.

After reading last Sunday’s papers and feeling depressed about so many of the articles, I was inspired to open my laptop and reflect on the current state of Brexit.

My kids will tell you that I have lived life with the Mantra of “It is what it is” so get on with it and stop moaning. I then saw a picture of the embattled Prime Minister and thought, in her shoes (lovely as they are) how easy is it to just get on with it.

How does she get up every day and face a new set of seemingly horrendous challenges, negative press articles, cabinet colleagues going on TV or in the press and saying things that will haunt her before the day is through and all for a salary less than one tenth of the average FTSE 250 CEO.

We had a referendum that resulted in a nation almost equally divided on Brexit by numbers, sex, community and faith, so whatever the result, large swathes of people are likely to be upset with any deal.

Having spent the majority of my managerial life in some form of negotiation or another, I know first-hand how hard it is to get a deal both parties are happy with. In fact, there is an old saying that a good deal is one where neither side are entirely happy. Not a concept the press or public will embrace I am sure.

Leading a business or in this case a Cabinet, also has its pitfalls. On the one hand, you want a strong group of self-motivated individuals and on the other, you want them to be a rock-solid team that sings the party song. This would be fine if none of them had ambitions for your job, they could all avoid scandals and were all capable of remembering the words.

Then just to finish this wonderful maelstrom, add a pinch of party rebellion and a parliamentary vote at the end of the process and you have the perfect storm.

Would it be better under Labour? Well it would be different I am sure, but it would no doubt bring other problems and I cannot imagine that Jeremy Corbyn would get any easier ride than Theresa May is experiencing.

So here is my personal plan for surviving this.

We democratically elected the Conservatives to govern us
They democratically elected Theresa May to lead them
She selected her cabinet from elected MPs
We gave her the mandate that is Brexit

In the words of the Dalai Lama:

“If you can do something about a situation, why worry? And if you can’t do something about a situation, why worry?”

So, my plan is to stop worrying, it is what it is!

Paul was previously CEO of NATS, President of ALSTOM UK and MD of Ruston Gas Turbines (now Siemens). He was awarded a CBE in 2000 an in 2013 received the Association of Colleges Gold Award in recognition of his career achievements. Paul is now a management consultant with Human Alchemy.

There’s less than a week to go until America elects its next president. As the Trump/Clinton campaign finally comes to a conclusion, there are a few thoughts that have crossed my mind.

I will begin in an unusual place – the exhibition at the V&A in London, which I visited on Monday, called “You say you want a Revolution, Records and Rebels 1966-70”. It also depicts the American involvement in the Vietnam War, Cuban Missile Crisis with Russia as well as the race to put a man on the moon. Bob Dylan wrote “The times they are a changing” and the Beatles were at their global height, experimenting with drugs, meditation and peace.

I remember as a teenager the absolute explosion of music and the real feeling of change and unrest around the world; none more so than in America where Lyndon Johnson was escalating their involvement in Vietnam, civil rights were boiling over as Muhammad Ali refused the draft and the black power movement were protesting at the 1968 Olympics.

The assassinations of J F Kennedy and Martin Luther King brought America to the boil and Richard Nixon came to power on a ticket of reform and listening to the people.

So fast forward to 2016 and consider what it is like for the average American today. The American dream of independence, booming economy and global power before the financial crisis, has been replaced with eight years of relative austerity, job losses, unemployment, longer working hours, growing debt (35% of all Americans have debt that is more than six months overdue), Islamic State threatening their homeland, immigrants stealing their jobs and Russia flexing its muscles on the world stage.

The violence and unrest that has been present at the Trump rallies is an eruption of this frustration, boiling over in front of a candidate who is stoking the fire with his rhetoric, aimed directly at their fears and prejudices.

Add to this the view that “Washington” has done nothing to support them and “politicians” are generally not to be trusted. Enter Donald Trump.

Americans are looking for someone to stand up for them, make them powerful again and not spout political messages that have no substance.

The Brexit vote was a vote for change, “ordinary people” who finally had a vehicle to express their anger, irrespective of the consequences.

Well Trump is not a politician, he is a celebrity and we know that people are influenced by celebrities. He plans to deport 11 million immigrants, build a wall on the border of Mexico, create the world’s greatest army, wipe out Isis and have America be respected again, “really respected” and no one seems to care how he intends to perform this miracle.

Meanwhile, Hillary, the polar opposite of Trump, is embroiled in scandal and represents the very establishment Trump supporters are opposed to, which is why the vote is so close.

The FBI investigation into Hillary’s emails will not conclude until after the election so we are all watching this supreme farce being played out as deuce point in the final set.

On the wall of the V&A exhibition was the following.

“The change that took place from 1966 to 1970 was that people no longer believed that authorities knew best, they increasingly trusted their own judgment and believed in the possibility of progress”.

Fifty years on, don’t bet against Trump, despite the widely held view he is a dangerous lunatic!

Paul was previously CEO of NATS, President of ALSTOM UK and MD of Ruston Gas Turbines (now Siemens). He was awarded a CBE in 2000 an in 2013 received the Association of Colleges Gold Award in recognition of his career achievements. Paul is now a management consultant with Human Alchemy.

I was in San Francisco when the Brexit vote was announced to a surprised world. Up until then all of the US political news focused on Trump v Clinton, but that soon changed as the financial markets started to react and the American people were being affected by what had previously been low-level interest in what was happening in Europe.

I was surprised but not shocked at the vote. As a management consultant with 40 years experience in leadership, I had sensed a shift in people’s attitudes to life after the financial crisis and a growing sense of unfairness and distrust in political leadership across parties. The referendum was perhaps the first time “ordinary people” felt they had an opportunity to make their voice heard.

Over 17 million people voiced a need for change around immigration, EU migration, jobs, the NHS, European bureaucracy and cost, as well as the feeling of losing our Britishness. Of course, a slightly smaller number of people who voted to stay are now angry at how the fallout from the vote has effected the financial markets, trade deals, exchange rates, uncertainty about investments and jobs and fear of a backlash from the rest of Europe.

We now have an almost equally divided Britain looking for leadership, direction and unification at a time when the political fabric of the country is falling apart.

As a businessman, I have experienced many a time when the company has been under catastrophic threat, from competition, exchange rates, poor products, changing markets or lack of necessary skills. I learnt that at these moments, the place to look was to the future. Creating an exciting vision of how you wanted the company to look and engaging the workforce to help deliver it. It was not a time to look back, other than to learn from your mistakes, it was a time to unify and drive forward together.

The Brexit vote has made it clear what people are unhappy about, so now is a perfect opportunity to create a compelling future around how immigration could be managed, the NHS properly funded, bureaucracy cut, jobs and housing revolutionized, trade deals tackled and the economy stabilised, under a “proud to be British” banner that starts to create a pride in our nation that many feel is now lost. This is not an easy list and some things will suffer as a result, but it is a clear set of priorities the public want to improve and a golden manifesto opportunity.

This requires real leadership from our politicians, not trying to prove the other side is wrong, but making a stand for something that “ordinary people” understand and are happy to support. It requires honesty, authenticity and passion. Our people are not stupid, they understand that running a country is a difficult balancing act and the opposition and press will offer counter arguments at every turn.

However, a leader who can stand above the rhetoric, with a clear vision and plans to deliver it, communicated in a language everyone can understand, will lift us out of this fog and we all know that when we get behind something as a nation, we are unstoppable.

Let us hope one emerges!


— Paul Barron was previously CEO of NATS, President of ALSTOM UK and MD of Ruston Gas Turbines (now Siemens). He was awarded a CBE in 2000 an in 2013 received the Association of Colleges Gold Award in recognition of his career achievements. Paul is now a management consultant with Human Alchemy.

Paul was previously CEO of NATS, President of ALSTOM UK and MD of Ruston Gas Turbines (now Siemens). He was awarded a CBE in 2000 an in 2013 received the Association of Colleges Gold Award in recognition of his career achievements. Paul is now a management consultant with Human Alchemy.