<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
12 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Surrey Life today click here

10 top business tips from former Red Arrows pilot, Justin Hughes

PUBLISHED: 21:49 21 February 2017 | UPDATED: 21:49 21 February 2017

Justin Hughes is an expert in organising businesses effectively

Justin Hughes is an expert in organising businesses effectively


Former UK Royal Air Force military fighter and executive officer of the Red Arrows, Richmond-based Justin Hughes knows a thing or two about building a formidable team. Here he reveals his top tips

A shot from Justin's days with the Red Arrows A shot from Justin's days with the Red Arrows

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2017


1. Focus on skills AND attitude. High-performance teams do not prioritise skills OR attitude. Both are non-negotiable. Best-in-class skills are a binary entry requirement but also, to quote a rather unusual HR policy: ‘no brilliant jerks!’ In the Red Arrows selection process, passing the flying test is mandatory, but the point of difference is people who put the team first.

2. Transform values into action. Enron had values. All the banks who got the multi-million pound fines have values. The point of team or corporate values is not the words, but what they look like as observable behaviours. Senior people must consistently role model them and non-compliance must have consequences.

3. Set clear direction. It is a common feature of most, if not all, high performance environments that everybody understands, in clear simple terms, what success looks like. In large organisations, in particular, make sure people really know WHAT they are trying to achieve and WHY. You want efficiency and effectiveness, but they are sometimes very different. Efficiency is an internal measure of ‘how’. It is irrelevant if it precludes delivering the external effect, the ‘what’.

4. Make outcomes more important than compliance or activity. That is not to dismiss compliance. However, you will inevitably get what you reward. If the ‘measure’ is activity, effort or a key performance indicator, then that is what you will get, irrespective of the final outcome. Don’t confuse means with ends.

5. Set people free. High-performance is a choice, not something you can mandate. For complex tasks, it is impossible to micro-manage them. Agree what, why and when by, and delegate ownership of how.

6. Plan for success. And then understand that no plan survives first contact with the customer/environment/competitor. To quote Eisenhower: ‘…plans are useless but planning is indispensable.’ It’s the thought and effort that you put into planning which is the important thing. It will never work out like you planned. What’s plan B?

7. Communicate the plan clearly (and the contingencies!). Planning is a team game. Briefing the plan back is a leader game. At some point, the discussion, brainstorming and constructive challenge have to stop and the team needs to align behind a single course of action.

8. Set clear priorities for execution. Keep it simple! The more complex your environment is, the simpler the priorities need to be. Things become confusing in the fog, which occurs when plans collide with the real world. What’s the ball you can’t afford to drop?

9. Fail fast and fix. The ability to learn fast, and apply that learning equally quickly, is the single biggest driver of performance in the most successful teams and organisations. The key is a no-blame culture of learning, but do not confuse no-blame with no-accountability. Someone needs to be responsible for fixing.

10. Give up the illusion of control. The long-term solution to most performance issues is cultural. Build it and they will come. Success breeds success.


Justin Hughes is the founder and managing director of Mission Excellence, a consultancy that specialises in accelerating organisational effectiveness. He is the author of The Business of Excellence, published by Bloomsbury.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Surrey visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Surrey staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Surrey account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tue, 23:55

With a decade of gardening journalism and a host of award-winning landscape designs to his name, Dan Pearson’s latest book is chock-full of insights gained from a successful career at the forefront of global horticulture, which began at the sprawling RHS Garden Wisley

Read more
Tue, 23:13

The passing away of well¬known Surrey resident Mary Wondrausch OBE, on Boxing Day last year, created a high demand from those wishing to own a piece of her work. The exhibition of her work at The Watts Gallery in February, subsequently sold out very quickly

Read more

Fed up of awkward intros, bad coffee and pinstripes, Guildford-based founders of she.space, Liana Wilson-Frickers and Sorcha Egan, are turning business on its head with a new breed of networking for women

Read more

In the first of a new series where we’ll discover what inspires Surrey’s top chefs, we meet Douglas Balish, head chef at the Michelin starred The Tudor Room restaurant at Great Fosters, in Egham

Read more
Thursday, May 18, 2017

Simon Lewis reflects on recent investment returns and looks forward to the future with increasing confidence.

Read more
Thursday, May 18, 2017

Connecting farms, businesses and people in Surrey through technology will create new opportunities for our countryside

Read more
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Surrey Life’s brand new columnist, best-selling author Adele Parks, convinces a frazzled friend and twins to accompany her on a trip to Bocketts Farm near Leatherhead

Read more
Friday, May 12, 2017

As chief executive of The Children’s Trust, a charity providing specialist rehabilitation to children with brain injury, Dalton Leong makes the most of his time away from the office, relaxing in the Surrey countryside

Read more
Thursday, May 11, 2017

With a new series of Britain’s Got Talent having just hit the nation’s TV screens, last year’s winner, magician Richard Jones, is heading to Guildford to show off the power of our imaginations

Read more
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Self-confessed stationery addicts, Trudi Savin and Sophie Morton, combined their love of block printing with a passion for pattern to create Yateley Papers. Janet Donin meets Trudi in their Reigate studio

Read more
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

BBC Surrey Breakfast host, James Cannon, discovers what people really think he looks and gets behind a right royal hospital campaign

Read more
Tuesday, May 9, 2017

In this month’s column, best-selling author, Miriam Wakerley, focuses on Ripley and its famous farmers’ market

Read more
Friday, May 5, 2017

With the testosterone-charged antics of The Grand Tour and Top Gear, it can be all too easy to forget that motorsports aren’t the preserve of motoring mad men. This year, female fans of The Supercar Event, which raises money for The Children’s Trust, are putting their feet down...

Read more
Friday, May 5, 2017

Author Adele Parks moved to Guildford from London 12 years ago to replicate her idyllic, chaotic, home-spun childhood on Teesside. She’s written 16 books in 16 years; sold 3m copies and is published in 26 countries. Her books – including The State We’re In and The Other Woman’s Shoes – have been borrowed more than 1.5m times from Britain’s public libraries - which delights Adele, since she spent a large proportion of her early years in them

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Surrey Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Surrey's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search