A business guru famed for turning around failing companies has urged the UK to ditch the patronising management style from the 1950s and instead embrace the next generation of managers.
Having been charged with transforming the fortunes of Disneyland Paris before being brought in to rescue the Dome, PY Gerbeau knows a thing or two about getting the best out of people, but also knows where the UK falls short.
The chief executive of X-Leisure joined HR directors and managers of leading firms at the Institute of Directors’ headquarters in Pall Mall, London, hosted by Acua Limited, to debate how organisations can be innovative during uncertain times to succeed and survive, and stressed the importance the youth of today can play.
“There is certainly a bit of a generation clash, and the question is how are people going to involve the new generation?” said Gerbeau.
“There is certainly a DNA issue around education and people are expected to be developed in a sort of way which translates into very stiff management. This is typically a very British thing, although on the other hand Britain does have formidable capital in this next generation of leaders.”
And the business commentator has a word of warning for organisations which believe they are already in a strong position and understand its people.
“The moment you think you’re good, the moment you think you’ve got it – you are dead,” said Gerbeau.
“So as soon as you think you have the answer, as the Americans say ‘wake up and smell the coffee’. Take for instance one of the most dramatic publicity stunts, which is relating management to The Apprentice. No offence to Mr Sugar, who actually doesn’t behave like a pig when he is running his businesses very well, but it is that kind of patronising leadership from the 1950s which is unfortunately seen in a lot of businesses today.
“The key is discovering how to understand the psyche of the next generation, because the next generation does not inspire to be led like we were – leadership and management issues are a completely different kettle of fish today.
“It is about listening to your team and not becoming a conductor and trusting your people. Most organisations are pushing people not to be proper leaders, and it is about changing that perception.”
Gerbeau is, however, encouraged by moves made by companies such as Acua Limited, which is a growing organisational development company providing a range of part government funding tailored management and leadership solutions.
He said: “There is certainly a real place for companies like Acua. I think it is reassuring the Government has now started to realise there is a problem that needs addressing, as people need help.
“If you are head down and trying to survive the people management issues become a bit more secondary because you just want to make sure you can pay salaries and stay in business, so what companies like Acua is doing is perfect with impeccable timing.”