Greg Dyke: The language of cost and profit doesn't work with creative people

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The Independent Online

I think by common consent people agree we did change the culture of the BBC. I left too early, not of my choice you'll understand, but too early to be sure that the changes are deeply embedded, but it did change. In two short years we convinced most of our staff that we really wanted change, that we wanted to empower them, that we wanted to be better leaders ourselves and that we wanted everyone working for the BBC to have more rewarding and more fulfilling working lives. Most of all I hope we persuaded them that we cared.

My view is that to make creative industries work you clearly have to have the right strategy but you then have to have your people on side, and leading clever and creative people takes a particular skill.

Most people working in creative businesses are not there, first and foremost, for the money. They are there because they care about what they are doing, and as the leader they expect you to care too. So there's no point only talking about money, or how to increase the profit, or how to cut costs, as so many finance people do when they get the CEO's job. ITV is in the state it is today because over a decade some of the staff cqme to believe that the CEO, Charles Allen, only cared about money.

The BBC was in the state it was in when I first arrived because staff believed that my predecessor, John Birt, only cared about money and efficiency. The BBC's published aim at that time was "to be the most effective, best-run public sector organisation in Britain". Worthy, but who was going to get out of bed for that? So we changed it to "Our aim is to be the most creative organisation in the world".

No, I truly believe that as the leader the way to make creative companies effective and profitable is to convince the staff that you are as passionate about what they are creating as they are. So at the BBC I kept saying "It's the programmes, stupid," and in the end they believed me. If all you talk about is the bottom line or new efficiency programmes in gobbledegook language, you won't succeed. If you've got the right strategy and you can convince your staff that you care about them and what they are producing, you've got a chance.

Greg Dyke, former director general of the BBC, was speaking at a course for the creative industries at Ashridge Business School organised by the Cultural Leadership Programme.