Every day during the Christmas holidays we profile winners of the recent IoD Director of the Year Awards. Today it’s Jamie Christon, chief operating officer of Chester Zoo, who won the Mid-Market Director award
‘A great leader listens to each part of their team’ – Jamie Christon, chief operating officer, Chester Zoo
Since Jamie Christon joined Chester Zoo in July 2013, visitor numbers have increased by 35 per cent and its annual turnover has shot up from 28m to £42m. The zoo has been named the UK’s most popular visitor attraction outside London and, with a 15-year strategic development programme in place, its future looks rosy. We asked him what principles inform his approach.
Has there been a truly pivotal moment for your business? Yes, it came when we opened Islands – the largest UK zoo development ever – in 2015, resulting in a substantial change to our visitor numbers, income and operating surplus.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever taken? ‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ Albert Einstein.
What’s the secret of great leadership? A great leader listens to each part of their team, fine-tuning and supporting them all.
What advice would you offer leaders in turbulent times? Don’t batten down the hatches. Stagnant businesses fail. In turbulent times they fail more quickly.
What’s the best business talk you’ve witnessed? Professor Damian Hughes’s presentation on disruptive thinking at an IoD North West conference last year. He was funny, relatable and easy to understand.
Which areas of your personal development will you focus on in 2018? Mindfulness and wellbeing. As a leader it’s important to recognise stress in your team and to ensure that everyone is fighting fit.
What’s the biggest leadership lesson you’ve learnt? I’ve made my biggest errors when I’ve jumped in too quickly without reflection. I’ve learnt to listen and absorb information before acting.
Jamie Christon is a member of IoD North West
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