Mandy Hickson was the only female pilot on her Front Line Tornado Squadron for the Royal Air Force. She has operated from some of the world’s most hostile environments, including patrolling Iraq’s ‘no-fly’ zone.
She was awarded an RAF flying scholarship aged just 17 but initially failed the computer-based tests taken by all RAF pilots. Undeterred, her self-belief and determination persuaded the RAF to take her on a test case, thereby overcoming insurmountable hurdles.
Since hanging up her flying goggles in 2019, she now shares her experiences of working within an elite team with audiences of all sizes, including her online following of over 24,000.
Mandy Hickson’s time in the RAF demonstrates only too well the importance of remaining calm under pressure and leading, quite literally, from the front to ensure she gets the best out of herself and her team.
Since leaving the RAF – first as a pilot in 2011 and then as a reservist in 2019 – Mandy has served as a governor on the board of trustees at the Victory Services Club and as a sporting ambassador for Hampshire County Council.
In 2020, she published An Officer, Not a Gentleman, an engaging, entertaining and shocking story that follows Mandy’s incredible journey in becoming one of the UK’s first female fast-jet pilots.
Mandy has a remarkable insight into decision-making under pressure, the importance of human nature in advanced systems, and how to take calculated risks. She can apply her RAF experience to all industries, demonstrating an impressive understanding of humans. Her keynote speeches are professional, personal, inspiring, honest and motivational.
Challenging times require an exceptional corporate response. So how do you motivate and inspire your staff to demonstrate outstanding leadership and teamwork under pressure, to stride confidently towards purposeful goals and maintain focus despite significant risks?
Tailored to be relevant to your organisation, Mandy’s main themes include:
– The building and empowerment of effective teams
– Inspired goal setting and ultimate focus
– Decision-making under extreme pressure
– Maintaining momentum despite losing top talent
– Nurturing a culture of self-confidence and aspiration
Amazingly, most women still face tough challenges in their working lives, including:
– Maintaining an essential work/life balance
– Overcoming innate risk avoidance tendencies
– A wavering of confidence and self-belief
– The glass ceiling
Mandy uses her own professional experience at the top of her game to inspire women in any industry, particularly in male-dominated environments, such as the RAF.
Mandy recognises the challenges that head teachers face. Increasing administrative pressure and the speed of change are two factors that impact schools’ ability to achieve their main aims: nurturing pupils’ hopes and aspirations and inspiring them.
Whilst Mandy’s career was niche, she believes the decades of lessons learned in the aviation industry can be applied to any organisation. This includes teamwork and leadership, risk and crisis management, threats and errors, human factors, and debriefing.
Teamwork and Leadership: Supporting managers are crucial, and so is teaching when, where and how managers flex their job title. Employees feel more engaged when they’re listened to and respected, which can improve productivity and profitability.
Risk Management: Risk can be described as the probability or threat of injury, damage, liability or loss. For a long time, humans could also be put in the category of a ‘risk’. But now, companies are starting to see people as a source of creativity and insight, not as a source of risk.
Threat and Error Management: It’s essential to recognise that even the most competent professionals make mistakes, and therefore it’s equally important to have an open and constructive environment.
Human Factors: Leaders need to understand that humans can vastly influence how a business works, and they need their voices listened to, and their skills encouraged.
Crisis Management: A crisis is said to have three elements: a threat, an element of surprise and a short decision time. Whilst most prevalent in the aviation industry, this model can also be brought into the boardroom to shift old attitudes to crises.
Facilitated Debriefing: It is important that after an event, everyone has their chance to speak up to improve how things are handled in the future.
– Overcoming Adversity
– Peak Performance
– Calculated Risks
– Women in Business
– Decision Making
– Error Management
– Life in the Military
As part of our ‘Chat with…’ podcast series at Great British Speakers, our director Jane Farnham sat down with Mandy to talk about how her experiences of working within an elite team of fast jet operators, and how her lessons learned can be used across any environment. Find out more HERE.
Clients include Arqiva, Atomic Energy Agency, Bae Systems, Balfour Beatty, BG Group Plc, Pfizer, RBS, RGS Foundation, Scotiabank, Standard Chartered, Surbiton High School, Taylor Wimpey, Women’s Institute.
Mandy is a fantastic public speaker. She is both inspirational and extremely well prepared. Her ability to relate her own experience working under extreme pressure and in highly performing teams to everyday situations is most impressive. She tops it all with a wonderful sense of humour and great modesty. Listening to her talking about the many challenges that she has successfully overcome should be compulsory for all girls!
Miriam Gonzalez, Partner Dechert LLP, International Law Firm
Mandy, great to meet you. Your session was particularly well received. I am delighted I was able to stay to hear you talk. Your story is very inspirational and I recognised many of the challenges you have faced as a woman in a predominantly male world as these issues are industry agnostic. I am sure we could spend hours sharing our war stories (literal and metaphorical !). I do all I can to help the next generation navigate these challenges and not experience the same difficulties as those who have gone before. You are clearly doing the same!
Sue Fox, CEO M&S Bank
Mandy’s true ability was to capture the essence of team working, resilience and the importance of leadership within a context of energy, enthusiasm, commitment and humour. This was not only by using her own experiences, which in themselves were exceptional but she had also researched our organisation and weaved our own Trust values and mission statement into her presentation. Mandy’s messages cross any and all boundaries and I would suggest apply in any setting. It was a real pleasure for us to spend time with her.
Alison Moon, Chief Nurse, Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
She was an excellent presenter: humorous and engaging, with a fascinating real-life and high altitude story to tell to students of all ages. The queue of students who stayed behind at the end to speak to Mandy was testament to the overwhelmingly positive response to her talk.
Val Burnett, Taunton School
Mandy was absolutely amazing. She was really able to connect her story to ours and left the audience with nuggets to take away as well as inspiration and motivation.
Particularly appreciated the ‘external perspective on overcoming challenges and preparing for them’.
Royal Bank of Scotland Plc