Simon Griffiths is Senior Manager – Brakes, Jaguar Land Rover. Jaguar Land Rover is the UK’s largest automotive manufacturing business, built around two iconic British car brands: Land Rover, the world’s leading manufacturer of premium all-terrain vehicles and Jaguar, one of the world’s premier luxury sports saloon and sports car marques. In the following Q&A, Simon shares with us his valuable insights on the topics of leadership and success.
TBR: What is your current role and area of responsibility?
SG: I currently run the Brakes Design function within Jaguar Land Rover – this includes the conventional hardware (foundation brakes, pipes / hoses, modulators & actuation) and also the myriad of three letter acronyms that now come with these (ABS, DSC, HSA, HDC – the list is endless) and some of the newer functions related to vehicle motion control. I have a team of 180 staff, predominantly engineers, who cover the delivery from new product concept to volume production and beyond.
TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?
SG: Collaborative. Is important that my team is all pulling in the same direction – this can be time consuming to gain consensus but in the end is more efficient. I take time to listen to inputs from my team, discuss them in open forum and agree a way forward. It is not always possible to get everyone to agree with a particular solution to an issue – but at least all involved will understand the thought processes involved and is bought in to the desired outcome.
TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?
SG: The Automotive industry is moving fast to roll out Autonomous Driving features and this requires significant effort into the area of braking. Whilst in practice the introduction of autonomous braking is feasible, there are a number of variables to consider to ensure that the safety of drivers, passengers and other road users / pedestrians are considered and appropriate control systems are in place before launch. The introduction of such features on vehicles within the close confines of a test track or controlled stretch of highway is already proven – but the global use of such systems in uncontrolled environment, preventing their misuse and trying to predict all variables is a huge challenge at the moment across the industry.
TBR: What do you look for when evaluating top talent?
SG: Passion, Commitment and Drive are key for me, plus the ability to fit in with the team. I have the great honour of being able to work with a superb team within Brakes Design, the Chassis Department and Product Engineering as a whole. I am constantly looking for new talent and always looking for complementary skills – too many “grey haired” individuals with decades of experience or too many enthusiastic, but inexperienced, graduates is not right for the business – but a good mix of the two allows the strength of both to complement each other. Lastly, but maybe as importantly, is a sense of humour – we all work incredibly long hours in sometimes stressful environments – a light hearted nature, and the ability to laugh as a team is an important safety valve.
TBR: What was your first job in Industry?
SG: I was sponsored through a degree at Bath University by what was at the time Jaguar Rover Triumph and my first role was within Body Engineering at Land Rover. The initial role was on the conventional drafting tables – but early on I moved to Computer Aided Design. It is amazing to think how much the industry has moved in the years since I started work.
TBR: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at age 20?
SG: Find a job that you enjoy and use this as a platform for your personal development. In my experience if you enjoy a job you will excel in it. Being successful in your chosen role creates a virtuous circle – success brings with it personal pride and opportunities for development, responding to these new challenges with a positive mindset brings further success. From there you can go where you want.
TBR: Name your favorite / recent book(s) you have read:
SG: I have owned a 1954 86” Land-Rover for nearly 30 years now and have competitively trialled this regularly. Being far too competitive, I realised I was damaging a rare and historic vehicle so have decided this year to rebuild it to original specification. I have been researching the vehicle in detail so a great source of data is James Taylor’s “Original Land-Rover” ISBN 978-1-906133-15-3 – although I am a little concerned about becoming an OCD member of the rivet counters club!
TBR: What is your favorite quote and why?
SG: A quote that we use a lot at the moment is from Albert Einstein “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As we continually drive our business and our products forward, we need to challenge ourselves to improve and optimise our design & development processes – only by doing this will we be able to deliver the products that will delight our customers
TBR: What has been the biggest contributor to your success at this point?
SG: Working for a few great leaders has really helped my career develop. A couple of managers have had the confidence in me to give me enough freedom to push new developments whilst acting as both a coach as well as a driver.
TBR: Tell us a something that most people might not know about you or your organization.
SG: Jaguar Land Rover has recently been voted, by its employees as the best place to work in the UK in the 2016 Bloomberg Survey
About Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover is the UK’s largest automotive manufacturing business, built around two iconic British car brands: Land Rover, the world’s leading manufacturer of premium all-wheel drive vehicles and Jaguar, one of the world’s premier luxury sports saloon and sports car marques.
Under the ownership of Tata Motors Limited, Jaguar Land Rover is transforming its business to realise the full potential of its brands and deliver profitable results. Driving the business is a world-class team of 32,000 people globally. In addition JLR supports more than 210,000 UK jobs through the supply chain, dealer network and wider economy.