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Posts Tagged ‘flying’

Lead Yourself First

September 16, 2010 7 comments

Airplane Emergency CardShould the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the overhead compartment. Please place the mask over your nose and mouth before assisting children…or adults acting like children. – my JetBlue flight attendant

An airliner cruising at 30,000 ft experiences a rapid loss of pressurization. The air in the cabin thins from 15 PSI to less than 4 PSI in a matter of seconds. The overheads burst open and down come those famous yellow masks. People panic. The man in row 19, the one with the two kids, decides to help them first. While every other adult on the plane is scrambling to save themselves, he’s made the noble decision to save these children first.

The masks are a bit tangled, so it takes a little work to get them separated. Then the first child isn’t sitting calmly like the picture in the emergency card. And the strap isn’t even tight enough to stay on the child’s face. His fingers, which are turning blue-gray, start fumbling over the straps, and before he’s done with the task he becomes confused, disoriented and strangely euphoric. Oxygen-starved cells in his brain are ceasing to work properly. Hypoxia has set in. He’s useless.

Of course the drama ends when the flight attendant sees the situation and secures a mask over everyone’s face in row 19. She’s quick and the life-giving air brings everyone back to normal consciousness with no permanent damage done. Before you start to judge the man who “tried to be a hero”, consider these questions:

How do this man’s actions relate to how you lead?

What do you do to ensure you’re fit to lead/serve others?

What do you struggle the most with in this area?

Leading with Attitude

February 25, 2010 6 comments

Leading AttitudeThe attitude of an aircraft – its orientation relative to the earth – affects everything in flying. Roll slightly and the aircraft will turn and change course. Inch the nose up and the aircraft will slow down and start climbing. Allow the nose to drop and it’ll speed up and lose altitude. For a pilot, maintaining the proper attitude is critical to maintaining control of the aircraft.

Maintaining a proper attitude is just as important for leaders. If I allow fear or worry to adversely effect my attitude – even slightly – I’ll veer off course. A touch of pessimism could cause the team to slow down and waste energy. Likewise, over-confidence might cause us to gain too much speed and lose perspective. So how do you maintain a proper attitude?

Pilots have a nifty gauge called an attitude indicator to help them stay on top of the aircraft’s attitude. It’s quite handy – and essential when flying in the clouds or over the ocean at night. Before a flight, pilots always “cage” their attitude indicators – a process that ensures the instrument starts off aligned with the earth’s actual horizon. This process of caging can also be applied in flight to reset the device if it starts to “tumble” due to severe aerobatic maneuvers.

I try to “cage” my attitude first thing every morning to make sure it’s aligned with the truth. If I don’t, I’m tossed about by whims and circumstances all day. When I’m successful, it’s much easier to navigate the day’s decisions. If, during the day, I sense my attitude start to tumble, I take a quick time-out to “level my wings” and make sure I’m aligned with what’s true.

How do you maintain a proper attitude for yourself and your team?

Refueling your People

January 21, 2010 8 comments

Leader Refueling PeopleBefore we get into talking about leadership, I have a confession to make. I try to use up every ounce of gas in my tank before going to the station to fill up. Maybe I believe I’m not “wasting” gas that way. Maybe I don’t want to mix new gas with old gas. Or maybe I just like the thrill and challenge of seeing how far I can get once that little light comes on. Whatever it is, I confess that I’ve actually run out of gas – twice! Luckily, both times were before I was married with kids. I’ve wised up a little, but to this day when I hear that “bing” and see the Fuel Low light, a little voice in my head says, I wonder how far I can get?

Here’s the funny thing: I’m also a helicopter pilot. I can say without a doubt that this urge has never surfaced when I’m flying. Why? Well, when you run out of gas in a car – like I’ve done…twice – the engine stops and you coast along until you stop. When you run out of gas in a helicopter the engines stop and you fall out of the sky. As a result no sane pilot ever passes up the opportunity for gas. You always top off your tanks, no matter how insignificant the amount. There’s an old adage in aviation: “You can never have too much gas…unless you’re on fire.”

You see, I still catch myself occasionally leading people like I drive my car, trying to get every last bit out of them before I refuel them. The truth is we’ve got to lead our people like they’re helicopters, not cars. Never pass up the opportunity to give them honest and sincere praise (here’s how). As long as it’s not fabricated and fake, you can never give too much praise – no matter how insignificant the amount.

So top off your followers’ tanks and get in the habit of not letting them get too low.

Who do you need to thank and praise today?