Henry Ford said “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste”, and there could not be any better time than now to observe yourself, your team and your business. Q4, the fourth quarter of the year, is an interesting time regardless of what it holds for you. Perhaps it’s a quiet time of year for your business in which case it’s a time to observe the effects of the year so far, assess and recuperate before 2019 hits. For many, it’s the busiest time of year, and if you’re in Zimbabwe right now, it’s simply complete madness!
Whatever Q4 looks like for you, the power of observation isn’t one you want to pass up. When things get hectic and stressful, our true colours come out. We default to our most ingrained and original settings during times of stress. The failure of people and systems becomes apparent, and observing the outcomes during this quarter of the year can turn up some absolute gold in terms of how to make your business, your team and yourself stronger and more resilient.
Last week, we talked about leadership when things get spicy, and I mentioned that as pilots, we don’t train as much for the sunny, easy days as we do for when the proverbial is hitting the fan. Any of us can communicate on a sunny day. Any of us can wade through our less-than-perfect ways of doing things when the going is smooth. We can all get things done on a slow day, regardless of the calibre of our team.
My hope for you is that Q4 is not a smooth place to be. My hope is that it’s a little stressful. Even better, my hope is that it’s pushing your buttons. Why? Because that’s powerful if you make it so. If you use the power of observation right now, you should have some interesting and far reaching notes to take. You should have something truly worthwhile to take notice of that shows you where you need to be stronger in order to conquer 2019.
Where have the cracks shown in your team, in your strategy, in your finances, in yourself? How have you reacted to the stress and is there a better way to manage that going forward? What’s your support system like and how can you empower it? In which areas are you overloaded without anyone reliable to delegate to? Who’s keeping their head above water better than the rest and why? Who’s proving an effective team member and going above and beyond to bridge the gaps where others are cowering in their office? Who’s completely lost the plan and gone off the deep end – in which case, are they more suited to a different position or do they need more training or information? What are the cracks in your systems? What information didn’t you have close at hand or perhaps fully understand in the moment you needed it? What are the dangers moving forward and how can you plan to mitigate them before they cripple you? Where have your soft spots been shown up?
I’m often asked whether Communication & Culture aren’t soft topics. “Nice to haves”. The basis of my knowledge is the communication and strategy skills that flight crews use, and I can tell you that in a cockpit, communication skills and an agreed-upon culture (or way of doing things) isn’t a “nice to have”. Occasionally, it’s life and death and very literally the only thing gluing a difficult situation together. We don’t wait for then to practise. We practise every day. We seek to better our edge when the wind is calm and the sun is shining because we know it’s vital that things don’t break down when the weather get bumpy and the things we can’t account for sideswipe our best laid plans.
The going is seldom smooth in Q4, so use this time to figure out where your pressure points are and what you don’t have in place. At the beginning of December, we’re going to run a Year-End Assessment to download the year and assess what’s worked, what hasn’t, and where it’s left us. What you observe now is fodder for that future train of thought, and having a future train of thought and something to aim at when things get crazy is a powerful way to maintain your sanity. So when it feels like you’re standing in the thick of it, look up. Look around you. Watch yourself. Watch your team. Watch your environment. Observe. Take notes. A time is coming where all that you observe right now will become part of your power plan for the next chapter. I guarantee you’re learning something useful right now that’s vital for your strength moving forward.
by Christen Killick
October 22nd, 2018