On a very base level, our perspective is the way we see the world – figuratively and literally – and it’s something we should be questioning every day, every step of the way. The problem is that once we get into a comfort zone and we think that things are in a manageable position, we tend to stop checking our perspective and assume that it’s accurate, or at least acceptable.
Steven Covey said “We see the world not as it is, but as we are”, meaning that none of us is really in touch with actual reality – only our version of reality coloured by our previous life experiences, by our current wants and assumptions, by our egos and by the level of energy that we can afford to operate with.
As pilot’s, it becomes second nature to check our perspective because the smallest of error can lead to a bigger error and on to very costly outcomes. We do it a thousand times every flight in a thousand different ways to ensure that what we think we see is correct and to cross check our information.
Here are 3 checks that are transferable to business and life:
Check your crew and equipment
Last week, I wrote about the preflight checks that pilots do on their aircraft prior to undertaking a flight, and how to “preflight” 2020 to make sure the foundation on which you’re about to build is ready to support you before you start to strategise about the deeper intricacies of the year’s plans. I won’t repeat myself here – you can read about how to check your starting point here…
Check your information
In the cockpit, we’re constantly working with information from different sources both inside and outside the aircraft. Verbal instructions and confirmations come from Air Traffic Control; we receive paperwork on everything from fuel to passengers, cargo to catering, wind speed to runway length from various different sources. It’s our job to combine and cross check that information against what we intend to achieve and what we expect to see. Even in flight, we know that an instrument viewed from an angle can produce an erroneous reading because we’re seeing the needle squiff, or that any number of things from haze to water can change what we think we see out the window. We’re taught to question everything.
Cross checking the information we receive against our expectations helps us tweek our perspective and the words “cross check” are always a good reminder. In order to cross check, you must have an initial set point. You must have decided what you’d like to see happen, what you assume the outcome will be, or what you believe the figures say. Then you must check the information you receive against that set point and see whether it corresponds or differs.
In business, KPIs would be one example of this, except that KPIs tend to be linked to bottom lines which is a very outdated thing to check. Bottom lines, whether in an aircraft, a business or a family means you’re waiting for an end point to reference with a starting point. You’re waiting to see what comes out the other end. Our world today is moving too fast to wait that long – we need to be checking our processes and results every step of the way. Check with your people and how they’re doing. Re check your information as you move along a process. Be fully engaged with walking the whole process, not just waiting to see what comes out the other end. Cross check and correct at every possible point along the way.
Check your approach
One of the first things we learn as pilots is what the runway is supposed to look like out the front windshield when we come in to land at the correct angle. Before we graduate to flying aircraft with fancy instruments that tell us about our height and position on an approach, we’re taught to check the visual picture out the window ourselves. If you’re too high on the approach, you’ll see an increased surface area of the runway – a signal that you may overshoot the runway and be too high to land unless you correct your height accordingly. If you’re too low, you’ll see only a sliver of runway – a signal that you may undershoot the runway and you need to gain height in order to make a safe approach. These assessments and adjustments are made by the second in this critical phase of flight.
If you land too frequently at a given runway, you must guard yourself against becoming complacent in your familiarity. Familiarity can mask hazards until they are too late to compensate for. Familiarity with one approach may also mean we make certain assumptions about how other less-familiar approaches will go. We can’t afford this kind of lethargy in the cockpit and neither can you in whatever you set your mind to this year.
A line from Ian Russell’s book “The Other End of the Telescope” which continues to stick with me is “change is no longer something that happens, but rather something that’s happening”. This is an important mindset shift and it tells us that there is no point at which we can sit back and think that we have this covered – whatever “this” is for you.
We’ve just entered a new year, a new chapter and a new decade; and whilst we may have learned valuable lessons over the last decade and even the last year, we must apply those lessons as if we are seeing this year for the first time, not repeating something we now know how to do.
I travelled a large amount in 2019, and have consequently had many opportunities to compare what I’m used to against how things work in the rest of the world. Everything from food to service to schooling. This experience has reminded me how vital it is to check our perspective frequently and not allow ourselves to become complacent with what we consider normal. Even when we’re excelling at what we do in our own environment, we can lose sight of new ways of thinking and doing if we don’t find ways to question and compare our perspective regularly. Our perspective can become tired and energy-less without us even realising it, and as leaders, it’s our responsibility to consistently challenge the perspective of our team and help to breathe new life into it.
My most recent example of this perspective check was the welcome given to the parents of new boys starting at Kearsney College yesterday by the Headmaster. In a warm yet concise welcome, Mr van den Aardweg managed to convey the solid history of the school as it approaches its centenary next year, as well as that this year will bring yet another new chapter in how we raise boys well and that we can’t rest on the achievements of last year for long before we address what must come next. I liked the acknowledgement of a strong foundation coupled with an ever-present and forward-looking expectation of change and improvement.
If we are to not only keep our heads above water this year, but thrive and build as we mean to go on, the we must accept that change is happening and we must cross check our information, feedback, intentions and outcomes every step of the way with an un-resting zest.
To quote Barry Mitchell who teaches Blair Singer’s Sales Explosion Program, “HIGHEST ENERGY WINS!!”. Energy will be paramount this year and how much energy you’re willing to give to succeeding will directly correlate with what you’re able to achieve.
Are you willing to question your perspective? Are you willing to seek out feedback and to take it seriously? Are you willing to put energy into cross checking every part of your process to ensure a successful outcome? Are you willing to ensure your equipment and people are ready and well supported in order to achieve what you require? Are you willing to question “the way we’ve always done it” in case familiarity means hazards you can’t see are looming? Are you willing to look for pointers in your culture and systems that mean something’s not quite adding up? Are you still resting on last year’s successes, or are you using them to fuel this year’s oncoming change?
Gather yourself. A new start is here. Every day will present a new opportunity if you’re awake enough to see it. Prime yourself and your team. Preflight 2020. You don’t know what you can’t see until you check your perspective.
by Christen Killick
January 13th, 2020