Tag Archives: leader

Do things „by the book “but be prepared to change the ending

41720000 - two pilots in aircraft with a checklist

If you have not seen the film „Sully” yet and plan to, don´t continue reading because I´ve got some spoilers (although the outcome is known to most)

The film dramatizes the investigation following the successful ditching of an airbus 320 shortly after take-off from LaGuardia airport in New York due to loss of both engines after a bird strike.

The investigation undermines the captain´s decision to choose to ditch the aircraft in the Hudson river, a choice presenting many risks, rather than returning to the departure airport after following through procedures for such an incident.

Pushing forward this reasoning, they show that computer simulations demonstrated that the crew could have returned safely to the airport. Simulations done at the airbus factory seem to point to the same result.

Yes, it was possible to return to the airport. The pilots in the simulators did it…after 16 unsuccessful attempts, and by taking immediately the required actions to perform a return to the airport successfully.

There are three ideas on leadership we can push on with this example.

Leaders do not indulge in wishful thinking

We always want a situation to end well. Turning around, landing at the airport and going for drinks is the ideal option, but it is not the best one. Character is not only understanding things will not go down as you would wish, but also the strength to choose a solution you find realistic, and being able to cope with the responsibility afterwards.

It should be noted that you do not always need an emergency to indulge in wishful thinking: a manager with a full hands off attitude indulges in wishful thinking by believing that everything in the end will work out regardless of how you steer the ship.

Leaders gather information, process it and act

In the film, the simulations of return to the airport are successful because the crews in the simulators know exactly the situation and immediately take all necessary steps knowing their status perfectly before even starting. In reality, any person needs time to assess the situation and process the options. In the film, the captain asks the simulations to be redone with a 35 second waiting time for the investigators to evaluate his decision fairly.

A leader will never know beforehand the consequences of actions taken and must rely on processing skills to decide a course of action.  The situation is evaluated with all the info at hand, including opinion of others, and a plan is sketched out. Comes a time when to stop calculating and speculating, and taking control of events….with the risk of being wrong.

You cannot rewrite the ending of the book without having read it first

All that being said, there is one very important element not to be forgotten. The captain took a very risky decision, but it wasn’t a reckless one: his training, his flight experience, his knowledge of the aircraft was paramount in the success.

Rewriting the ending of the book is about being able to adapt to new situations that were not planned by senior managers, senior marketing or financial officers. It does not translate into a “no-knowledge bravado” attitude that is more reckless than inspiring.

Changing the ending of a book requires the book to have been read and reread first. Understanding situations, knowing your people, knowing your field of business, reading up on past experience of people who were in the chair before, are essential tasks and aptitudes to gain the experience and the depth that empowers to see when the book needs to be somewhat interpreted differently.

Agree, disagree, get in touch.


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Involvement requires taking a chance every day


One of the skills involved pointed out in management is “involvement”.

For me, that latter skill translates as not being afraid to take a risk.
If you get involved in the work of your team, your opinion, your explanations and your advice all become material and are put to the test. If it works, you win, if it does not…you lose. But you do not lose as much as if you had not taken that chance.

One of the deeper impressions your management should project is credibility.

When I started out, I viewed credibility mainly as proving to those I managed that I was capable of doing the same things they were. I personally remember my first 3 months of managing among other people a salesperson over thirty years my elder who had total disrespect for me. I got my lucky break by being able to do a sale he had described me as impossible an hour earlier. And he begged me to put the sale on his salesperson code as one of the products sold came with a hefty bonus. From that day on, I told him how it was going to be.

Perhaps that is one of the original aspects of the quest for credibility: you cannot learn it, you can only seize it.

With time, your management position might go up and even if that does not happen, the needs and expectations of the team members grow as fast as their skills. They require new input, require new motivational goals, and require understanding better their point in the overall organization.

This year, as I am starting my third year on full time with swepro, I know that there will be new challenges for me just as for my team. From one company with one employee (I fired three a couple of weeks after my arrival), we now have three companies on the Central European market with ten salespeople introducing products beforehand unknown to this region. We are profitable on our older operations (Slovakia and Czech Republic), although much still needs to be done to reach the profitability we enjoy in competitive markets such as Germany where our products reduce production costs.

My personal objective is not to lose the edge over the technical aspect of selling. There is still a lot to do regarding the basic sales skills. We will work on reformulation and better reaction to objections. But with those that are the most ahead, the challenge will be to improve our strategic approach with our customers: managing time better, mapping the firms not forgetting people, processes and potential.

January has always been the month where I sometimes started smoking again. Because there is always a little stress factor taking a look at the challenges of the coming year. And evidently the risks that need to be taken from getting involved in the work of the team.

I hope they will look up to me. And they will if they know that I put what I tell them on the line and that I test it in real life.

In short, it takes energy not to retreat behind a computer and manage the daily issues. But there’s no other way than jumping in and sharing what you know, and sharing your vision even if it requires you to be occasionally wrong.

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