Are You Listening?


As a pilot, I know firsthand how quickly things can get out of control when in the air, if the work on the ground is not done correctly and with clear intention. Many years ago when I was in the US Army, I was preparing for a night training mission using Night Vision Goggles. My copilot and I had received a weather report indicating that the weather would be clear and calm. We were excited to work together, as it was the first time we had flown together and we had great rapport with each other on the ground. We were launching from a “Field Site”, which means we were in a clearing in the woods of Fort Stewart, Georgia and not from a traditional airport.

After carefully going over the details of the mission with each other, including emergency procedures, we jumped into the aircraft and prepared to launch. As we lifted off the ground in our helicopter, we climbed over the trees and immediately found ourselves surrounded by clouds (Fog) which had not been predicted. In a matter of seconds, we both lost all reference to the ground or horizon. We were “Flying Blind” so to speak. I remember distinctly looking down onto my flight display and observed the horizontal indicator indicating that I was in a descending turn. Immediately my eyes fixed on the instruments, but my eyes and body were not in agreement with what was happening to the aircraft; therefore, I did not respond to the instruments… which clearly told me I was about to experience a life changing event if I did not make a change.

Fortunately for me, my copilot remembered his training and started calling out what the instruments were already telling me. He called out the same information at least three times before I realized he was talking to me He had “awakened” my mind to connecting the dots and we worked quickly together to recover the aircraft and flew above the fog to nearby airport where we landed without further incident. I have been forever grateful for our training and our teamwork. Without it, we might have seen a very different ending.
How many times, whether in life or at work, do we find ourselves in a crisis and completely unable to focus on the real problem at hand. The information is right in front of us but we cannot get seem to move in the right direction. It is easy to forget that we can be blinded by our own bias of the world as we see it. Had it not been for my copilot I may have continued to fly without correction. With his voice in my headset, I had an opportunity to “Snap out” of my own blindness.

Take a moment and ask yourself if you are truly aware of and utilizing the talent that is around you. Are you open to the perspectives that the diversity brings to your organization? Successful leaders and leadership teams create an environment that openly embraces the potential of others view to fully capitalize on the talent of the team. This awareness not only gives you, as a leader, the opportunity to rely on those that are in the game with you, but it also creates value to those who are on the team. Would you agree that you deserve to have all the information available to make good decisions? What would you gain by listening to the perspectives and experience around you?

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