Recently, I was working with an European aviation client who was working to gain his Initial Qualification in a Learjet 35. At one point in the first hour, he stated something one instructor had told him as he said “I know the program’s job is to Get me Through the Qualification Test”. I pointed out to him that it was categorically and totally untrue. I asked him “You know what our real job is?” I said “Our real job is to so develop you that you can work as a team and you do not need anyone to get you through!” He smiled approvingly as he sat back and said “You know, you are correct!”
This is a subtle difference that is misunderstood in many industries today. Let me offer an example from my career. On one occasion while stationed at the 335 Tactical Fighter Squadron “Chiefs”, John “ JD” Denu and I were flying a sortie in which it would be us alone against 2 other fighters…..we knew from the start, we would be outnumbered 2:1 today against the “2 ship element” led by “Roto” Tiller. All 3 of us were instructors in the F-4 Phantom.
To begin from about 15 miles apart, Roto made the call…”FIGHT’S ON…” and we pointed towards each other. To make a long story short, JD saw one of the enemy and attacked. Without talking ,we both expected this guy was a distraction so looking over my shoulder, I looked for where I would be if I were Roto and that is exactly where I saw him. As JD chased the bandit around and maneuvered to a good firing position, I watched Roto as we all were pulling G’s and as I saw him turn to cut us off in the turn, it was obvious to me that he was maneuvering for a 20 mm gun shot. As I saw the threat pull inside of us, I calmly said “JD, you have about 10 seconds to kill this guy”.
I watched Roto begin to pull lead and “felt the point where he would pull the trigger”. I definitively said “Guns Jink NOW JD” and immediately JD bunted our F-4 to push us down slightly to put us out of turn circle but still stay on the tail of the target. We ended up “shooting down” our target and Roto never got a shot on us this day. Beyond what I said here, nothing else was communicated and it was an example of absolute PERFECTION IN TEAM SYNERGY.
When the 6 of us got on the ground and were preparing to debrief, JD was getting some coffee and we were talking with the excitement originating from the adrenalin rush common to Fighter Jocks after a fight because of the adventure and passion of our mission and focus. The excitement was obvious as we were talking about it and before JD walked to get coffee, he looked at Roto and said “did you shoot us”? Sheepishly and with humility, Roto responded with “Naw, I pulled the trigger but the bullets went over the top of you and didn’t hit you!” With a great big grin, JD walked up behind me and put both hands on my shoulders and gave a big approving slap on the back. I just looked at him with a smile and winked. A couple of key points must be highlighted:
First: There was no leader there to tell us what to do and the couple of statements I pointed out were the only thing we said to each other. The Squadron Commander could not tell us what to do and even if there was a leader there, the time did not allow that aspect. We had to perform with synergy at the point of attack.
Second: JD and I, while outnumbered that day, performed with absolute perfection in Synergy and there was a sense that we were so developed that, even apart from our highly developed technical skills, we completely understood the situation and the related factors….and there was a sense that we so understood it that we could almost feel it happening and I could almost feel what Roto was doing in his cockpit and without communicating, JD and I both knew exactly the RIGHT TIME to ACT.
Third: One squadron commander I served one time used to say that “Success is when Preparation meets Opportunity” and as you lead your team to be successful in a rapidly changing business environment, the preparation happens long before it is needed. If a manager has a mindset that thinks their people need to just “Do their Job and leave all that to me”, they are missing the boat and their team will not be as successful in a rapidly changing environment. Our development happened along the journey that led to our success.
So never forget that as a leader……yes you show the way and…..yes you model the success and behavior but also…….. the leader MUST “So develop their people that they can perform at the point of attack and they do not need someone to get them through it”.
– Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC