Are You Flying Your Business in the Soup?

by Wayne Kurzen, Guest Columnist
I am a strong believer in gut instinct in many instances—but there are times that instinct can prove fatal in both life and business. As a business owner, coach and pilot with over 10,000 hours, I often see a strong correlation between flying in inclement weather conditions – pilots call it “the soup” – and running a business. In both situations, people who survive another day have had to overcome what they think they know in order to discipline themselves to obey the instruments by which they should abide.

In the soup, a pilot’s biggest challenge is vertigo. Were you ever swung around in fast circles as a child? The disorientation you felt was vertigo. The sensation of imbalance comes from our inner ear, which gives us a sense of our relationship to gravity. In the soup, aircraft maneuvers put “G forces” on our body that create a false sense of gravity. When pilots fly in the soup, we have to constantly crosscheck the primary instruments that display the physical reality our bodies no longer sense. When there is a conflict between the information the instruments provide and what our bodies tell us, we get vertigo, which is a powerful state of confusion.

The ocean graves of John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette are testimony to what can happen when we obey our inner feeling and do not override strong sensations of vertigo to discipline ourselves to trust our instruments.

In business, the flight instruments that convey reality are the measurements or metrics you have developed for your company Scorecard. Running a business without good data is like flying by the seat of our pants – trusting false feelings.

Many companies have not mastered their data. Too often, leadership teams:

  • Look at the wrong numbers – or don’t review at all
  • Work with unreliable numbers
  • Try to master too many numbers
  • Focus on the wrong targets (benchmarks)
  • Don’t crosscheck numbers to ensure balance
  • Disregard the history – don’t see the trends

Aviation and behavior engineers spend many hours developing the right instruments, right displays and right configuration that will allow them to quickly “get a grip” on the pulse of the airplane—and pilots spend many hours in a simulator practicing the discipline of correctly interpreting the instruments and responding appropriately to the indicators.

Have you given the same thought and discipline to your company Scorecard?

In pilot lingo, follow your instruments (Scorecard) or risk becoming a “smoking hole”! Become the pilot-in-command of your business with a Scorecard (overview), crosscheck systems (reality) and response mechanisms (plan).

This is a great topic for your next leadership team meeting. Does your company have a scorecard that you can read and trust?
© 2013 Wayne Kurzen. Wayne, founder and owner of The Kurzen Group, is a multi-time national award winning business coach, and executive trainer with over 35 years of experience. He is currently a Certified EOS Implementer.

Posted in Execution, Leadership, Rockefeller Habits and tagged , .

One Comment

  1. Wayne,

    As a fellow pilot I agree fully with the problems of “seat of your pants” flying. The biggest challenge a leader faces is to trust the indicators when the gut (or seat) is strongly saying something different. Most of the leadership literature encourages bold action as a virtue, even if (especially if) it is contrary to the norm, so it is a hard lesson when a bold action comes up short. As you so eloquently convey, the answer is in the data. If your business model has brought you success, it might be a good idea to pause and evaluate your instruments before letting your “seat” do the thinking.


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