I recently had the opportunity to review a number of videos describing aviation incidents. And while I still believe that flying is the safest way to travel, clearly there are many variables that can quickly alter the course (literally and figuratively) of an aircraft’s path.
Accident investigations often focus on equipment failure, maintenance issues, weather, or intentional sabotage, yet there is increasing evidence that confirms the significance of “human factors” in negative outcomes. One of those is reliance on technology when individual knowledge and experience are needed to override a system that cannot respond fast enough. According to one industry analyst and advisor, the autopilot doesn’t know the meaning of NOW!!
Leadership in the cockpit is not unlike leadership in an organization. Both require technical competence, informed decision-making, situational awareness, and collaboration. Skilled leadership leads to positive results that can have a far-reaching impact. Disengaged or less prepared leaders can destroy a team, department, or hundreds of passengers.
It occurred to me that MINDSET is an important human factor to consider. If we define mindset as a fairly fixed attitude that often dictates behavior, it becomes increasingly important to know how our most strongly held beliefs can sometimes cloud our reasoning and judgement.
In a critical cockpit situation where there are only seconds to respond, pilots who have the conscious or unconscious belief that the auto-pilot will self-correct any problem may find that NOW is not readily recognized by a computer. In fact, the glass cockpit (electronically controlled) is the epitome of a fixed mindset that can respond inappropriately when there is conflicting input. And while human factors can lead to negative outcomes, anyone who has seen the movie “Sully” will understand that his decision to take control of the aircraft and situation saved the day and the lives of everyone onboard the aircraft.
If we believe that our colleagues are not capable of meeting a challenge because their potential for growth and new learning is limited by intellect, they are more likely to live into that prophecy. If, in contrast, we can encourage people to learn and grow in any situation, they are more likely to experience success.
We can train and practice for the known and obvious challenges that might get in the way of success. We can’t always be prepared for the sudden surprises that demand a more immediate response.
Think about your mindset and how it can help or hinder your leadership and life. Consider ways to override your automatic behaviors that can lead to unintended or undesired results.
Adopt the attitude of an aviator - turn off the autopilot and just fly!