Communication, especially in these times of remote work and elevated stress, can do a great deal to help achieve success and engagement across teams. If not done properly, the results are contrary – confusion, apathy and a barrier to any success being strived for.
Here are three actions you can take immediately, inspired by a surprising, but essential communication points in aviation – more specifically, between pilots in the cockpit.
Imagine the plane on the runway, ready to depart. Takeoff airspeed is typically around 155 mph. When the plane reaches a speed of 100 knots, meaning 115 miles per hour, the pilot who is monitoring announces “100 knots,” and the pilot who is actually flying the plane needs to confirm by saying “Check.” If the other pilot does not promptly answer “Check!” then takeoff is aborted. Immediately. The same thing happens if the pilot nonflying does not make the initial “100 knots!” announcement when the plane reaches the respective speed.
How does that sound? A bit weird, right? By this point, the pilots have spent about 45 minutes of intense work and communication together in the cockpit. If one of them had a problem, the other would have noticed by now. They have just gone over all the systems, making sure everything was in order. They got the OK for takeoff from the tower. Everything is set, but now the flight has to be stopped, with all the consequences of lost time and costs, and the panic bound to ensue, only because one of the pilots did not say “Check!” quickly enough? Yes.
How come? Takeoff is a critical moment in the flight, and it includes a few standard calls and thresholds that the crew must execute promptly. If it is anything but quick and decisive – meaning, if there was no response, or even if there were a slight indecision like a short pause – the plane would have to stop on the runway. The purpose of all this is to ensure the overall safety of the flight.
In those moments of terrifying acceleration, when those 100,000 or 200,000-horsepower engines pull the plane up to the required rotation speed, communication has to be punctual and precise. When the plane reaches 100 knots, accelerating towards the end of the runway, you have to ascertain that both pilots are conscious and have not been compromised in any way after the rapid acceleration, be it for their personal reasons or because they got hit by something in the cockpit.
Therefore, “100 knots! – Check” is a critical exchange of communication, used in an exposed moment in the flight to ensure that everything is OK and that we can safely continue.
By making sure that they are indeed “on the same page,” the pilots can help each other with their tasks or take full control of the plane, no matter how critical the situation gets.
Now that we know this interesting piece about communication in the cockpit, what can each of us do, and how can we apply this in business?
1) Make feedback mandatory
Communication is incomplete without feedback. No news is not necessarily good news. In fact, in most cases, it isn’t good news at all. Feedback brings clarity and stimulates action in the right direction.
When you’re on the receiving end of the message, be sure to let the other person know that you got it and what you’ll do. Yes, you probably get tens of e-mails a day. If among them is a report from someone in your team, do not just go ahead and use it in your presentation but take the time to send a quick reply, to say thank you. If there are things you’re unsure of, ask right away.
If someone in your team-call has an input, be sure to appreciate it. Many people complain that there’s no life in online calls, with people on video-off and mic-off almost all the time. But when someone actually says something or asks something, make them feel welcome.
Establish a rule for feedback in your team. Make sure people know where they stand. Clarify and confirm messages.
2) Make feedback meaningful
If someone spent hours on the report for you, a dry “thank you” is far from enough. Reply by saying something like “thank you for the work you’ve put in. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I especially liked the level of detail in section 3 – which will be very appreciated by the customer. Thank you!” This will be a great reward to your colleague and will give them a boost of energy for the rest of the day.
3) Set more frequent check-ins
When we were all in the office, communication was much richer. Today’s passive calls and e-mails hardly solve the need that people have for connection, not to mention the intensity of communication required to get things done properly.
Call people to ask how they are. Call people to clarify something right away. Send a surprising positive message when they don’t expect it. Have fewer people in calls, so everyone can—and know they’re expected to—contribute.
Communication is key to any achievement, especially in times like these. If pilots communicate abundantly in the cockpit, be sure you do that, too.
About the Authors
Octavian Pantis (Phonetic pronunciation: PUN-tish) is an entrepreneur, and the Co- Founder and Managing Partner of Qualians, an international training and consulting company, dedicated to helping organizations thrive while providing an environment where people grow professionally and are deeply engaged. Qualians was named several times “Training Company of the Year” and “Partner Country of the Year” in the international networks it is part of. Octavian is the co-author of the International best-seller Dark Cockpit: How to Communicate, Lead, and Be in Control at All Times Like an Airline Captain. He has authored additional books on productivity and work-life balance, as well as dozens of articles and hundreds of trainings and speeches on the subject, which have brought clarity, motivation, tools and ideas to hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life. His expertise is sought after by entrepreneurs and executives at all levels. His speaking and consultant work includes workshops with senior management teams on subjects such as leadership, mindset change, and productivity. Octavian is a Professional Member of the USA National Speakers Association. Octavian spends his time outside work with his wife and three children. Whatever time remains is dedicated to skiing, squash, and studying and collecting old maps. To learn more about Dark Cockpit, visit https://darkcockpitbook.com.
Captain Emil Dobrovolschi is a pilot, a pilot instructor, and a pilot examiner. He started at Tarom – Romanian Air Transport – in 1994 and has moved up through all the professional ranks: co-pilot on Antonov 24; captain and pilot instructor on ATR 42/72; captain, pilot instructor, and pilot examiner on Airbus A320 and A310; and test pilot and commander of the special flights for the Romanian President and government officials. In 2001, he became a Type Rating Instructor – codename for instructor of pilots – and since then the pilots he has trained have become captains for at least 12 airlines around the world. He is also a certified Type Rating Examiner by EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), which gives him the authority to decide whether pilots continue to fly or are suspended from flying for a certain period. He has vast management experience, having served in different operational and corporate leadership positions inside Tarom, the most important being that of Vice President and Director of Flight Operations. Emil is an inspiring speaker, invited frequently to address corporate events of different sizes, where he inspires people to higher levels of commitment and professionalism and teaches valuable communication, leadership, and risk management principles. Emil is a passionate biker, riding with his wife all over Europe on their Harley Davidson as often as they can.