October 31, 2017

Teams Take Flight

by Russ Sarratt

Our town hosts an annual air show at the local airport. This past weekend, my family and I were able to watch some of the show; our favorite part was the performance by the US Navy’s Blue Angels. The Blue Angels travel the country performing for millions of people each year with the goal of “inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country.”


During the show, I was continually blown away by the things I saw in the sky above me. There were twists, turns, climbs, and dives. By far, the most impressive display was the tight-formation flight.

 

The pilots flew massive jets at a low altitude going 400 miles per hour; all of this in tight formation—only eighteen inches apart! 18 inches!

 

Watching this spectacle, my mind was flooded with “how” questions. How do they do that? How do they not crash into each other? How do they know when to turn? How do they know when to hit the brakes? Today, I am struck by the similarities of the Blue Angel air show and the experience of work teams in action. We, too, must ask the difficult “how” questions, but we also must find the answers. Your team is not flying eighteen inches apart at 400 miles per hour, but my guess is that some days it feels as though you are.

 

Team life moves quickly and there is often little room for error. How do you succeed when the stakes are at their highest? How do you help your team move forward in unity? How do you create a team that operates as efficiently and effectively as a Blue Angels squadron?

 

Focus on these four areas to help your team take flight!

 

1. Environment

The Blue Angels are clearly formed in an environment that demands excellence. As a leader, you should take a page from their training manual and create an environment that will allow your team to excel. Create high standards for your team and hold them accountable to those standards. Empower them to hold each other accountable; after all, they must depend on each other on a daily basis. Make sure everyone is clear about the goal you are trying to accomplish and the part each team member plays in reaching it. Set the bar high and make sure the expectations are clear.

 

2. Preparation

The Blue Angels practice hundreds of hours per year to make sure they can fly the show routines correctly and safely. What kind of practice do you and your team need? Are you taking time to get better each day or are you only focused on the “show”? If the Blue Angels only performed their tricks and flying skills during their shows, what do you think would be the result? Would they ever reach a point of excellence? Practice is imperative for the Blue Angels; it is no different for you or your team.

 

3. Community

Throughout our blogs posts, we have addressed the need for community; there is a reason for this. Building community should be one of your main focuses. Are you transparent in the relationships you have with your team? Do you really care about their wellbeing? True community is simply living lives with a unity that comes from familiarity and communication. If you were flying at 400 miles per hour in close proximity to team members, wouldn’t you want to know if your teammate was having a bad day or had something on his or her mind? If community is not a focus of your leadership, the collision you face may not be of the sort caused by exploding jet fuel, but a very real collision and a resulting explosion will certainly come. Community should define the relationships that exist on your team.

 

4. Personal Excellence

It is hard to create an environment of excellence if you and the members of your team do not each have a personal desire to excel. You need people on your team who want to be their best. You need people who want to be stretched to go beyond what they thought their best could ever be. Choose carefully the people you allow on your team. Not everyone gets to be a Blue Angel. Not everyone should get to be on your team.

 

A quote I read once says “For some the sky is the limit, but for others the sky is home.”

 

The Blue Angels are clearly at home in the heights. What if you strived for the same level of precision and teamwork? Could you raise the level of what is possible with your team? Could you become accustomed to operating at the highest levels as a team? Aim high!

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