Posts Tagged ‘fears’

Last week we discussed Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger and “The Miracle on the Hudson.” In resilience engineering there is a constant search for the character traits one must possess to be successful when dealing with complex socio-technical interfaces, which are increasingly becoming the norm. In line with the speed with which decisions have to be made in foggy situations it seems appropriate to have a checklist. I love checklists. When done correctly they serve two functions simultaneously: setting the right frame of mind and helping establish a focus on successful behaviors.

A checklist can also help during more mundane times such as trying to get back to sleep (or maybe just GET to sleep) at 2 AM when your head is spinning because of a challenging project.  Below are two checklists that may help in terms of those specific behaviors and attitudes.

What Makes For a Good Pilot?

The civil aviation authority in France has published a list of capabilities pilots feel are essential for effective execution in complex situations:

  1. Be able to construct and maintain an adequate distributed mental representation of the situation.
  2. Be able to assess risk and threats as relevant for the flight.
  3. Assess one’s self-proficiency envelope, know the boundaries, and adapt one’s tactics and strategies accordingly.
  4. Be able to switch from a situation under control, to a crisis situation.
  5. Be able to construct and maintain a relevant level of confidence towards self, others, and the technology involved.
  6. Be able to learn, implement and maintain routines and skills associated with basic flight functions (fly, navigate, communicate).
  7. Be able to contribute to decision-making in complex, uncertain environments.
  8. Manage interactions with aircraft automated systems.
  9. Know, understand, and be able to speak aviation jargon.
  10. Manage interactions with, and cooperate with, crewmembers and other staff.
  11. Make intelligent usage of procedures.
  12. Use available technical and human resources, and reconfigure as needed.
  13. Be aware of time and time pressure.
  14. Properly transfer acquired knowledge and know-how from specific context to a different one.
  15. Properly use and maintain information and communication technology equipment.

Another way to look at this from a purely psychological perspective is to have the following traits:

  1. When under pressure acknowledge your feelings and then focus on the work at hand. Emotionality leads to out of control behavior of simply freezing up.
  2. See through the situation to success. Stay focused on the long haul.
  3. Look. Let go of projections. Simply see what is there and understand the trends.
  4. Decide how much you believe in yourself and whether or not that is sufficient to maintain your leadership position.
  5. Practice humility. This means knowing what you can and can’t do…which leads to the next point.
  6. Learn how to ask for help. The goal is to get the job done rather than being Superman or Wonder Woman.
  7. Let people know you see them and need their help. Practice empathy and address people as they are. If it’s details they like then give them details. If there is a need for the overall picture then paint the picture (time permitting).
  8. Stay positive while admitting difficulties are present. To paraphrase Andy Groves when asked if all could be lost if the next generation chip failed, “Yes. Keep moving. We can make it.”

Again, these are checklists — mirrors. When having a hard time go through and see where you are working well and where things could improve. Use the results to drive the next day’s agenda. This is probably preaching to the choir but bears repeating: by having the right attitude, knowing where to focus, asking the right questions, and risking action leadership emerges.

Ever been attracted to someone who will save the day? You know, the White Knight that will save the situation? What about the flip side? Someone showing up in your life you absolutely can’t stand? A leader must pay very close attention to feelings that accompany these situations. Are you aware both situations can have a great deal in common? They can have what I call large “blind spots” associated with them, blind spots into which organizations can fall and disappear.

There’s a curious component to these blind spots since they can have as much or more to do with the leader’s character as the exterior reality. The dynamics of these blind spots and how to deal with them fall under the category of projection. So what is projection? How can one deal with it?

Projection

Projection is shady. It creates false feelings of well being around potentially disastrous decisions. At the core projection deals with the desire to take a shortcut to avoid going to dark places, especially within.

Dynamics

Previous blogs mention we all have portions of our psyche that are quite strong and other parts that are weak. Over time, we tend to build our lives around the stronger components and gradually develop a fear of those weaker ones. The primary reasons for the fear are imagined and real instabilities from which we believe we may not recover. Simply put, our reputation, business, etc., are at stake. We are staring at uncertainty.

The shortcut attempted is trying to find someone, the Other, who will deal with those dark spaces for us. We become infatuated with the Other. The Other is taken hostage. Conversely, the shortcut with the detested person is to simply get rid of him or her. This way the scary work can, again, be avoided. In both cases the leader stays myopic, loses vision, and is unable to see the consequences of decisions. A boss hiring someone to do the more difficult parts of the boss’s responsibilities (read: dirty work) is a good example of projection. It tears the team apart.

So Which is Which?

How does one know if the desired decision is wise and simple or blind and chaotic? In one word, “Options.” In two words, “Risk management.” In another two words, “Assumption analysis.” Let me explain.

Projection is sly and takes several forms. It is a narcotic that puts discernment to sleep. It is a demolition expert wiring explosives to all that has been built. It puts the trigger in the leader’s hand. It intensifies emotionality making pulling the trigger feel oh so sweet. (“Just fire him! Just hire her! Start without a contract! Requirements gathering will slow us down! Cash flow! Everything will be okay.”) Then it waits for the blind decision that irreversibly pulls the trigger and destroys healthy power, assets, and people.

By asking questions around options, risk management, and assumption analysis the door to healthier decision-making opens. Vision returns. Now, all this means going into those dark spaces. It’s hard work, rewarding work. It’s also the simplest work. (There’s never enough time to do it right the first time but there’s always time to fix it.) Keep in mind that just like Hades in Greek mythology, that’s where the real gold not the fool’s gold is!