• Leading In The Clouds

    Several years ago, I had the opportunity to be taken out on a private plane for my very own flying lesson. It was an impactful moment that has led me to yearn earning my private pilot’s license. During the lesson, I learned a great deal about instrument rating (which enables you to legally fly in the clouds). When you’re flying with zero visibility, pilots call it flying in the soup

    So often as leaders, we often feel like we’re flying in the soup of changing expectations, overwhelming calendars, cultural shifts, and untested technologies. It is like leading in the clouds. The results could be we are lost “in the clouds”….. so what do we do ? I would like to share three strategies for staying agile in leadership while we feel "in the clouds". 

    First, learn to trust your instruments.

    A client of mine, whom I have worked with for several years (so he has become a friend too), has certain “tells”, which say to me he is “in the clouds”. One of them is he begins seeking “new books”. When I hear him say “I found this new book advertised on Instagram”, I know he is heading for the clouds. Why? Because he is looking for something emotionally, instead of trusting his instruments directly before him.

    So often in the midst of a challenge, we scramble. Our first reaction is “it’s not working”. Your emotions are likely lying to you. To overcome this, you need to make informed decisions as you lead with agility.

    Learn to interpret and trust your instruments. Trust the lessons you have learned, the things you have seen, and the habits you have in place, don’t start implementing a new habit in the midst of the clouds based on an emotion. In your organization: monitor your culture, study the numbers, look realistically at what you’re seeing in front of you. No matter what you feel, or how many legitimate reasons you have to be afraid, you have to have faith in the decisions you make from the instruments you’re discerning. So whatever the most important metrics are, dive deep into them and get a firm understanding of the facts not the emotion.

    Second, make small constant corrections not big thrusts

    Every passenger expects a smooth flight. It is no different “at the front”. But along the flight there can be turbulence. While you might seek to avoid such, the flight is not better if there is a large thrust away from the destination or a huge drop in altitude.

    You need to avoid overcorrection. Get in a flow of constantly making small adjustments to keep your organization heading in the right direction. The goal is to see problems early and solve them quickly.

    Based on the data you’re seeing, you’ll need to be constantly making small adjustments to keep heading in the right direction at the right speed. If you feel like you’re making constant, nonstop, small corrections, you’re very likely leading well. If you aren’t, you might be drifting away from you more than you realize.

    Third, enjoy the view, but don’t get comfortable

    When I first went to “sit up front”, I thought it was amazing to have the perfect view of everything. But then when I “took the wheel”, I learned how much work was involved in “piloting”. It is much the same when we are a leader.

    At first the “view” from the corner office is pretty good, and we feel great about “being our own boss”, but eventually the work of “piloting” squarely impacts us. The discipline and consistency become our focus, and not just the view.

    If we fail at that discipline and consistency, and just enjoy the view, then we succumb to the “curse of confidence.” According to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, those who are highest in confidence are often the lowest in competence. The things you’re absolutely convinced of may be your biggest points of vulnerability.

    Self-awareness is incredibly important if you want to anticipate incoming leadership challenges. Take an honest assessment of the current state of your own leadership. If you’re going to learn to be a leader who anticipates challenges, you have to accept that what you "know” may be wrong.

    Discover if you're too confident about what you know with this test: Keep track of how many questions you're answering versus how many questions you're asking. The posture of an anticipatory leader is curious and humble. If you are doing more talking then listening, well – to be blunt – you are in the clouds!

    Once you’ve identified your own leadership blind spots, you need to look at every aspect of your organization—every product line, team, and major initiative. Figure out what is and isn’t working, and make sure you know why.

    People often ask how I consistently make disciplined decisions. The answer? I make as many decisions as possible ahead of time. By doing this, I save time and decision-making energy. If you wait until you are 100% sure before adjusting, you will always be too late. Set back is as much a part of success as a takeoff and landing is a part of a flight.

    If you want to “get out of the clouds” - become a leader who anticipates challenges, you need to develop awareness (trust your instruments), discern future threats and opportunities (make small constant corrections not big thrusts), and disrupt what is for what could be (enjoy the view, but don’t get comfortable).

    Leadership is influence—and you are a leader. That’s why it’s critical you keep sharpening your leadership. I’d love to help. At Phoenix Life Coaching Canada we work with individuals and teams helping them lead with confidence and grow in clarity. Find out more about how we can help you personally and professionally - reach out today - Do not hesitate to Contact me

    Remember - Great Leaders Don't Grow Alone