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Blue Angel Leadership

Trusting In Your Fellow Pilots

During a recent trip to San Diego, California for the PMI Leadership Institute Meeting #PMILIM I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Blue Angels Air Show with some fellow PMI Leaders. The show was held at a military base that was aflutter with families, fans, vendors, and multiple airplanes, helicopters, and other cool things to see. I witnessed an amazing show, but more than anything, I was able to wax poetic for a moment about the amount of trust it takes to be a Blue Angel pilot. I took a video of a few of the maneuvers that they executed-such precision, such elegance. They made it look seamless. Flying so close together at such breakneck speed requires practice that most of us couldn’t even imagine. But was more important (in my opinion) was the amount of trust that was necessary for them to perform with such grace and beauty. I thought: “…what if my peers and I had this kind of trust in each other?” What could we do if we practiced together, toward the same goal, in an almost choreographed method that would not only shock and awe our direct reports, but also the organization that we all work for? What if we trusted the actions of the rest of our team SO much that we would almost always assume that they had our back? What obstacles could we remove? We may never be “Blue Angel” good, but we could execute the company strategy so well that short of matching flight suits, our teams, and leadership would know that we were all a part of the same team, flying (pun intended) toward the same goal.

What Does Trust Look Like?

Let’s get this out of the way first. I am by no means a great photographer/videographer. My daughter often teases me when I attempt to capture an amazing moment and I end up sending her a video of the inside of my phone case that I have inadvertently recorded instead of her little brother receiving an award at school. During the Blue Angel show, however, I was able to get a pretty good video of what I imagine true trust looks like on a team of leaders:

Pretty bland, picture, eh? I decided to share it at my next Executive Leadership meeting with my peers. I gave them a brief synopsis of what I thought as I watched them fly and then I showed them a video that ended with the photo above. “What stands out to you about this picture, given the story I have just shared with you?” I waited for several seconds nervously as nearly everyone replied-almost in unison- “It looks like just one plane.” Imagine that. There were four planes flying so close to each other, so much in sync with each other, that to the naked eye (and also the iPhone6), that there was just one plane. You couldn’t tell where one plane’s trial started and the next one started.

As I sat speechless for several more seconds, another of my peers made the statement that I had been saving up to say right as I walked out of the room. Read: my drop the mic moment…

“It’s like us having and executing a single department vision.”

I’m proud to announce that we have committed to work as a team to have “Blue Angel Leadership” behavior from that moment on.

Next stop, flight suits for the four of us! It IS almost Halloween, of course.