Publications & Products
Volume 5, Issue 23

3 Crisis Management Tips from Pilots

Business leaders may face any number of workplace crises, from PR dilemmas to team disputes. Professionals can keep their organizations aloft during a crisis with tips from pilots, according to a writer and flight instructor.

Pilots, writes Kim Green in Fast Company, are trained in emergency management.  "We're taught to think through a range of potential mishaps, memorize checklists and plot courses of action in advance," writes Green, a writer, public radio producer and pilot. "Executives can do the same."  

She offers these three lessons:

Make emergency checklists. Green describes a time her flight instructor had to make an emergency landing. He stayed calm and confident, which helped her follow his directions and run through the procedures they had practiced many times. Team members, she writes, will look to their leader in a crisis.

"It's your responsibility to keep calm and lead, but that's never entirely a matter of gut instinct. It takes rational forethought," she writes. Green suggests thinking through emergency situations and making checklists. Taking the first steps on the checklist can help calm the mind, she writes. Knowing what to do quells fear.

Maintain confidence. Several years later, Green writes, she was in the pilot seat with a student next to her when their plane's engine went down. Although she was nervous, she calmly told the student, "I've got the plane." What she was doing, she writes, was "faking it." She cautions against overconfidence, however.

"Pretending to know what you're doing to fool your colleagues and employees into thinking you've got it under control won't help you manage the problem," she writes. "But if you do know what you're doing, pretending you aren't afraid can help see you through it with a steady hand."

Make like a Boy Scout: Be prepared. Sure, there are some emergencies that will come as a surprise—but, there are others for which teams can prepare. Green recounts how, during a training on spins, she stayed calm because her instructor prepared her for what would happen during a spin. Preparation and training are key.

"It's not that pilots are born preternaturally calm in the face of danger; it's that we review emergency procedures so many times that they come to seem almost routine," she writes.

This article is from the Advancement Weekly, Dec. 7, 2015 issue.

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