Thoughts on Authentic Leadership
By John P. Schreitmueller
When I was in flight training, among the most emphasized of skills was strict adherence to the pilot’s checklist. The same holds true in flight training today. Checklists vary greatly from one aircraft to another. But, whether flying a large airplane or small airplane, the checklist enables the safe, proper operation of the aircraft across every aspect and condition of flight. An old World War II B-17 pilot training film best sums up the importance of using the checklist: “It’s life insurance if you do, but it can be murder if you don’t.”
Autumn is often the most hectic time of year for organizations, and the executives and professionals who lead them. As August drew to a close, we began hearing, with increasing levels of intensity, concerns clients expressed about the complexity of their schedules, the volume of deliverables they must meet, and the stress they experience as a result. Reflecting on this dilemma, it occurred to me what is missing for many high energy, high performing men and women is a checklist… and the discipline to utilize one. To paraphrase the World War II pilot training film, “It’s career insurance if you do, but it can be professional murder if you don’t.”
Especially at the senior leadership levels, checklists on how to navigate schedules, deliverables, travel demands and related responsibilities rarely exist. Certainly, within the confines of professions, checklists – of sorts – are available. They exist in healthcare, law, accounting, transportation, military operations, and in the SOP’s for many manufacturing operations. They are rules, regulations and procedures… most of them important. But, at the individual leadership level, things are largely up to the woman or man who must deliver the leadership. Are you one of them?
Consider the many things you do as a leader. Which of them are you able to break down into coherent steps? Take business travel, for example. Today, business travel is hardly glamorous. In fact, it can be downright degrading. It takes up incredible amounts of time, usually the least of which is actually involved flying from point A to point B. Business travel is one of the top causes of stress and burnout among executives and professionals. And organizations lose vast amounts of productivity annually while their key players are tied up getting to and from airports, waiting in security lines, or are stranded by missed connections and cancelled flights.
In coaching top executives who frequently travel internationally, I urge development of a travel checklist that takes into consideration every aspect of the travel experience, from obtaining passports and booking flights and hotels, to lining up key dining venues for critical client meetings, to remembering medications and other important personal items, to coping skills when carefully planned schedules are impacted by weather, mechanical issues or other factors beyond the traveling executive’s control. Across many years of experience, I have found those who develop, utilize and modify their travel checklists to meet their specific needs experience significantly enhanced levels of productivity while reducing inevitable levels of stress.
Another area where checklists are particularly effective is meeting planning. Too often, top leaders walk in to meetings that are, in reality, nothing more than time sponges: they literally soak up precious time that could be better utilized doing something else. When did you last anticipate a meeting and ask the critical question, “what is the purpose of this meeting?” And, “why am I investing time to attend this meeting?” Breaking down components of meetings and developing a personal checklist to help you navigate the meeting, conference or other key event often proves invaluable. The right checklist may lead to de-selecting meetings that are true time wasters, and investing the time elsewhere.
As you approach this incredibly busy time of year, consider the checklist approach. Pilots and flight crews never leave the ground without them. Would you expect anything less of yourself in managing your time and deliverables?
John P. Schreitmueller, PCC, ECP-BC is CEO of Atlanta-based Resolute Consulting Group LLC. Resolute Consulting Group specializes in executive leadership, organizational, developmental and behavioral coaching and counseling.
Copyright 2014 by Resolute Consulting Group LLC