Can anyone fly this plane?

I heard that to fly a plane you only have to know how to do three things. Aviate, navigate and communicate. That’s all. Those are the key elements of a pilot’s job.


You have to know how to keep the plane in the air, know where you’re going and how to get there, and you have to make sure everybody else in the crew knows what you’re doing and what you expect them to do while you’re busy aviatin’ and navigatin’.

Sounds a lot like managing.

When managing or leading a team you have to know your stuff, how to run your business so you can keep it from crashing. You don’t have to know how to do every single aspect of the business, and you may not be, probably aren’t, the best at doing every function. You just have to know how it all comes together and keep it moving forward.

Now we’re onto direction. You have to have one. You need to know how to get where you want and need to be in order to be successful. Your people are looking to you to steer, avoid turbulence and get everyone safely to their destination.

Your people. The third element. Since Lindbergh, pilots aren’t usually alone. At least not on the big commercial airliners. You need to make sure everyone knows what you’re doing and what you expect of them. You need to let them know when there’s turbulence so they aren’t serving drinks when you hit that air pocket. Your role is to keep everyone informed of what they need to do so the entire operation is successful. If you’re going to keep everyone onboard with the direction, you need to communicate what it is, why you’re headed there and what’s the benefit to each one of them.

I know I’ve vastly oversimplified flying. The useful exercise is to see if you can break your business down into the most basic components so you know what you’re doing and as important, what’s missing. And so you can clearly communicate it to those around you so everyone’s doing their job, moving in the same direction and keeping everyone else on the team informed.

Wishing you clear skies and happy landings,