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Self-Aware as a Helicopter?

I have another story/analogy for you…

So I had the pleasure of working with a good friend, Chris Rawson-Harris, over a 4 year period. He’s a wise man (70 + years) who I’ve learnt a lot from. When I was first getting to know him he gave me a lesson on self-awareness. Either he thought I needed it, or he thought it would give me more perspective, I’m hoping the latter. Either way, I’m going to share it with anyone who’s still reading as I found it interesting and have used it in coaching others since.

Chris said that some of the most self-aware people on the planet are helicopter pilots. This is because to fly a helicopter they have to learn to sit much farther outside of themselves, outside of their own heads, outside of their helicopters, sometimes quite a fair distance away in order to perceive how they are impacting or could impact their surroundings as they navigate along their flightpath. They need to be both in their own head and up to 200m outside of themselves, and be aware of their 360 degree surroundings, all at the same time. And isn’t this what being self-aware is all about? To most, it’s all about reading the room and sensing how you are coming across to others. Think about how many times have you been in a meeting and someone was just not reading how poorly they are coming across to those around them.

Now whilst Chris didn’t say it, I know his lesson was about more than board room etiquette. Being self-aware in a meeting, well, that’s kind of obvious to most of us. A meeting is one thing, but what about the whole floor of an office… Have a think about it, how often do you just walk into the office straight off the elevator, or go to make a coffee, and you don’t even think about the message you are sending as you pass your peers or staff. Do you say hello, smile, or stop to have a chat with someone who’s made eye contact? Do you meander along or do you walk with purpose? The attitude you take whilst doing something so simple, can have a very positive or a very negative impact on those around you, and the more senior you are the more it compounds either positively or negatively. Think helicopter propellers and powerlines, over a forest surrounding a school...

Yet it goes on! How do you conduct yourself as you walk along the sidewalk to meet clients? Are you walking with your head high or low? Who is seeing this and what does it say to the rest of the market about not only you, but your employer? Imagine an office where the person in charge only speaks to their direct reports, and when those direct reports leave that office they are clearly demoralised. How will that translate across the business? On the other hand, imagine the opposite. Where the senior reports are leaving their bosses’ office looking motivated, appreciated and walking out with a sense of purpose. How will the staff feel about the business then? So this obviously applies at all levels.

One of the most important things I learned in the army was that morale was everything. From the Private all the way up to the General, we all have a part to play. So next time you’re lifting off or setting down in the office or anywhere really, remember, it's really like you’re still in that meeting room, and you don’t want to be THAT GUY who couldn’t read the room.

“Morale still seems to be reasonably high and, while the desertion rate has risen, it is limited to those who can still walk” – Woody Allen

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