turmoil

Aviate, Navigate, and Communicate When Your Business Faces Turmoil

By Shawn Burcham

Industry lifecycles, industry disruption, innovation, financial markets, and now even viruses are just some examples of challenges leaders face in business today. What happens when your company faces an unprecedented, uncharted challenge? How do leaders approach business when turmoil occurs in society? 

Aviation has played a big role in the way I’ve built my businesses and the way I’ve conducted myself as a leader. The lessons I’ve learned as a pilot are in direct correlation with how I manage business. Through the years, I’ve relied on this principle to stay on course as I help everyone toward greater success: Aviate. Navigate. Communicate. 

As you train to become a pilot, some of the primary things you are taught are what to do in case of different emergencies. Above and beyond the need to remain calm in case of emergency, a pilot must first aviate the airplane if possible. This means, fly the airplane first and make sure you have control. Second, navigate the airplane which means to determine where you are headed. Finally, it is the pilot’s job to communicate with air traffic control or others on the radio.

Great leaders who are at the controls and maneuvering through uncertainties will alleviate some of the chaos within an organization when faced with turmoil. People look to leaders to lead in good times as well as bad times. Successful leaders aviate their companies during both. Remember at times you must make tough decisions that may be unpopular but necessary in order to keep the company in business.     

Navigating uncharted areas in business will be defined by your company’s core purpose, mission, vision, and core values. The company culture you’ve built (or should be building) has already set the course for what happens when faced with adversity. Healthy team dynamics with a firm foundation will help with intentional responses to what is going on externally, even during chaos. Challenge your team to bring solutions and continue to hold them accountable. As a leader, it’s your job to ensure that your company is headed in the right direction. 

Communication on a regular basis builds trust within an organization. A good leader is constantly communicating to ensure everyone understands what is affecting the business and where the business is headed. Communicating more frequently in situations of turmoil helps employees remain calm and reinforces the importance of teamwork. When your team trusts that they are informed, they feel empowered to focus on finding successful solutions to the challenges they are faced with. 

It takes a strong leader to keep it together when faced with obstacles. I encourage all leaders to remember that “calm is contagious.” When adversity strikes, think quickly: Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.

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