Have you ever heard the phrase ‘trust your instruments’? While this isn’t something you’re likely to hear on a day to day basis, it certainly is something that pilots tells themselves all the time. Pilots can often experience spatial disorientation when in a cloud bank or complete darkness. This is where the pilot gets confused about their position in relation to the horizon, and it can be quite dangerous. In a worst-case scenario fighter planes can become inverted and the pilot can end up flying the plane into the ground because they are confused about their position. Pilots are therefore taught to trust their instruments so that they can confirm that they are in the right place.
In the middle of uncertain times, as we are at the moment, we can easily become disorientated. We can become confused as to what is the way ahead and what to trust. As a business or organisation this can prove challenging, particularly if leadership becomes paralysed by what to do next.
This is where we need to trust our instruments, to stretch the analogy. If you are leading well, and leading from who you are, then it is possible to lean in and trust those things you have worked out. Your onboard values will enable you to remain steady and moving forward in a disorientating time. The problem for pilots is their attitude. It was all wrong, they thought they were the right way up but were in fact upside down, and their decision in the moment lead to disaster.
A leader with the right attitude at any time and particularly in the middle of a crisis will ensure that the organisation will keep going and and keep growing. The right attitude in the leader can mean the difference between a team willing to go the extra mile to get things done and those who are no longer engaged because of a perceived lack of care.
A phrase I have come across in my leadership career is this one:
“It’s your attitude not your aptitude that will determine your altitude.”
Your abilities and skills will only get you so far. It is the way in which you interact with others around you that will determine how far you go. It also determines the potential performance of those you are leading.
At times such as we are in now, when we take time to express gratitude to those we work with or those who report to us, then this lifts people and shows you care. When we recognise the challenging place that some on our team and in our organisation find themselves like this, it may not seem like we are doing much at the time but it is the little things like this that are remembered. They put deposits in the trust accounts of interpersonal relationships.
Let me encourage you today to think about your attitude. We cannot change much of what is going on around us, but we can think about how we will respond. Attitude is about your posture, intentionally positioning yourself so you can respond well, learn and grow through any situation.
Some days we find it difficult to have the right attitude, on those days I have found it helpful to think about one thing I am grateful for. It can be challenging at first, but it often cascades into many other things. This helps me to focus outwards onto others.
As a leader, having a right attitude doesn’t mean being inauthentic, you can still be real about how things are affecting you. In doing that you give permission for others on the team to do the same. It doesn’t mean that your feelings need to determine your behaviour. These things I have found clear the fog of disorientation and help us take the next step.
I leave you with this quote from Winston Churchill:
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”