Each of us who takes a command position, regardless of the endeavor, must strike a balance between knowing and believing. One represents a conclusion. The other is little more than a hope.
In any situation where management of people or ideas is required, there is a gray area that exists in the gap between those two concepts.
These are the rocky shoals where salvation can occur, or errors can be made. This is where either clarity or calamity are born. We strive for one even as we hope to avoid the other.
Yet we don’t always come down on the sunny side of difficult situations. For as sharp as we may be, we are not omniscient. We are mere humans. Infallibility is beyond our reach.Like the less experienced pilot sitting beside them, the captain’s cognitive powers can be compromised by details as simple and as profound as lack of sleep, nagging hunger, external personal pressures and, yes, even fear.
It was discovered that captains who used their depth of experience and force of will as their exclusive tools in managing the cockpit could fall prey to their own hubris. You know the initiative designed to counteract those failings as Crew Resource Management or Cockpit Resource Management.
When faced with the need to make a decision, pilots who actively seek out all the available tools tend to have better outcomes than those who rely solely on only their own input.
Because of this new way of looking at the decision-making process and the methods of implementing those ideas commercial aviation has become much safer.
Whether you sit in the left seat, or far back in the cabin, you’ve benefited from this advance in methods of human interaction.
Fortunately, these same principles can be adapted to virtually any position or activity that requires decision-making and implementation on a managerial level. The concept is relatively simple, and almost universally improves the outcome of challenging situations that might otherwise have devolved into chaos, or at the very least, an unpleasant and unproductive environment.
CRM is simply an adaptation of methods that can be implemented when dealing with human beings who are interacting with machines, processes, or projects. It’s about people and their relationships with other people. The outcome of a successful implementation of CRM is an increase in efficiency and safety.
Now who could be opposed to that?
Well, you and me, frankly. Not in theory perhaps, but in practice many of us have a natural aversion to using CRM in the general aviation cockpit, and in our lives outside the cockpit, because we see it as an indictment of our ability to make good decisions on our own, to conduct our business without meddling from others.
In short, we think of the CRM concept as an insult that suggests we can’t get the job done on our own.
The common misconception is that a command position equates to a dictatorial position. The captain of an airliner has immense responsibility, but he or she also has a trained crew and a wide assortment of tools available.
Whether mechanical, electrical, or human, those tools can be put to use to ease the captain’s workload, provide additional information, and put a set of checks and balances in place that benefit all concerned.
This same principle can be extended to the general aviation cockpit, or our business dealings, or our home life. Sure, you might be Superman or Superwoman, imbued with the ability to shoulder the entire load of every situation and do every job that comes your way better than anyone else on earth, but that’s unlikely.
CRM suggests you ease up, share the load, and lead rather than drive your subordinates.
In the end you’ll be a happier person and the work will get done just the same. Maybe better.
The opposite of a leader who uses CRM is a boss who micro-manages his or her assistants. You’ve seen this dynamic play out before. We all have. You may even have fallen victim to it yourself.
The unanticipated and unintended weakness of the micro-manager is that in being overbearing and excessively demanding in their instructions and guidance, they bring their own weaknesses and ignorance to every project they touch, while simultaneously preventing their underlings from bringing their own strengths to bear.
The math of this is simple. A manager who introduces a negative to a work group and blocks all efforts to allow a positive to be applied to the tasks the group is responsible for ultimately dooms the entire group to failure.
Whether you’re managing the cockpit of a wide-body airliner, an operating room, or a flying club with only four members, the same principles apply.
If you use all the tools available to you, including the creativity and enthusiasm of your team, you all win. If, on the other hand you choose to discourage or ignore the contributions of others, you will all lose.
There is always hope. There is always help. For those of us in positions of responsibility, it is up to us to recognize those opportunities and make the best possible use of them.