In my latest book ‘Your navigator’ I share some of the experiences and adventures that forged my own understanding of what makes a difference in leadership – from the leadership qualities that matter through to the leadership principles that make a real difference to individual, team and organisational effectiveness. In a series of blogs over the next 8 weeks I’ll be sharing excerpts from each of the key chapters in ‘Your navigator’.
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Week #8 – mission command. A proven and successful way of getting results is to follow the principles of Mission Command. This approach is not the preserve of the military – it can be successfully applied in many different contexts. In today’s excerpt, I share my first experience of commanding a mission.
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“Before we start, what sort of day are we going to have? This is my Mission Command lead and I don’t want to see it derailed by shoddy time-keeping. Is that understood? If we say that the brief starts at 0800, it starts at 0800…ok?”
It was 10thAugust 2000 and I was addressing the senior officers and instructors of the Rotary Wing Operational Evaluation Training Unit, and my fellow students of No. 15 Qualified Helicopter Tactics Instructor Course (QHTIC) at Royal Air Force Leeming in Yorkshire. This was my check ride; I had to pass the day to become a Qualified Helicopter Tactics Instructor (QHTI); one of the most coveted qualifications to hold on a Support Helicopter (SH) Squadron – and I was starting the day by giving a bollocking!
I had been getting frustrated. From my early days in the Royal Air Force, like everyone else in the room, I had been taught to always be five minutes early. Much of life in the military revolves around briefings and punctuality, to a degree this was part of our professionalism and what the military is known for. Ultimately, operationally, there was little room for error with timings. Being late or early could have life threatening consequences. I had noticed that during the week, staff, and some students, had got into the habit of arriving for briefings just in time, or maybe not, and certainly not respecting the five minutes before rule. Since the briefing started with a time check it was essential that everyone was present and ready to synchronise watches so that we would all be on the same time throughout the mission. I wanted to set a standard and assert my authority on the day so that everyone knew that I was the Mission Commander (MC) that day and that it mattered.
I was getting an enthusiastic thumbs up and silent ‘yeeessss Rich’ from Paul, our lead crewman, sitting several rows back in the briefing room. He and the other crews had been dutifully waiting on time in the briefing room; equally frustrated as me that the front row occupants were dragging their heels. I had been in work from 0630hrs, which was when I received the met brief for the day and the frag sheet, the detailed mission instruction that I was responsible for planning and leading throughout day. The mission started proper for all participants with the time check and main briefing at 0800hrs. There then followed about five hours of planning followed by a three-hour flying mission. When we landed there would be a series of debriefings. It would be a long day. The spotlight was on me and this day was important to me. So, to have the front row of my briefing walk in with plus or minus seconds to spare was not good enough; we needed to be clear on what sort of standards we would keep for the day. I think I gave two bollockings in my sixteen-year Royal Air Force career; this was the first one. To be fair, the culprits on the front row looked suitably awkward, embarrassed and penitent and so we got on with the show. Despite being junior in rank to several of the people on the front row, my authority as MC was established.
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To find out more about Mission Command, and how it can be applied to your leadership context ‘Your navigator’ book is available from Amazon:
If you or your organisation is in need of a navigator to develop brilliant leaders and leadership then please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org