Yesterday morning I was standing in the aisle of an aircraft waiting to disembark when my eyes settled on the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) sitting in the overhead bin above the front row. As a frequent traveler and a licensed pilot of 22 years, I know the importance of this device. It does absolutely nothing!…unless of course there is an emergency like a crash, in which case it sends off a signal to help search and rescue find the plane.
I always get unique looks from passengers of my own when I am briefing them before taking them on a flight with me at the controls. The looks come when I tell them where the ELT is and tell them that if for some reason we need search and rescue and I am unable to get to the ELT, one of them should get to it and make sure it has activated itself and if not, they should activate it by flipping a switch.
The thought that came to me when I saw the ELT yesterday morning was how many times I have worked with businesses that call their senior management team an ELT (Executive Leadership Team). Yes, the same acronym ELT can stand for Executive Leadership Team, Emergency Locator Transmitter and probably many other things as well. Then I reflected on how often an executive team if not careful, can spend a lot of its time focusing on identifying and responding to emergency situations, if not creating the emergency themselves – thereby behaving more like an Emergency Locator Transmitter than an Executive Leadership Team.
Too often, I have watched executive teams spend their energies on emergency responses, where it seems one of their primary functions is to push a panic button when something goes wrong. I am not trying to sound overly critical, as I have also witnessed many strong executive teams who do not panic, but rather lead in planned and thoughtful ways. Teams that simply jump from emergency response to emergency response though, exist far too often and are low on the effectiveness scale.
Have you had a good look at your executive team recently and reflected on the extent to which you may be functioning as a reactive team, responding primarily when there is an “emergency” of sorts? Of course the executive team has a role to play in these situations, but your primary role is to plan in a proactive way, predicting as much as possible and putting in enough risk mitigation strategies upfront such that these emergencies are seldom realized and that when faced with them, automatic responses are put in place in a calm way. Emergencies will happen, but don’t get caught falling into the trap of being an executive team and focusses on managing from emergency to emergency.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Request direct feedback from your middle managers in particular how they perceive your executive team relative to your proactive planning and leading versus your crisis management every time there is an emergency.
- Review recent “emergency” type situations that have launched your team into a crisis response. Was the response necessary each and every time, or could you have avoided the crisis management?
- Determine the most likely “emergencies” that your company could encounter in the next 18 to 24 months and plan in advance for business continuity and a planned response to various potential “crises” that could arise.
Be sure not to be the emergency locator style of executive team or you will be spinning your wheels, will create panic and insecurity throughout the company and have everyone always on the end of their seat, waiting for the next panic. The teams (I have seen many) that manage from crisis to crisis think they are leading, but they are not.