Aviation Reporting Executives: How They Evaluate You

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Regardless of what job we have or role we play within an organization, none of us is the “ultimate authority.” There’s always someone else judging our performance, relevance and alignment.

man overlooking aircraft operation - photo from unsplashAnd they usually have a different lens, a different set of beliefs, directional intent and perspectives.


By Jim Lara


Whether we’re a leader—or an individual contributor—we should pay very close attention to these evaluation criteria if we truly aspire to succeed.

Virtually every business or private aviation team is a service organization within a larger host organization.

This even applies to aircraft management, charter and fractional ownership firms that are in service to their aircraft owners and retail charter clients. That means no one is exempt from this high level of performance evaluation.

So why is it so important to be acutely aware of how you are perceived by those in a position of evaluating you? It’s critically important because, at the end of the day, they hold a piece of your future in their hands.


What Should Your Aviation Reporting Executive be Observing?

As an aviation professional, you might respond with “Safety, highly competent maintenance and flight crews, logistics without a hitch,” and so forth.

But is that what your boss is really observing or looking for?

Does he or she assume that all of the fundamental operational areas are competently addressed as a matter of course?

Some years ago, business and private aviation reported directly to the CEO or individual owner. It was quite common to hear that the quality of a trip was measured by three criteria:

  1. Was the aircraft clean?
  2. Was the catering great?
  3. Was the landing smooth?

Those measures remain valid today, but, for mature organizations, they have moved into the assumed category. Now, the aviation leader is reporting lower (within the corporate structure) to executives who may not be authorized to use the services of the business aviation unit.

In today’s fast-paced and hyper-competitive world, successful business aviation leaders must constantly develop their ability to influence the decisions made by their organizational superiors. 

In order to do this, you, the aviation leader, must first be viewed as relevant and credible by your superior. You do this by providing your superior with multiple opportunities to work with you—directly.

The best results are achieved when you work with your boss on a number of initiatives. He or she will be keenly interested in your problem-solving, reasoning and communication skills. The more in-person interaction time you have with him/her, the better.


Your Boss is Your Client

Before the first of these interactive sessions, you should do your homework. It is of paramount importance for you to know a lot about your boss.

  • What are the key components of his/her career?
  • What is his/her educational and professional background?
  • What operating style can you expect?
  • What are his/her core professional beliefs and standards?

In short, you need to view your boss, and maybe even your boss’s boss, as very important professional clients.

And it’s equally important to know yourself.  

To paraphrase the ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, as he shared in his famous manifesto, “The Art of War”:

If you know your client and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred encounters. If you know yourself but not your client, for every successful encounter you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither your client nor yourself, you will succumb in every encounter.

Knowledge of your client (boss) is essential to the point that you can accurately predict how he/she will react in every situation.

In order to accurately make these outcome predictions, you must first understand how they make assessments.

  • What do they look at?
  • What is most and least important to them?
  • Which metrics mean the most to them—financial, performance to plan, schedules, reliability and/or operational flexibility?

There’s a myriad of possibilities.


Creating Your Own Evaluation Criteria

Figure out what’s most important to your superior (as opposed to what’s most important to you), and report against those criteria. Then your boss will come to appreciate that you are aligned with the way he thinks and how he makes decisions. This will build your credibility and influence in his eyes.

Of course, you can never go outside the bounds of safe operations, regulatory compliance or ethical behavior.

In most settings, aviation is not the core competency of the host organization.

As such, your aviation reporting executive will likely not be an aviation subject matter expert. He or she will be assessing to what extent the leaders of the aviation unit can be relied upon to “make the right decisions.”

“Right,” of course, will be defined as being consistent with his/her values and norms.

Once you thoroughly understand your boss’s evaluation criteria, report against those standards in a regular and consistent manner.   

Your objective should be to keep your boss well informed about what has happened, what’s going on now and, most importantly, what you expect to be happening (results) in the foreseeable future.

In today’s business and private aviation world, in order to achieve the operational results that the host organization is paying for, leaders must be effective influencers.

Understanding, aligning with and performing in a manner consistent with your boss’s assessment criteria is one of the most effective ways of building your professional influence within the host enterprise and aviation organization.

So I ask you: When’s the last time you’ve had an in-person discussion with your aviation reporting executive regarding your evaluation criteria?

Do you (and your organization) understand how you’re being judged, evaluated and viewed by those who determine your fate? Are you answering that question through their lenses?

Or are you seeing it all through yours? 


Your Turn

We’re interested in your feedback and would like to hear about your personal experience. Please leave a comment in the section below, give us a call at 1-865-357-5077 or send us an email.



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