Ever heard of the ‘first rule of communication?’
A highly experienced and exceptionally wise corporate communications professional once taught me his and I’ve never forgotten it. “Once you think you’ve communicated all that you possibly can, start over.”
As aviation director, do you think that you communicate clearly and effectively with your flight department?
How do you know—I mean really know—that your message is getting heard?
How do you ensure that you have your ear to the ground and know what’s going on in the cockpit? Or on the hangar floor? And everywhere else in the department?
Effective communication is challenging and requires a significant commitment of time and energy. Let’s be honest, it often takes a back seat to other operational matters that we consider more pressing. Communication is a vitally important aspect of leadership, but, deep down, most of us know we should be doing more.
There is good news, however! By implementing a few highly effective communication best practices:
- Every flight department team member will be fully informed and prepared to respond to the operational priorities of the day.
- Your leadership team will be unified and working on the strategic issues that will drive the organization to higher levels of performance.
- You will have direct dialog with all aviation team members.
- Everyone will feel free to come into your office and share whatever is on his/her mind.
4 Best Practices of Internal Flight Department Communications
Below are four best practices that the Gray Stone Advisors’ team has used with great success in flight departments of all sizes. Put them to work and you’ll reap the benefits mentioned above.
1. Hold Daily Operations Meetings
Daily operations meetings are much like a football team’s huddle on the line of scrimmage, outlining the next play in the game. It’s best if they happen every day, early in the morning, and take no more than 15 minutes.
Everyone in the department should be invited, either in-person or via conference call, to focus exclusively on the day’s flight schedule.
As the leader, you’ll want to go around the table and give everyone (including those on the phone) the opportunity to ask questions and/or clarify the activity supporting the day’s flights.
Think this is trivial? In every daily operations meeting we’ve led, without fail, there are team members who say they’ve learned something they didn’t know before the meeting began. And this new knowledge always results in key ‘saves’ for the department, such as positioning cars in the right place, incorporating last-minute itinerary changes, etc.
2. Conduct Weekly Leadership Team Meetings
Daily operations meetings are tactical and address near-term operational activity. Meanwhile, leadership team meetings are strategic and address longer-term issues that help move the department to the next level of operational performance.
These mandatory, weekly, one-hour meetings include your direct report leadership team only and should have a focused agenda that is determined each week by the leadership team members. Topics typically include annual objective status updates, operating plan reviews, corporate issues, etc.
These recurring meetings are a great way to address updates with the ‘owners’ of collateral duties, who can be invited in on a rotating basis to provide a status update. Leadership team meetings should always include ‘information sharing’ and published minutes distributed prior to the next meeting.
Having trouble keeping your flight department focused on the larger, more strategic issues? Try holding weekly leadership team meetings.
3. Make Time for One-on-One Meetings
Oftentimes, it’s easy to think you know the issues that are in the hearts and minds of your people. But let’s face it, much of what we learn comes through the filter of others, primarily our direct reports. By making time for one-on-one meetings with each employee in the flight department, you can ensure that your finger is truly on the pulse.
As aviation director, you should schedule one-on-one meetings with all flight department employees at least once a year, and they should each take about 45 minutes per employee. To break the ice, start the meeting with your assurance of confidentiality and a short lead-in that highlights a key message. Then step back and let the team members have the floor for whatever they want to talk about.
By the time you finish talking with all your employees, you’ll be amazed at what you know—and what you didn’t know before you started.
4. Have a ‘Door Open’ Policy
This is not to be confused with an ‘open door’ policy, which means that people are free to come in and talk to you. A ‘door open’ policy means your office door remains open more than it is closed.
Closing your office door gives the perception of an ‘inner sanctum’ and the existence of secrets. It sends a message of haves and have not’s within the department.
A ‘door open’ policy helps you create a level playing field and a reputation for not playing favorites. Sure, there are times when you need to speak confidentially with someone, but try to have some of those meetings elsewhere, perhaps in the conference room. With an open office door, you create an atmosphere of invitation, not exclusion.
I’ve been amazed at the highly informative, late-day discussions I’ve had with employees who stop by to talk just because my door is open. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
These four best practices have proven to be highly effective means of internal communication, but they are not the only ways it can be achieved. At Gray Stone Advisors, we’re sure that you have some innovative approaches, too. We’d be interested in knowing what they are, so please feel free to share them in the comments below.
If you have any questions or would like to further discuss any aspect of the communication techniques that we’ve introduced here, feel free to get in touch with us.
The most important thing to do is to commit to a communication plan and stick with it. As a leader, it’s one of the most important things you can do.
And remember, once you think that you’ve finished, start over!