HAI President’s Message: “Shut Up and Listen”

HAI President’s Message: “Shut Up and Listen”

5-Feb-2014 Source: HAI

I am one of those people who are often called on to represent the helicopter industry. Like any other talking head or pundit, I give speeches, make presentations, or write articles like this one, amazing one and all with my seemingly unlimited knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of all things. (Or that’s what I’d like to think. After all, I am a pilot.)

Along the way, I hope some of my ideas stimulate conversation and shed light on the issues that challenge us all. Once in a while, we actually make some progress.

My ability to contribute anything at all to the public conversation stems from some wonderful advice I received from one of my mentors. The message was clear, definitive, and compassionate: “Shut up and listen.”

Therein lays some of the best guidance that I have ever received. One of the finest talents a person can have is to be a good listener. Some may think that listening is just something that we do for others, to make them feel appreciated. Not true. Listening to others is the best way to learn.

How do you think I acquire the information that I put forth as a representative of the helicopter industry? It’s time to let you all in on a secret: I don’t come up with this stuff on my own. Instead, I listen to those who truly know the subject matter — operators, pilots, mechanics, OEMs, safety professionals. They live, breathe, and talk helicopters every day. What better source could I have?

As I said, I learned this lesson years ago from one of my mentors: “Stop talking and start listening to people.” And not just any people, but those who daily perform the tasks and duties being discussed. As a case in point, if you are discussing flight operations or technical issues related to aircraft, how about asking some pilots and mechanics for their opinions?

I think it is a sign of delusional thinking when people think they know better than those who deal with a subject on a daily basis, as part of their job. That just doesn’t make sense.

In my past and present life I have been on both sides of this issue, from working in the field as a line pilot to sitting at a desk in the executive suite. When I was a pilot, I used to receive the issuance of wisdom from the executive tower of knowledge with the normal response: “Does anyone in management know what is going on out here? Who thinks this stuff up?”

Then I crossed over to the dark side (management) and my world changed. Or did it really?

Certainly my perspective changed. As a line pilot or other staff member, you tend to focus on your world and how things affect you directly. That’s normal, everybody does it.

When you are in management, however, you are the one who sets the policies, procedures, and company culture that affects others in the organization. You have to consider the big picture of the company’s needs and concerns — which should also include listening to the needs and concerns of the individual staff members.

The big question for managers is this: do you provide an environment that is inclusive of input from those in the organization affected by your decisions? This is the point where the advice of “Stop talking and listen” enters into the picture.

Want to know what is going on in your organization? Stop talking and listen to the people who do. Your staff members do their jobs every day. They have firsthand knowledge of — and probably opinions on — the issues and concerns relative to their world.

By listening more, you’ll learn more. You’ll also be better able to keep everyone in the organization informed about plans, goals, and progress. This will foster a more coordinated effort and overall understanding among all staff.

The result: an organization with better internal communications, which then creates higher levels of efficiency and productivity. And the best part: this will establish the perfect foundation for a just safety culture in your organization.

So let’s review: by talking less and listening more, you’ll get a safer, more efficient, more productive workplace with engaged, empowered employees. Are you listening??

What are your thoughts? Let me know via e-mail: tailrotor@aol.com.

As always, have a safe flight and fly neighborly.

Best regards,
Matt Zuccaro

Matt Zuccaro is president of HAI.

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