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How To Make Simple Course Corrections December 13, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.

Back in the days before 9-11, I found myself on an overnight flight across the Atlantic Ocean to England. Seated all around me were drunken, Estonian sailors who had proceeded in 1.5 hours to drink the airplane dry of any and all alcohol. At only three hours into the eight-hour flight, I was becoming increasingly agitated by the drunken sailor next to me who insisted on practicing his 3-word English vocabulary replete with spittle, belches and the occasional waft of stomach gases.

The flight attendant, sensing my agitation, took pity on me and asked me to accompany her to the back of the plane. In the back galley, there were several seats occupied by other flight attendants and I was invited to take a seat amongst them and take a break from the beer-burpy-spittle sailor.

After about an hour of quiet, being served coffee and tea and a few munchy snacks, the Chief Flight Attendant asked if I would be interested in meeting the Captain and seeing the cockpit (remember, this was pre 9-11).

Upon opening the cockpit doors, I found the pilot and co-pilot facing one another and playing a game of cards to which the captain chuckled, “I’ll bet you’re wondering who’s flying this thing huh?”

The captain then proceeded to show me how it all worked. To my amazement, I learned that once in the air, the computer flew the plane. The Captain pulled up our flight path on the computer screen which indicated anything but a straight line.

“At 40,000 feet, it’s windy and our plane gets knocked off course all of the time,” the Captain said. “The computer’s job is to make a small series of corrections along the way to keep us on our course so we don’t end up in Spain when we were heading for England.”

This story illustrates the useful strategy of small course corrections versus the major reactive strategy of trying to recover from a serious, uncorrected error along the way. This same strategy can be applied to daily interaction and communication with employees to make small course corrections so that you don’t end up in Spain when you were heading for England.

The Annual Performance Review, as many managers have explained it to me, is like ending up nowhere near where you were headed. The Annual Performance Review only allows for major corrections – the big things that went unsaid for months and were never dealt with when they should have been.

However, Tweaking™ your employees daily in simple ten-second interactions daily will give your people better feedback, better direction and build better trust culminating in better loyalty and reduced turnover.

Remember, if you prefer chaotic crisis intervention, putting out major fires and stressing yourself out in dealing with setback, by all means, stick with the Annual Performance Review of having only one discussion around each employee’s performance per year. But if you want to watch your employees get better every day, watch them improve their performance, increase their engagement levels and come together as a cohesive team, then I suggest the Tweak™ Strategy for management.

Small course corrections are much easier to do but require you to pay more attention to your people.


For more information on how Kevin can help your managers get better at communicating with employees and building engagement, value and culture, check here: http://kevburns.com/speaking/tweak-a-new-management-strategy



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