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Performance Hack: In an emergency, ‘sit on your hands’.

How impulsive are you? How impulsive is the organization you lead?

Think back to the times where you have made ‘snap decisions’…did you need to act with such haste, or would you have benefited from a more measured approach?

When flying an airliner, there are only a few situations where pilots need to act immediately. We know what they are, and are well prepared for them:

  • A go-around from very low level

  • A terrain warning

  • Smoke and fumes

  • A traffic collision warning

  • Rejected takeoff

  • Rejected landing

  • Brake failure

  • Decompression

  • Low IAS or stall warning

The reasons these situations must be acted on immediately is that delay may cause death and serious injury. Are there situations in your workplace which require immediate action to avoid catastrophe? If so, these must be prepared for and rehearsed. If not, you can afford to ‘sit on your hands’.

In almost every other situation when the warning bells sound, pilots must resist the temptation to act quickly. We are trained to ‘sit on our hands’ to avoid missing critical information; to ensure we fully understand the situation before taking action which may undesirable.

The term ‘sit on your hands’ was introduced to me during Air Force flying training, and reminds me that when the warning bells start sounding, don’t DO anything. Take some time to stop and think. Gather information and assess options rationally before executing a plan.

This sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how strong the natural impulse is to start acting immediately. During an emergency, waiting just 5 seconds before making a decision can seem like an eternity. But…it’s only 5 seconds, and can mean the difference between a successful outcome and making a bad problem worse!

A common example of this impulse is our strong desire to respond to inflammatory emails whilst our emotions are still running hot. By ‘sitting on our hands’ for 30 minutes, we allow our emotions to calm, and can approach our response in a more measured manner.

When the warning bells sound, 'sit on your hands'.

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