In 1999, one of my F/A-18 instructors was Major Mark ‘Grace’ Kelly, on exchange from the United States Air Force. Back then, he was a very well respected F-15E fighter pilot and an inspiring leader and warrior. ‘General’ Kelly now serves as the commander of Air Combat Command.
‘Grace’ always had the ability to simplify complex operations, and I stole one of his mantras and used it over and over again in my own career as a fighter pilot and instructor; ‘Do the ordinary things extraordinarily well.’
As a fighter pilot, the ordinary things were what we called 'fighter basics'; things like form, comm and radar.
‘Form’ is formation. Always be in the position everyone else expects you to be in. As lead, that means flying predictably and accurately, and as a wingman, it means staying visual with lead no matter what.
‘Comm’ is communications. In an air to air war, radios are extremely busy, so you need to speak accurately and at the appropriate time.
‘Radar’ meant having disciplined radar routines. Always searching your area of responsibility, and using appropriate modes for the situation.
No matter how complex the mission was, no matter if things didn’t go according to plan, if we did the ‘ordinary things extraordinarily well’, we really couldn’t go too far wrong.
How many times are operations in your workplace let down by the simple things? Every industry has its own ‘ordinary things’. In a rugby team, it is things like passing, field position, scrum technique. In a restaurant, it might be customer service and maintaining exceptional food quality and presentation.
By taking the time to identify the ‘ordinary things’ within your business (they should support your core values), you have a great focus point for your team. When things become extremely busy, when stress levels are raised and the ‘fog of war’ is causing confusion, the ‘ordinary things’ can provide much needed psychological anchor point and will ensure your team prioritises correctly.
Do the ordinary things extraordinarily well.