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Communication for Leaders

Communicating at Mach 2

In a business world where Leaders are constantly looking for ways to drive execution and accountability, the fighter pilot’s technique of regular Briefings before key meetings and events is one of the most powerful tools in a leader’s toolbox.  The idea of Briefing assumes that you may be the best and the brightest leader in the world, and you may have the greatest ideas or plans in your head; but if you don’t find a way to communicate your great ideas to the people who work for you, then all of your ideas will be for naught, because you will be flying solo and so will your people.

The Briefing

The purpose of a “Briefing” is to communicate your plans in a clear concise manner, so the team can be successful in executing the plan.  So often in business, many days and hours are spent preparing for a meeting.  Emails are exchanged, phone calls and face to face prep sessions have occurred.  But when it comes time to actually execute the plans, there is often a lack of clarity on exactly who is leading and what roles the rest of the team should play.

In a briefing, the leader details the circumstances surrounding the mission, the mission objectives, the roles and responsibilities that each team member will play, and how the team will react in the event of contingencies.

The briefing ensures that when you kick off your work week at 8 AM on Monday, or walk in to a meeting with one of your top customers,your team is aligned, flying in formation, and ready to execute at the highest possible level.

Many of the businesses we work with at Mach 2 Consulting have adopted the “5 R’s of Briefing” to make sure that that they “R Ready” for their week, their meetings and their events.  The 5 R’s is a simple checklist to help a leader prepare for key meetings and events, and to remind that leader how to communicate his plan to the team.

Roadmap

The team leader paints the “big picture” view and brings the team up to speed on the situation.  Where have we been?  Where are we now?  Where do we want to go?

Results Desired

Results desired are quite simply objectives.  In a military context, objectives might include destroying a target during a specific time window.   In a sales context, results desired might be to close a deal for $10M plus, or to secure a follow on appointment with a key decision maker.  In any case, fighter pilots and business leaders must make sure that their objectives are clear and measurable.    We take for granted that objectives must be clear, but I am constantly amazed how many of my clients walk into customer meetings without a clear understanding of their meeting objectives.  By the same token, I see many teams kick off their week without clear alignment on their personal and team objectives.

Once clear and measurable objectives have been laid out, now you have an environment where team members are prepared to execute and the leader can drive accountability. Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell and Author of the bestselling book, “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” (Crown Publishing Group, 2002) says the following about accountability:

“I start with the premise that your higher quality people want to be held accountable, because it gives them an opportunity to display their performance.  To do that, I try to give them clear objectives and goals, so they can be measured against those objectives and goals at the end of the period, and they can demonstrate that they’ve been accountable.”

Room and Logistics

Every mission includes logistics – the coordination of the mundane details that must be addressed in order for a meeting or event to succeed.  Logistics for a “sales pitch” mission might involve – Where is the meeting?  Who will attend? Where will we sit? Who has the collateral materials? Do we need AV? The “devil is in the details” and the logistics portion of the briefing is a critical one for mission success.

Roles and Responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities is “the meat” of any Briefing.  This section allows the leader to clearly lay out   how he needs his team to execute.  It also provides a leader the opportunity to paint a picture of perfection.  In the case of a client meeting, this would be the time that he reconfirms roles such as leader, wingman, subject matter expert, and even note taker or time keeper.  He then can paint a picture of the perfect meeting flow, and each team members part in supporting that perfect flow.  Many leaders will event have team members role play their specific parts to make sure that everyone’s “mind is right” and we are ready for our mission.

Risks

Once the perfect plan has been covered, it is critical for the mission leader to tear her plan apart and review the risks and contingencies that could come into play.  From a fighter pilot’s perspective, Risks are things we can control, and contingencies are things that we can not control.  In a “sales pitch” risks might be: what are the key questions we expect the customer to ask, who will answer them, and what will their answer be?  On the other hand, contingencies might be: what if the meeting starts 30 minutes late and we only have half the time we expect? Or, what if the key decision maker doesn’t show up or is late?

Discussing the potential risks, and approaches for dealing with them, can be a critical element in ensuring success during any business mission.

Peak Performance

Just like fighter pilots, business leaders can standardize how they communicate with their people prior to key meetings and events as an easy way to create accountability and drive better results.  Mach2 Consulting specializes in helping organizations around the world develop communication and leadership strategies based on fighter pilot principles that generate peak performance for leaders and their teams.

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