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Leadership: Successful Timing as a Critical & Deeper aspect of True Situational Awareness.

For this blog, I offer a critical aspect that leaders must consider to be successful in an Unpredictable and Unstable “VUCA” environment. Let me first offer a key quote that is a great picture of this central thought and I will then offer a couple of real-world examples. The Quote comes from Lisa Bevere and she quoted in a different application but it is critical for this one as well and I will relate that.

“If you do the Right Thing….at the Wrong Time… becomes the Wrong Thing!”

– Lisa Bevere

Successful Timing as a Critical & Deeper aspect of True Situational Awareness.
Successful Timing as a Critical & Deeper aspect of True Situational Awareness.

Example 1:

One example was a Pilot Evaluation that I was conducting for a really experienced pilot. While they were in a holding pattern and he heard the Expected Clearance, he put it in the Flight Management System (FMS or Navigational Computer System that the autopilot would follow). Unfortunately, he activated it before he was supposed to and it removed what the aircraft was supposed to be following and the aircraft turned away before it was supposed to and prematurely left the holding pattern.

In the debrief, he acknowledged his mistake and I asked him what the root cause was? He wasn’t sure and I got him to realize that true Situational Awareness is not just where you are and where you want to go but often it is do I know WHEN TO PRESS THIS BUTTON at the right time to achieve what I need.

Example 2:

I offer that with my experience in Strategic Air Defense back in the “Cold War” era involving NATO and Soviet Union forces many years ago. When Soviet TU-95 “Bear” Bombers would fly to Cuba they would usually fly deliberately close to the US Airspace and Coastline. When we would intercept them and both forces were usually taking pictures (obviously for intel update strategic purposes) and yet we had one of our fighters in firing position the whole time so that if anything weird happened, for instance if the bomber’s tail gunner uncaged his cannon, we could shoot them down immediately and they knew that. There are many other examples of situations where in military ops your goal is to do the seemingly right thing but if at the wrong time, it could result in much worse and turn out to be bad. Sometimes, it might be worth it but sometimes, maybe not. Timing is a critical part of situational awareness so as to not cross an unintended line in either direction. And I offer you this; if a leader is only thinking about an academic situation or sequence, they can fall into the trap of doing something at the wrong time and possibly negating their desired outcome.

In a rapidly changing situation, leaders must be prepared when the situation comes on scene and have a clear sense of the critical strategic timing. If the leader waits until they have to sort it out…..they have waited too long and may miss the clarity of the strategic timing.

Let me ask you:

Thinking back on your previous situations, in what ways did you do it at the right time….or wrong time?

More importantly and like the pilot I mentioned above:

“In what situations was it wrong because it was at the wrong time but…you were not clear on that at the point of attack?”

Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC


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