top of page

Situational Awareness Is Focusing NOT on Content….but on the CONTEXT!

For this blog, I want to illustrate a key aspect for which a leader and the team must be aware. This aspect brings Neuroscience into play as well. It is a critical thing for the leader to model for his/her team. I will also include a current discussed aviation initiative that illustrates how this can be missed in today’s world. Successful Decision Making & True Success depends on this truth. First let me state that true Situational Awareness is…

Focusing NOT on Content; but focusing on CONTEXT.

leaders; I have truly seen so many examples of how this needed to be improved. On a published television interview that KC Armstrong had me on as guest, I said this, and it is critical:

“If you are taking your thinking to rote academic scenarios, you are missing the boat. Also, if you are leading your team to take their thinking back to their comfort zones, you are missing the boat!” - Executive Coach Randy

Leaders in any arena, whether aviation flight crews or business teams, must be able to process the factors and generate successful decision making for the Actual and Current Situation that Truly Exists. This is necessary to maximize safety and minimize risk.

The current aviation example which also illustrates the real picture of this concept is simply the fact that recently there has evolved a drive that is seeking to take airline flight crews to Single Pilot and several published articles have been published relating to this. The driving force on this is to reduce cost of operation and such which is a very honest challenge. One driving mental thought is that modern jet aircraft are so automated that one pilot can handle it.

However, Unknown Risks are incurred, and it also truly employs very dysfunctional and truly false assumptions that are not seen which, in part, include:

1. The truth is that there are many ways in which current pilot training needs to be improved to develop a pilot to understand it when (as I describe it) Murphy comes on stage (Murphy’s law).

It is not about filling squares.

2. Also, it does not consider issues that deal with Neuroscience, Hypoxia and true Mental Awareness and also, what if the pilot has a heart attack or passes out?

There are some mental and neuroscience risks if the pilot’s awareness of the factors is reduced because the pilot is subconsciously depending on automation. What happens when failures occur in the electrical or navigation systems? A Single pilot may not be able to keep up and particularly when they have hung out in their mental comfort zone and not planned for contingencies.

This aspect of the dysfunctional, mental comfort zone also suggests the likelihood that the pilot will not even be aware of unexpected collateral factors that are arising on the scene. They will often not see the Real-World Context of the problem.

It is critical that the pilots are not focused on superficial academic points…but rather see the real-world Context of the Scenario, they Mentally Process well and make the right successful decisions for THAT SCENARIO.

One of the ways I developed this in the crews when I was a jet Captain was simple. If I knew we were going to be flying on a particular course for a bit, I told my copilots that they should dream up an abnormal and when we were just flying, they would say….” Randy, Simulated, this (whatever they came up with) just happened”. While we flew and monitored radios and navigation, we would also talk about what we should do here and how we would handle it. If Air Traffic Control called to amend our clearance, we could ‘Kings X” that chat immediately and respond to ATC since our Awareness was high.

While this has been mostly about pilots, it is also immensely true for leaders and teams in any arena, particularly in those Unpredictable and Adaptive “VUCA” scenarios that arise for your team in the real world. It is critical to focus on the Actual Real-World Context and not just the academic content that you are hoping for.

The Key Point:

“The real solution that brings True Radical Success and Minimizes Risk is Based on

THE TRUE CONTEXT of the situation….Not just academic content!”

So let me offer you a couple of questions for you to consider as the team leader:

  1. In what ways do you mentally focus on rote superficial content?

  2. What do you need to do differently to enhance your awareness and vision of the full CONTEXT?

  3. What do you need to do differently to Lead & Model in such a way that your team becomes more synergistic in focus on CONTEXT & REAL Situational SOLUTIONS?

- Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC


bottom of page