For this blog, I would like to highlight a key insight about which leaders must not only be aware but also develop the awareness & coach it in their team.
It was highlighted recently by Dr. Robert Jeffress, in a faith-based context, but it is very critical for leaders in any area and in fact, the reader would be surprised at how often I have seen this problem in pilots I have trained.
In short, the concept of Situational Awareness is deeper than most would realize. It is one thing to realize that this object or person is either “here” or “moving here or there”.
However, leaders need to be aware of additional key questions such as:
1. What does this object or person and its movement mean?
2. How is the motion or position changing?
3. What factors are changing and how might the solutions be changing as it all progresses?
A key ability of combat commanders must have is to be aware of their force’s strengths and weaknesses. However, they must also be aware of the same things for the enemy. I remember that while serving as an aviator and warrior in the 335 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS), I got a chance to fly with and get to know L/C Chuck Debellevue. He was the leading Fighter Ace of the Vietnam War. Chuck always said that in wartime, the best thing you had is knowledge or your aircraft and abilities. Close behind that in #2 was the same knowledge of your enemy’s aircraft and capabilities.
However, for battlefield commanders, close to these in importance is not only intelligence about what the enemy is doing, but even more so, what does this mean about how the situation is changing? What might the meaning be of the enemy’s strategy be changing? Would this be opening unexpected opportunities for us? Is it creating risks? What is changing and what does it mean really?
Situational Awareness is deeper than most realize and yet there is a key enemy of true situational awareness. What is it? It is simply…..
Dr. Jeffress had a quote that is key. He said that “The common enemy of Situational Awareness is simply that of DENIAL”. He defined DENIAL as simply:
“THE TENDENCY TO USE WHAT WE DESIRE IT TO BE
TO REPLACE WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS!”
In any area of training or development, the tendency is to create nice clean academic situations and pat ourselves on the back. This does not prepare someone to be able to handle situations that involve “Startle or Surprise”.
In Neuroscience, it shuts off the need for them to employ their Frontal Lobe processing and consequently the team can only handle a situation if it is exactly what we expected which is rarely the case because situations change, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ways. What if “Murphy” (Murphy’s Law) comes on stage today?
How do we fight off “Denial”? We must employ our frontal processing to maximize situational awareness for THIS SITUATION and don’t depend on what we “Want it to be”.
Like in war or any area of flying aircraft; in a rapidly changing “VUCA” environment, leaders must maximize the real Situational Awareness and to also coach their teams to do the same.
As you look around your team, what do you need to do difference to fight off the enemy of DENIAL and focus the solutions on the real-world situation that exists for real?
– Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC