Learning to Land


This week’s post was written by David Krahling.
Many years ago, I learned to fly and earned my private pilot license. I was fascinated by the art of flying and drawn to the beauty of the endless blue sky. It took some practice for me to become comfortable controlling airspeed and elevators for take-off and climb, along with blending aileron and rudder to execute a coordinated turn. However, like most student pilots, I mastered the basics of climbing, descending, and turning fairly quickly. Interestingly, we tend to use the expression “learn to fly” when describing this accomplishment. Yet, learning to fly is relatively simple; mastering a safe landing is the real challenge. Unlike flying, landing is an entirely different maneuver and there is a much lower tolerance for error. Successful landings require a high degree of skill and a great deal of practice. Nailing a perfect landing is challenging enough in calm weather conditions, but throw in a crosswind and the difficulty increases significantly. For an ideal landing, the pilot must reach stall speed at the exact moment the wheels touch down with wings level and flight path perfectly aligned to the center of the runway. Pilots refer to a perfect landing as, “greasing the runway.”
Similar to the skill, focus, and practice required of a pilot, athletes must also refine their skills to be safe and successful. The Rio Olympics offered a wonderful opportunity to view some of the world’s greatest athletes compete in various sports. There are many leadership lessons to be found in the stories of the dedicated athletes whose strength, balance, and courage allow them to push the limits of the human body. In gymnastics, for example, there is extraordinary focus on the landing at the very end of the routine. Commentators and spectators alike discuss, in great detail, whether or not the gymnast “stuck the landing.” As I watched gymnasts demonstrate impressively complex maneuvers on the vault, pommel horse, beam, rings and bars, I could sense their disappointment when a landing was disturbed by a slight hop. The path to a perfect ten is determined by the difficulty of the routine and point deductions. Although a slight hop in the landing may seem insignificant, sticking the landing is crucial.

If you hold a leadership role, at Interstates or elsewhere, successfully completing a project may be just as critical as a pilot greasing the runway or a gymnast sticking a landing. This is because how we complete a project can have a significant impact on those we serve. The ending is typically the most important part of a project for Interstates. At the end of a project, we strive to create a memorable experience and positive, lasting impression for each of our clients. This is why we invest a great deal in our check out commissioning and start up processes; we too need to stick our landings. Other leadership activities have a similar need for successful endings. A strong finish is crucial when leading initiatives and executing strategic programs. As leaders, it is often easier to start something new or get distracted in performing the routine, while losing sight of the need to finish something well. Great leaders understand the value of having enough energy to close out initiatives and programs with a strong finish. Therefore, our challenge as leaders is to determine how to get our teams to a successful ending. Some aspects of leadership don’t always feature a clear ending, such as coaching our teams and developing our company culture. These features are an ongoing process where leaders must work to set us on a path in the direction of a strong finish so that eventually we can stick our landing.
Continue leading the Interstates way!

David Krahling