May 5, 2016

Situational Awareness



As many of you know, I have decided to retire from Atlantic Aviation this June. It has been an amazing 17 year run for me.

I have had the privilege of being a part of a rapidly growing company, worked for and with some amazing folks and been given opportunities beyond what I could have reasonably expected. Even though I am completely convinced that for me, at this point in time, this is the right thing to do, I can’t help but have so many mixed emotions as the actual date draws close.

Over the years I have participated in many initiatives. One that is front and center, and will be ongoing as long as we are Atlantic, is the area of safety. We have put many policies, procedures and programs in place. I think we would all agree we have made amazing progress is this area of our operations. Over and over again the focus returned to each individual and what we came to call “situational awareness.”  We demanded that each of us be aware of our surroundings as we maneuvered a fuel truck, executed a hangar move or de-iced an aircraft. Practicing “situational awareness” meant anticipating the impact that our actions had on the operation around us, and being sure that we did not inadvertently put an aircraft or fellow lineperson at risk. In the end it came down to the individual making the effort to be aware of their actions and of those around him to make sure safety wasn’t compromised.

When I announced my retirement in a company wide email I was not prepared for the overwhelming response I received. Good natured ribbing, genuine angst about my leaving the company and I am sure some quiet ‘it’s about time’ – Hey everyone’s entitled to their own opinion!

One email struck me like a ton of bricks. It went on about how grateful this person was for the time I took out of my busy schedule to talk with them over a drink at the All Hands Meeting a few years back. The sender was so gracious to go on about how that short interaction really helped them at that moment, as they were facing some really challenging times in the workplace and at home. Gratitude was expressed that a Vice President of the company would take the time to stop, listen and share with someone much further down the chain of command. I was a bit overwhelmed by the email.

I had no idea who this person was!

I barely recognized the name, couldn’t conjure up a face and had no memory of the meeting described in the email. I was immediately filled with a sense of dread. Where was my personal “situational awareness?” Where was my focus to make sure that all of these hard working folks, which make us all look so good are given the respect, support and time when they need it? And worst of all, I wondered, if I couldn’t remember a time when I had had such a positive impact on someone…were there moments when, without realizing it, I had dealt poorly with someone when they most needed the opposite?

It made me think about the responsibility we all have as executives, managers – as people- to practice situational awareness as we move through our lives. All of us interact with so many people in the course of the day. Some are subordinates, some co-workers, some friends or acquaintances. But all deserve the common respect and attention that comes from being aware of how we conduct ourselves in every situation.

I have learned many things and grown in many ways during my 17 years at Atlantic. I can truly say that for the vast majority of the time the folks I have had the pleasure of working with/for have always treated me with respect and sincerity. I like to think I did the same.

People ask me, so what are going to do in your retirement? A little consulting, some golf, more guitar (of course)?  I say, sure all of that, and a grandson too. But for sure, no matter what I do, I am determined to embrace the responsibility of “situational awareness” as I move through life.

On a busy aircraft ramp it greatly reduces the potential for damage and harm to those around us. In life, for all the people we encounter, even more so.