Plane speaking – it’s all in a day’s work for the Reds

9th May 2019

They’re a world-famous display team. They fly in impressive shapes and formations, at 400mph – sometimes just six feet apart – and are known for leaving multi-coloured vapour trails across the sky.

These nine iconic jets, called the Red Arrows, are not only admired by huge crowds at air shows, they’re applauded wide and far by business leaders who consider them to be the best in the world at what they do. So, what earns them their stripes?

Imagine doing your job to the best of your ability, and then, at the end of the day, sitting down with your colleagues to pull apart not only your own performance – but theirs too. And not just one time – but every time you work together.

Some teams review their performance weekly. Sometimes monthly. And, possibly even quarterly. The Red Arrows review theirs at the end of every single breath-taking flight. This debrief is forensic and includes video footage so they can explore what’s just happened in the air. What’s interesting, is that they never refer to each other by name – but, by the number they fly in the formations, from Red 1 through to Red 9.

This clever and successful psychological trick in the briefing room, avoids conflict. It’s not personal and there are no personalities. It starts with the team leader, Red 1, being honest and openly admitting to their errors and setting the environment for the rest of the team to do the same. They grasp that delivering world class performance comes from these de-briefs, as well as planned practice. It’s a part of their culture. Although each pilot is focused on their own performance, the sole purpose of that work is to advance the team. Afterall, the Red Arrows are famous as a team – not as nine individuals.

Some of our best work is with leaders and their teams. Sometimes, people we’ve only just met will, in a one-to-one situation, tell us everything we need to know to help the team become high-performers. On the one hand we’re always grateful that we’ve identified areas that need some work – on the other, it’s a shame that these individuals haven’t been able to say these things openly to each other. Our job is to help you become better today than you were yesterday – and better tomorrow than today.

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