Inspect What You Expect

When employees perceive that management is taking an interest in how safely and how well they perform the tasks requested of them, performance is enhanced

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Many times we count on our leadership team to be fully knowledgeable about industry standards and best practices. It is not uncommon that with their management background leaders may not possess the depth of experience, training opportunities or available research time to be intimately familiar with how we perform our daily tasks. This calls for a management style I affectionately term “managing by walking around.” As a manager, if you would take the time to simply walk around your own operation and speak with the people who are asked to perform the daily tasks that ensure the safety and profitability of our organization we may come to learn where the gaps and shortfalls exist. In other words inspect what you expect.

Inspect what you expect

Two things are benefited from management taking the time to learn how the front-line personnel perform the daily tasks. The need does not exist to announce your inspection of the operation; simply ask questions about how they do the things they do. Once they are able to verify your sincere interest in how they perform the tasks, they may be apt to share intimacies of successes or struggles they endure. The responses and input the manager receives is invaluable to the point that it would not have been attainable by sitting in a second floor corner office while claiming an open-door policy. By becoming the leader who takes time to be intimately aware of how his staff performs their tasks, what tools and equipment they need, and what types of challenges they face, you will develop a relationship based on respect, caring and trust. The result is employees who would be willing to rope the moon for you.

Team glue

When front-line employees are asked to perform daily checks or routine maintenance, there should be accompanying paperwork. Regular inspection of this paperwork is a basic requirement. However, taking time to ensure that the daily checks or routine maintenance are being performed properly is what glues a team together. Team members should understand how to do the task, in addition to why do the task. Correctly documenting successful completion, many times may only become a regular practice with the knowledge that at any random moment a knowledgeable member of the leadership team might perform a quality check. This tends to “glue” the team together in performing and documenting procedures.

Who would ever know

It is extremely important that when tasks are completed that they are documented. This is particularly critical in any type of fueling or maintenance operation. It is obvious that if the task had not been completed it should not be documented as if it were. Vice versa; if a task has been completed yet not documented. Remember that if an accident or incident occurs, and you ever needed to defend that the task was completed, unless an objective third party witnessed it, it would be challenged that it ever happened. In Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great”  the author uses the analogy of a bus to describe hiring practices, and to make the point that who you put on your bus is highly critical. Be sure you have the right people in the right seats on the bus; in other words, their skills, talents, and demeanor are suited to their role. This is of enormous benefit when transitioning an organization from good to great. However, you have to trust the people you have working for you. Not just a blind trust, but a knowing trust that every team member in your organization is performing the tasks safely, correctly and timely, even when no one is looking. This knowing trust is derived by your actual inspection of the claims that have been documented.

Moving on up

This leadership style of managing by walking around can also provide great information that can be utilized during a team member’s regular review. All too often employment status review is a brief glimpse of what have you done for me lately. If you employ this leadership style and effectively witness first hand how safely, efficiently, and timely your team members are performing their tasks, you will have a catalog of information to reflect back on when their team member review is due.

It provides a double benefit in knowing which team members might be rewarded, promoted, or proficient enough to take on increased responsibility.

Who me?

Often I have heard it said that managers don’t want to spend time with front-line team members because it is viewed and construed as micro managing. Let’s face it, none of us want management peering over our shoulder every day. I submit to you that this concept of inspecting what you expect in reality results in just the opposite. Recall the experiment the Hawthorne effect in which Roethlisberger described “the Hawthorne effect” as the phenomenon in which subjects in behavioral studies change their performance in response to being observed. The Hawthorne experiments brought to light ideas concerning motivational influences, job satisfaction, resistance to change, group norms, worker participation, and effective leadership. When employees perceive that management is taking an interest in how safely and how well they perform the tasks requested of them, performance is enhanced. Where attention goes energy flows. It is human nature when you pay attention and ask questions desiring to learn how front-line team members actually perform the tasks the level of team member commitment rises.

Say what?

I cannot emphasize enough how critically important it is not to critique the team member’s task or performance, or to perform the task for them, but to ask how they are doing it. If there are challenges, truly listen to their feedback. Fight the urge to be defensive or critique policy and procedures. Listen with an open mind. It may be you learn that the policy or procedure obstructs the safe or efficient performance of the task. To cite an example, the policy or procedure of having the requirement of a tug driver and two wing walkers to pull an aircraft out of the hangar may be a challenge because the reality of the situation is you only have two people on the shift. These types of opportunities are gifts to improve your operation by making applicable changes.

Act on what you hear

When you learn of the shortcomings take action … this too builds the glue! Do something with what you hear. When people see that they bring things to your attention and you take action on them they are more likely to continue to bring things to your attention. At first it may seem arduous and there may be a flood of incoming issues that seem to be complaints. They are actually blessings in disguise, and are really warning signs of a potential future incident or accident. Your people will be more open about “near misses” knowing you will not be judgmental and you have the opportunity to take corrective action prior to an adverse situation occurring. This will serve you well at the time of a third-party audit as you may already have corrected items that would have been adversely noted in the audit.

DeborahAnn Cavalcante leads Diversified Aviation Consulting (DAC) and along with her associates has firsthand experience in air carrier operations, private charter aircraft, general aviation operations, military/civilian interface, FBO management, maintenance repair station training, safety training, human factors training, and customer service training. For more information on DAC visit

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