Over Christmas, my family and I drove 6000km from Gippsland to Darwin. We didn't travel direct, spending 19 days and seeing a lot of Australia on the way! Here's some of the things I learned from the trip.
On a trip like this, you are in closer confines than normal for longer periods. This exacerbates the normal differences in the way problems are approached. Clear communication between participants is one of the ways to ensure harmony is maintained. When I assumed that my wife ....
... wanted to go to a certain winery (using the lessons from Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus I might add), I made extra effort to get us there. This involved us riding push bikes off the Reisling Trail in the Clare Valley, up a steep dirt road, in relatively warm weather, ultimately leading to the day being less enjoyable. If I had have clearly asked whether her desire to go to that winery was great enough to ride the distance required, her answer would have indicated it was not. We would have had a more enjoyable day instead of seeing absolutely everything on offer.
Navigating is another example that requires clear, unambiguous communication. It is one of those perfect male-female points of friction when ambiguous communication is used, and presents a great opportunity for practising speech where meanings can not be interpreted. An example of such communication is “its just up here on the right” as opposed to “at the second intersection it will be on the close right corner”. The former involves knowledge remaining with the Navigator, they have a vision in their head that isn’t shared with the driver. The latter ensures the vision shared by both is the same.
Ambiguous communication often results from assumptions being made, and not communicated. A trip of the size we completed involves many unknowns. Whilst I prepared as thoroughly as I could, I made many assumptions based on my previous experiences. For example, as a child we could camp freely on the beach and have campfires. On this trip, I had read about a national park south of Robe, SA, where we could camp. I made the assumption that we could also have a campfire, and prepared by gathering wood prior to arrival and buying marshmallows for the kids. On arrival, there was a state wide fire ban that apparently lasts for the Summer, leading to unhappy kids and dad!
Another example relates to changing events, and making a decision based on assumptions and with uncertainty. We decided to extend one of .
our day's driving to shorten the following day- and therefore get to Ayers Rock resort earlier in the afternoon. Passing a very small road stop, where we could have stayed, I had to articulate the uncertainty underlying my estimate of the potential duration to the next road stop, and the services available there. This allowed us to make a joint decision about the way to proceed, based on a shared knowledge of all the available information. Ultimately, this led to us both being happy with the result- sitting the the Sails Resort pool at Yulara in the early December afternoon!
Thinking about how the other person interprets your communication is a great way to start the move from being a technical professional to a generalist leader. A technical professional may unconsciously assume a level of knowledge in the person they are talking to, whilst a leader must clearly understand any assumptions they are making in their communication. The former results in confusion, the latter results in a clear and shared vision.
Using an advanced combination of aviation human factors research, Sky High Performance focuses on turning technical professionals into generalist leaders. This involves working with an individual to enhance the performance of their team through their self development, ultimately, empowering your team to identify their own performance improvements.