The Value of Systems

Most pilots hope they never end up in an out of control airplane. And most are good enough to make that happen.

Not me.

I’ve been out of control twice. (Hooray me!)

The last time I was out of control was over the ocean west of the Japanese island of Okinawa. It was during a one-against-one dogfight. I had a very junior wingman with me that day. And I was going to teach him a thing or two about how to dogfight an F-18…

…or so I thought.

We first met at a merge and both airplanes went up. As we met again, I began to execute a maneuver that was bound to secure my victory.

Only this time, I misjudged both my altitude and airspeed (bad combination). I soon found myself simultaneously out of airspeed and ideas (another bad combination).

For a brief minute, I tried to right the airplane using my own efforts.

Then, my training and rote memorization kicked in, and I began to execute the OCF procedure just as I had been taught.

Controls — release
Feet — off rudders
Speed brake — in
If still out of control —

  • Throttles — idle
  • Altitude, angle of attack, airspeed, and yaw rate — check

When recovery indicated by angle of attack and yaw rate tones removed, side forces subsided, and airspeed accelerated above 180 knots — recover

The airplane bucked, then pitched up; the nose pushed down; and I was looking at a glare shield full of water. I was hurtling uncontrollably toward the ocean at a rate of 20,000 feet per minute. At my altitude, I knew that if the plane was not under control in less than 30 seconds, I would have to eject.

“Controls — release.” I recited the procedure again in my head.

Then, as if my jet had been planning this all along, right at the last minute (literally), it started flying again.

As my airspeed increased, I put my right hand back on the stick and pulled the nose up toward the horizon – a very nervous (but very alive) pilot.

A few minutes later, I was landing safe and sound on the runway back at our base.

Now…I’m not proud about almost losing an airplane. But I re-learned some lessons that afternoon that I hope can help you.

First, I re-learned the value of systems. I had my out-of-control flight system memorized verbatim, and it may have saved my life. In a jet, when you have 30 seconds until you must eject, there is no time to flip through a book to find the answer.

In the same way, systems can make or break your business or organization. For every decision that can be made in the boardroom, there are two that need to be made on the spot.

A good decision made now is better than a great decision made too late. And the key to timely decision making is good systems.

If the people in your organization know ahead of time what to decide when they are empowered to make decisions, they will be successful, and so will you.

Incidentally, one of the very first things I do with a new client is find ways that they can systematize their business (i.e. put it on autopilot).

Who wants to run a company if it means you have to be there all of the time? That’s what systems are for.

And once systems are in place, not only can the business explode in profits, the owner can start taking some long vacations without their computer or phone.

Second, I learned that there are some times when you just have to let go.

In this case, the flight control computers in the F-18 were smarter (and faster) than the (mildly attractive) pilot who had gotten it into this mess.

The $40 million airplane knew better. So I let go, and it made all the difference.

In the same way, as a leader in your organization (or in your home), it’s likely there are ways you need to let go.

Is it possible that someone in your organization is better equipped to solve certain problems than you are?

Do you empower your people to solve problems — even if they are problems you have created?

Like many fighter pilots, leaders can soon become phenomenal control freaks. However, great leaders are not afraid to admit that sometimes they are not the right people to solve certain problems. Great leaders know when to let go.

Are things getting out of control? Whether it’s $4 on the line or $40 million, the answer is simple:

Follow your systems and let go!

How do you get started building systems? There are three simple steps you can do today to get started:

  1. Identify the number one request you receive from employees, subordinates, or customers (e.g., “Tom, we just got a request for a refund; what do you want me to do?”).
  2. Using your response to that question, establish a system (e.g., “From now on, all refunds under $500 can be approved and processed by Jane.”).
  3. Empower those below you to act on your guidance (e.g., “Jane, you have been with me long enough to know how to deal with customer support issues like this. I trust you to make the right decision.”).

Building effective systems is just one of MANY critical business topics I’ll be covering at my event, The Ultimate Breakthrough. If you’re looking to transform your business and EXPLODE your profits, register here.

Best,

Ed

P.S. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll walk you through how I built my team to start building systems for me. Yes, that’s right… my systems auto-generate.

P.P.S. Unless your systems auto-generate, you need to be here. Join me at the event.