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How to Deal with Rogue Behavior in Corporate Aviation

How to Deal with Rogue Behavior in Corporate Aviation

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You have a very uncomfortable feeling in your gut. As the senior leader of a corporate aviation organization, you’ve got top performers in each of the functional areas (Scheduling & Dispatch, Executive Office Interface, Flight Operations, Business Services / Administration and Maintenance), yet you’re picking up “the buzz” that something is not quite right. There’s some “rogue behavior” happening.

By Jim Lara, Gray Stone Advisors

Then, just yesterday, there was a sealed envelope left on your desk containing the message, “Watch this guy!” with a picture of one of the flight department team members below the inscription.

You’ve been of the opinion that he’s one of your best performers, but now your antennae are really tuned in. You’re listening and watching him intently, as well as observing others within his sphere of influence.

During department-wide meetings, the employee seems to be “all in.” His words are right. His mannerisms appear to be supporting his words. He’s been in the organization for many years, and he’s been lauded as a top performer. He’s always found a way to “get it done.”

But your gut is telling you that something’s amiss.

Basic Instincts

Over the years, you’ve learned not to ignore your gut. Every time you’ve put your gut concerns aside because you believed that it just couldn’t be true, you’ve been wrong. Fortunately, to date, you’ve never been quite dead wrong, but you recall a few painful experiences. This time, the hints from the grapevine indicate that this person’s behavior is resulting in organizational distraction and an elevated level of operational risk.

You know that you need to find out what’s truly going on, and you think to yourself, “What should I do or say?”

In order to determine what’s really happening, you decide to employ that tried and true technique of “leadership by wandering around.”

In discussions with the first line supervisor of this individual, you pick up on some carefully worded statements that unacceptable behavior may well be occurring. You continue wandering and pick up a few more hints. The picture is coming into focus.

Next, you review the guidance that’s been provided to each of your aviation team members to create alignment and cohesive actions.

It’s time for some direct observations and conversations.

Using your Leadership Toolbox

The first set of tools that you have to use to create organizational alignment and superior individual performance are the role descriptions for each position. These role descriptions clearly define “The Deal” for each individual, including their responsibilities, accountabilities, leadership competencies and performance measures. And they’re written in very clear, aviation-specific language. Thus, from the onset of his or her employment, each employee should fully understand “The Deal.”

Next are the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which are defined within each of the Functional Areas (Maintenance, Flight Operations, Scheduling & Dispatch, Business Services/Administration and Executive Office Interface). Over the years, these SOPs have been focused on recognizing industry best practices.

And then, of course, there are the Core and Operating Processes that provide additional guidance in each of the Functional Areas. These processes describe both what and how things get done in the aviation organization.

But now, through direct and indirect discussions along with some empirical evidence, you’ve found that this individual has decided to ignore the agreed-upon processes and standards in favor of “His Way.”

Will the situation improve if you just let it ride? Nope. Not a chance! One of the 10 lethal threats to every organization is the failure to confront poor performance.

Does this confrontation need to be aggressive or hostile? Absolutely not. Your first step is to have a discussion with the individual’s supervisor to discuss how this situation can be handled in a productive yet firm manner. As a learning moment for the supervisor, let him or her try to resolve the situation using your coaching tips. This will allow the supervisor to develop and polish their leadership skills.

Having the Discussion

If the above-mentioned steps do not bring about the desired change, you should next lead a discussion with the individual, with his supervisor present. Here’s the sequence of that discussion:

“We are here today to discuss your behavior in this particular area (define).

Here’s the behavior that was observed.

Here are the SOPs that guide the appropriate behavior in this area.

Your conduct/behavior is inconsistent with these standards, and therefore is unsatisfactory.

Do you have any questions regarding what is expected of you?

Do you intend to fully support and comply with both the specifics and the intent of these SOPs?

We’ll have a discussion every two weeks to assess your performance in these areas.

If you are committed to performance excellence and are ‘all in,’ you will be very successful in this organization.

But if you cannot make this commitment, please tell me now so that we can make alternative plans.

And please know that if your actions are inconsistent with your verbal statements, you will have jeopardized your longevity with this organization.

Thank you for your candor, honesty and integrity.”

Of course, each organization will have its own administrative requirements. In every case, the keys to success are:

  • Understanding the true facts; don’t rush to judgment.

  • If rogue behavior is substantiated by your and others’ observations, confront the individual on a timely basis.

  • Clearly define the problem with the individual’s performance.

  • Clearly define the individual’s action options.

  • Be rigorous and timely with all follow-on actions.

Nipping Rogue Behavior in the Bud

Whether we admit it or not, it’s not uncommon to witness rogue behavior in each of the functional groups within corporate aviation.

At Gray Stone Advisors, we suggest that you always begin with “the benefit of the doubt.” Remember, every person selected to join your well-performing organization demonstrated significant competencies and potential at the time he or she was hired or promoted. No one is ever chosen because they're perceived to be a problem.

As leaders, it’s important for us to understand why rogue behavior occurs and know our options for taking action—and then act quickly.

In business, and particularly corporate aviation, rogue behavior cannot (and will not) be tolerated. The resulting level of elevated risk is simply unacceptable.

If you or one of your managers needs to manage similar behavior and would like a neutral party to act as a sounding board, one of our advisors at Gray Stone would be happy to discuss your situation. Just give us a call at +1.865.357.5077 for a 30-minute discussion, free of charge.

Your Turn

Have you dealt with some particularly difficult or troubling situations around the topic of rogue behavior? We look forward to hearing about your approaches, both successful and unsuccessful, to the rogue.

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