Peter Agur Jr. is Chairman and Founder of VanAllen - a business aviation consultancy firm with... Read More
Page 1 - Networking
As a Board Member, are you networking about Business Aviation? Or, are you being too polite, asks Pete Agur?
Just after my 11th birthday I learned one of my life’s most important and enduring lessons. I had just become a Boy Scout and was competing with the entire troop for one of three slots to go on a three day boating-camping trip on the historic James River. All I had to do was be one of the top three finalists in a troop-wide contest. The odds were hugely against me. All the other boys were older and much more experienced… especially in the arenas of camping and campsites.
Our troop was in a wood patch behind the school we used for our meetings. We were given one hour to create model camp sites that would be judged by the troop master and his assistant.
As I began, I realized I didn’t know what to do. So, I asked the boy next to me. Like any good scout, he took the time to talk me through the basics: perimeter, shelter, fire pit, latrine, etc. I set to work. I soon saw that my model campsite looked the same as those of most of my peers. To be among the best I would need to exceed the norm. I looked around at what the other boys were doing to find better ideas. When I saw something unique, I asked the scout responsible for the innovation for his insights on that aspect of his project, and each scout was more than willing to share his ideas. After all, that is the scouting way.
My model campsite became an amalgam of other people’s innovations. But it was more than that. I had assembled and tweaked those ideas to create an even better whole. I won a slot on the camping trip. More important, I had learned a great life lesson: To be among the best, you do not have to be the smartest person in the group. You only need to be smart enough to learn from everyone else.
My scouting experience also taught me the value of being on a team. Working together to achieve excellence is much easier and more fun than going solo. Maybe that philosophy is why I cherish being a member of the Business Aviation community. We are all working as individual professionals, as crews and teams, as departments, and as a community to succeed. If one of us does well we all soar higher. If one of us fails we are all diminished, unless we learn from that failure.
When I reflect back on my scouting experiences I realize that constructing that campsite was one of my first deliberate efforts to “network”. Today, I am a very active networker. Why? Because I love to learn. By being exposed to the performances, experiences and ideas of others I am able to take that information, play with it and come up with the insights that create new learnings, different ways to approach problems and ways to assure even better results for myself, for my team and for others.
So, “What’s In It For You” (WIIFY). There is a common thread among the best and brightest in Business Aviation: They network. They network deliberately, methodically and aggressively.
There is also a common thread among the rest of Business Aviation: They do not network. Their reasons vary. They may be physically isolated. Their flight department may be understaffed to the point of not allowing enough time. They may not be comfortable reaching out beyond their immediate circle of friends. However, each of those challenges can be overcome.
One of the most effective networkers I know is Jeff. He has three traits that make him really good at it:
He has great listening skills. He is an active listener; he asks non-threatening, leading, and probing questions.
He is very patient. He is totally attentive to the person communicating. He allows them to share as many nuggets as possible.
He is humble. He assumes he can learn something from anyone. He is not in a hurry to show others how smart he is.
As a result, Jeff has gained a great deal of knowledge that makes it much easier for him to do a great job in his role in his company.
Effective networking truly is very powerful. As a person responsible for your company’s Guiding Principles, are you urging your Business Aviation professionals to network?
Have you given them the resources that allow them to network? For instance, do they have the budgeted time and funds to participate in formal networking opportunities like the National Business Aviation Association’s Annual Convention, regional association meetings, the Flight Safety Foundation’s Business Aviation Safety Seminar and any number of other forums? Are you mentoring them to develop their networks, especially beyond the bounds of their own comfort zones, both outside the company and in? Are you asking them to participate in corporate staff meetings?
Networking: Learn to listen. Listen to learn. Develop diverse relationships. It pays substantial dividends.