Focus and brevity are essential elements in presenting a winning argument for Business Aviation, notes David Wyndham.
A successful communicator and author once stated, “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." While amusing, this statement reflects the challenges that decision makers and managers face when conveying ideas or proposing actions to be taken - including discussing Business Aviation with colleagues.
From the boardroom to the cockpit to the living room, effective communication is critical for our survival. A diverse Board of Directors can consist of leaders from various disciplines. Directors with a financial background can sit next to engineers, doctors, marketing pros, and experts from many other disciplines.
While participants all speak business, their individual backgrounds and experiences can cloud their perception of what they hear.
In cockpit communications, pilots must speak clearly and concisely so that any pilot or controller can understand what is said. "Taxi to Runway 18" is not clearance to taxi “onto runway 18.” Even at home, "Does this dress look good on me?" can lead to serious miscommunication (by the way, the correct answer is that YOU make the dress look awesome).
The Big Five
There are five parts to communication, including: Sender; Message; Medium; Receiver; and Feedback. Let’s look at ways to help get your message across.
As the sender, organize your thoughts to be clear and direct. What do you need to convey? How short can you state that need? Can something written in three pages be reduced to three paragraphs? Can that be restated in three sentences, or even one? What is the most desired result or action based on what you say?
In general, keep your message short. US President Lincoln's iconic Gettysburg Address was only 268 words long. In 1863, when he was dedicating the cemetery at the site of a momentous Civil War battle, the public was used to oratories lasting hours. Lincoln’s address was the equivalent of a Twitter message in its day. Brevity is using just enough words to convey the point.
In February 2015, Satya Nadella took the reigns as Microsoft’s CEO. His first communication to his employees was critical to starting off in the right direction. In this one sentence— “The opportunity ahead will require us to reimagine a lot of what we have done in the past for a mobile and cloud-first world, and do new things.”—Nadella defined Microsoft’s new direction.
Nadella made it clear to all employees that Microsoft’s success would be based on a mobile-first strategy. To succeed, new things had to be created and done differently than in the past. He wanted Microsoft to know that its best days were yet to come and that he had a strategy to achieve that Vision.
Medium and Message
Some experts in communications like to say that the medium is the message, which may or may not be correct depending on circumstances. It is clear, however, that how you choose to communicate is very important. Carefully select your medium, be it verbal or written, and tailor your delivery to work within that medium.
Face-to-face often is the most effective, but in today’s era of electronic messaging and highly dispersed locations for key personnel, knowing how to deliver a compelling message electronically is essential. Know your target audience and keep your message focused on that target.
With regard to an aircraft selection, for example, make sure your acquisition team keep things pointed in the right direction, which is getting an aircraft to support the goals of the company.
For the Board or the employees, make sure that everyone is able to connect the aircraft with the corporate mission.
For example, I did an aircraft justification study for a company in financial difficulty. Corporate Headquarters was in a rural area. Operations were spread over half of the US. They had a light business jet. That jet was a critical tool that enabled the CEO and his team to visit their operating locations on a regular basis. Face-to-face communication with the company managers was essential. No jet, and the CEO’s work (and the company) suffers. But many employees still saw the CEO getting into the jet as a perk.
Part of the perception problem was that the Aviation Department was at the airport and rarely seen downtown. Thus the message needed to focus on how a business aircraft increased the effectiveness of the executive team and therefore benefitted the entire company. The audience for that message included employees as well as shareholders.
Receiving a Clear Message
Professionals use a lot of insider language or jargon. Abbreviations and jargon can shorten sentences but can also cause confusion. Thus it is essential to know who will receive the message being delivered.
As long as we stay within our discipline, communication can be effective most of the time, but when the pilot, the executive, the lawyer and the CFO sit down to discuss Business Aviation, things can easily be misunderstood or worse. Know your audience and avoid verbal shortcuts that risk misinterpretation.
Business aircraft are important tools that enable face-to-face interactions. When discussing the need for a business aircraft and the missions it will achieve, have the message crafted for your audience and get the feedback that demonstrates they understand the value of Business Aviation.