Runway planes.jpg

Off to Sydney again. I’m sitting in my seat on the plane, and we’re taxiing to the runway. We stop, and about five minutes later I notice we’re still not moving. Eventually, the pilot makes an announcement over the PA:

“Folks, just a short delay… we’re just waiting to find out what’s slowing things down. I’ll let you know just as soon as we hear something, but with any luck we’ll be up in the air shortly.”

15 minutes later: “Okay folks, it’s looking like we’re good to go. It seems there may have been some debris on the runway, but it’s been cleared. Sorry for the delay, we’ll try to make up the time once we’re in the air.”

An inconsequential story in its own right (thank goodness!), but I reckon it serves as a good reminder for any leader: have you cleared your own team for take off?

Every leader needs to ensure each member of their team is equipped to get off the ground and up into the air. But to do that, you need to know what obstacles might be preventing them from actually getting off the ground. In thinking this through, consider 3 types of ‘debris on the runway’:

  • PERSONAL OBSTACLES: These are the obstacles that exist within the individual – and may include lack of motivation, skills or confidence. Or perhaps they’re making some assumptions that get in their own way (eg. I should wait to be asked before I take action…)
  • EXTERNAL OBSTACLES: These are the things that exist around the individual, and which slow them down. External obstacles may include lack of resources or training, not having the right communication channels, or lack of clear accountabilities.
  • THE LEADER AS OBSTACLE: What about you? How might you inadvertently stop your team from taking off? Have you become a bottleneck? Perhaps you’re hard to get time with, or perhaps your team is over-dependent on you to make all the decisions? Do people feel confident to take appropriate risks, and learn from mistakes?

Would love to know what you think. How do you or your own leaders make sure your team is fully “cleared for take off”?


With thanks to Giacomo Carena for the photo used in this post.