One time I was on a flight from L.A. to Santa Barbara. As we ducked into the tiny puddle-jumper – not at all the jetliner I was expecting – the flight attendants eyed our gear and directed us to put our carry-on luggage on either the left side or the right. As she explained to a puzzled passenger, they were trying to balance the plane.
Balance the plane? I thought. Shouldn’t the engineers have thought of that?! The whole idea of an unbalanced plane freaked me out. I flew white-knuckled in nervous fear that my laptop should have been on the opposite side of the aisle.
I learned later that an airplane not properly balanced will fly poorly, or may not fly at all. As I read online (www.rcmagazine.com, if you’re interested):
If an airplane is nose heavy, it will be sluggish in pitch maneuvers, tend to dive in turns, and make for some pretty fast landings. If it is tail heavy, it will be extremely sensitive to pitch controls, and could snap at a moments notice.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my airplane to be sluggish or sensitive in “pitch controls,” whatever those are. I most certainly do not want to be that way myself.
As leaders, if we don’t want to be sluggish, make dive turns, have a crash landing, or for goodness’ sake snap at a moment’s notice, we also need to balance ourselves.
Howard Putnam, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines, used this advice himself when he created his leadership teams.
To stay grounded you have a very small team of people that are cross functional and that you trust. I always add four or five people that had totally different backgrounds than me. I tried to find the right people so that we could balance each other out.
If you want to learn how to balance your team, the best kind of balance is a “brain trust” – one in which you have people who are hardwired with a variety of skills. My favorite tool for understanding the way people think for the most powerful team is called Emergenetics, which you can find out more about from Emergenetics expert, Chris Cox, at www.amplitudetraining.com.
You can also use the image of “balancing your plane” to round out your life. If you give ten hours to work in a day, you can balance it out with quality time at home so rich that it means twice as much. If you give 110% of your effort to everyone else in your life, choose an area in which you’ll give 110% to yourself.
There are many, many facets to living and leading well. Embrace them all, all at once. Think of it as saving your life.
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