BeachCup l 17.6.2023
Review Talkinar No. 2Talkinar no. 2 with Boris Kompara and Steffen Gros on the subject of “Cultures which encourage learning from mistakes and structured working in extreme situations – how does that work?” These two commercial pilots and mental coaches talked last Wednesday about stress management and a culture which encourages learning from mistakes in the commercial pilot field.
Various flight simulations are used to illustrate the extreme situations that can arise. Boris Kompara and Steffen Gros talk quite openly about these: Because no two situations look alike, and dealing with stress situations requires training, they have launched a consultancy to enable them to pass on to others what they have managed to learn for themselves.
Boris and Steffen each bring with them over 25 years of flying experience and stress in a very wide range of situations. They talk about team building in double-quick time, during which various types of people encounter different characters with whom they nonetheless (have to) work.
To start with, the burning question, of course, is this: What does it mean to make a mistake if you’re a commercial pilot? First of all, given that no flight is ever completely error-free, mistakes simply have to be accepted. Without mistakes, we would never learn. But what is much more important is the question of how you and your team deal with them. When a mistake is spotted, it gets talked about, and everyone tries to find a solution together. After all, keeping a lid on a mistake, for instance, can have devastating consequences, especially in the aviation industry. It’s all about US, and this means the whole team.
What is needed in the team is a basis of trust, but it will normally take weeks to build this up. It’s important to know that, in the first instance, everyone should reflect on their own mindset. There are four phases during which this team basis can quickly be internalized: forming, storming, norming, and performing. This is what it takes to get a team to work well together – starting with the initial formation of a team, taking in conflicts which are then resolved, and arriving at an end result in which everyone can perform together.
To ensure that particular attention is paid to training in stress situations, sessions in the flight simulator are offered twice a year. The decisions taken during a flight must always be made by the team. Every member is invited to contribute their opinion and ask questions. One basic principle to which Boris and Steffen returned time and again was this: If you can use the synergies in your team, then 2+2 will equal not 4, but 5 or 6, because the interaction will be different. If you as a team want to make use of synergies, then it’s incredibly important to hold a briefing before the flight: Information needs to be short, pithy and to the point and should also serve to raise the stress level – in a positive sense.
Another important point that they keep coming back to is the critically important gut feeling that you really have to pay attention to. This often gets a raw deal; after all, openly addressing mistakes is essential for a team – while a good culture of learning from mistakes may have a leader, it has no hierarchy, and everything can and should be communicated.
Having a heavy workload is not unique to pilots: Many people fail to recognize the value of working with checklists. Such lists will give you the support you need not to lose the thread, particularly when you’re under stress. Stress can cause short-cuts in the mind, and, moreover, no two situations are alike. “Any situation is ALWAYS a new situation,” Steffen states with authority; after all, while checklists are good and important, there will always be flexible factors too. The Crew/Company Resource Management, CRM for short, describes this context very well: All the members of the team are eyes and ears, my resources you might say. Even the passengers themselves have a lot of responsibility for ensuring that safety is maintained during the flight.
For pilots Boris and Steffen, stress arises when you have a lot of information but don’t know which of it is most important and needs to be processed first – they call this mental ventricular fibrillation. For such situations there are methods to deliberately reduce the stress level. What matters is to reflect after the stress situation, even if it turned out well. With some quiet preparation under your belt, you will manage to keep a cool head in stress situations.
A maxim of Benjamin Franklin’s, which Boris and Steffen also take very seriously, is this: fail to prepare – prepare to fail. In other words, be one step ahead, be prepared, always have a plan B. There will basically never be the perfect solution or the perfect flight. Mistakes go with the territory, and they have to be talked about. This will allow everyone to learn and pass on their experience.
We’d like to thank Boris and Steffen for their time and their valuable input on this incredibly interesting topic. You can book seminars and workshops at teamwirkung.de.