What’s your Sully Moment?

Posted on April 4, 2017

First published on BellaNaija as Four (4) Workplace Lessons From Sully: https://www.bellanaija.com/2017/04/ngozi-adebiyi-4-workplace-lessons-from-sully/

Sully – You probably may or may not have heard the name Sully before. There’s a higher chance that you may have heard about the plane that landed on the Hudson River by a pilot and every single person survived.
This real life drama which played out on 15th January 2009 hit the movie theatres in September 2016.
The captain that landed the Airbus A320 on the River Hudson in New York City is Captain Chesley Sullenberger alias “Sully”.

He saved 155 people and was heralded as a hero until investigations started and threatened to destroy the hard work and stellar career he had built over the years.

How many times have you just started a job or new role, joined a new organisation or started a new entrepreneurial venture and things seem to be panning out all good then all of a sudden, you’re hit by a “flight of birds” and your engines are knocked out?

You struggle to figure out how to ensure you get to “safety” which may be represented by escalating to a senior colleague, trying to resolve it yourself or finding external help – only to then be accused of not making the best decision at the time.

Four workplace lessons from Sully’s plane landing on the Hudson River

1. You’ve got to know your craft. Cut your teeth and keep at it. There’s nothing like developing the skills necessary – should it be technical skills or leadership capabilities – stay the course and endeavour to know.

2. Be ready to defend what you believe in: When Sully decided not to fly the plane back to the airport since he calculated they won’t make it, he was criticised for not having taking the right initiative, endangered lives and damaged the plane. The investigating authorities’ reports had flight simulation results run at least 15 times but he stood his ground and asked that the “human factor” element which Flight 1549 faced on that day needed to be computed into the equation used for the flight simulations. When they did, all planes in the flight simulator crashed.

3. Trust cannot be overemphasised in teams. His co-pilot trusted his decision and when the critics started at Captain Sully, he had the firm support of his co-pilot. When decisions are made as a team in the workplace or as a leadership or executive team, own it and don’t “rat out” when it seems one person may take the fall or its an unpopular decision.

4. Do not underestimate the supporting cast – from the office assistant to the cleaning lady to the team leader – there’s a role everyone plays effectively. When the plane landed on the river Hudson the response team got to them in record time to ensure the evacuation was successful – divers, firefighters, coast guards, police etc. Without a solid responsive team on ground, the story may not have ended the way it did.
Keep an eye out for the “supporting cast” on your team and in your organisation – the roles they play and the value they translate can make or mar what you’re trying to achieve.

Ngozi Adebiyi is the Lead Consultant at OutsideIn HR & Career/Leadership Coach @ OutsideInCoach. Our focus is practical interventions that address the challenges of businesses today. We specialise in HR Business Partnering & Leadership Development with the goal of revolutionising HR in Nigeria & consciously unleashing inner greatness! Ngozi@outsideinHRng.com

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