John Nance ended the day with an amazing personal story of how teamwork prevented a possible airplane collision. Before flying, he made it a point to create an atmosphere of collegiality. He shook the crew’s hands, made eye contact, and took the time to talk to them. He made it unambiguous that he wanted people to speak up if they had questions or if they were concerned. And the team agreed. Taking that extra few minutes to set the tone and establish the presence of a team empowered a junior member to question the altitude clearance as the plane unknowingly almost ascended past its limit. Ultimately the junior member was right and a collision with the plane above them was avoided.
This story resonated with me because I’ve been in situations where I was told “you are part of the team now. You need to contribute.” However, that environment of collegiality was never created. I was still too timid to speak up or to ask for help. I was chastised for not performing tasks correctly instead of receiving guidance on how to improve. I never felt like I was part of a team even though I was told that I was. Listening to John’s story and reflecting on mine, I recognize that being part of a team is so much more than just a verbal declaration. It requires everyone to feel respected and to feel safe to speak and contribute.