Mentors offer treasured gifts of wisdom and insights. I have received these gifts many times in my career. Mentors like Dave Butler, former President of Sage, Ticketmaster and now Paciolan, inspired me with his unrivaled emotional intelligence and ability to inspire high performance. Tim Leyden, President of Western Digital, taught me the power of leading with tenacity and humility. Today, I highlight another mentor, my CEO and friend, Stephen Blythe. Stephen, in addition to being CEO of Blytheco, a premier national business software consulting firm, is an avid flyer and plane owner. I had an opportunity to fly with Stephen during a recent business trip to Silicon Valley. Unexpectedly, I also received my first flying lesson!
YOUR PLANE: It all began with Stephen saying, “Your Plane,” the official line used between pilots to convey who’s in charge of the craft. This phrase initiated my reluctant flying lesson that day.
As the COO reporting to Stephen, I realize how often he has invoked “Your Plane” with me in my new role, empowering me with the “levers” of the business. When we divide responsibilities or collaborate, he is clear regarding who’s “flying the plane.”
STAYING ON COURSE: Flying, like business, involves plotting a course then endeavoring to maintain it. At 10,000 feet in the clouds, it’s easy to veer off course. Both flying and business offer intermittent visibility, competing data and numerous distractions. Maintaining the focus on the “end point” requires vigilance and continuous correcting.
UNDERSTANDING ALTITUDE: The higher the altitude, the less air resistance and the faster the speed. Up high, I saw for miles, but the ground below appeared very small. As leaders, viewing the business from different altitudes enables important and diverse perspectives.
FINDING YOUR HORIZON: It’s easy to lose one’s bearings in the sky. The physical horizon can lie to you and optical illusions abound. In flying and business, having an outside gauge to calibrate perceptions is invaluable and has reinforced the importance of having trusted mentors and advisors close at hand.
ENJOY THE VIEW: During my flying lesson, I was tense from concentration and the desire to master the experience. Stephen resumed piloting with ease and fun, providing a most important lesson: Remember to enjoy the ride!
FOR BUSINESS, FOR FUN, FOR COMMUNITY: Stephen uses his for business, fun trips and nonprofit work flying doctors and medicines into Mexico. What a lesson to use our gifts and talents in a giving way.