Supervisors and the Wright Brothers, What we can learn?


First Flight

I am reminded of my visit to Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brothers became the first to fly.  I ask myself this question, “What did they do different from everyone else that were frantically striving to be the first to fly?  What I discovered was that pretty much everyone at the time knew that it would take a structure with wings and an engine to power it in order to be able to fly. So many would be “flyers” did just that, they would build a structure with wings and an engine. Then with different launching apparatuses such as catapults (Samuel Pierpont Langley tried it unsuccessfully) and different take off points they would fire up the engine and in short order would crash. If they survived and many didn’t, they either quit or would try it again changing little in their approach.

So what did the Wright Brothers do different? They understood unless you could control the plane, wings and an engine alone would not be enough.  So they set out without a college education, little funding and a handful of dedicated workers they set out to break the code for being able to successfully fly.  So they choose Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Why because that is where the wind blows constantly surrounded by sand dunes both of which would be necessary for them to fly gliders to learn the controls necessary to be able to fly.

They understood they needed to be able to “crash,” survive, and learn from each crash how to control the glider.  So with each crash, and they crashed often (up to six to eight times a day), they began unlocking the code on what it took to control the gliders. What did they discover? They discovered the three critical axes that must be controlled in order for successful flight to occur.  What are the three axes they needed to control? They are: Pitch, Roll, & Yaw.

So when the Wright Brothers clearly understood how to control the plane they put those control features on a the plane along with the wings and engine and flight took off literally and figuratively.  Every plane that exist today has the mechanisms to control the plane around these critical axises.

So what does this have to do with supervisors?  We are essentially dong the same thing, in that the individuals whom we are considering for supervision have a couple of needed traits i.e. work hard and have demonstrated some level of skills. However, we have left them ill-equipped to have any real chance of being successful. They are set up for failure, to crash if you will.

Ever wonder what the consequences are when they do “crash?”  Obviously for them personally it is devastating however the damage is not isolated to the individual alone. The “crash” cost  businesses untold millions of dollars to replace good employees that quit the supervisor (“People don’t quit companies, they quit their supervisor”) as well as the cost to retrain, and/or replace the unprepared supervisor.

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