Achieving Greatness

Amy Grubb, Ph.D

One of my favorite quotes that I use in my talks is from Vince Lombardi: “We will be relentless in our pursuit for perfection.  We won’t ever be perfect but in the process, we will achieve greatness.

What if every day, when we went into work, we said to ourselves, “today, I am going to achieve greatness.”  Wouldn’t that be awesome to have that feeling, and even better, for those around you to have that feeling, as well?  Some days we do feel invincible, that we are the “flow” of what we do and that we are just going to crush the day and be amazing.  But most days, we don’t have that energy or that drive.  We kind of just go through the motions – maybe somewhat thoughtfully even –  but we don’t really think about our performance as greatness or the next level at which it could be. 

When I think about safety, and Bombardier Safety Standdown in particular, I think of how many times I’ve been reminded through formal talks, through example, through signs, and through general conversation about how important it is that we are professional, show airmanship, and own our head space.  It is essentially a mandate that each one of us in aviation frames their day as an opportunity to achieve greatness.  But that isn’t always possible.  There is a lot of stuff out there in the world and in our lives that is weighing on us and taking up our head space.  Some days just are not greatness days.

In your pursuit to achieve greatness, I offer a few tips to have front of mind as you learn, apply, and share the content from Bombardier Safety Standdown when you are having a not-greatness day.   

  • Declare when you are not in the “flow”
    • Be honest with yourself and others that today is just a 70% day and adjust yourself and your work accordingly. Remember, 70% is passing. And sometimes that is all you can do.
  • Signal detection is a superpower
    • It is hard for colleagues to point out that you might not be meeting their standard that day. If they do, take it for the care and concern with which it is intended and evaluate the truth of it. It is easy to get defensive.  Greatness is taking the kernel of truth that is there and acting on it.
  • Be a loud signal for others
    • Don’t be afraid to point out that others might not be showing their superpowers that day. You don’t have to tell people that they are terrible, you can ask a question with compassion, “hey, you don’t seem as on it as usual today, everything ok?” Even if they don’t hear you, they know that you know and that might be just enough of a nudge for them to re-check themselves for greatness.
  • Make progress where you can
    • It takes a long time to eat an elephant. You get there one bite at a time. On days of less-than-greatness, don’t ruminate on the fact that you didn’t finish everything or that you did not crush the day. Be reflective and grateful for the progress you did make and that, at a minimum, you did not go backwards.
  • Pollination is the positive form of infection
    • If you are having a greatness day, spread it to others. Be cheery. Have engaging conversations. Listen. Share what is bringing you that type of energy. Take on others’ burdens for the time being. And if you are just having a day (no greatness to be seen), find someone who is closer to greatness at that moment – - what are they doing? How did they get there? Is there something you can absorb to bring back to your work to maybe nudge you just a bit closer to greatness?

While we should want for every day to be a day to achieve greatness for everyone in aviation (especially if you have just maintained my plane or are about to fly it!), that just isn’t reality.  Although you will never be perfect, I hope that your pursuit of greatness brings you and your colleagues to a safer culture and a more engaging work place.