As I stepped through the airplanes door, I glanced into the cockpit to see who was going to be taking me home. To my delight I saw a striking young woman, looking snazzy in her pilot’s uniform, looking officious whilst performing her pre-flight checks.

I’m all for girl power and it struck me that it’s quite seldom we see female pilots. “Go Girlfriend”, I thought and excitedly squeezed in a last minute Facebook post to share this momentous occasion with my friends (sounds obsessive, I know and NO I’m not generally one who shares everything with the world, but this was truly a first for me).

The captain came on the speaker and proudly announced that co-pilot Shirleen would be doing the flying today. Big smile on my face to say the least ,whilst Beyonce’s ‘Who Runs the World’ song invaded my mind.

After an uneventfully smooth hour on board, the lights were dimmed and landing preparations began. Strange jerky movements started to ripple through the plane. I noticed the air stewards tightening their belts. The air grew quiet, the only noise persisting was the grunt of the engines.  The plane shuddered as it dropped dramatically, my feet and bottom levitating in the air!

It appeared that Shirleen was taking the approach too fast!!! A question invaded my mind – had she actually ever done this before in a real plane with real passengers?

I guess everyone has to have a first time in their careers for things they do. Even pilots; surgeons; lawyers etc. Hopefully with countless practice beforehand and then the real thing with a guiding expert at their side.  And I guess that some firsts are more critical than others, at times even life-threatening.

Ironically, I was actually on my way back from presenting a 2 day performance management workshop for a client.  The main topic of discussion was around giving people feedback on their work and how to set clear objectives for staff.

Massive debate ensued at one point for over an hour on what standards should be set for delivery of work.  The room was filled with IT Software developers and they were completely against the standard for BUG FREE software. They were utterly convinced that this is a feat which is completely unachievable.  So, what should it be set to?” I asked.  “80% bug free?  What if the other 20% of bugs just happened to be on invoice total calculations or pricing logic? Surely one should aim for 100% bug free and measure on this? Don’t you think that if our expectations are not the highest of our people then surely we are doing them a disservice?”

Imagine interviewing a pilot with an 80% landing success rate, or a surgeon with an 80% patient survival rate? Would you want to fly/be operated on by them? Let alone employ them?


Back to the trip…. A hint, I’m still here to tell the tale.  After much shuddering and clutching onto my hand rests, we eventually touched the ground and skidded to a halt.  My parting thoughts for the Flight of Terror, as I shakily sprinted off the plane:

  • I’m glad I insisted with the IT Software Team to maintain their standards of measurement to the highest levels (100% Bug Free Software)
  • I wouldn’t share a further Facebook update as to the outcome of the flight (ahem no humble pie for me)
  • Always, always ask wherever possible when interviewing or choosing a new professional, what their success rate is
  • Avoid Shirleens’ next flight

Hats off Shirleen, your first landing is done and dusted. Maybe with a petrified passenger, but I’m still standing.

Tanya Long – 2017/02/03