Sept. 7, 2023

Change is an integral part of business aviation, although not all changes are welcome.

The Sept. 7 NBAA Business Aviation Management Committee (BAMC) Summer Leadership Series webinar, “Adapt and Overcome: The Fundamentals of Change Management,” discussed how to effectively navigate those changes and identify opportunities they may bring to all members of your team.

Co-moderator Lori Johnson, marketing communications manager at Duncan Aviation, led off the discussion by highlighting four aspects of sudden changes within a company.

“Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity,” she said. “VUCA is the constant state of change both imposed on us and initiated by us that we experience personally within our teams and within our organizations.”

“Today, change is very prevalent,” added Bob Hobbi, president and CEO of ServiceElements. “We live in an industry where somebody schedules a flight six weeks ago, three weeks ago – and by the time it actually happens, it’s changed 35 times.”

However, leaders must also be aware of the effects that changes within their company or flight department can have on their employees. “Change equals disruption,” Hobbi said. “That’s just pure and simple. And that requires some empathy as to how people plan to deal with it.”

Much of the discussion came back to the image of an iceberg, with leadership’s external priorities – such as company policies, strategy and vision – above the waterline, and internal human factors concerns like rumors, employee status and office relationships forming its base underneath.

“If we look at the iceberg, we see that status and office politics are part of the corporate culture,” added co-presenter Dustin Cordier, founder of StepZero Coaching and head of global sales for OGARAJETS. “If we’re honest, we know that some people get knocked down from their status [when change occurs].”

Dan Wolfe, a facilitator, coach and consultant with ServiceElements, highlighted the importance of a robust company culture and engagement between all levels of the workforce in navigating such changes. He also noted guidance on that process may come from an unexpected source.

“Companies large and small all have SMS [safety management system] programs,” he said. “You can include everyone under the SMS umbrella with a risk assessment [and] mold it to your department for change. A risk assessment will capture the items that you feel are important.”

While it’s possible that valued employees may choose to move on in such situations, “most people want great leadership to continue,” Wolfe concluded. “If you’ve done the right thing with the right people, nobody’s going to lose.”