Learning To Fly

By Tai Anderson, February 21, 2017

As my children mature, it’s more and more difficult to assemble the whole gang for QFT (quality family time.) This last weekend, thanks to the generosity of a great family friend, my whole family learned to fly. Que Tom Petty! We went to the iFly indoor skydiving facility off Cobb Pkwy where the whole gang experienced the thrill of literally floating on air.

Lucy found a smile prior to taking flight

Lucy found a smile prior to taking flight

I’ve always thought it would be fun to try actual skydiving. However, I’ve never felt compelled to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. So, I was just as excited for the opportunity as any of my kids. I should clarify. In fact, I was considerably more excited than my youngest daughter Lucy, who was approaching the endeavor with quite a bit of trepidation.

Whether it’s teaching your kids to ride a bike, jump into the deep end of the swimming pool, or walk into their first day of school, dads learn a thing or two about helping our children overcome their fears. Lucy is no coward. When she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 4 years old, she put her courage on display. As her mother and I were trying to understand what the diagnosis meant and contemplated how her life would change. She never balked, and she hasn’t once since. She is not given into fear. However, the thought of not having her feet planted solidly on the ground, despite our assurances, was not putting her at ease. We had to spend the entire drive reassuring Lucy that everything would be totally fine, and she would absolutely enjoy herself. This task was made a bit more difficult by antagonistic brothers whispering, “you’re probably going to die” to undermine our affirmations.

I was floating on air at iFly

Almost all of us experience irrational fear in one way or another. I can’t force myself to pick up a harmless garter snake even though I know it can’t hurt me. I can’t seem to will by body into doing a backflip on a trampoline or diving board, and I have a tangible fear of eating Indian food before a long flight. (The last fear might be based on experience!) If we’re honest, all of us have some kind of irrational fear where we struggle to will our bodies into action, even when we know that, logically, everything will be okay. For many people, the idea of public speaking causes cold sweats, even though they know there is no logical reason for it to trigger flight or fight syndrome.

As much as I enjoyed the iFly experience for myself, my biggest smile came from watching Lucy overcome her fear and fly around the wind tunnel with an ear-to-ear grin. The flight crew at iFly made it easy. They create an intentional environment that helps their customers soar.

Lucy overcomes her fear to literally float on air at iFly

First of all, the staff was very welcoming as we checked in at the facility. Secondly, the facility was impeccably clean. Each customer watches an instructional video before suiting up, and our flight instructor was creating a casual, but lighthearted atmosphere. Additionally, as the giant air-filled tube is right in the open, you’re able to see the other flyers floating around as you’re waiting to launch. So, by the time we were ready to fly ourselves, we were excited, but very much at ease. 

By the time Lucy’s 2nd flight was done, she was ready to book a return trip and pursue a more advanced flight. 

I love seeing that smile on my daughter. Your team wants to soar!

I love seeing that smile on my daughter. Your team wants to soar!

As I thought about the experience for Lucy and my entire family, it struck me that the way iFly works is actually a pretty good metaphor for all of us in a leadership role. You see, the way the flight instructors help you float in the giant tube is very much like the way I’ve helped my children learn how to ride bikes. Just about every parent knows the drill. You run alongside your child adding as little pressure as possible, catching them when they fall, until you know they’re ready and you let them loose to coast on their own. I’ve logged in several miles running beside my children just to be there should they fall. When I’ve really done it right, the child didn’t even know they were doing it on their own until I’ve told them afterward.

Similarly, the instructors at iFly hold you and shape you until you’re in the right position. They provide as little pressure as possible until you can do it on your own. No one is ready for tricks on their first attempt, it’s just about finding the right position and gaining the confidence you can do it. Furthermore, and the most important metaphor, is that you’re starting from the ground and then floating up. The experience would certainly be a lot more difficult if you were asked to jump from the top of the large air cylinder.  In contrast, the instructors ease you into gravity-defying flotation.

When you think about the team you’re charged to lead, how well do you prepare them to fly? Do you give them hasty instructions and push them out of the plane? Or, do you hold their hands, guide them, and lift them into new experiences and challenges? Even if someone on your team has incredible potential, is it worth risking a traumatic early experience that might develop an unhealthy fear, undermining their long-term potential?

Even as I start my new role at Supreme Lending, I’ve been blown away by the consistent commitment to ongoing education and preparation of all of our team for success. No one is simply pushed out of the plane. They are guided and lifted to success. Everyone, included experienced hires, are eased into the marketplace. Before I began my duties, our leadership spent several days planning at an off-site meeting; designing the objectives for my department, setting goals, and identifying the resources that I would need to succeed. Additionally, the company is investing in me with the same kind of training they would provide for a full-fledged loan officer to make sure that I can execute my job with confidence. It makes me feel valued, and motivates me to bring my best every day.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve identified lofty goals for my department, and the work will be challenging. However, our leadership is committed to building a systematic framework that can lead to long-term success. Our mission is to help our team, the realtor community, and our customers become their personal and professional best. We want to see them fly, but our process is about lifting people to new heights, not throwing them out of the plane.

How are you helping your team fly today? Asking them to jump too soon just might hinder their long-term potential.