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ENGAGED vs. SUPPORTING: What’s your Business Role?


“Survival is when you’re focused on the competition. 
Winning is when you’re focused on the customer!”
Waldo Waldman

Many of you have heard me emphasize that no fighter pilot ever flies a combat mission solo. We always fly as a team – with our wingmen. It’s impossible to win solo because the missions are very complex and change so rapidly. As a unified team, we assign roles and responsibilities to each member of the formation, train accordingly, and finally – hold each other accountable!

During an air to ground ‘engagement’ when seeking to eliminate a ground target (power station, bridge, etc.), there is always an engaged fighter pilot and a supporting fighter pilot.

The engaged fighter:

  • acquires the target
  • sets up the geometry for the ‘attack’; &
  • dispenses ordnance

The supporting fighter:

  • monitors fuel state
  • keeps track of emergency airfields
  • listens on the radio for intelligence updates
  • ‘clears’ the area for enemy aircraft or ground threats

Mutual support is the key phrase here.

The engaged fighter must be focused on one thing and one thing only – The Target!! The supporting fighter allows him/her to stay focused on the target by preventing distractions (i.e. the competition). For if the engaged fighter loses focus of the target – even for a split second – the mission could fail. That’s why we have a saying in the fighter pilot world – lose sight, lose fight!!!

This whole process is choreographed and rehearsed during the most critical phase of the planning process – the mission briefing. It is during the briefing when objectives are established, roles are assigned, and contingency plans (the what-if’s) are made. More often than not, a great briefing leads to a great mission.

Look at your business and you’ll see the same dynamics at work. If you’re in sales, you are the engaged fighter when performing a cold call, delivering a sales presentation, or negotiating a contract. Your supporting fighters are your inside sales team, customer service, sales manager, and marketing – each providing intelligence and sales tools to allow you to win.

As an IT manager, you’re the engaged fighter with a target/mission to ensure your network infrastructure, software applications and operating systems up and running 100% of the time. Your supporting fighters are your system administrators, developers, HR department to ensure training, R&D, vendors, and project managers.

Whenever you become distracted from your primary target – your customer – you transition from winning to surviving. And we all know that winning is a lot more fun than surviving!

You must stay focused and coordinated as a team to win! Understanding each other’s roles, being 100% accountable and prepared, and knowing who to turn to for help are critical to your ability to be flexible and defeat the ‘business missiles’ that are being launched on you every day.


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