Focus on your horizon – keep your eyes on the horizon and don’t get lost in small-scale navigation. What does that mean exactly?

Have you ever had moments like this, where at the end of the day you once again didn’t accomplish the to-do list or even felt disoriented? In the sense of, what am I actually doing? And you have noticed that you have lost the focus on the essentials, because you wandered from one topic to another?

In the cockpit, that would be quite unpleasant if you suddenly wondered where you actually are, wouldn’t it? No passenger would still fly with us with a clear conscience if they weren’t sure that we in the cockpit know what we’re doing, know our destination and have our focus firmly on it – and still keep enough of an overview to deviate from the actual plan sometimes. 

In small aviation, we fly by sight, we depend on seeing the horizon because it enables us to fly safely. Without the appropriate instruments and training, a flight without a view of the horizon can quickly become life-threatening. Because – in the cloud, without instruments to control the flight, it has been proven that it takes less than 30 seconds for a person to lose his or her orientation, i.e. his or her own horizon, and to get into some kind of unpleasant flight conditions such as a spin.

The focus on the horizon can mean different things on a flight. On a flight, we set course for a defined destination. Preparation is the be-all and end-all, especially when flying with guests. Many distractions are inevitable. Guests are often not aware of all the things that are involved in piloting an aircraft. People are talking, filming and photographing, and as a pilot you must not allow yourself to be distracted, you must always observe the general conditions and navigate. It can quickly happen that you get lost in small-scale navigation or drift off course due to external influences such as the aforementioned passengers or wind, for example. 

If the external conditions do not allow you to fly directly towards the destination, it is important to focus on the big picture, namely flying. Or, in case of doubt, to turn around or not to take off at all – even if you have to put up with disappointed guests.

Fly the aircraft first! 

Fly the aircraft first! We cannot emphasize this enough. The order is aviate – navigate – communicate. 

However, these components are not only important in the cockpit. You can transfer this principle to many business areas. One of our core areas is crisis management. Aviate – navigate – communicate fits almost perfectly here, too! How often have we observed that in crises the focus on the horizon has been lost and that people have become lost in small, unimportant details. Yet it is precisely this focus that is crucial to keeping the plane or the company in the air, so to speak. The aviate is completely lost at such a moment. The good news here is that you can train this way of working. Similar to how we pilots perform and internalize the procedures over and over again, you can also complete crisis exercises as a team or communication exercises as a project team. The learning effect is considerable and an improvement in performance is very often directly visible the first time.

However, we take the stance that the best crisis management tool is worth nothing if employees are not fit to use it, to recover quickly from crisis situations or even simply stressful or challenging situations, and to remain healthy – in other words, they must be resilient. And this is exactly the focus of our developed models and our consulting work. The corporate factor and the human factor must necessarily go hand in hand.

Especially in crisis or change processes, where a crisis usually results in a change process, it is easy to feel that control is slipping out of our hands. 

Let’s take the current crisis as an example: It is important that we ask ourselves as companies and as individuals: Where do we stand in the face of the Corona pandemic? What is in store for us in the coming weeks and months? And how can we act as well as possible as a company or individual?

At this point we would like to mention our newly developed model “CLEAR ME FORDPEC”, which systematically guides the user through exactly such crisis and change processes. If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact us. We have further developed what originally emerged from NASA’s FORDEC decision-making tool in order to combine precisely the two aspects of organizational and human resilience enhancement. We are convinced that even supposedly hopeless situations can be mastered hand in hand.

This makes the “focus on the horizon” all the more important. The personal “horizon” can also consist of small stages and be rolling. This is another analogy to flying. We are constantly evaluating. Where we are right now, where we are coming from and where we can and will develop. Step by step. There are different models that can be used here.

But the focus is always on the essentials. 

Acknowledge that we are in a multiple crisis (health crisis, economic crisis, etc.) and accept the associated uncertainty – personally and professionally. Leadership, self-leadership and communication have never been more important. Despite occasional panic and chaos, we must not lose focus on the horizon right now.

But let’s take another look at the airline cockpit. We need a holistic view. We have a lot of data management in the cockpit. There needs to be a high level of situational awareness and a forward-looking aspect.
We need to draw the right conclusions from the large amount of incoming data. In other words: We always try to stay ahead of the aircraft, while not losing sight of the big picture – the horizon. In the airline cockpit, we call this “situational awareness”. It’s hard to imagine what would happen if we were to get lost in small-scale navigation.

Focus on the horizon means setting priorities. We have to be able to distinguish between the important and the unimportant or less urgent and judge accordingly. We are all familiar with the Eisenhower principle. Prioritizing means taking personal responsibility – in other words, self-leadership.

We all know situations like this – the To Do list knows no end and all employees want something from you before you leave for vacation. What to do now? Option 1: Work off everything more or less until the morning hours Option 2: Prioritize, delegate, set on hold.

There are very valuable approaches from leadership and high-performance coaching. Many people work hard but not necessarily smart. Many jobs are like elite sports. And that’s how you should approach them. Here we speak from personal experiences on the one hand as pilots, but also as coaches and consultants, where these resource issues come up again and again.

NO human being is able to work in crisis mode for 24 hours over several days without suffering health consequences. Smart resource allocation is a big topic, which we will take up separately in a later blog.

For a smart allocation of resources, it is worthwhile to pause and look inward. 

This inner dialogue is important, because that is where self-leadership and also leadership begin. 

Those who can lead themselves act on their own responsibility and can thus continue to pursue their goals.
We have a multitude of information, impressions, and influences that come pouring in on us during crises and often make decision-making difficult. Self-leadership is all the more important here.

And here we would like to add the inconspicuous but all the more important word “no”.

Most of you are probably familiar with this situation: you actually wanted to say “no” when your boss asked you to take on an additional task. Because your to-do list is endless. But then you said yes again. Why? 

And that brings us back to the first point. Do you know your priorities? and when was the last time you said no so as not to lose your focus on the horizon?

We wish you a good focus when you think about these topics.

Happy Landings!

If you want to learn more about our #clearedtoland journey – the keynotes, workshops, our consulting and coaching, please contact us via our website or 

On our website, we have also posted crisis and change management offers.