I have been “approaching” airports to land small airplanes recreationally now for about 10 years. I’ve also been “approaching” businesses both big and small with offers of professional service advice for more than 30 years. As a private pilot and a management consultant, both types of approaches can be challenging and a little terrifying. In both cases I employ what’s called “The Stabilized Approach” because it improves the odds of a more positive outcome.
In aviation, landings require us to maneuver fast, fragile machines in three dimensions while close to the ground. It is very challenging. The ‘simple’ act of landing an airplane accounts for 50% of all general aviation accidents. In management consulting, we are maneuvering new, dynamic advice that could make, or save, a prospective client money. The challenging part is that a prospective client isn’t generally prepared to pay for this advice until they know the direction you are approaching them from, and recognise the value of your advice to their business.
Coming in for a Landing
From the air, a stabilized approach is one in which the pilot establishes and maintains a constant angle glide path towards a predetermined landing point on the runway. In the final minute of a flight while 1000 feet or more above the ground, the pilot lines up on the imaginary extended runway centre line and ‘crabs’ the nose of the plane into the wind along the plane’s vertical axis to maintain a ‘wings level’ attitude all the way down. Sounds easy? Consider this: it involves 200 – 300 micro inputs or corrections in just the final 60 seconds while you’re descending at 1000 feet per minute before the aircraft finally ‘stops flying’ just inches above the ground, and ‘settles’ back to earth at about 120 kilometres per hour!
From a consulting perspective, a stabilized approach is one in which the consultant establishes professional credibility and demonstrates a progressive appreciation for the unique business issues of a prospective client. In the time leading up to “landing” at an introductory meeting, the consultant must reassure the prospective client that there is value in keeping the appointment in a number of ways: demonstrating knowledge of their industry, showing growing understanding of their issues, conveying nuggets of useful information, relating the situation to previous projects, etc. Sounds easy? Consider this: although you have invested substantially in your professional training and industry experience, the prospective client may have very little time, budget or interest in what you have to say!
The checklist for the common elements of “The Stabilized Approach” for both aviation and consulting are:
- Invest heavily in your training & experience
- Research the industry & current environment
- Plan your approach & know where you’re ‘landing’
- Always practise & improve your approaches
- Be consistent & be prepared to “go around” if necessary
- Start your approach early & make adjustments as required
- Always add value wherever you land!
Enjoy your flight!