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Check Your Gauges

I can still remember the feeling of handling the controls of the small plane flying over Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansas.

The scenery was beautiful and the feeling of momentary control of the airplane was awe inspiring. No, I am not a pilot, but my friend Mark is. For a brief moment, Mark allowed me to experience what it feels like to fly a plane. I was inspired that day as I learned from Mark about his training to become a pilot.

When learning to fly, pilots are taught to utilize their gauges as a means for distinguishing reality.

In a low visibility situation, it is possible for a pilot to “feel” like they are flying horizontal. In reality, the plane could be somewhat vertical. A true picture of reality is only obtained by the pilot checking the gauges. The ability to correctly read an airplane’s gauges enables the pilot to determine the difference between what they “feel” and what is “real.”

Leaders, like pilots, work to safely navigate followers from one destination to another. Leaders worth following assess the flight path, current conditions, and other risks that may cause them to change direction or speed. When faced with uncertainty, leaders also can find it necessary to correctly assess their current position and direction.

2020 has been a year of “low visibility” for many leaders and disorientation can easily occur as you find yourself constantly adapting to changing conditions.

It may be a good time to check your gauges if you’re feeling a bit discombobulated. You might consider one set of gauges for your organization and another for your relationships. It could even be helpful to create a set for your personal health. Here are some “value add” questions to consider, which can help you determine the degree of value “in reality” you have added to your workplace and/or life.

Examples of organizational “value add” questions may include:

  • What have I done to add value to the organization for my stakeholders?
  • How have I added value to the bottom line of my organization in the last year?
  • How have I added value to the lives of my employees?
  • In what ways has my organization added value to the community in which I reside?

The second set of gauges you might consider checking are various gauges within the relationships in your life:

  • How have I added value for those who are closest to me?
  • How have I added value for those I care about who are far away?
  • In what ways have I added value to the lives of my friends or coworkers?

Last but certainly not least, here are some questions for your own personal wellness:

  • How have I added value to my physical, mental, and emotional health?
  • In what ways have I added value to my personal competence?

The sets of gauges and “value add” questions are endless. You may be surprised to discover what you “feel” is not “real” when checking your gauges. Perhaps you will be encouraged as you identify ways in which you are adding value to that which is important to you, even in difficult and changing circumstances. Conversely, you may find you are flying in a direction you never intended and may need to course correct for a better 2021. When you choose to fly by what is “real”, you stand a better chance of ensuring you arrive at the right destination regardless of the gauges you choose to check.


Erik Dees is a Partner with Milestone Leadership. Milestone Leadership’s Mission is to “Build Leaders Worth Following.” He can be reached by phone at 319-504-3083 or edees@milestoneleadership.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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