What is your Black Box?

By Guest Author: Hussain Afeef

Black Box is a term very familiar in the world of aviation. Every aircraft is equipped with two almost indestructible Black Boxes and to add visibility they are now coloured in bright orange. One is known as the cockpit voice recorder which stores the last two hours of the sound from the cockpit and the voice recording of conversations between the pilot and co-pilot. The second Black Box is known as the Flight Data Recorder, which records all the electronic data and information. When there is an air crash investigation, this is the most important object that the air crash investigators will search. History shows enormous investments have been made to search Black Boxes following air disasters. This will provide a good idea of what factors lead to a particular accident, and aviation experts can identify the systematic errors and ensure the same mistake never happens. They use the data and finding from these Black Boxes as learning opportunities, review training and procedures for the aviation industry. I would agree that the aviation industry is an industry that lives with the Growth Mindset, whereby they are keen to learn from mistakes and striving for continuous improvement.

The famous three-time Commonwealth champion in table tennis, Mathew Syed from the UK, wrote a book titled “Black Box Thinking” (published in 2015). Mathew Syed describes specific attributes of high-performance cultures and organisations. This list varies from attributes such as building a culture around high-quality service, compassion, care, people excellence, preservice, tenacity and does whatever it takes to get through. These organization never claims luck, gift or just a specific natural talent as their competitive advantages. Furthermore, he explains that every human being also has an opportunity to create their Black Box and fill in with attributes that will help them to be a high performer.

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Most high performers, regardless of what they do, they have specific attributes which always compliments to their overall success. Nick Vujicic faced 55 rejections before he could get his first speaking opportunities, and his first audience was just six people. John Maxwell first speaking audience was only 3. Seth Godin book publishing was rejected nearly 18 times before he could get going and authored 18 books.

They all had one thing in common in their Black Box; there was never a right time; it’s better to start somewhere and keep building it up. 

I want to encourage and share five attributes that you can add to your Black Box, and if you practice them daily, you will always be leading the right way to achieve excellence in your areas of expertise and profession. Several years ago, I had the privilege of learning below attributes from John C. Maxwell in person. 

Lead Yourself:

Photo: Hussain Afeef

 You can’t lead others if you cannot lead yourself. This refers to every aspect of how you show up to work, interact, move around and get things done. Everyone is watching you, whether you are a leader or not; To lead one does not need a title. Every day when you come to work, you have two choices; either to bring a positive mindset or a negative one. Whatever you chose will have a significant impact on the people around you. You cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. Your performance is as good as how you lead yourself at all times. 

Add Value to Others: 

Photo: Hussain Afeef

Be the first one to appreciate and recognize. Compliment others at times they don’t expect. Leave a smile and simple thank you. I still remember the moment when I handed over a handwritten note of thank you to the Captain of a Sri Lankan Flight from London to Colombo on 17 June 2019; the pilot told me he has been in the Aviation Industry for several years and it was the first time a handwritten message of thank you was given to him by a passenger. Handwritten notes of commendation to your team, colleagues, those who are in your inner circle, check on your neighbours, friends, and community are some examples of how you can add value to others daily.

Learn something new every day:

Photo: Hussain Afeef

 One attribute I will commend to my continuous personal and professional growth is my daily reading habits. Learn something new refers to getting a new piece of knowledge or become aware of a particular subject that you are interested in. It could be through a documentary video, reading a book, blog, writing or having a pleasant conversation. It all depends on what you value and appreciate. If you love watching Netflix and if you believe that adds value to your subject and your area of interest; take it on. Never go to sleep without doing something that adds value to you. Make it a habit and develop the mindset of a student who loves to explore and learn. Even if you read something for 10 minutes during the day, you will learn something new. 

Practice Leadership: 

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What a pity if we studied something and we cannot apply. If you have learned leadership practices, use it intentionally. Be a role model by practicing and living the values that you believe in. Professional excellence is all about practicing what you preach.

Grow Intentionally: 

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Photo: Hithadhoo School

Growth is not automatic. Good attributes do not grow automatically. We have two choices; either we get old or grow old. Grow old refers to putting efforts intentionally to develop ourselves personally and professionally. In today’s words one can have 25 years of experience in a particular job; what matters is not the number of years; it’s what you did in those years and what lessons you are taking during those years. All of us have unreached potential, and its always waiting to be fulfilled. There are three specific laws defined by my favorite mentor and coach, John Maxwell, which links with this particular attribute. 

The Law of Intentionality: Growth Doesn’t Just Happen.

The Law of Consistency: Motivation Gets You Going, Discipline Keeps You Growing.

The Law of Awareness: You Must Know Yourself to Grow Yourself.

What you do today for your growth will determine how far you get in the years ahead.

Take a moment, write down your attributes that are in your Black Box. Every time your fall or rise, these will help you to get going! If you don’t have a list as above, reflect on the last 5 – 10 years of your experience and come up with a list. It will help you and others around you.

Photo: Hussain Afeef

About the Author: Hussain Afeef has over 15 years of experience in the areas of HR strategy, customer experience, quality management, talent, performance management, and learning & development. He also has an extensive background in coaching startups and entrepreneurs and has given inspirational talks to both local and international forums. Further to being a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching – Team and Executive Coach.

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