Former Blue Angels pilot John Foley shared his insights with Nexstar members during the group's Super Meeting in Detroit, Oct. 1-3.

Former Blue Angel pilot John Foley addresses Nexstar duing its Super Meeting in Detroit.


As lead solo pilot of the Blue Angels flying team, John Foley said he learned the value of the debriefing period after a flight.

“The greatest learning is in the debriefing process,” Foley told more than 300 Nexstar members and 150 other attendees during the best practices group’s 29th Super Meeting Oct. 1-3 in Detroit. “We spent longer on our debriefing than we did on our flight planning. Do you debrief with your techs after a service call?”

Discussing what went right and wrong on a call only can work if it does not involve finger-pointing, he said. The Blue Angels created a safety environment that promoted an atmosphere of sharing and acknowledgement of one’s actions.

“Don’t expect your people to acknowledge their actions if you don’t as a leader,” Foley said. “There’s strength in vulnerability.”

Celebrating what went right during a transaction is just as important as pointing out areas for improvement. Defining best practices is the best part of the debriefing process, he said.

In his time with the Blue Angels, Foley said he and other pilots never focused on their competition. They focused only on how they could get better.

He cautioned Nexstar members to be aware of the four “destroyers of performance”:
    1. Doubt. This stops most people from even trying to give their best performance.

    2. Distractions. Leaders should build time into their day when they can focus on growing their business and what they can do to help their clients to achieve their goals.

    3. Deception. Most of the time, people are the ones who deceive themselves.

    4. Discredit. Leaders should be wary of this the more successful they become.
“When you get closer to your goals, you’ll find people go after you or your company,” Foley said. “In politics, the first thing they do is raise doubt about the other candidate.”

As a business consultant, Foley said some clients tell him that they don’t have time to debrief. He scoffs at that notion.

“You don’t have time not to debrief,” he said. “Find small problems before they become big problems. How much time do you spend on big problems?

“Find a way to get the debriefing process into your organization. It’s the most important thing you can do to improve your performance, yet you spend the least time on it vs. planning and executing your plan.”

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