Flying at 600 mph used to be routine for John Foley, former lead solo pilot with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Now, Foley gives business owners tips on accelerating the success of their organizations, and maintaining their positions as market leaders.

During the Nexstar® Super Meeting in Detroit, MI recently, Foley told attendees that business today has undergone a drastic change, and to be prepared to address customer demands for more value.

Speaking to an audience of HVAC and electrical professionals, Foley added that businesses will hold their leadership positions only by optimizing team performance and efficiency.

Foley’s other achievements include earning a degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and working within the inner circle of a venture capital company.

During the Nexstar presentation, he used eye-popping video clips of the high-precision Blue Angels flying team to illustrate the importance of working in your “high performance zone” individually, and as a team.

“The high performance zone is the gap between where we are and where we want to go," Foley said. "To close the gap, and be successful, you need to work through four critical stages.”

Those stages include:

1. Belief – Elevate your employee belief level and success will follow. According to Foley, a person’s belief system has two buckets - Limiting beliefs and liberating beliefs with a centerpoint between them. Your centerpoint is your defined focus, priorities and goals. The entire team needs to know and buy in to described objectives, assuring there is no performance gap. Employee goals begin individually and build to a team objective. Am I safe? Am I making enough money? Once an individual feels they have those, they can move beyond them to team goals. Elevating a team’s belief levels is a continuing process.

2. Brief – Plan-Focus-Communicate. Giving Super Meeting attendees a rare opportunity to step inside the Blue Angels briefing room, Foley highlighted the team’s preparation for taking flight by reviewing the plan, talking through all the moving parts and visualizing the execution of each maneuver. Focus on the possibilities and opportunities rather than the challenges.
“Blue Angels never focus on their competition,” Foley said. “They focus on how they can improve the wow of the crowd by what they do, based on their collective potential. Focus on structural preparation (as a company) and mental preparation (as an individual). There’s a difference between when you think something in your head and you feel it in your heart.”

3. Contracts: Trust - Execution–Commitment.
What level of verbal contracts do you have with your staff? If you have clearly defined employee expectations and they agree to meet them, trust that they will follow through or alert you if they don’t. Foley said, “The Blue Angels contract is so clear that pilots and crew could change course mid-stream and everyone would know exactly what to do at that moment. The same holds true for business.”

4. Debrief – Reflect on good and identify room for opportunity. Debrief when things go well, not just when they go wrong. Encourage your team to realize, admit, and correct their mistakes rather than pointing them out and directing the way to correct them. Foley said, “Pursuit of perfection is important, but if you set the goal too high, employees will feel it’s unattainable. Individuals have to see it, feel it and believe that they can reach their objective.”

As a man whose very life depended on maximum concentration, Foley advised Nexstar business owners to do all they can to reduce distractions that prevent a total focus on the business at hand.

"Build a sanctuary in your morning to clear your head and focus on your centerpoint before the emergencies of the day hit you in the face," Foley said.

Methodical hiring practices are also keys to success. Blue Angels candidates must go through a full year of scrutiny and must show their level of commitment. Therefore, Foley said, be clear about three things with prospective employees:

•Are they competent?
•Are they of good character?
•Are they committed?

Nexstar, based in Little Canada, MN, is an affiliation of independent service providers, owned by Nexstar members. Those members share experience and insight with each other. Best practices from around the country are available for other members to apply.

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