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CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF with Kevin Nothstine (Part 1 of 3)

Kevin Nothstine served 21 years as an Air Force pilot with a deep love for learning and teaching.  Kevin flew combat missions in the C-130 and the MC-12.  As an instructor pilot he trained hundreds of new pilots in advanced instrument flying in the T-44.   As an MC-12 instructor, he trained hundreds of aircrew how to find bad guys and tell the good guys where they are.  Kevin continues to fly and teach in the civilian world.  After retiring from the Air Force, he caught the entrepreneurial bug and worked with a start-up tech company as the VP of Operations.  Kevin is a co-founder of The People Catalysts where he teaches organizations how to be 300 to 800 times more productive.  He is also contracted with the Air National Guard and continues to teach other pilots how to fly the MC-12 combat mission.  He believes that the day you stop learning is the day you stop living.

Listen to the podcast here:


Karla Nelson:  Welcome to The People Catalyst podcast. Kevin.

Kevin Nothstine:  Hello, thank you very much. I’m excited to be here, Karla.

Karla Nelson:  Well we’re excited to have you. For those of you who have not met, heard or been trained by Kevin, is one of our executive team members, and his background was flying many different types of aircraft in the Air Force for quite some time. He’s now been in business for, what, about six years Kevin?

Kevin Nothstine:  Yep, going on six years very soon here come May.

Karla Nelson:  With that, he has also trained on the business side, so Military and business, and has gone through … obviously, he’s not only a master trainer with The WHO-DO Method, but several other methodologies that we’ve utilized at The People Catalyst. I wanted to have him on the show because there’s so many parallels that we can learn in regard to training that the Military has, and business, and also the lack thereof in business many times. Kevin has a deep understanding, being an instructor pilot for many of those 21 years as he was serving in the Air Force.

  One of the things that we say all the time … I think almost every podcast now, when Allan and I going through teaching and training about The WHO-DO Method and Movers Shakers Crew v. Makers, we use a phrase. Kevin actually coined this phrase which was, “running home to mommy.” The background of that is when you’re in a situation, you’re going to use the tool that you were taught, and you overlay that with your core nature of work. So, we specifically talk about that with the Shakers core nature of work, having another idea and Movers core nature of work, what the “running home to mommy” would be in a certain situation.

So, we go through that. I’m going to let Kevin go through that a little bit more extensively, because I think it’s critical to understand training, and then it’s also critical to understand this “running home to mommy,” and how it can work for you and work against you. So how did you come up with that, Kevin?

Kevin Nothstine:  Well Karla, you’re exactly right. Thank you much. It’s a great question. I’m talking about running home to mama. What I mean by that, when I say “running home to mama” is, as you said, when you have a stressful situation or challenge, or something, the easiest thing to do is run back to your core competency or what you’ve been trained to do the most. What you practice to do the most. Now, I didn’t realize this until I was actually an instructor with the Navy.

I started out with the Air Force and attended pilot training with the Air Force. There, they teach you a lot about flying and one of the big aspects they teach you is how to fly in instrument situation, when you have weather and it’s really nasty. The core competency for an Air Force pilot is to get where we call “vectors to an ILS”, and that stands for Instrument Landing System. That’s actually the same system that the airlines use when they have bad weather. Whenever you fly in an aircraft, and their pilot is bringing you in bad weather, they’re flying an ILS down to minimums. The Air Force trains everybody to do that.

So your running home to mama is, “I had a rough situation. Something is going on. The weather is bad. I have something wrong with the airplane,” or something like that, “I’m going to run home to mama. I’m going to get right on vectors to an ILS landing the best and the simplest way to find the runway so that that I come in for that landing.” That is more core nature that ah, instead of panicking, I can run home to mama. I can get vectors to an ILS. Now, I’ve done that for years, of flying for years with the Air Force.

As an Air Force pilot, I was thoroughly trained in landing using the Instrument Landing System, or the ILS. Well then when I went to a Navy squadron for three years as an instructor there, I realized that they had a very different perspective on things. Now, the Navy was focused around their training pilots of going to the aircraft carrier. Going to an aircraft carrier, they don’t have an Instrument Landing System. What they have is a system called a PAR, or a Precision Approach Radar. In this system, you have somebody on the ground who is looking at your aircraft on a radar and they’re giving you guidance and bringing you down safely onto the boat, onto the aircraft carrier.

So, it’s a different core competency. For the Navy, their primary training when things get stressful or they have a challenge, is vectors to a PAR. So, a slightly different approach. In talking to my friends that were fellow Naval aviators, they all wanted to vectors for a PAR for their basics. That’s when I learned, ah when things get challenging or stressful, people go with their core competency of what they’ve been trained on the most. For the Air Force, it was that vectors to an ILS. For the Navy people, vectors to a PAR.

Now, it’s not saying that it’s a good or bad thing. Dependent upon what your core competency is-

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, if you’re not trained, or if you haven’t taken any training so you don’t know how to respond. One of my biggest complaints about business professionals is they think that people just ta-da, waive their magic wand and can make something happen. Well, that’s actually partially true, but why would you not train in order to build a business? They don’t put enough time and energy there, and I think that’s why 80% or 85% of businesses fail in the first five years, is simply because they’re not valuing those tools.

In a tight situation, their response, what’s their run home to mommy is probably going to be freak out a little bit more than most, definitely have stress. Things don’t always go right in business, now do they? With that, you had a word that I think is really great, and kind of crux of the podcast here today which is “situational awareness”. Can you share with the listers a little bit about what situational awareness is, and how that applies to business?

Kevin Nothstine:  Certainly. Situational awareness is one of the aspects that they talk about in pilot training. Kind of a technical definition of that is your situational awareness is your perception of your situation in relation to the ground and your surroundings, and the situation of your aircraft. When you’re flying an airplane, it has to do with how high you’re going, how fast you’re going, where you are over the ground, and how your aircraft is doing right now, how it’s performing and the weather, and the other aircraft around you, and the people on the plane with you.

It’s everything that’s involved in your situation. It’s an extremely broad category of items, but very important. It’s a little bit nebulous to talk about, but it’s paramount to having an accurate awareness of your surroundings, of having that SA, is what we call it in the Air Force. Everybody refers to it as your SA, or situational awareness. The exact thing applies in business. In your business, you have to have a great understanding of your organization and your people, and what they are doing, and what’s going on, and the environment that you’re operating in as well.

Karla Nelson:  I love that, and it’s very true. Situational awareness is very important and not always taught to us, especially in school. Sit down. Be quiet. Do what you’re told. That doesn’t give you any tools. What happens is Shaker, with their … depending on the training you have, because remember The WHO-DO Method doesn’t take away from any of the training, it just makes it faster and easier, with happy people instead of “Oh my gosh, this is what it’s like walking through mud.”

I like how you said it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. However, on the podcast we do bring it up as a lot of times, the Shaker, their run home to mommy is a new idea, a new idea. It might be that you need a new idea, but if every single time things go wrong, somebody’s coming up with a new idea, how do you think that your team feels? In a Mover, they plan to plan when they’re in stressful situations. But you still have to move forward. Your prover is, “Oh it’s not going to work anyways,” so their run home to mommy is to turn into Eeyore or a naysayer. A Maker wants to follow a checklist. So, you give them a hard situation with no guidance, they’re just going to freeze.

You have to be aware of that and have the awareness of yourself and have the awareness of your team. With that said, Kevin, you said it doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. Can you think of a time where you ran home to mommy in a situation in an aircraft, or mission or whatnot, that the run home to mommy was actually a positive thing, probably based because you had some training behind it too, I would guess.

Kevin Nothstine:  Oh, definitely. I have tons of stories about that. One comes to mind in particular. I’ll tell you about that in just a second, but I want to expand on a comment of what you had just said, talking about the Movers and Shakers, and Provers and Makers when they run home to mama. Those are people’s core nature. That’s who they are as a person. That, when you’re training, they’re naturally going to do who they are. The Shaker is going to naturally come up with a new idea. That’s what they do.

In the Air Force, we train to take those vectors to the Instrument Landing System, the ILS. It’s a learned run home to mama. It’s not natural for somebody to do that. They don’t know how to do that until they’re trained how to do it. For us, if you take that Shaker, that Prover, that Mover, or Maker, and we put them in a stressful situation but we have trained to use The WHO-DO Method and tell them, “Hey, yes you have this core nature, but if you put into context with this training, it’s a better way to operate.”

So I think that’s a great parallel that we can learn from pilot training, of running home to mama. Where, okay let’s train to the tool that we’re going to use. With that, you were just asking about a story of a time that I had do that when I was a plane. Oh yeah, one of those times … I mentioned I was in Corpus Christi as an instructor. One day I was flying with a student down there. The type of flying we were doing on that day was required to have clear weather. We were training in clear weather and needed to be able to see the ground.

But while we were flying, a thunderstorm popped up. The storm popped up, and all of a sudden-

Karla Nelson:  That’s always fun.

Kevin Nothstine:  The air field … oh yeah. The air field, now you couldn’t see it. It was impossible to see the air field form the air. So now we had a little bit of a stressful situation for my student, and we needed to get back into the base because you start to run low on gas, and we needed to come in for a landing. What we had to do, we ran home to mama, as with a Navy squadron. It just so happened that day, we chose vectors for a PAR to get back in.

We flew the vectors for the PAR and we really use this Precision Approach Radar system, where somebody’s on the ground talking us through and getting us down to the ground. Now when they do that, they sit there and they talk you down. What you like to hear is, “On course. On glide path.” What that means is hey, you’re going the right direction. You’re headed right for the runway. On your descent, you’re going to reach the runway at the right place. You’re not going to land long or really short of the runway. On a good/bad scale, that would be bad.

So, you like to hear, “On course. On glide path,” but invariably you’ll get a little bit off course. You’re going to have something that changes a little bit-

Karla Nelson:  No, it doesn’t go perfectly as planned?

Kevin Nothstine:  As much as we try not to, things can happen. The winds could change, or just not flying well that day. Usually it’s the winds or other things, but just nature happens. It’s the nature of the business. So, the person on the ground is there talking to you, and looking at how you’re performing. You start to hear clues like, “Slightly left of course. Left of course going further left. Well left of course. Turn right 10 degrees.”

When they’re giving you these, they start off with those little ones of saying, “Slightly left of course. Turn right two degrees. Going for the left of course. Turn right four degrees.” They give you these small corrections when you’re really close to it, and that’s what you hope for is to make small corrections. The same thing on the glide path, “Going slightly below glide path. Well below glide path,” that’s one that you never want to hear. Or, “Well above glide path.” They can equally be as wrong on your glide path.

But the whole way going down, you have somebody that is helping out, and they’re steering your course and helping guide you left and right to get you right to the destination. I see a great parallel on this one, as we talk about the parallels from flying airplanes and going into the business community. A great one on this is as you watch your organization, you have a goal inside of where you want to go. In that airplane, I want to land safely on that runway. In my business, I want to have a successful product launch. I want to get this product out there, or whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve, and your team that’s doing this.

Well, it’s a lot easier. As you monitor your team and see what’s going on, it’s much easier to make small little corrections at the beginning. If you see that they’re starting to go slightly left of course where you want them to go, make that small course correction. You know, a two-degree heading change, because if you get further away from the center line, and you get further away from the straight and narrow going to your path, it’s going to take a more drastic change to be able to do it.

Then once you put the change in, then you’ve got to take it back out and you can end up really having a very crooked path all the way in to your destination-

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, but also spoken like a true Prover, that that’s how … you already have this natural core nature of work as well obviously applied over tons of training. So, for those of you that don’t know, as much as I am an uber Mover and Allen is an uber Shaker, Kevin is an uber Prover. So, showing how that core nature applied in that regard, which by the way, I would be the worst pilot on the planet because I’m not patient enough for that, and I do know that about myself. I like to fly in the aircraft. I want to fly in it, but just don’t want to fly the aircraft.

So great point though in regard to not only is that a positive way that your core nature works in that situation, but that you’ve been taught all those things. So your run home to mommy was, not only your core nature of work, is you typically want your pilot to have some Prover in him. I bet you if we looked at that, the majority of pilots either are first or secondary core nature, or probably Provers. Then overlaying that with … your training ends up being a positive situation because the negative situation would be not doing it and crashing, right?

Kevin Nothstine:  I did have one student. After I retired from the Air Force, I’ve done some civilian flying. I had one person that I was flying with in a lot of places. He was a CEO. He had a pretty sizable company. He grossed about $35 million a year and was a pilot as well. He brought me on board because he bought a larger aircraft than what he is used to, and the insurance company wanted him to fly with a professional pilot.

So, is it great? Yeah, he did an awesome, amazing job on his business and growing it from the ground up, and everything he did. What worked extremely well for him as a CEO did not always translate to be the best pilot. So that’s why we had … He’s a great guy. I really loved flying with him.

Karla Nelson:  Oh yeah. Yeah. Obviously, well we’re all different. Like we always say at The People Catalyst, people are different. That’s okay. We need everybody. We just need you all at different times. So now Kevin, you’ve been a trainer forever, training both pilots and now businesses for quite some time. How do you train your students to then respond when all goes haywire?

Kevin Nothstine:  Oh, that’s a great question. It’s a really good one. This, from day one, when I started learning to be a pilot, in around 1988/89 right around there, the official training I started in 1992. Very early on in that training, first they taught a lot of the basics and how the aircraft works, and aerodynamics and all these. But within the first month or two of training, we started talking about how to train if something goes wrong. Or, in the aircraft we call it an emergency, so something that changes from what you’ve planned.

The way they train for it was actually they wanted to induce some stress in the students to make sure that we can perform under stress. We had a group of students in the room, and you have one of the instructor pilots who’d stand up in the front of the room and he’d put together a scenario and say, “Okay, you’re flying along. Here’s the day,” and all of a sudden, your engine catches fire. Okay, yeah that’d be a little bit of an emergency to have to deal with.

Karla Nelson:  You think?

Kevin Nothstine:  So, to try and simulate the stress that you would be under there for a training, you have all of your peers, all of the other students around, and they would pick one student and say, “Okay, Kevin. Stand up. You have the aircraft.” And now, you have to talk through exactly what you would do in this scenario for this training. The thing they’ve pounded into us again, and again, and again is when you first start out dealing with any adverse condition, is to apply the following steps. When you stand up, this is the first thing that we would say, and that is to maintain aircraft control, analyze the situation, take appropriate action, and land as soon as conditions permit.

Then you go through and talk about each one of those steps. That first step is to maintain aircraft control. I had one day, I was flying a C-130. This was many years later. I was flying the C-130 descending into Little Rock, Arkansas. On the descent, my number one engine … the C-130 has four engines, and the one on the far left engine all of a sudden stopped working. It flamed out, just out of the blue.

Karla Nelson:  That’s not good.

Kevin Nothstine:  No. Another one of those on the good/bad scale, that would be bad. But we trained for that extensively so it’s not that bad because we know how to do it. The first step, as we were saying earlier, is maintain aircraft control. What did I do? I put in some right rudder to keep the plane flying straight so that it doesn’t get crooked. I put in the right amount of aileron and a pitch to keep the plane flying where I wanted it to go, adjust the power settings on the other three engines to compensate for the loss of power, and continue to fly the plane in the descent.

All of that is how I maintain aircraft control. So, it’s, “Okay, I’ve got this emergency that just happened.” What’s my immediate thing to do? Let’s keep things as normal as they can and keep flying the plane no matter what happens. That’s the first step. Now the next one, analyze the situation. All right, what happened? What’s going on wrong? Let’s look at our instruments. Let’s look at everything and see what happened. I felt a big pull to the left. I look at my fuel flow in my left engine. It’s down to zero. I look at the power that it’s producing on that gauge. It’s down to zero. Okay, I lost the number one engine.

Okay, just analyze that situation. Now the next step is going to be take appropriate action. So, we train for that. If you lose an engine, what do you do? Well, we have a engine shutdown procedure checklist in the airplane, so we follow that. We follow that checklist and we shut down the engine. So that was take appropriate action to follow the shut down, and then the last one is land as soon as conditions permit. Well, we’re already on approach, working on our approach into Little Rock Air Force Space, so we’re able to continue that approach and then continue to fly the plane.

We talked about contingencies as well, saying “Okay, we’re coming in for the landing. This is how we’re going to do it. If something goes on wrong, something else happens wrong and we have to go around, here’s how we’re going to do it,” and we briefed all that up and planned for the future of every possible contingency on that landing, and then make that final landing and come in. So, from day one that training just kicked in naturally, but many years later when I had that emergency situation, so it’s maintain aircraft control, analyze the situation, take appropriate action, and land as soon as conditions permit.

Karla Nelson:  Oh, that’s awesome. I love it. As you were talking, I kept on thinking of all of the business applications that would have. Can you talk a little bit about … I know you actually had talked to business people in regard to this, but the parallel to each of those. Obviously, there’s countless. We could talk about this forever because stuff goes wrong all the time in business, but can you think of the parallel of maintaining aircraft control and going through each of those four?

Kevin Nothstine:  Oh, definitely. A perfect example, that first one, maintain aircraft control, an easier way to put this: always keep your cool. When something goes on wrong, you can’t panic about it. You have to keep your cool and keep control of what’s going on. Dependent upon the size of your organization or what happens, if you have a large organization and something happens in one aspect of it, you need to keep the rest of the organization and plow it along where they are and not let it affect them. That’s part of maintain aircraft control, or keeping your cool.

If you have a small organization, and you’re just a start up and working on something, and you have a major thing, okay it could be all hands on deck on this of what’s going on, but you still need to maintain … get to that even keel and keep your cool so that you can understand exactly not what’s going on, and not let emotions blow up on you. That first part of maintain aircraft control, one of the things it teaches in pilot training was no fast hands. What that means is don’t hurry up and try to start moving the levers and doing things as quick as you can. You might do the wrong lever.

If you’re in business and all of a sudden you have something happen, and a shipment doesn’t arrive on time, or all of a sudden a manufacturer of one particular part tells you they no longer manufacture that part, you don’t want to throw your hands up and completely cancel an order, or completely change everything. You want to take the next step, and that is analyze the situation and look at exactly what’s going on.

So, the first one, always keep your cool when something changes or something happens wrong. Then, you can analyze the situation. A great part on here that, Karla, you like to talk about is one of the 80/20 rules. You know, spend 80% of your time planning to take some action, and then 20% of your time actually implementing that action that you had planned on. So, it starts off with that planning and analyzing the situation to see what you’re going to do. Once you have thoroughly analyzed what’s going on, now the next step: take appropriate action.

“My manufacturer of one of the key components just told me they no longer make that part.” All right let me go see if I can find somebody else that manufactures that part, or I can take this to my advantage and maybe I find a better part to replace it, and it might change my product a little better, change my design. So that take appropriate action all depends upon the situation of what’s going on, but it can only come after you thoroughly analyze the situation.

The last part, land as soon as conditions permit. We’re not really landing your organization, but you want to get back to a normal operation. You want to normalize your operations and get your company back to a nice, steady state of working on a good, even keel as to what’s going on.

Karla Nelson:  That’s awesome. One of the things I think that people might forget is that when you’re flying the aircraft, it’s not … they have a huge team that they work with too, so when you’re going through those four steps, make sure that you’re leveraging your team. The part that you were saying analyze the situation, we see this over, and over, and over again. We play games for the most part so that they can understand and learn the process, and then they have to go back to their organizations and apply the process. We give them a task, and we’ll do it over and over, and they’ll totally forget they actually learned The WHO-DO Method because it might only be the second time they saw it.

But it’s hilarious. They get moving immediately, and they have a method to go through the ideation and then the implementation. When you’re saying that, Kevin, it’s almost like analyze the situation is the ideation part. Let’s get all the data and the information, and let’s figure out what we’re going to do. Then the implementation part is take appropriate action. Just remember, you have a whole team. It’s not just you definitely, and same flying an aircraft. They’ve got maintainers, they’ve got the pilots, they’ve got in the situation that in the spy plane that Kevin flies, there’s like four people on your aircraft, right? That are all working together. They have got tower.

So, remember that in your business too, because many business owners go at something and they forget they have this great team that they can utilize to balance out the work, and spend 80% of that time figuring it out, getting buy-in, running the Method, and then as you implement, the same thing. Keep in mind. So, for me, my run home to mommy is The WHO-DO Method. That doesn’t mean I’m not applying it to a marketing strategy, or a product strategy, or hundreds of different things that we do in a day. But there’s one thing for sure, is I never do anything by myself because anyone left up to doing stuff all by themselves is not going to do it well.

So, you can’t do 150 things great in a day. That’s just a recipe for burnout, which is why again, 85% of businesses fail in the first five years.

Kevin Nothstine:  You know what, Karla?

Karla Nelson:  Yes?

Kevin Nothstine:  You make a great point on that, and actually we talked earlier about how running home to mama can be a good thing. I can tell you an example of what I just made a bad thing on this. When I was first trained, I was flying a T-37 and a T-38. The mindset of the Air Force was to be a single seat pilot where you’re the only one in the aircraft, and you’re not flying with a crew. Well, after I went through pilot training, the Air Force changed their training a bit, and they went to some of the pilots are trained in a crew concept and they actually changed some of the wording on there a little bit after I went through.

It was pounded in my brain so much of take appropriate action, that that’s the way I always go back to it. Because I was trained so much on that. But now on the crew aircraft, they actually teach on that step to take appropriate coordinated action, that you coordinate with your entire crew or with your teams. So, you’re exactly right on that point to remember to bring everybody in.

Karla Nelson:  Awesome. Well thanks so much for sharing that with us. We’ve got two more parts to this series. So, we’re going to discuss the control and performance concept, or what we call in business, KPIS, Key Performance Indicators. Then we’re also going to have a session based off of communication, being as the Military focuses on these things and trains, and trains, and trains, so that you’re ready. I mean their job is to train every single day, so they’re really great at what they do. In business, I think we can learn a couple of things from that strategy that our Military has.

With that, thank you so much for being on the show today, Kevin. We look forward to the next two podcasts.

Kevin Nothstine:  Thank you, Karla. I greatly enjoyed it. Have a good day.

Karla Nelson:  You too.

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