Lead Like a Skydiver: Five Ways to Make Sure Your Team is Ready to Jump (Communication)


“Let’s go over the jump again…”

Caleb spoke into my left ear, above the hum of the small plane engine. I was strapped into a tandem harness as we neared an altitude of 14,500 feet.

We were about to jump out of an airplane.


This was the first time I’d ever skydived. (It was as wonderful, breathtaking, and awesome as you might imagine, but that’s not why I bring it up…)

I was very interested in the preparation for the dive. In a tandem dive, you are connected to the expert who operates the parachute. A successful dive requires you to do certain things (and not do others).

In fact, when we were discussing the experience afterwards, my daughter Averie asked me, “How much training did you get before you went?”

The answer might surprise you – but it also has a great message for leaders who want to align their team with results.

How much training did we get? Very little – just six instructions really.

  • Do not grab the instructor in any way at any time.
  • Hold your shoulder straps to begin…and at any time when you feel the need to grab something.
  • Head back.
  • When prompted, spread your arms wide. Curl your legs back.
  • When the chute opens, have fun, play for the camera.
  • For landing, lift your legs parallel to the ground for a seated landing.

But the key wasn’t the number of instructions: it was in the repetition.

Caleb went over those instructions with me four times before we stepped into the airplane. As we took off and ascended to the jump elevation he reviewed the instructions six more times. That was a total of ten repetitions in the course of 90 minutes.


Five things stood out to me in this process:

  1. Less is More – Fewer directions that focus on critical behaviors are much more likely to be followed. What behaviors are vital for the success of your team? Focus on those.
  2. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition – As a leader, imagine yourself as the drummer for the “band” that is your team. You set the beat. You can’t set the beat for a moment then never do it again. Consistency about key behaviors, values, and what success looks like are essential. If its vital to your team’s success, they should hear it at least every 28 days (and probably more).
  3. Check for Understanding – Caleb didn’t say, “Okay, you got all that?” He asked me to repeat the instructions. He prompted for next steps. And he wasn’t satisfied until he heard me say what I was doing. One of the most effective phrases in your leadership playbook is: “Let’s make sure we’re on the same page…” Then ask your team or employee to tell you what they understand. This saves so much frustration and friction down the road.
  4. Connect the What to Why – “Don’t grab me – if you do that can interfere with me operating the chute and we can die.” Okay – got it! “When we land, keep your legs parallel to the ground or you can break a bone. This is where the greatest number of injuries happen.” Yes sir! Be clear about the reason for your requests. Help your team understand the purpose and meaning behind their work.
  5. Celebrate – Every time we reviewed the procedures and I got it right, Caleb was right there with a heartfelt “Awesome!” When we completed the jump, he cheered and celebrated my experience and success. This was his 1,473rd jump…but he still celebrated each step with me. That helped lock in the behaviors.


Remember: clear, mutually shared commitments are the foundation for your team’s success. To ensure the team is aligned and on the same page, focus on the minimum number of key behaviors, consistently review the behaviors, check for understanding, and celebrate success along the way.

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How do you ensure your team is aligned and “ready to jump?”

Be the leader you want your boss to be,

David Dye

David Dye, President of Let’s Grow Leaders, works with leaders to achieve transformational results without losing their soul (or mind) in the process. As a former executive and elected official and nonprofit executive he inspires audiences with practical leadership inspiration you can use right away. The award-winning author of The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul, David is a sought-after leadership speaker, and believes everyone can master the essentials of influence.