Bringing Professionalism to the Workplace
There is a common belief that those that work in aviation are all unprofessional. The only exception in the general public’s mind is by the inflight crews of the Big 3 airlines, that is Delta, American Airlines, and United.
It’s kind of an unfair bias that comes from poor experiences in the past and lumping aviation professionals in with professionals that do the same job but in different fields. For aviation mechanics, the lump comes in with car mechanics.
Though car mechanics outnumber aviation mechanics drastically, aviation is a significantly more regulated field. Simply by the numbers, it makes sense that people are likely to have at least one negative experience with a car mechanic, the aviation mechanic feels this issue.
Sadly, this idea of aviation being an unprofessional workplace persists because it has earned that label.
There’s only one way to counter this negative label: Being more professional.
I’m not saying you have to start wearing a suit and tie or your Sunday best to go get all greasy and sweaty by straining against the hardware. There are three easy ways to bring more professionalism into the workplace for mechanics.
Start by nailing down timeliness. After you get a consistent schedule going, you will be free to work on keeping everything orderly. This gives you the best chance at including those who are trusting you with their aircraft. That’s why communication is the final piece of the puzzle here.
There’s nothing more frustrating than finding out there’s a new restaurant in town, but when you pull up to the joint, you find they’re not open. You tug on the door to no avail, double-check your watch with the times it says on the door, then triple-check your watch to the hours listed online.
When you realize the restaurant isn’t going to be open on time when you’re hungry, you decide to never go there again and venture back to the old faithful burger place by your house, where you shall indulge in yet another super-mega thick boy burger with fries and delightfully oversized milkshake until you feel like you’re going to explode.
Seriously though, it sucks to go to a place expecting it to be open, only to find it’s closed without explanation.
It’s peak unprofessionalism.
This becomes even worse when you are providing a specialized service such as aviation maintenance.
The key to overcoming this is only to make time promises that you are 100% sure of. Don’t say you will be available at a certain time unless you know that for a fact.
Being on time is one of the greatest and easiest ways to show respect to people. If you show someone respect, then they are more likely to do the same to you. Mutual respect is the key to a sustainable happy relationship.
If you are timely on a job, then it helps keep everything running smoothly long term.
At the very least, be communicative and give a fair warning if you won’t be able to make the scheduled time.
If a lawyer is late to court, they simply lose. There’s no ‘do-over.’ That’s just about the most professional environment out there. So, emulate this idea of keeping a strict schedule.
There is a back and forth debate where orderliness or organization is better, but orderliness feels like it includes organization; therefore, it’s the winner here.
Orderliness is made of your behavior, your treatment of coworkers, your treatment of customers, and keeping your shop clean and organized.
It’s kind of a lot packed into this little word, but it is of the utmost importance when being professional.
The big idea is that you are working to cultivate a sense of professionalism within your work environment. That way you are the guy that all the pilots and flight schools come to because you know what you’re doing and the best way to be efficient with your, and their, time.
Orderliness is more than just being good with scheduling and times though. It’s your overall behavior.
The person who’s trusting you with their aircraft may not know the systems of the aircraft as well as you. They are trained in basic troubleshooting and how to fly the aircraft, not so much in the actual fixing of the issues.
It’s so important to remember to be orderly in how you address those around you as well.
Orderly, in the communicative sense, is about being respectful to those around you. If you’re the top person at the shop, a good way to think of it is that you are serving those under you. You likely have more knowledge and skill; therefore, you should be there to spread said knowledge and skill to increase the knowledge and skill of your shop.
Drink every time you read “knowledge and skill.”
Seriously though, if you hold yourself to high standards, you will elevate those around you making your shop more orderly. That goes for the worker at any level. Even a dedicated new guy will encourage their boss to step up their game.
This is about including your customer in the process.
When you are working on something as expensive as an aircraft, it’s always smart to create an itemized list and include the aircraft owner in the process.
There’s a man by the name of Mike Busch that wrote one of, if not the best series about aircraft maintenance. It’s a four volume book series (that all pilots and airplane mechanics should read) and it simply discusses his personal stance on maintenance.
While some of his ideas are controversial, his stance on how a proper aviation mechanic should conduct their work is extremely compelling and professional.
He says that a mechanic should layout a general estimated diagnostic based on what the perceived work will be. Then they should begin the actual tests to see what’s going on. As they go through this work, outline the work that is an absolute requirement and the work that is a good idea but not required.
Before beginning any of this work, create an itemized estimate to discuss with the owner/operator of the aircraft before doing any of the actual work.
This is a tedious process, but it would be extremely beneficial and makes you and your shop look incredibly professional.
If you implement a strong ethic of timeliness, orderliness, and include the owner/operator in the process, you will be bringing professionalism to the workplace.