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Managing Change - The Sarah Model - By Resilient Pilot Mentor Craig

The Sarah Model

These are such crazy times, there can’t be many people who have not been affected by the free fall in the aviation sector. Since volunteering as a mentor, I have wondered how I could best serve anyone seeking some support. To start with I thought I had better come to terms with my own position and rationalise how I am dealing with the inevitable changes before trying to assist others.

It’s fair to say today we are all at different stages and we will all be affected in various ways. Some maybe waiting to get started, some half through training, others at airlines and some pushing towards the end of their flying days.

This lockdown has given me plenty of scope for reflection. I found myself back in the early days. The thought of flying aeroplanes was not a natural dream for me. School was a huge struggle and I left with only a handful of qualifications, including an unclassified in English language (a zero in current grading); certainly not enough qualifications to become a pilot. At some point, after a few false starts as a hospital porter and building site labourer, it occurred to me that a life in the Royal Navy would be a fine career. Off I went to the RN selection centre and after 3 days I was told I had failed to reach the required entry standard. I was gutted! I wrote to the Admiralty Interview Board and asked for some feedback on my disappointing performance. To be frank the response was encouraging and it was suggested I could try again in one year. Fundamentally I had 12 months to prepare and get my act together. The preparation was tough, I worked all day followed by hours at night school with the aim of boosting my academic standing. The year quickly passed and I went through the same interview process, only this time the outcome was different. In fact, they commented on my obvious determination and drive followed by a chance of a lifetime and an opportunity to join the Royal Navy as pilot. Thinking back this was probably when I first came across the concept of resilience, although at the time I could not put a name to it.

Since March I have had some of the same feelings that I did at school and after my first unsuccessful attempt at joining the Armed Forces. SHOCK: It is quite possible I may never work in the aviation industry again. Are there really going to be any meaningful opportunities for freelance consultants in the future? ANGER: What have I done wrong? I worked really hard to gain my qualifications and experience and through no fault of my own this has been taken away. Yes, I feel upset. REJECTION/RESISTANCE: Why should I change, I really enjoyed what I was doing? Finally, I had secured a work/life balance that worked, that was rewarding including a fair amount of control over rosters and leave. ACCEPTANCE: Covid 19 is here, airlines and training organisations will need to reduce their head count. It is still not my fault. HEALING/HOPE: I am not alone with this, everyone has the same anxiety and apprehension. But I can deal with it, I will deal with it and I am now able to move forward. Most believe the aviation sector will recover in time and I am determined to be fired up and ready to go, ready to embrace a new challenge and chapter.

This SARAH model is used in businesses to deal with change. There are others of course, the Kubler Ross change curve as an example. Whichever model you like or use it is important we accept the process, it’s quite natural for us all to feel a sense of shock or anger or rejection. However, only when we accept the change can we start to build our resilience and bounce back from this dire era. Allow the healing to begin, prepare for the worst but hope for the best, the outlook maybe less lugubrious than we expected.

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