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Dive in head first

4 tips for making decisions under stress as told by an air traffic controller

Seasoned air traffic controller Faron Collins shares his tips for keeping your cool under pressure.

  • There are certain professional peculiarities that only Administrative Professionals are able to appreciate. However, whether you go to work at an office building, an art studio or a concrete tower, some skills transcend industries. We wanted to gather some on the job insights from professionals from a broad array of jobs, and find out what they could teach us about the skills we all need to succeed. Enter Faron Collins. His path to becoming an air traffic controller began when he joined the Air Force at age 18. We chatted with him to find out how people in his position are able to make rapid-fire life and death decisions everyday.

  • 1. Dive in head first

    The first weeks at a new job are always tough. “You don’t know what you’re doing, there are all these new acronyms and terms, and on top of that, there are all these new people.” Faron recommends simply picking a place to start and digging in. The beginners’ advantage is that you know exactly what you don’t know, so it’s easy to work on new skills. Download Tip No. 1 Desktop Wallpaper (1920x1080)

  • 2. Be a confidence cheerleader

    Have confidence that everyone on your team is working toward the common good, and help build that confidence in others. Faron says when working with a new pilot, “the first transmission is like a job interview.” You only get a few seconds to get on the same page, so make sure they know you’re there to support them.

  • 3. Beware of “the drift”

    “The most problems occur when your load is light, and you’re not paying close attention.” Faron says in air traffic control they call this “the drift,” when you get too confident and let your mind wander. “When you’re busy, you’ve got you’re A game on,” but there will always be quieter moments. Don’t let them lull you away from the task at hand.

  • 4. Don’t fudge the details

    Everything air traffic controllers say is recorded, so “everything is 100% transparent” which means there is never any ambiguity about who made what calls. While most of us don’t have that slightly terrifying luxury, the message is simple: the small stuff counts, so hold yourself to a high standard.

    Air traffic controllers are called to do very precise work under a great deal of pressure. But because there’s a sense that everyone is on the same page, they’re able to accomplish incredible things.

  • Faron Collins

    Faron Collins is an air traffic controller who has worked at flight centers in Los Angeles, Ramstein, Germany, and Lexington Kentucky, where he has been since leaving the service sixteen years ago.

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