John Foley

Take Your Team Into the ‘High Performance Zone.’

Former Blue Angels ace John Foley offers blueprint for sustained excellence.

September 24, 2015

Flying with the Blue Angels means hurtling through the air from all angles at 500 miles per hour in formations where your plane’s wingtips can come within 18 inches of your wingman’s jet.

So it’s safe to say John Foley has plenty of credibility when it comes to speaking about the importance of trust, leadership, and a commitment to excellence in the work environment.

The former Blue Angel related his experiences as a Navy pilot, a Sloan Fellow at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and an entrepreneur during Sunday night's  keynote address at the CUNA Tech/OpSS Council Conference in Orlando.

Foley offered a five-point strategy for credit union leaders to take their teams into the “high performance zone,” which Foley describes as “the gap between where you are and where you want to go.”

He said leaders must embrace:

• Purpose. A team’s belief in the processes, products, people, and purpose of an institution is critical. Credit unions have a leg up on the competition.

“What is beautiful about credit unions is that you have deep relationships with your members,” Foley says. “Don’t take that for granted.”

• Focus. Clarity matters. Multitasking is a myth. “If you can learn how to focus your mind, you can direct it many places,” he says.

Alignment. Ask one question of your team: “What is our centerpoint?”

Most often, people will cite goals, objectives, milestones, and checkpoints. “The power of the question is not the answer,” Foley says. “The real power is whether you get the same answer.”

• Trust. As a Blue Angel, you are putting your life in the hands of your team. You need to trust that your team will do what they say they are going to do, and vice versa.

Reinforce the informal agreements that exist within your team. “If you focus on trust, I guarantee execution will follow,” Foley says.

• Humility. The Blue Angels consider debriefing a critical component of success—regardless of the quality of their show.

“If you do them only when things go wrong, you are creating a whole different environment,” Foley says.

Team members must be open to criticism, fess up to mistakes, leave their rank at the door, and always verbalize: “And, I’ll fix it.”