Tandem skydiving over the Namibian desert at Swakopmund. A first for each of us, let alone as a family of five. We each had our own hopes, aspirations and concerns about the jump. Why did we do it? Mainly – because we could – safely, easily, and in a great setting!
The experience was awesome – stretching, challenging and a lot of fun. For me, it also seemed an exceptional experience of assertive communication at its best, with these ingredients clearly in place:
- clear, concise communication and demonstration of what to do, instructors welcoming questions from us
- effortless use of technical knowledge, expertise and skills
- reading our emotional state to respect our different needs (for stretch, fun, security, reassurance), to tailor the experience, really well.
So how did this great experience of working in tandem with professional sky divers happen?
It started with our younger son, Simon, being really keen to do this. From the UK we looked at Ground Rush Adventure’s website, and feedback from other customers. We used their video clips to understand the experience, we started to imagine ourselves in the sky diver’s shoes. Our appetite for all of us doing it grew; we asked Jenny from Sense Africa to add it to our trip and book us in.
Our experience once there was fantastic: we were collected on time and there was easy chat on the drive to the drop zone in the desert. We found out it was two at a time in the plane, and decided on order. Hannah and Simon went first, then Michael and I went together. My husband, Martin, went last. When it was Mike’s and my turn, we got dressed up, were briefed on how to do it, and were ready to go.
On the ground, in preparation, the steps in what to do were drilled into us more than once. (My needs were for reassurance!) We were told and shown what to do, when to hold our head back, where to put our legs, when to put our arms out, and so on. We agreed Mike would exit the plane first, and we set off.
Entering the plane was something else. It was so small! The pilot, Mike and me with our tandem partners, and the two photographers. Cosy! The twenty five minute flight was a mixture of silence, growing terror and looking down at the desert we had explored by Land Rover the day before.
Mike and I were both told and shown that we had been physically attached to our tandem partners. As the plane rose to 10,000 ft, (that’s 2 miles), we were told when to sit on our partners, as part of getting ready to get out (an unusual experience for me to sit on a man I had only just met!).
It was obvious when the moment had come; the side door of the aeroplane rolled back. The cameraman went out first, holding onto the side of the plane, waiting to film. I was gobsmacked at how ordinary he made it look. Then it was our turn to shuffle to the edge. There was not a whiff of anything except excitement from Mike. Out he went, then me.
The first 30 seconds was sheer drop, and I found it pure pleasure. An amazing feeling. I remember my cameraman (we had one each) moving to face me in the air, indicating that I should move my arms like breast stroke. No words, but I knew what to do and did it (take a look at the video). It felt really bizarre!
Next there was a yank, a slightly uncomfortable moment, the second parachute came out, and then a more gracious zig zag to the ground.
For the landing I was told to keep my legs up, to avoid broken bones and I just about managed. Then there was a beer to relax whilst Martin had his jump.
Watching the videos immediately afterwards was a lot of fun for all five of us. Perhaps it was a mixture of relief and shared experience but we found them hysterically entertaining! And now the photos and videos give us a permanent reminder of an outstanding experience. I still can’t quite believe that we did it and enjoyed it so much!
Our ride back into Swakopmund was relaxed, efficient and we took restaurant recommendations for the evening from our friendly driver. A great way to end a fabulous day!
So how is this assertive communication at its best? What can we take from this story of sky diving instruction to our places of work?
I believe we each have the opportunity to perform with each other at this high level of assertive communication at work. That we can be clear about what we each bring. That we are able to check and engage with our customers, fellow team members, business partners and managers – with their emotional state as well as their practical questions. That we can ask them what they want and need. That we can work with them in tandem in a very tangible way to achieve results. It may take us out of comfort zone initially, but the superior outcomes are well worth it.
How could you, just like the sky diving instructor, move just one tiny step nearer to more positive, constructive, direct, respectful, tangible communication?
So that you too benefit from more exceptional tandem experiences, delivering outstanding results, as a more frequent part of your working day?
If you like how I write about these ideas and concepts, and would like to take expand your thinking about how they could apply to you, your team and business ambitions, do get in touch or give me a call.
We could extend the use of the tandem metaphor to explore how my skills and approach could complement your requirements.
Please also share your thoughts on my blog – what does assertive communication and tandem working mean for you?
Photography by Ground Rush Adventures and Martin How