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Ngozi Adebiyi: 4 Workplace Lessons From Sully



Sully – You probably may or may not have heard the name Sully before. There’s a higher chance that you may have heard about the plane that landed on the Hudson River by a pilot, and every single person survived.
This real life drama which played out on 15th January 2009 hit the movie theatres in September 2016.
The captain that landed the Airbus A320 on the River Hudson in New York City is Captain Chesley Sullenberger alias “Sully”.

He saved 155 people and was heralded as a hero… until investigations started and threatened to destroy the hard work and stellar career he had built over the years.

How many times have you just started a job or new role, joined a new organisation or started a new entrepreneurial venture and things seem to be panning out all good then all of a sudden, you’re hit by a “flight of birds” and your engines are knocked out?

You struggle to figure out how to ensure you get to “safety” which may be represented by escalating to a senior colleague, trying to resolve it yourself or finding external help – only to then be accused of not making the best decision at the time.

Four workplace lessons from Sully’s plane landing on the Hudson River

You’ve got to know your craft.
Cut your teeth and keep at it. There’s nothing like developing the skills necessary – should it be technical skills or leadership capabilities – stay the course and endeavour to know.

Be ready to defend what you believe in
When Sully decided not to fly the plane back to the airport, since he calculated they won’t make it, he was criticised for not having taking the right initiative, endangered lives and damaged the plane. The investigating authorities’ reports had flight simulation results run at least 15 times, but he stood his ground. He asked that the “human factor” element which Flight 1549 faced on that day needed to be computed into the equation used for the flight simulations. When they did, all planes in the flight simulator crashed.

Trust cannot be overemphasised in teams
His co-pilot trusted his decision and when the critics started at Captain Sully, he had the firm support of his co-pilot. When decisions are made as a team in the workplace or as a leadership or executive team, own it and don’t “rat out” when it seems one person may take the fall or its an unpopular decision.

Do not underestimate the supporting cast
From the office assistant to the cleaning lady to the team leader, there’s a role everyone plays effectively. When the plane landed on the river Hudson the response team got to them in record time to ensure the evacuation was successful – divers, firefighters, coast guards, police etc. Without a solid responsive team on ground, the story may not have ended the way it did.

Keep an eye out for the “supporting cast” on your team and in your organisation – the roles they play and the value they translate can make or mar what you’re trying to achieve.

Ngozi Adebiyi is the Lead Consultant at OutsideIn HR & Career/Leadership Coach @ OutsideInCoach. Our focus is practical interventions that address the challenges of businesses today. We specialise in HR Business Partnering & Leadership Development with the goal of revolutionising HR in Nigeria & consciously unleashing inner greatness! [email protected]


  1. TM David-West

    April 4, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Do not understand the supporting cast. I love that part. No victorious general without a worthy troop. You might be the face of the show, but they are people behind the scenes. Sometimes, they do more of the work.

    • TM David-West

      April 4, 2017 at 12:04 pm


    • TM David-West

      April 4, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      *there are*

      Seriously? Hate typos and auto correct

  2. Louda

    April 4, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    One more thing one must never forget in an office environment is that there are people who cant wait to take over your position, some can be so snitchy and achieve their aim by being so friendly with you, if you get carried away, it might be too late to recover. These type of people can be boss suckers, sucking up to the boss to gain popularity in the office. In a situation where the boss is a guy and such a girl succeeds, you may not have any option than to watch the show or else settle it with some fall and die prayers. In conclusion, office is not a place for making friends, always be on your gaurds.

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