you're reading...
Human Factors, Pre-Flight

TEAM Communication: Birds of a Feather

“One in four persons you meet will not get along well with you” my coworker told me one day. Really? I get along well with everybody! Mostly.. “But”, he added “I don’t know why. I just heard it and thought it was an interesting statistics”.  Wait, you mean one out of four pilots I work with will cause me grief in the cockpit?

The reality is, I knew exactly what he meant. However – and thankfuly – there IS a way to get along with that one guy you really don’t like seing on the same line of the schedule as yours. Maybe it is that he just talks and talks and by gosh you wish he’d get to the point sometimes and for once stop mentioning the POH! Or maybe he is just a bit rude and always HAS to be right. It could even just be that you can’t stand their constant excited, “up-and-down” emotional rollercosters. Or maybe he or she is just too  nice and never has an opinion!

Any of these sound familiar? I’m guessing the answer is probably yes, in some way or form. Did you know, for example, that in average communication is only 30% effective? One of the reason behind this is simply that humans are geared in four different communications styles. It is a common problem professionals face every day at work, but also an opportunity for a team or a leader to greatly increase their ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

Joe Sharren – a world leader in this subject – called them the four birds – Eagles, Owls, Doves and Peacocks. Each bird has a very distinctive way to relate, communicate and think. Although I’ve used the bird reference, these communications styles have been given many other names by other experts.

Understanding the Four Communication Styles

Another common name for it is the DISC method – Drivers, Influencers, Steadys, Compliants. Let’s have a look at what they are and how knowing them can help you enhance your crew communication in the cockpit.

Driver (or Eagle)

The Eagle is easy to spot because they just want the facts and nothing but the facts. Because of this, many times they can be perceived as bossy and insensitive. Extremely goal oriented, their major motivation is to get things done. They are also driven by recognition, and significance

The Eagle paints with a broad brush and has little use for details, so when communicating with an Eagle, keep the verbal communication short and don’t give them any more details than are absolutely necessary to get your point across. They like to acquire information as information is needed. Keep your verbal explanation short but provide a detailed explanation through a nonverbal medium (email, paper, memo, etc).

Their facial features are usualy sharp, and they like to dress and maintain a ‘clean cut’ appearance. Eagles are comfortable in an environment that includes power and authority, freedom from supervision and working with a variety of activities. However, they also struggle with understanding that people need people and can have trouble identifying with the team.  

The Influencer (or Peacock)

You know the Peacock…they’re the life of the party and lots of fun. They love people and love to talk. Their natural sociability allows them to talk for long periods of time about almost anything. They have an attractive personality and are the life of the party. They are enthusiastic, curious, and expressive. Beware though, as they harbour the most volatile personality.Always interested in making a favorable impression on friends, coworkers and clients – their biggest fear and anger trigger is to lose face.

Peacocks are outgoing, exuberant and innovative. Outgoing and creative personalities have a difficult time doing bland tasks whether they are verbally or nonverbally communicated. Use a lot of examples, demonstrations and visual aids to effectively communicate with creative personalities. A creative mind will remember information by association.

Since they always see the best in people, Peacocks can have trouble making objective evaluations of people and situations. They don’t like a lot of details and can appear a little disorganized. But we all benefit from people like them, who encourage us to open up and communicate. A Peacock contributes to a creative, outgoing and positive working environment.

The Steady (or Dove)

The person with a Dove communication style typically has a low key personality and is calm, cool and collected. They tend to be patient, well balanced and happily reconciled with life. Doves are the largest percentage of the population and they are typically competent and steady workers who do not like to be involved in conflict. When there is conflict they may be called upon to mediate the problem. They are good listeners and usually have many friends. One of their major motivations is to avoid offending anyone. (source)

Doves facial features are usually soft, and they like to dress in whatever way is the most comfortable for them. Usualy quiet, they are also extremely good listeners, thus sometimes providing some great ideas – but never wanting to make a decision.

Gentle, patient, understanding – they are part of the glue that keeps a team working together.

The Compliant (or Owl)

An Owl’s life is made of facts. They love to gather details and organize things. Because their communication style includes a need for details, they sometimes hesitate to make decisions if they feel that they don’t have enough facts. They love lists, charts, graphs and figures. They also have a habit of pointing out everything that can go wrong – but it’s good to have Owls because they can see potential problems. An Owl needs to work with people who can help him or her see the big picture. A funny fact about owls – even while engaged in a simple thought process, they can appear to be ‘mad’ as their faces become stern. Don’t worry, they are not mad at you – but simply thinking hard.

Owls like to finish everything they start. Their daily routine rarely changes; in fact, an Owl doesn’t handle sudden changes well at all. But their love of routine can slow things down in an environment that requires quick decisions and action – an airplane cockpit being one of them.

Very diplomatic with people, they use a critical approach to analyzing performance and don’t take criticism personally. Sit down with a person who is detail-oriented and spend time verbally going over every task, expectation and purpose. Allow for questions between each instruction because detail-oriented personality types will typically ask a lot of questions to ensure they accurately understand what is being communicated.

In other words…

So how do you relate to those birds, while caged in the same cockpit for a day or more? Remember that most people have a Primary and Secondary communication style. You’ll often see an Eagle/Peacock, or an Owl/Dove, etc.

Here is an extremely useful chart which describes the different qualities and characteristics of each ‘bird’.(source)






How to Recognize: They get excited. They like their own way; decisive & strong viewpoints. They like positive attention, to be helpful & to be regarded warmly. They seek a lot of data, ask many questions, behave methodically & systematically.
Tends to Ask: Who? (the personal dominant question) What (the results oriented question.) Why? (the personal non-goal question.) How? (the technical analytical question.)
What They Dislike: Boring explanations/wasting time with too many facts. Someone wasting their time trying to decide for them. Rejection, treated impersonally, uncaring & unfeeling attitudes. making an error, being unprepared, spontaneity.
Reacts to Pressure and Tension By: “Selling” their ideas or argumentative. Taking charge taking more control. Becoming silent, withdraws, introspective. Seeking more data & information.
Best way to Deal With: Get excited with them. Show emotion. Let them be in charge. Be supportive; show you care. Provide lots of data & information.
Likes To Be Measured By: Applause, feedback, recognition. Results, Goal-oriented. Friends, close relationships. Activity & busyness that leads to results.
Must Be Allowed To: Get ahead quickly.  Likes challenges. Get into a competitive situation. Likes to win. Relax, feel, care, know you care. make decisions at own pace, not cornered or pressured.
Will Improve With: Recognition & some structure with which to reach the goal. A position that requires cooperation with others. A structure of goals & methods for achieving each goal. Interpersonal and communication skills.
Likes to Save: Effort they rely heavily on hunches, intuition, feelings. Time. They like to be efficient, get things done now. Relationships. Friendship means a lot to them. Face. They hate to make an error, be wrong or get caught without enough info.
For Best Results: Inspire them to bigger & better accomplishments. Allow them freedom to do things their own way. Care & provide detail, specific plans&activities to be accomplished. Structure a framework or “track” to follow.

By understanding the basic differences and how to relate to your fellow pilot, you will be able to avoid a tremendous amount of conflict simply linked to misunderstandings and communications barriers.

Although emotional intelligence might be called the “foundation” of any team or individual – communication is an essential part in the potential for success or failure. For a team or individual to achieve their goal, interaction will always be present. Be it in communicating with team members or stakeholders, a skilled person will remove the risk for misunderstanding of goals or needs, thus reducing the margin of error which could introduce safety problems or the inability to complete the mission down the line.

Pilots are often entrusted with a leadership role – but the responsibility is not theirs alone. Cabin crew and support personnel also hold an irrevocable place in the team leadership and provide key skills for success. Clear and effective communication between all the groups and within each sub-group must then be amongst the top priority and skill-set of each TEAM member.


Note: Featured image source can be found here

Read More & Sources:

Effective Communication With Different Personality Types | eHow.com

4 Communications Styles

Communicating your story


About jdmarcellin

Professional pilot for a major Canadian operator. Interested in helping make a better world for all my fellow pilots out there. Passionate of aviation and all things that fly. Caution: I speak my mind loud and clear! All views are my own.



  1. Pingback: T.E.A.M.: A fresh look into #CRM | #flying #pilots #aviation « Right Seat - December 22, 2012

  2. Pingback: T.E.A.M.: A fresh look into CRM | The Simple Beauty of Flying - August 29, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: