Air Traffic Control Skill Sets for the Community Manager

Each day, approximately 50,000 aircraft move through the US National Airspace System. Air traffic controllers rely on heavily on procedures to guide aircraft from one point to another. Here’s a snapshot in time of about 5,000 aircraft flying through the air.

Planes in the sky

If you’ve never seen that before, it can be kind of scary looking.  Don’t worry, there’s a LOT of team work involved to move each aircraft from Point A to Point B.

I’ve been an air traffic controller and a community manager. I’ve come to the conclusion that community managers are a lot like air traffic controllers. They juggle priorities, make procedural and strategic adjustments and communicate with hundreds of people per day.

Much is made about the stress of both air traffic controllers and community managers, but it isn’t as hard as it looks. It does take work, training, teamwork and dedication. Here is a brief list of some lessons I learned as an air traffic controller that I use as a community manager:

•    Listen to what’s being said, not what you expect to hear.
•    If what you’ve planned isn’t working, change your plan.
•    Ask for help when you need it.
•    Be open to new ideas and perspectives.
•    Stay up to date in guideline changes.
•    If you’re not sure that your message is clear, ask to “hear” it back.
•    Keep good and accurate records.
•    Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Did I mention that communication is important?

In future blog posts, I will address each of these competencies in more detail. Stay Tuned!

7 thoughts on “Air Traffic Control Skill Sets for the Community Manager”

  1. Wow! 50k planes? That’s a ton of traffic. I can imagine that would be a super stressful and complicated job to have, but as you said, team worker and skills make it possible. Thanks for your post!


  2. Hey,
    I really love airplanes! My love and I often go out to a tiny cemetery just north of the airport here in Austin and take photographs of incoming and outgoing planes. they are super cool. This post is neat, because it allows readers to get an idea of how many planes are in the sky at any given point, and also calms and nerves that may be frazzled by explaining how it’s al under control up there. We listen to the radio while out taking pictures, and they are in constant communication. Thanks again for the post!


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