Have you ever stopped and really reflected on who you are, what you want in life, what your strengths are, and how to get from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow? Bill Fox is a man who not only has done this in his own personal life, but he has made a career out of helping companies do this as well.
Living the metaphor of perspective from 3,000 feet, Bill Fox is a project management and performance improvement consultant for technology companies who draws inspiration from his personal passion of flying airplanes and taking aerial photography. His unique perspective of the world through flying enables him to use that same big-picture view to help companies find and implement the bridges to achieve their goals.
Having been a risk taker his whole life, Bill Fox was a natural out-of-the-box thinker. He was the child who went to the out of town school when his neighborhood school was too full; he was the young man who was uninterested in the family business and instead went on an adventure with the US Navy Nuclear Submarine Service. As an adult, he found himself continually put on projects that were stalling and rather than be dismayed, he reflected on the situation and found ways to turn those projects around.
Through this interview you can learn more about how to focus on the big picture and find great solutions from a higher perspective.
1.You describe yourself as a natural born risk taker who pursues adventure, and yet has the ability to reflect on the big picture and thus make good decisions. How did you use this process of risk taking and reflection to get where you are today, the creator of “5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success” and a sought after consultant in the technology industry?
I was helping to lead and manage an improvement project that by many accounts was very successful and having an impact. I was thoroughly enjoying the work and the challenge when it came to a sudden and tragic end with a change in executive management. I was so frustrated and disappointed that I created an intention to create something good out of it and have an impact on process improvement. That intention led to several months of reflection which led to presenting a case study of the project at an industry conference and the idea to write a white paper. I came up with a list of 100 titles for the paper and started reviewing the list with colleagues. I noticed a shift in energy in myself and in others when I talked about the idea of 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success and asking experts for their single best idea.
2.As you use the metaphor of 3,000 feet perspective to describe looking at the big picture and overall landscape of a situation in order to see a clear path to making improvements in corporations, you also literally place yourself 3,000 feet in the air to have a true view of the planet’s landscape when you fly airplanes. How do you think this real life experience helps you to truly understand and implement this metaphor into the business world?
I’ve always had a fascination with looking at things from a “higher” perspective. When I was growing up, I used to hike to the top of nearby hills to take pictures of the town where I lived. When I started flying, I was completely captivated by the change in perspective. Everything looks completely different at 3,000 ft. when you can see the entire landscape from the cockpit of a plane. It’s a much broader and strategic perspective than you see from the small window while seated in a commercial airline plane.
This perspective has now just become a part of me when I work. Initially it showed up when I started to share some of my pictures with co-workers during meetings. I noticed that it transported them to a different place and changed their mood and energy. Then I started adding the ideas and pictures to presentations. At first I was reluctant to do this because it seemed so familiar and common place to me, and I wasn’t sure if it would add value or if my intentions might be misunderstood. Every step of the way I got positive feedback, so I have progressed to wrapping ideas of reflection and higher perspective into everything I do.
3.In your biography, you mention how you went to the out of town school when your neighborhood school was too full. How do you think that early experience in your life affected you to be the person that you are today?
This experience is my earliest memory of stepping outside of my comfort zone to find adventure, challenge myself and learn something new. While it was not easy and I struggled at times, the outcome was that I grew and expanded in many ways. That was the outcome I desired and it taught and reinforced a desire to seek out experiences that would challenge and stretch me. And later in life, when I encountered challenges or projects that no one else was willing to accept, I was usually the only one standing in line eager to get started. It’s a repeating pattern and story, so I believe it had a significant impact on who I am today.
4.As a young adult, you joined the US Navy Nuclear Submarine Service. In your biography, you said you were seeking adventure. Is that what you found? Does adventure have a role in your personal improvement process?
I believe I definitely found adventure and I was also looking to find myself. Adventure is a priority in my life and I’m always seeking it out because it energizes me and makes me feel fully alive. I find adventure in reading and seek out authors who are on the cutting edge of many topics related to personal and organizational improvement. I also participate in many online webinars on a variety of topics that capture my interest and attend various industry conferences related to process improvement. I’m a sponge for new knowledge and that help me improve or add to the quality of my work.
5.Can adventure have a place in the corporate process improvement as well?
I believe it is absolutely essential today and looking forward. Adventure awakens the soul and all the senses. It creates energy and a sense of urgency. I believe we are at a time when we can no longer accept or get by with marginal improvement. Our challenges around the world are too many and too big. We all need to rise up and wake up to a new way of being. We are all capable of achieving and being much more than we have been led to believe. At the same time, so many people are feeling frustrated and underutilized. They are always looking to find it elsewhere, but I think we all now need to look at ourselves and be the change we want to see. There’s nowhere to go where it will be given to you.
6.In your blog post “Discover a Bridge From Where You Are to Where You Want To Be” on your blog Fox High Perspective: Strategy, Leadership & Performance from a 3,000 ft. Perspective, you mentioned how time in reflection is not time wasted, but rather time invested in seeing how everything interrelates and making sure you are headed in the right direction. Can you explain this a little more?
Here’s an example that I hope will help. One of my favorite flights is to fly south from Leesburg Executive Airport in Northern Virginia to Charlottesville Airport in central Virginia. Most of the flight tracks right along the Blue Ridge Mountains, but when you fly general aviation using visual flight rules you have tremendous freedom to chart your own course. Almost from the start of the trip as you reach cruising altitude (frequently 3,000) you can see the destination as a distant point on the horizon even though it’s 90 miles away. You can also see a lot of what’s in between. You see the mountains, where they rise and fall, valleys, rivers, towns, and the foothills along the way. You can quickly make some decisions on how you might want to alter the flight plan to stay away from hazardous rising terrain, where you might want to point the plane to pass between or around hazards, or where you might want to detour to see something that looks interesting. It’s a wonderful scenic flight especially in the early morning with the bright sun gleaming off the mountains. The whole big picture is there right in front of you. You can take it all in and make some pretty important decisions based on a bigger picture view of what’s ahead of you to get to your destination.
Now when I drive to the same destination, it’s typically a bit of a tortuous drive on congested winding roads with barely a moment where you can see the surrounding mountains. In effect, you’re stuck in the day to day details of getting from point A to B. You don’t have the opportunity or ability to take a big picture view and make some important decisions that will impact your journey. I can’t see that there may be an accident just 10 miles ahead and now is the best time to detour. In fact on one trip I remember looking down and seeing that exact scenario. I could see the flashing red lights of emergency vehicles and the traffic was backed up and at a standstill for many miles. In this scenario, you are mired in the details and can’t see the big picture that you need to make strategic decisions.
7.Through reflection and the perspective of 3,000 feet, you mentioned that one can discover a bridge from where one is to where one wants to go. Where do you see your bridge going in terms of your future as a project management and performance improvement consultant and owner/creator of “5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success”?
A simple intention to have an impact on how organizations improve and ask one simple key question to every expert who will talk with me has led me on a magical journey. It has led to an avalanche of new ideas, people and events that impact me every day. I never could have planned or predicted where it has taken me.
Thanks to the tremendous support I receive from my family, the experts I interview, and the backing of Mario Hyland, Founder of AEGIS.net, I am able to pursue all things related to 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success more fully. Their support gives me the freedom to spend quality time writing, researching, reflecting and promoting everything related to 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success. I frequently call upon my wife and daughter to help with proofreading and editing my writing. Two of my colleagues at AEGIS, Michael Callihan, President, and Samira Askarova, Sr. Strategist and Consultant, have both contributed significantly to my work through lively discussions and reviews of my writing. In addition, I’m fortunate to be able to partner and collaborate with a fellow consultant, Hillel Glazer, CEO at Entinex, Inc. He is a likeminded and tremendously talented consultant who has been very supportive and contributed significantly to my work and ideas.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me is that it has provided me the opportunity to step back and reflect on all that I am learning. I’m now writing and talking a lot more about what I’m learning from my reflection. So the destination point for the bridge that’s coming into view for me now is pointing at bringing this higher level perspective to organizations through consulting, writing, coaching and speaking. I recently wrote an article that will be published in leading journal that expresses what I’ve learned from this experience and where it’s going. I’m in discussions with others to develop this article into a book. I will also continue to interview experts and publish an updated version of 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success at the end of every calendar year. Frankly, I couldn’t have planned many of the things that have happened to me. I love the experience of new ideas, people and events showing up by being open to the possibilities.
8.On a personal note, where do you see your bridge going in your future?
I don’t know whether this one belongs under personal or professional, maybe both, but my journey has been a journey of self-leadership. I never fully understood the phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” but I feel I am living it now. I believe we are all capable of doing this. It’s my intention to share this story with others so they might begin their own journey. I think we can all do it.
The other priority I have is to continue to share my love of aviation and aerial photography with everyone and use it to help others. Beyond sharing my photography, I always look for opportunities to share the experience with others. I frequently donate plane rides to charitable events to help raise money for their causes. Taking people on their first small plane ride is a great adventure and experience for both myself and the passenger. I would also like to advance my support and participation in organizations such as Angel Flights that help people reach far away destinations for urgent medical care and family support.
9.You mentioned in your biography on your blog that you are married and the father of two daughters. Do you think your risk taking, reflection process, and ability to take a step back and view the whole picture has influenced your role as father in any way?
I would place parenting at top of the list of one of my biggest challenges. I’ve tried to interest both of my daughters in flying with me but only my oldest daughter has flown with me, and that was a long time ago, and I think only because she thought my flight instructor was cute! One time I thought my dream of having one of my daughter’s become a fighter pilot or astronaut might come true when I took her to see the USAF Thunderbirds perform at an air show. During the show she asked my wife if girls could do this too? Unfortunately, her interest didn’t last. But all kidding aside, the best way I have found to influence them is by setting an example. I’ll leave to time and others to judge how well that approach has worked out for me.
10.If you could give just one piece of advice to your daughters and other children or young adults out there about finding their personal bridges, what would it be?
Be the change you want to see in the world. Whatever frustrates you or whatever you know to be right or wrong, speak out. Don’t hide it. Be the change. Talk about it, write about it, learn about it… let the world know about it. The universe will align the ideas, people and events to guide you on your journey and take you places you never imagined
11.Taking things back into the corporate world, what one piece of advice would you give to a company to find its bridge?
You have asked me a lot of great questions but this one is the hardest, and I suppose it’s only fair since I’ve been the one asking all the experts for their one best idea!
I believe the one piece of advice that I would give is to remain in question. By that I mean to keep asking the questions to open themselves up to new possibilities. Be wary of canned solutions that everyone else is talking about that worked somewhere else that may not solve the right problem and you don’t even know it. Start by asking what do you really want to accomplish, why, and what’s the best way to get there? Then go from there and keep asking questions. I believe it will help you ignite the passion, intellect and curiosity of your entire organization.
12.How can companies find your “5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success” interviews?
There are links to my other sites at the above site but for convenience here’s a listing –
• foxhighperspective.com/blog -> My blog where I reflect on strategy, leadership, performance and related topics from a 3,000 ft. perspective.
• foxhighperspective.com -> A collection of my aerial photography photographs.
• leadchangegroup.com -> Where I write about leading change and leadership.
• AEGIS.net -> I’m an employee with AEGIS and they support the work I do at 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success.
13.On your website you also list some upcoming events. Can you tell us a little more about these?
Since the beginning of this work, I have been contacted by many people who find the work interesting and the information valuable. This past summer I decided to experiment with the idea of getting people together with the people I have interviewed. Each event has drawn more and more people, so now I am scheduling what I call 5PI meetup events every four to six weeks.
Also, when one of the experts I have interviewed is in the area, I have been setting up events to provide a venue for them to talk about their latest work, new book, whatever it happens to be.
14.Flying planes, taking aerial photography, raising children, publishing your “5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success” book, not to mention conducting all those interviews and maintaining your website and blog, how do you do it all? What is the secret to managing such a full life?
Almost everything I’m fortunate to be able to do these days is exactly what I want to be doing. It’s all in alignment with my priorities, values and interests, so that’s one key piece of the puzzle. The other key thing is keeping physically fit and eating well. I run three times a week and do a Pilates work out in the days between runs. During the spring, summer and fall, I bike almost 2,000 miles on local trails and participate in charity fund raising rides.
15.Finally, you have some amazing aerial photographs accessible from your blog Fox High Perspective: Strategy, Leadership & Performance from a 3,000 ft. Perspective. Do you have a favorite photograph and why is it your favorite?
Thank you for your kind and generous comments about my pictures. I’m very fortunate to be able to take these pictures and it’s one of the greatest adventures I love to do and share with others. I have many favorites but there is one in particular that stands out and has special meaning for me. It’s a picture of an F18 Super Hornet climbing vertically at such a high speed that it’s creating a pressure bubble around the plane giving the appearance that it’s about to burst through a barrier. There are two things that are of special significance to me.
First, is the serendipitous string of events that allowed me to take the picture. I was meeting with a friend and his family in the Baltimore area who knew of a prime spot to watch the Blue Angels perform at an air show this past June. I missed a turn and ended up getting hopelessly lost - I'm not familiar with the area. Because it was almost show time, I decided to take an exit off of the interstate near the city and find a place alongside the road. I picked an exit at random and was very frustrated to discover it was taking me right into the parking lot of Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, and it looked like I was going to get tied up in a lot of traffic delaying me further. I rolled down my window to tell the person directing traffic I needed to turn around because I was in the wrong place. When I rolled down the window, my family heard a pedestrian ask him where to catch the shuttle to the airshow. It was right there in the parking lot, there were no signs! My friend was not as fortunate. He discovered that his location was inaccessible, and he had to settle for a location out of the prime viewing area. It was a serendipitous string of unlikely events that got me to the right place at the right time. My whole life has become a series of these types of events that occur on a daily basis.
The second item of significance is what the picture means to me. It’s a metaphor for my journey. It represents breaking through existing barriers to get from point A to point C. I study and learn from an amazing evolutionary consciousness coach, Elyse Killoran, with EvolutionaryWealth.org. She uses a tool called the Evolutionary Wealth Breakthrough Map to help people achieve their own energetic breakthrough journey. Point A is a point in the lower left of the picture that represents where we are right now. It helps us see that we are stuck at point A by unconscious habits, toxic emotions, convoluted thinking and sabotaging behavior patterns. Elyse helps people unlock from all those undesirable patterns and increase our energy and magnetic attraction to what we really want and why we want it, which is point C in the upper right corner.
Thank You Bill
Bill Fox is the creator, editor, and publisher of the “5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success” interview series. Having 25 years of experience in the industry himself, Bill Fox not only provides his own precise insight into how companies can achieve lasting improvements, but he also has a series of interviews of top performance improvement consultants in the field. You can also find him on Twietter @Bi11Fox