The 48thAnnual Conference and Technical Exhibition of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) kicked off this morning in the heart of downtown Seattle.

After doling out awards and recognizing a number of ASHE members for their contributions, the event opened with keynote speaker John Foley, a former lead solo pilot for the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.

It’s tough not to gain the immediate attention of the thousands gathered inside the Washington State Convention Center when video of the daring feats of the flight team took to the screens on stage. For those who haven’t witnessed one of their precision flight demonstrations, imagine six fighter jets flying in formation with as little as 18 inches between the wing tips of their planes. To accomplish a successful show, Foley and his crewmates relied on their belief and trust in one another.

And while designing healthcare facilities may not be a task performed at 30,000 feet, the results of its success, or failures, can be equally substantial. Foley recognized the desire for perfection and defined what he calls the “high performance zone,” or the gap between where you are and where you want to go.

“How do you close the gap and how do you close it quickly?” he asks.

The answer to that questions lies in a few directives, the first being to elevate your belief level—belief in your processes, product, people, and purpose. However, Foley further explained that in order for an organization to best function, it’s important for all team members to hold the same beliefs and goals. He suggests having a “center point” that guides you as the basis for why you do what you do, whether it’s patient safety, revenue, or quality of service, for example.

Succeeding in what you set out to do also requires flawless execution, again, something the Blue Angels rely on one another for each and every time they take to the skies. It’s not only the pilots who must depend upon one another, but the maintenance officers play a strategic role as well. Like any organization, it’s not just the c-level that impacts outcomes, but the support staff that carry out critical functions each day.

Foley reminds that process is the easy part, but success requires people to connect their heart and their head. And, for his team, it also required the ability to always remember to never take for granted what they were fortunate enough to be doing.

“We never want to forget how grateful we are just to have the opportunity,” he says.

His flight team’s mantra? “Glad to be here.”