Being an Fleet Commander means trying to know everything about everything all at once. In other words, trying to form an accurate picture about what is going on all around you and your fleet so that you can make the right decisions to minimize loss and maximize the opponents' losses. And when you fail to succeed in that task, when something is missing from your mental picture, you can make disastrous decisions.
Take last night for example.
I had a small fleet of Tech 1 frigates at my disposal and had just come from a fight in Deven and my scouts were looking at targets in Heydieles in a couple complexes. The targets were over 44 AU away so I had the rest of the fleet jump in and align to the complex to speed our arrival when the scouts went in to tackle. As we aligned a neutral Catalyst destroyer landed.
So here is the mental picture in my head. I know the Catalyst pilot is alone for 14 AU because the deep scan is clear. We have two logi pilots here so we have enough reps to avoid his damage if he chooses to attack. I'm the only low security status pilot so if he starts to lock me I'll just warp off.
"He's yellow boxing me," Athalia reports over comms. "And he's redboxing me!"
Yet, the neutral on the overview remains neutral. And my brain breaks. Overview malfunction? Did someone engage and didn't say? What the hell?! Something was missing in my mental picture and the who scenario fell apart like a truck with a broken axle.
I gave the order to engage to try and save our pilot and to my fleet members' credit they most certainly did but the sentry guns opened up and our ships were not built for that type of fight. We ran after a couple of losses.
As we regrouped and reshipped I continued to go over what had happened. What did I miss? How did he engage freely on Athalia under gate guns? Sec status? Fine. Kill rights? No. Did we shoot first. No. Then someone said the magic words... "I bet we still have suspect timers from the first fight." OF COURSE! WE WERE ALL BAD GUYS!
In the earlier fight in Deven we engaged some neutrals during the fight and received suspect timers for our efforts. Since I'm so used to fighting war targets, and I'm personally engage-able anywhere due to having a low sec status, I completely forgot about suspect flags on our fleet. That's why the neutral could engage us without sentry guns vapourizing him.
Lesson of the day: Remember when you have suspect timers in your fleet! Related: know the low sec status pilots too.