During a recent traveling experience my airline was unable to complete the flight crew and my flight was canceled. Connections were lost and the arrival time at my destination became unknown. It was in this situation that the gate agent for the airline taught me three principles.
- Share information immediately – As human beings we are always able to make the worst of a situation when there are unknown factors. Our “Worst Case Scenario” gene must emit some terrible hormone that generates only the most disturbing thoughts. My gate agent made regular announcements even when the information was repeated or incomplete.
- Prepare before the event – I am sure that the 150+ passengers on the “going nowhere” flight would have become flesh-eating monsters if the airline staff had stuttered in indecision. It is impressive to watch first responders assess and address a situation. Their training eliminates wasted time, frustration and fear. This was the case with my gate agent. Once the flight was canceled by airline administration, the announcement changed to “we are now going to assist you.”
- Care for the individual – Individuals have different temperaments; Fight or Flight, Details vs. Big Picture, Perfectionists vs. Broad-strokers, Caring vs. non-caring. When the unforeseen involves people, there must be a component of true feelings for their plight. My gate agent hero made all his announcements in the first person. “I am sorry that you are having trouble.” “I wish I could offer you a better solution.” “I am doing everything I can to resolve this situation.”
Business leaders face the unforeseen on a daily basis. Communication, preparation and caring seem obvious when highlighted in this manner. Frequently I see leaders myopically race to the solution without embracing these fundamentals.
Observe the model of my heroic gate agent. Lead the people in your stewardship to their destination.