Monday, December 22, 2008

It Is What It Is

I spent the early part of my career very frustrated by supervisors whom I felt were utter failures as leaders. I had read the books about exceptional leadership and was blessed to work with some amazing supervisors so I had a comparison to make. I would continue to put unfair and unrealistic expectations on people and I would continue to be disappointed when they didn't measure up.
My stepdaughters went through a phase were they would blame their dad for not doing things that he would not do in a million years. I kept thinking, "Who do they think this man is? They have invented a father that he is not and has never been". It was then that it hit me that I was doing the same thing, to "bad" bosses, to "bad" clients, to a "bad" mom. Instead I finally just accepted them for who they were, not who I desperately wanted them to be. The change in perspective has helped me see others in an entirely new way with a lot less frustration on both sides of the equation.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Unfriendly Skies

I was scheduled on a United flight last week from Boston to Orange County via a 40 minute connection in Denver. Scheduled departure was approx 5:15pm EST. I was very happy to have received my upgrade request to First Class because I had been working all day in Boston and was tired and had a workshop starting at 8am the next morning.

The plane was in and the crew was doing their pre-flight prep and the gate agent started prepping us for boarding. A few minutes later, they make an announcement that one of the flight attendants has had an accident onboard and needs an ambulance. They immediately posted a 15 minute delay. We all mull around the gate waiting to see what was next and then they announce a one hour delay because the injured flight attendant (obviously) couldn’t fly and they were having problems locating a replacement crewmember. I am now in a panic because this delay means missing my connection which is the last flight into Orange County for the night.

Now, I feel terrible for the poor person who got hurt enough to require an ambulance but honestly, it is now MY freaking problem because United runs the crews so lean and has NO backup plan for something like this. The next gate over was boarding a direct flight to LAX. I asked if they had room, and they did but of course not in First Class. I asked how I was going to get to Orange County since I was not supposed to be in LA and really didn’t want to incur the cost of the cab fare myself (probably a $75 fare). I was told to let the ground crew know when I arrived and they would take care of me. Thank God I had the presence of mind to not check a bag or it would have been complete disaster.

I was given one of the last seats available, in the Exit Row against the door. The door was so poorly sealed that cold air poured in on me for the whole 5 hours of the flight. Thank God United actually still offers blankets because I was bundled up with my coat plus three blankets to keep warm.

When I arrived at LAX at approx. 10:30pm PST, there was no ground crew at my gate. I asked at a nearby gate if someone could help me and I was told that I had to go the customer service desk in the next terminal. I was starting to get the impression that again, the lack of service recovery from United was going to end up MY freaking problem. The counter was empty and I waited ten minutes and no one came. I went into the Red Carpet club across the way and was walked out since I was not a member (never mind the fact I am an Executive Premier with them and couldn’t get any service from anyone else). I ended up in baggage claim and spoke with someone there, now weary, frustrated and so tired - a last ditch effort to force them to make good on their promise to get me to Orange County. It was the principle.

They put me on Super Shuttle, made me share it with other people who made stops before mine so I got to Orange County Airport at 11:25pm, five minutes before the car rental counter closed (LAX was sold out of cars – I checked).

Because United was unable to recover swiftly from a simple problem of a single crew member out of service, it created a terrible night of inconvenience and stress for a loyal United customer that flew over 65,000 miles with them in 2008. They don’t care – I guess it is MY freaking problem since I bought the damn ticket. Sucker.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Employee Engagement

In Marcus Buckingham's book "First Break All the Rules" he discusses research that shows, unequivocally, that employee's don't leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses. Buckingham and his team have created 12 questions (called in the business as the "Q12") to determine how engaged an employee is to their company and supervisor. One of the questions is "Do I have a best friend at work?".
When I share this concept at speaking events or workshops, most managers scoff.
"'Best' friend at work? Isn't the old saying to keep work and personal lives seperate? Doesn't is make everything more complicated when co-workers become best friends?".
The answers are yes, yes and yes. It does make things messier but the question requires a yes answer to confirm employee engagement. Having a best friend that you get to work with makes fun from drudgery, laughter from strife, and sharing rewards of hard work that much sweeter. I highly recommend it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Making Time

I don't trust people on planes who don't work, read, watch movies or listen to music. I am sorry, but there is something not right with someone who just sits and stares at the seat in front of them. I sat next to one such person today on my flight between NH and Washington DC. Of course, the wicked side of me was secretly scheming that the guy was probably a government employee (even a lazy Senator perhaps?) who was not working based on principle - it was Columbus Day and a national holiday.

Turns out, I boarded my next flight bound for Phoenix and who do I sit right next to? Mr. Do Nothing. So now I am curious and ask what he does (sales) and where he lives (AZ) and he said he has a hard time doing any work on an airplane. My curiousity satisfied, I got elbows deep into laptop work, listening to my iPod when I notice that Mr. Do Nothing is now chatting with the woman across the aisle from him. Over the course of the next 4 hours, they leaned across the aisle from each other whispering and laughing, and even dared to do some touching. I could overhear that they were both divorced (he was married 10 years and got a divorce because he didn't want kids and she was married 20 years and got a divorce because her ex had an affair with her best friend and is now engaged to her). And apparently she is a Gemini.

By the end of the flight, they had worked out a plan for him to follow her to her hotel "to help her find it". I am certain that a hook-up happened in Phoenix tonight.

It was the most entertaining flight I have been on in a long time!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Being 40

I am reading "40 Things to Do When You are Forty" as a newly turned 40 with some sensitivity to the unglamorous part of this decade (getting mammograms and buying reader glasses - woo hoo!) I was pleased to read a great quote from Tawni O'Dell,

"Not long ago I would have tried to make myself care, or I would have worried that I didn't care, or I would have pretended that I cared. Now I calmly revel in the fact that I don't care that I don't care."

I spent my 20's on starter marriages, finishing school and starting my career. I spent my 30's on making a family, buying a house, finishing grad school and being a good wife, mother, business woman, community member, etc. I am not sure what the 40's hold but I am starting to care less about how I "should act" and how I "should look" and just being who I am. Maybe this 40's thing will be better than I thought?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stories

I met several people last week to review their Emotional Intelligence assessments. In my one-on-one meetings with them I like to ask questions about their lives and the events that have contributed to where they are today. One kind man I met is dealing with a grown daughter who has just come back home to live with them, along with his 13-year old granddaughter. His daughter is going through a divorce and she has lost custody of her two sons. The man explained to me that part of the reason for her divorce is related to her depression and her depression is related to the death of her first husband and two sons in a house fire years earlier, her daughter is her sole surviving child from that marriage. He said she remarried and had 2 more sons immediately and never fully mourned the loss of her first family. The whole thing was, naturally, taking quite a toll on him.

Another man I met said that on Mother's Day this year, he was home with his wife and kids and had a major heart attack. He collapsed and his wife gave him CPR while the children watched until help arrived. As he said, "She worked on me for 10 minutes until the ambulance arrived. She brought me back."

Meeting these men reminded me to not be so judgmental and have more respect for others. Everyone has a story, some can be incredibly moving and tragic. We all walk around with our own story of how we got where we are. If you have trouble connecting with someone else, ask about their story. It may give you some incredible insight.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Perspective

I have spent the best weekend in one of my favorite places in the world - Sanibel Island. I am an admitted shell addict and the whole experience of a live treasure hunt is thrilling to me. I was there for 3 days and the first day, I picked up every shell I found that wasn't broken or too common; I came home thrilled with my catch. After the second day of shelling, I threw back most of what I found on the first day. My perspective on what a good find was had completely changed. Of course, by day three I wasn't even picking up shells that I would have died for on day one because I had seen so much more, had discovered rarer species and was focused on only keeping the best of the best.

I thought how much that is how we are with people in our lives. Our perspective changes when someone does something that raises the bar and sets the new standard in our mind of what is possible, or what is desirable. There are some dear people in my life that re-set the standards of excellence every day through surprising and delightful acts of loyalty and faith. They are the best of the best.

Just like the great Seinfeld episode when Jerry and Elaine are rebooked to a flight that only has two seats left - one in Coach and one First Class. Jerry askes Elaine if she has ever flown First Class and she says no, so Jerry says the decision is easy who gets it: him. Because once you have flown First, you cannot go back to Coach.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Airlines

The attitude of airline employees is rivaling those at the DMV. Pathetic.

I have been a loyal customer on United Airlines and have flown over 40,000 miles with them in the last 7 months. Last year, I wrote to them about some serious service breakdowns that violated their own service commitment and as a service recovery gesture, I received 3 credit vouchers to use for a future flight. The vouchers cannot be used with an online reservation so I called them. A nice woman took my phone reservation and explained that the vouchers could not be redeemed via phone, plus I had an additional amount to pay so I would need to present them with my credit card at a local ticket counter within 24 hours to secure my reservation.

The next day, I went to my local airport in Manchester NH where I found a long line of passengers waiting for an agent. Apparently all of the Chicago flights were severely delayed due to weather, and so I waited in line for 30 minutes behind passengers trying to rebook. I came prepared with my reservation number and payments in my hand and foolishly thought how happy they would be to have such a quick and simple transaction to do. I walked up to the agent, explained that I just needed to ticket an existing reservation and was dismissed! He told me that they were too busy with passengers trying to reschedule flights, that he could not sell me a ticket and to come back in 2 or 2 1/2 hours! This is an airline whining that they don't have enough profits, refusing to provide essential needs like air and water to passengers, asking the government for a bailout to offset fuel costs TURNING AWAY A PAYING CUSTOMER.

The airlines have blamed everything else on their sad state of business - the FAA, the pilot unions, the pension funds, 9/11 and oil prices. Everything but their own deplorable service level. I cannot imagine any other company doing something like this to a customer. Can you imagine walking into a Lexus dealer and being told to come back because they were too busy helping other customers in the service department? Or going to Nordstrom and being sent away because all of their sales people were helping customers with product exchanges? Why are the airlines allowed to treat customers who spend thousands of dollars a month with them like this?

The post script to this story is that I did come back later that day only to find the ticket counter closed. I was forced to call and rebook my reservation and return to the airport a third time the next day. When I got there I was told that I could only use one of the three vouchers I had, contrary to what the phone reservation agent told me. When I mentioned that I had conflicting information from their own employee, the counter agent shrugged and implied "tough luck". Nice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Preparing For Spring

My husband and I were discussing the challenges I am having with business development and the difficulty in finding clients who want to do enterprise-wide employee development during this economic winter. He said something that really stuck with me.

We live in NH so all during our long Winter months, we are planning for the Spring. He mentioned that it is no different for employees or organizations during this economic winter. We need to be take advantage of the down time to take stock of what we have, plant seedlings and develop talent root systems so when the inevitable economic spring hits, we can move forward well ahead of the competition.

So what are you doing this winter? Are you wishing it away or taking steps now to prepare you for the certain spring to come?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Whistler

Today was a 14 hour travel day. I am in Whistler BC to speak at a global sales meeting for a software company. This is my first time to Canada and the drive up here from the Vancouver Airport is not for the faint of heart or weak of bladder. It is a 2+ hour drive, most of the way is winding and slow hugging the mountains with very few places to stop. However, the view was spectacular and seeing the snow on the mountain tops against the blue water and green mountains took my breath away. It really is stunning. And the destination was worth it - a delicious resort surrounded by mountains. I am tired but so grateful that I get to visit places like this; what a beautiful world this is.

Great Interview Question

I heard the best interview question from my friend Paul Silvio. "We have all had experiences in life that change us. Tell me about a defining moment in your life that shaped who you are today." I LOVE it and cannot wait to use it at my next interview.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Small Changes

I met with a coaching client today who said something very insightful. Since we have been working together, she has been much more in tune with her own impulses and drives and patterns of behavior. We met after she returned from a family sailing trip that they take every year. She said something very compelling - "I have realized that since I have been working with a coach, I have been more self aware and have made what seem to me minor changes. But, I have experienced the same as when sailing. A minor navigational change makes a huge difference in the direction you go and the results you get."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Saints Living Among Us

I was sitting on a plane today next to a mother traveling with her son. He made all the usual noises and gestures of a typical 3-year old excited to be on a plane. The thing was that her son was 25. I sat there in awe of the work this woman has done the majority of her life, taking care of a 3 year old boy trapped in a 25 year old man. She was kind, patient, smart and incredibly calm.

We chatted for awhile about the perils of traveling with children and I told her about the Airline Passenger's Bill Of Rights and how I had been to Washington many times to help pass federal legislation to protect passengers from being stranded on planes, trapped without food or water. Clearly, protection like that would really benefit families like hers.

It was then that she mentioned a second son traveling with her, sitting a few rows up with her husband. He was 29 she said, but also with severe mental disabilities.

I am certain it was the closest I have ever come to being in the presence of a saint.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Trust

I had a meeting in Framingham MA this afternoon, approximately 70 miles from my house. On the way, I drove through this enormous electrical storm. I was driving in a pack of about 15 cars on a major freeway and the rain became so blinding, at times we could only drive 30 MPH. The option to pull off the road seemed too hazardous so we all kept going, depending on each other to not make any sudden movements, stop or cross lanes. It was a sensation of being blind and totally synchronized with each other for our own safety. It made me think - how often in life do we have to go along blind - all the while trusting employees, clients, friends or partners to stick together and not make any sudden movements? It worked out great for us on Route 495 today, just a bunch of strangers trusting each other.