Saturday, May 26, 2012

A study in Emotional Intelligence from Southwest Airlines

I was traveling on Southwest today and the crew that started our day was led by a cheerful and friendly lady named Jennifer. It was particularly noteworthy because it was 5:45am. She and her crewmates handled the flight well, I sat next to an 83 year old woman and when she needed assistance Jennifer was attentive and kind – high Emotional Intelligence. I was on a “direct” but not a non-stop which meant I stopped at a layover city but did not deplane. At the layover, there was a crew change. When the new crew boarded, Kristin immediately noticed and mentioned a problem with the overhead storage bin and not so kindly informed a passenger they had to move their bag. At one point, she needed to get something out of her own suitcase and held up the line of boarding passengers so she could get her things and be able to walk back to the front of the plane – low Emotional Intelligence. The last people to board was a family of four, and it’s not so easy to find seats together at the end of the boarding line so Kristin called to the back of the plane and asked the rear cabin attendant to try and hold 4 seats, or at least 2 and 2 so the children wouldn’t have to sit alone. I thought, “Great, maybe we will get some EQ with this crew too.” By push time, the rear attendant came up and said, “Well I got into it with the mom.” And went on to explain that she had only held 3 seats not 4 and when the mom got upset, she told her that they couldn’t guarantee seats together if they are in the last boarding group. That started bantering back and forth between Kristin and her, “I told them there was no guarantee we could give them seats together.” “The mom kept saying, ‘She asked you to hold 4 seats, I heard her’. Well I didn’t hear you say 4 seats, I only heard 3…” “I did say 4, but parents with kids are the worst…” “I guess I am going to get another nasty letter written in about me. Oh well, it’s been a while.” An innocent mistake, an intended good deed. But in its delivery, they demonstrated no EQ. I kept thinking of it had been Jennifer in the back, she would have apologized profusely for misunderstanding the number of seats needed. She would have owned her part in it and with a smile, worked with what she had. And I am pretty sure the family would have been a lot happier with their choice to fly Southwest. EQ isn’t about huge behaviors. It’s about how you handle the little things.

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