The Flight Crew

Posted on Posted in Teaching Moments

The really attentive, fun-loving flight crew on my trip from Reno to Atlanta reminded me that life provides opportunities for people to mindfully decide to create a positive, enjoyable environment for themselves and for others. My kids sometimes tease me about my response to their youthful retort, “I didn’t mean to…” My response was always “Well, mean not to…” Clearly, the leader of this flight crew, a vibrant, curvy, Nubian princess with well-placed braids as her crown (who I will call Dee) intended to provide exceptional service when she stepped into the airport yesterday morning. The passengers of Flight 3738 could hear this crew getting hype from the waiting area at the gate before the flight. I couldn’t see them so I could only imagine what they might have been doing. I envisioned the crew in a pre-game huddle like a football team going through a ritualistic call and response. This bright-eyed, enthusiastic flight attendant lead her crew into a zone of hospitality that commanded the presence of every ounce of joy and gracious servitude within them. By the time we boarded the plane, there was no suggestion that either member of the crew had a care in the world other than the mission that was before them – to ensure that each of us had a safe, enjoyable flight.

When I boarded, there she stood greeting me with her bright eyes and her even brighter smile. It was contagious! I found myself smiling back at her and forgetting about the concerns about who might have a summer cold or snore loud enough to make my seat vibrate. Because of her welcoming, positive disposition, everything about her was beautiful and positive – her perfect complexion, her perfectly placed coiled locks and her make up was perfectly on point. This first encounter with the crew goddess reminded me of another lesson I preached to my kids (that I learned from my mother) that “Pretty is as pretty does.” When folks are kind and warm like Dee you see lots of good in them. Seeing goodness can change your perspective and many of the things that might interfere with your peace and focus become less important and therefore less powerful. Yeah, Dee for redirecting me to a place of calm with a smile and laughter. Her ability to get the crew excited about the mission and their willingness to follow her lead into the mindset of excellent customer service was genius. In addition to the crew seeming pleased to be in her presence, they all all appeared to be happy to be in service together. Their model of team members passionate about their work enveloped the cabin. They established a friendly, relaxed environment. It generally doesn’t take much to get me talking, but I noticed that people throughout the cabin who appeared to be strangers were having sidebars about the humor being served and the fact that crew found pleasure serving the love.

I have told my kids for years that you can choose one of three paths in your approach to any task: 1. Just do what you are required to do, 2. Do less than you are required to do or 3. Exceed all expectations by doing more than you are required to do. The folks in the first group get the job done, but spend a heck a lot of time being what my kids and I call “the ketchup packet counters” of life. These are the people content to follow a script or do just what the guidelines say they should do each day, all day, just the way it’s been done for years and only because that’s the way it’s been done for years. There are no risks and probably no amazing rewards or remarkable customer service reports being generated.

Group two represents those who aggravate customers to the ninth degree. These folks range from those who are plain lazy to the ones who vocalize greatness with practiced rhetoric, yet have no production to support their chatter. They generally punt their tasks to someone else and then take ownership of the work product. Additionally, their comments demonstrate that they believe they are more valued by their peers than they really are and their peers are generally frustrated with the loathsome habits of this passionless, entitled, lazy, self-absorbed member of the second group.

The third group embodies proud, self-motivated individuals who are blessed to be called to serve. Group three people approach their tasks with intention, passion and consistency. Unfortunately, the folks who live in the world of doing more than required are criticized for “over achieving” or for making other people “look bad.” Instead of being praised for their selflessness, people attack them and make attempts to derail their progress or slow their momentum. Fortunately for the folks in the third group, they can honestly reflect on their efforts and labor and list many moments that make them glad they showed up and put in the work. Equally as cool is the fact that all recipients of their goodness and their beyond average efforts own a memory of a person caring about providing them a moment of satisfaction, solitude, laughter or affirmation.

Traveling by plane provides a wonderful opportunity for writing. Passengers generally don’t expect conversation and they don’t make me feel awkward or rude if I’m not talking to them. I can enter that perfect place with my gospel playlist and put the pen to the paper. When I considered my topic for this flight, it had nothing to do with a flight crew. The fact that I was lead to write about this crew and their spirited, awesome leader speaks volumes about the crew.  Their impact is a statement that our behavior and our conduct matter. Not only did this crew impact my time with them during the flight, but they sent a message down the tunnel that there was an expectation of positivity before we boarded the flight. In addition, their aura of positivity likely spun the attitude or outlook of a passenger facing a challenging situation at the termination of that journey. There are times when I speak without thinking through all of the consequences. There have been times when I was the passionless worker because I simply had no passion about the subject or tasks associated with my really “good job.” My time with this crew inspired me to inspire others with passionate, positive energy every time I move through the tasks associated with my job or any other opportunity for service. The final lesson I learned from this crew was this: the execution of a task with purposeful, intentioned actions cloaked in a pleasant disposition seamlessly permeates the spaces of all of the people near you with the ability to create a collective calm for everyone. The science of leadership has always fascinated me and this exhibition of excellent leadership and team work was seamless and impressive.

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