Now that I’ve got your attention, let me assure you that I’m not about to suggest a new diet, make-up product, exercise regimen, or any other consumer-driven approach to enhancing your sexiness. What I’m serving up you already have within you. The question is – will you choose to access it?
But first, let me take a step back.
I had every intention of filming a video for you today based on some feedback that I haven’t vlogged in a few weeks…and you want me to! Unfortunately, an unintended and incredibly inconvenient extended layover in Chicago (the picture on the left is me 12 hours after I planned to leave O’Hare) as I headed back home to Vegas forced me to put my video career on hiatus for another week.
The good news is that the mishap birthed today’s musings on personal and professional responsibility.
When my United Airlines pilot announced at 8:35PM that our plane would be sitting on the tarmac for an extra 20 minutes because our gate had another plane still parked at it, I wasn’t worried about missing my connecting flight. I still had 30 minutes. Plus, United isn’t necessarily known in the industry for its timely departures, and although my flight back to Vegas was the last one of the evening, I had ample experience running from one gate to another in a few minutes time.
Unfortunately, the several dozen businessmen badgering our flight attendants for updates were more realistic than me. I missed my flight. By about 45 seconds.
It did not take long for me to realize that had the flight attendants on my previous flight or at the gate taken responsibility for having connecting information, I wouldn’t have missed my flight in spite of the significant tarmac delays. For I lost a couple of minutes running around the B concourse like a puppet with its strings cut off before realizing I needed to re-ignite my short-lived junior high sprint career and run to the C concourse – where the door literally closed in my face.
But, honestly, I was willing to forgive that mistake. While the flight attendants and gate agents were happy to evade responsibility and say, “That’s not my job,” when asked about connections – they clearly didn’t have the information. And perhaps couldn’t easily access the information. So I redirected my frustration and disappointment away from them and into finding a reasonable solution with United Airlines customer service.
The conversation began very much the same way. The desk rep, fortunately a bit more empathetic than the other folks I’d spoken with, nevertheless shared that she too couldn’t do anything until the morning beyond offer me a trip to Newark. Did I mention I was in Chicago? Yeah, I wasn’t so interested in going east in hopes of eventually being able to head west.
When I asked for the person who could offer me additional options, such as a hotel for the night, the agent obliged. She was childlike in her glee to pass the buck to someone else, and I finally spoke to the nighttime customer service supervisor.
I bet you know where this is going.
“I’m sorry, mam, but I run a business.” (Not true, but I kept myself calm and tried to write-off the comment as excessive company pride rather than an equal parts inappropriate statement and inaccurate lie.) “I can’t offer you a hotel room when the delay wasn’t the airline’s fault.”
That’s when my blood began to boil and started a chain reaction of physiological distress that culminated with a sore throat, body aches, and full on fever by the time I found myself in a bed. (You probably noticed, I’m looking pretty haggard in the picture on the left.)
“I recognize that this situation is not your fault,” I said as sweetly as I could, “but actually, it is the airline’s fault. United had another plane in the gate mine was seeking to go into, did not provide connecting information to passengers during the 30 minutes we sat on the tarmac, and chose not to reopen the door at the gate even though the plane was still there.”
“Mam-mmmmm,” the supervisor started. “It was air traffic control’s fault. That’s what the computer says. And therefore I’m not going to offer you hotel accommodations. You can sleep in the airport or take a coupon to one of the area hotels we contract with” (which, incidentally, were $75+, over 45 minutes away from the airport, and all full for the evening).
While it may seem like I’m sharing this story to incite a boycott of United Airlines, truly I’m not. The story is striking and needs to be shared because it’s symptomatic of an epidemic over taking our companies and even our political system – the failure to take responsibility for wrongdoing, big and small.
And personal and professional responsibility is incredibly sexy. Companies like Enterprise, Nordstrom, and Zappos pride themselves on not only making the customer right and making returns/refunds pretty seamless, but they even engage customers in solutions by asking, in their respective ways, “How can I make this right for you?” It’s ethical. It’s profitable. It needs to become the norm rather than an aberration.
My experience with United Airlines came at the end of a day of working with a company as on the other side of the responsibility-taking spectrum as one could be – ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, one of if not THE greatest humanitarians and philanthropists of the twentieth century, St. Jude’s is predicated on the belief it has the responsibility to take care of ALL children with cancer, brain trauma, and a range of other serious childhood illnesses – irrespective of their insurance status or whether their families have any means to pay for care. Furthermore, Danny Thomas was adamant that St. Jude’s not just be a world-renowned children’s hospital treating children from across racial, socio-economic, and cultural backgrounds, but that he just as importantly endow the hospital to generate the research necessary to prevent childhood illnesses in the first place. Such a vision is felt in all of St. Jude’s employees, particularly its fundraisers who have some of the most aggressive fundraising goals of any organization I’ve ever seen. And consistently surpass them. Why? Because they have a responsibility to save children’s lives. Period.
Whether you are a leader in your company, run your own business, are an educator, or hold any other position where you in some way come into contact with other people, if you want to create, sustain, and scale your success – do not under estimate the loyalty and positive proselytizing you engender when you own up to your shortcomings. Stop passing the buck to others and get people the answers they need. Let people know how you will rectify what didn’t work out for them. Co-create a reasonable solution. And, a la St. Jude’s, take responsibility for being part of creating something within your organization’s four walls, with your clients or students, and in the community that makes big time positive social impact.
And because I know you may still be hungry for a good video, I’d like to share with you St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s newest one, #HeyStJude. It will inspire and show you what is possible when people globally take responsibility for achieving a seismic, common goal. Enjoy.