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Flying Is a Good Opportunity to Reflect on Leadership

I fly a lot. It gives me time to reflect on things I need to remember when it comes to leadership.

What Is Your Plan for the Day/Week/Year?

As I boarded my flight from Dallas to Atlanta this Monday morning I took a quick peek into the cockpit and there were the two pilots talking with a flight plan in front of them. I’m sure they have flown this route hundreds of times. Yet, today’s flight plan was open in front of them. I’m sure today’s weather, today’s traffic, today’s plane capacity as well of many other things came into play.

What is your flight plan for the week? Do you have technicians or office employees off on vacation? What is your contingency plan in case someone calls in sick? Are your vehicles all gassed up and ready to go or will your team spend time at the gas station this morning? During that flight to Atlanta the captain made an announcement to buckle our seatbelts as we were searching for a higher altitude. About 30 seconds after he announced this we suddenly dipped. It felt good the captain was in control. We were in good hands.  Is your staff?

Does everyone know your volume goal for the month? Week? Day? You have a team and every member of your team has to know what his efforts mean for the entire team goal, right?

What Tone Are You Setting for the Day or Week?

One of my “habits” over the year is getting my shoes shined at the airport before going on a trip. No matter how hard I try to give them a good shine—my shine never compares to that of the professionals. At Dallas/Fort Worth airport asked the information desk where the closest place was to get a shine. I was at gate 28 and could go to gate 14 or gate 35. I chose 35, which was a bad choice.

Usually the person doing the shine is a pleasant person. I knew this person was able to speak because I heard him on the phone talking when I got there. I told him I appreciated the fact he was open and I could get a good shine for the week. The first noise he made was “$8.”

That’s exactly what I paid him. No tip. I believe that he told people that he talked with later that day what a bad day it was for tips. I’m sure he said that he hoped the tips weren’t like this the rest of the week.

Perhaps you’ve heard something like this from one of your staff. How customers just “want to shop for price.” What kind of tone are those staff members setting for the people that call?

Are You Doing the Little Things that Can Make the Difference?

I started to read the book Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard on my first flight from Waco, Texas. The storage bins on the Waco-to-Dallas flight could barely hold a Sunday newspaper, much less a suitcase so most of us checked our bags at the gate. When we got to Dallas we all waited in line to get our bags off the rack.

When I got to the front of the line I started unloading all of the bags until they were all of the rack. Who did I do that for? I did it for me. If I’m working on being a servant leader I had better put everything I’m doing into practice.

With that said, are you doing the “little things” you need to do to be a better leader? It is fine to read books, listen to tapes and talk about it … but we need to work on being a better leader every day to become one.

Don’t Prejudge People

Many boomers, like me, have a tendency to prejudge people. Example—kids under 25, guys with tattoos all over and especially ladies all tattooed up and people who work in certain professions.

My final lesson this week: I walked into a sports bar for a burger and a beverage before hopping back on the plane to come home. As I visited with the employees, I found the bartender has a master’s degree, taught school and came home to take care of his sick mother. Now he is looking to go back to school to get his Juris Doctor in law. He can’t find a teaching job in Atlanta—or anywhere close to the city. So, he keeps bartending to make ends meet. In the meantime he is looking to go to one particular college where he can get his second masters and his JD in law.

Another employee comes from a wealthy family who owns a company in Michigan with seven branches throughout the country. She was offered a position to run their IT department but wants to make it on her own before/if she works for the family business. In the meantime she is in graduate school carrying a 4.3 GPA.

I hope that you, like me, are finding that you are become a better leader by looking at some of these basics.

Oh, by the way, if you haven’t read Ken Blanchard’s Servant Leader book I suggest you start reading it today. It is a quick read and I finished it on my flight to Atlanta. The challenge, now, is to internalize it and use it as my lifelong guide to leadership.

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