Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"The Wedding Date"

I'm back from my whirlwind tour of South Florida. The travel in both directions was on Air Canada. I used to do a lot of flying when I lived in the US, so I pretty much know the ropes. But it has been awhile since I have travelled by air, so this was an opportunity to experience Air Canada post 9/11 and post bankrupcty protection.

I have to tip my hat to the personnel on the plane. They were happy folks that worked hard. This is my general observation of most flight crews over the years. Of course, I've met the odd sour-puss, but in broad strokes, they're an admirable bunch. My philosophy is to treat these people kindly and cut them some slack, so I shrugged off getting ice in my complimentary juice when I specifically and tactfully asked for no ice. I figure that if we overall make nasty about trivia, we diminish the reserve of goodwill these people have which can come in handy when you really need a special effort. Example: on the return flight, the juice was spilled when handed over to me. I was pleasant and smiling to the staff when I boarded, and the same when giving my order for a drink. Had I been grumpy and self-centered, I doubt the cleanup effort would have been as gracious, quick, and effective.

There is a big lesson here about goodwill. While the flying juice incident is trivial, it is nevertheless representative of those hundreds of transactions we have day to day.

Goodwill is a two-way street. You invest to build a reserve. You can then draw on that reserve to cope with extraordinary events and circumstances. Those who provide service should understand this as well as their clients. A waiter or waitress can genuinely, deliberately and carefully build that goodwill early in a transaction, which can help them later when the kitchen screws up. Similarly, a customer can be rewarded with care and attention by addressing some simple human needs: demonstrate that serving you is going to be a positive experience, including social rewards.

In large measure, we create service people in our own image.

Goodwill scales well, including within the halls of power of both business and government. Goodwill is built through acting with integrity, and being honest. Because it is intangible, and immeasurable, it is often overlooked, or seriously discounted. It requires leadership to have faith that investments in goodwill are returned in measure, and thus made with purpose and sufficient emphasis.

Now, back to the title of this post "The Wedding Date". It was the official in-flight entertainment, and without a doubt, the worst movie I have ever seen. There is probably a long, boring essay on in-flight movies and the economics and marketing thereof, from which I will spare both you and myself.

But the satisfying in-flight entertainment was the entire experience of watching people come together in this unusual environment, observing their transactions, and contemplating the complexities and richness of human interaction.

"Do unto others".

Profound, immutable and resilient wisdom. As a society, we benefit more from the teaching of these robust tenents than all the government programs put together.