Last week I got a reminder of the power of sharing positive perspectives with others when times get just a little (or very) stressful. It happened shortly after the pilot of the regional jet that I was on said we would be landing in 20 minutes.
After 35 minutes had passed, I began to wonder what was up.
When a pilot begins an announcement with "Well, folks… let me tell you what's going on…," you can pretty much assume it's not going to be good news.
He proceeded to tell us that the wing flaps were stuck. He quickly followed with, "But we're okay. We're just going to be landing at a faster speed than you may be accustomed to."
The plane initially got silent, and then a guy sitting across the aisle from me began saying things like, "I knew something was wrong!" The guy next to him began putting the "motion discomfort bag" to its official use. Yes, really.
Nervous chatter grew, periodically interrupted by the reassuring sounds of a guy hurling into a plastic bag. I turned to the guy next to me and said, "So, how's your day going?" The sound of the two of us laughing drew a few puzzled looks.
Sure, I was as concerned as everyone else sitting at 20,000 feet in what we were now being told was a malfunctioning metal tube. But panic isn't exactly a productive tool in that situation.
There was nothing for us to do but stow our laptops and check our seatbelts. (Okay, and pray… a lot.)
Instinctively, I began talking to my neighbor loud enough for others to hear.
I said, "Look, we aren't dumping fuel, and the flight attendants aren't asking us to put our heads in our laps. We have landing gear. Life is good as long as you have wheels to land on. On windy days, they have to fly these planes full-out until landing. These guys don't even have to pull out a manual to do this."
Honestly, I'm not sure how accurate that was, but it made me feel better. And it sounded good to everyone around me. (Well, better than "barf-bag guy", anyway.)
I started hearing folks joke about flight mishaps they'd experienced before. They began putting things into perspective and surmised we were likely going to be okay. And we were.
People don't think or act rationally when they're panicking. In turbulent times, will your perspective and words reassure your team… or have them reaching for their own "discomfort" bags?
I was working out of my home office recently when I heard my wife loudly exclaim, "You have got to be kidding me!"
I quickly racked my brain to see if I might be the possible cause of the anger.
When I couldn't come up with anything stupid I had done that day, I called down, "Everything alright, honey?" When she called back, "I hate this bank!" I was relieved. Not happy… but relieved.
We had received a notification of the annual billing for a safety deposit box. The notification said the fee would be deducted from our account. The problem was it didn't say which account.
This would not be an issue except for the fact that we have several accounts including another DDA with that bank. It (I found out) has only $20 or so in it.
When I asked my wife, "Uh, why do we have that account?" she told me that when she had gone in to close it and open a different account, the nice young lady shared that closing accounts hurt their "numbers".
So, my wife moved everything but a few dollars out of it and into the new one. She was now worried that the bank would overdraw a checking account she didn't want to keep in the first place.
After about 5 press-options on her first call to that branch's "local" number, she was curtly told by a woman (sitting overseas), "I obviously don't have access to that information." Nice!!!
My wife then put her phone on "speaker" so I could hear what she was dealing with. She would punch through the phone menu to get customer service. After 30 seconds of punching through five different selections, the system simply gave her a busy signal and disconnected her.
That's interesting messaging. Press a button for "customer service", and we'll simply hang up on you. Nice!!!
She went to the branch the next day, fully prepared to close all our accounts. The staff apologized and went out of their way to make my wife feel appreciated and save the relationship.
I'll cede that the rude (outsourced) phone-rep and idiotic phone system weren't the branch's fault. But then again, asking a customer to keep open an account she didn't want or need for their "numbers" was.
They almost lost a longtime customer because of it. They did lose a little credibility in her eyes.
Remind your team that doing what's honest and best for your customers from the start is always best for all parties in the long run, as well.