Reassuring Values

The actions of a Germanwings pilot is a powerful example for corporate CEOs.

The day after this week’s crash, Germanwings flight crews were given the choice whether or not to come to work.

Time magazine reports that before take-off on a particular post-crash flight, the pilot addressed very nervous passengers from a microphone at the front of the plane. He introduced himself and admitted to feeling uneasy himself, not knowing the circumstances surrounding events the day before.

blue-sky-1He said he and the crew were there voluntarily, that the company didn’t force anyone to be on duty that day, that he double-checked the plane himself that morning. He said he has family, kids and a wife who loves him and that he knew passengers and the crew have loved ones too. He promised he’d do everything possible to get everyone to their destination safely.

Passengers listened silently. No one was checking text messages, chatting or reading. No one asked for the pilot’s credentials, how long he’d been flying or exactly how he would handle a crisis.

After his address, they applauded.

Germanwings has strong quality flight and safety standards. Still, one of their flights went down the day before.

This pilot addressed his passengers as a competent professional–and a man of compassion. With presence of mind, he understood their feelings. He chose to be seen and heard when it mattered.

He considered it part of his job to personally check the plane and to visibly assure those onboard that they were safe in his care and why. That the crew under his command could be trusted as well.

And while a crash was highly improbably, he knew that heart-stopping flashes of wonder during turbulence would hardly be described as a quality flight.

He had their physical, mental and emotional safety in mind.

In all probability, you are a trustworthy CEO whose personal and corporate values reflect deep interest in providing a safe, rewarding and quality work experience for all your people.

Because values are an experience, not a set of slogans.

Lions, Mice and Leaders

roaring lionWhat lions are roaring in your world? What mice are scampering across your floors?

A friend visited Africa and said that a lion’s roar is frightening, freezing one in place or causing a surge of adrenaline to run.

Are you a fearful leader? You should be.

Fear is a healthy, protective emotion. Fear keeps business safe. Fear prevents a wise leader from saying, “That’s a kitten outside our door; not a 500 pound man-eating big cat.” Fear forces leaders to prepare, to get equipped with a plan, or in some cases, run.

Roaring lions surround every organization in the food industry: Consolidation, competition, new customer behaviors and expectations, low growth, globalization, talent management, speed of technology, strong and weak dollar…all occurring with increased velocity. Grasping their implications and exercising sound judgment–both fast and good–is critical to acting wisely and in time to safeguard the business.

miceAnxiety, on the other hand, is a very different emotion often confused with fear. Anxiety is like the mouse scampering across your floor…personal dread overshadows danger. Anxiety clings to all forms of self-preservation amid losses or bad outcomes.

Anxiety, not fear, can take over in situations when our skills, talent, problem-solving ability, knowledge, ideas, judgment, even lovability may be tested and exposed.

Scampering mice are found in every organization too: Delayed decision-making, sidestepping hard conversations, failing to speak out or step up, lack of accountability, personal posturing, inflated egos, refusing to forgive, refusing to be wrong, failure to self-correct, unwilling to accept feedback.

In summary, Leadership Anxiety seeks to protect oneself. Leadership Fear seeks to protect the business.

All of us struggle with both.

So back to those lions and mice. Blogs have much to say about Courage. That’s good. But it’s up to each one of us to reflect on where and how courage can be applied–either in response to the roar of big cats or scampering little rodents in this habitat called the Business World.