Business Lessons from United Airlines

By September 6, 2018 No Comments

The recent debacle of United Airlines dragging a passenger off their plane is a dramatic demonstration of a company without an integrated corporate wellness program.

I’m not talking about back rubs and gym memberships. An integrated approach is where company representatives are skilled in mindfulness, emotional intelligence and physiological awareness.

Someone from the United Airlines team had to make a judgement call that night. There were several stand-by United employees that needed transport and the plane was overbooked. The inherent mistake was the interests of the company were put above those of paying customers.

The problem is one of mindset. The attitude of defensive, egoic and self-centred thinking was further exacerbated when United CEO, Oscar Munoz released an open letter offering support for employees and calling the customer “disruptive and belligerent”!

Company process follows mindset and creates a culture. You’ve probably heard the joke, “If it wasn’t for the customers we’d get so much work done!” It is blatantly obviously the staff at United were not educated with the right attitude to do their job – a relationship job. The consequence was a disastrous process of violent ejection with the world watching. Not good for the United brand or profits.

The lesson is that mindset has a direct influence on brand and profits.

The key objective of that situation should have been customer relations. It was stressful because the company wasn’t getting its own way. Then, just as a child throwing a tantrum smashes a toy, the company resorted to violence against a customer. There was no flexibility of thought or process. Rigid thinking; add enough pressure and the weakest link snaps.

An integrated corporate wellness program provides tools for management and employees so they keep calm under pressure, make more considered decisions and have the mental and behavioural flexibility to adjust the process to achieve superior outcomes.

In as little as 8 weeks, proven ‘soft’ skills can be learned so all members of an organisation are a motivated team with a focused, flexible and calm mind. The effect in situations like United Airlines is they do the right thing by the customer. They have the emotional intelligence to empathise with the other person above their own desires.

Teaching the skill to be self aware of one’s triggers, rationally respond rather than emotionally react and move forward confidently is the best investment a company can make. It empowers people, they feel appreciated and part of a service culture. Not because the mission statement says so, but because they want to.

With integrated corporate wellness training the outcome at United on that fateful night could have been so different. Even if it did happen, the response afterwards would have been to sincerely care for the customer as a person, take full responsibility and apologise. These are ‘soft’ skills that take courage.

The well-being of a workforce is crucial in creating a competitive advantage for business. Proactively developing it will flow through to how the customer is served and brand awareness. With increased team morale, great customer service and improved brand awareness increased profits are a natural consequence.

This article originally appeared on John Schluter’s LinkedIn account

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