Saturday, January 18, 2014

"Working Togehter"

Give of your best.  Expect the best in return.

Seems so simple, so logical, so natural.  Yet achieving the state-of-mind where "the best" is organically given and received is a major undertaking.  Because that's where "the best" happens:  in your mind.

There were many very positive things about working at Continental Airlines during the Gordon Bethune era.  Just before Mr B's arrival, we had changed livery, into the current "globe", and changed uniforms, into the double-breasted navy with gold accents.  But those superficial changes did not provide the catalyst, the real boost we needed to fulfill our promise.  When Gordon arrived with his plans and changes, he was just the most recent in a long list of CEOs who made promises; promises that either weren't kept or never came to fruition.  His immediate predecessor had promoted what proved to be a disastrous plan involving a second, low-cost carrier-within-a-carrier, known as CAL Lite.  Yikes!  So, on Gordon's "DAY 1", he had very little to lose, Continental was at its absolute nadir.

He started by communicating, reliably (as in everyday via voicemail) and substantively with honest, often disheartening, appraisals of just how far we had to go to survive, let alone thrive.  The unusual tone, pace and tenor of his voice was strangely calming to hear during the process.  He was constant and built credibility.  I am sad to say that I was one of the original skeptics:  others had promised, others had failed to deliver.  But day-by-day our confidence in Mr. Bethune's vision, in his plans, and in each other grew.  Things he had no right or hope to promise for our future began to actually happen.  The more we relied upon each other, the more we regained our hope and expectations, the more good things came our way.  And all through that process, our #1 cheerleader never wavered:  voicemails and other communications never slowed and the constant message was, "I didn't do this, you guys did.  Any success that Continental realizes is because you came together and made it happen."

The true and lasting beauty of working at Continental Airlines during the Gordon Bethune era was that we were led to believe in our own power and the cumulative power that we have as a team.  We gave of our best and had a right and obligation to expect the best in return.

"Working Together" was not and is not a cute catch phrase, it was the guiding principle of a miracle.  So, when it is derided and made trite both by my new colleagues and current higher ups, I can't help but take offense personally.  So what?  Who cares if I'm offended?  What am I going to do about it?

I just did...

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