Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dignity and Respect

The corporate philosophy of Dignity and Respect did not give rise to the unparalleled success of Continental Airlines in the 1990s because one man espoused and practiced it.  It did so because that one man INSISTED that we all practice it, regardless of where we worked or at what level of the hierarchy.  Of the four cornerstones of the uber-successful "Go Forward Plan", it was the linchpin upon which all the others relied.

Of course, when the Chief Executive interrupts his Christmas holiday to join his colleagues on the frontline, throwing bags on the ramp, thanking customers in the terminal, and acknowledging the contributions made by those whose schedule required holiday work, it set a pretty clear expectation.

Whether or not "dignity and respect" is memorialized as part of the current-day philosophy, should we expect it to yield any less positive result because one man is no longer with us "on the line"?  We who are the beneficiaries of that legacy are duty-bound to perpetuate it.  

I challenge anyone and everyone who has a serious concern about our future together to frame any interaction with a colleague, real or virtual, in the context of dignity and respect.  Fulfillment doesn't come from the outside; not from a boss, a customer or a co-worker.  It comes from the inside; ending every day in the knowledge that you did your part, you did all you could.  

And all that's needed to start down the fulfillment path is intention and commitment.  The rest will take care of itself.

Friday, July 24, 2015

One Outta Three...

For our Flight Attendants, yesterday was pregnant with possibility.  Yes, our employer announced a record-breaking result for the quarter (or any previous quarter, for that matter).  Our financial stability is solid, thanks largely to the moderated price of fuel.  Almost simultaneously with the quarterly result, an announcement was made that our board has authorized a $3B stock buyback plan, solidifying our position in the market but also benefitting shareholders, especially those with substantial holdings.

A year ago, almost 4 years into our merger, The airline and the F/A union agreed that 7/23/15 would be the target date for a tentative agreement to combine our Inflight workforce.  The day came and went without an agreement.  Instead of news that a TA had been reached, a laundry list of outstanding contract sections, some of the most important and most fractious issues to be negotiated, was published.

My peers have firsthand knowledge as to the state of our operation.  Most of us have a keen insight as to our customers' point of view.  Do you see a correlation between our financial performance and our operational performance?  I flew as a revenue customer over the July 4th holiday.  On the return trip, my BOS/IAH flight was nearly 3 hours late because of a computer outage that day.  The crew was perilously close to going illegal for the trip.  If they had, the result on customers would have been calamitous.

Many of my colleagues, myself included, are all three of the things that our company represents as "most important":  customer, employee and shareholder.

I am happy to report that as at least one of those three, I am "feeling the love". 

It's the other two that have me concerned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Retirement Mission

From my Facebook timeline...

"After months of planning and furtive attempts, LaVerl and I had lunch together yesterday.  Though we've worked for the same company for many years, LaVerl retired some time ago and we didn't actually meet until the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last August.  We've been planning a lunch date ever since, her busy schedule interfering with that plan as much as mine.

LaVerl isn't a typical retiree.  She's channeled her passion for quilting and sewing into making clothing for orphans in remote, Third World locales:  sundresses for girls, "jams" shorts for boys.  Her medium is practical, inexpensive and readily available.  She uses pillowcases as the starting point for each outfit.  The degree to which she decorates the clothing with ribbons or buttons is directly proportional to how much support she's receiving at the time.  You see, LaVerl does all of this ON HER OWN.  She is neither affiliated with nor "beholding to" an organized group. In addition to clothing, she also sews a "Concentration"-like game which stimulates young brains to match like colors or patterns.

After she creates the clothing and games, she schedules and delivers them HERSELF.  Recently, she visited orphanages in Costa Rica, Indonesia and Mexico within a period of weeks. The variety and creativity in her work is astounding.  The fact that she follows her course on her own, even moreso.

LaVerl​, if you have time, can you post some of the photos of the kids you showed me yesterday?  They are heart-meltingly adorable!  A 2-hour lunch flew by in your company.  Let's do it again!

(Thanks to LaVerl's thoughtfulness and skill, I won't be singeing my fingertips on a Texas-hot steering wheel!)"

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Son of the South

I am a child of the South. 

Born white in the latter half of the 20th century, my experience of the South was very different from that of many of my generation, many of my schoolmates, many of my sports teammates, many of my friends, many of my fellow Southerners.  I didn't fully appreciate the vast dichotomy in our southern experience until it was explained to me by a dear friend when I deigned to compare her life experience as a woman of color to mine as a gay man.

"When you meet someone, they don't necessarily see that you're gay", she said, smiling.

"When I meet someone, they never stop seeing that I'm black."

In one eye-opening, Red Sea-parting, brilliantly illustrative moment, she upended my "comfortable truth".  The clouds parted and the bright rays of real truth shone through.

When someone I value tells me that something I say or do or carry as a symbol of identity is offensive to them, I listen, I hear, I consider, and I act.  What I do is more an indication of who I am than where I come from.  No matter how proud the heritage, the symbols and creeds of the "Old South" offend people who matter to me.  Therefore, they offend me.

I am a still child of the South.  I hope that she can be proud of me.  

But either way, I'm moving forward.