As I write this, I’m circling on a small plane somewhere above the New York metropolitan area. We’ve been delayed because of air traffic concerns and weather.
How do I know this? The pilot has used the PA system several times and done a pretty decent job of communicating with us. He had shared with us the timeline and updated us with new information each time a deadline has passed.
Now this is in stark contrast to my experience earlier this morning when I was waiting for my original flight. The information was slow to come from the gate crew about the delay, its cause, and the impact. Information on the many LCD screens on the airport was not current, not was the airline’s website.
When I fly, and I’ve done a lot of it recently, I expect and understand that there will be delays with security, boarding, take off, and landing. I recognize that flying involves working with a complex system and that things can go wrong.
Today, they clearly have and I’m ok with that. The problem is not that there are problems; there will be. The problem is that in attempting to manage our expectations of the flight, the airline has done little to communicate that we as passengers have value and instead relies on our captivity to this system.
When you fall short of expectations that you have set for yourself and shared with others, you have to actively manage that failure. This means more than just working to fix the problem; it means communicating with others that you understand the problems that you are causing for them. It means displaying empathy.
Sometimes empathy can be relayed verbally and that may be enough. For bigger problems, you may need to tangibly show how you value others. Depending upon the type of organization you run, this demonstration of empathy may vary. For the airline, a little empathy could mean simply sending the drink cart firm the aisle again. You can even demonstrate empathy by simply following up after the problem and sore your customs that they have value to you by asking them about their experience.
Empathy is how we show each other that we matter. And we do.