When was the last time you had that dark and heavy feeling in your stomach? The pause moment of feeling something is just not right? The moment that you knew you had to do something you did not want to do. Hold that feeling for a moment. Did you press on and not follow that gut instinct? Let me guess, you regretted it later.
This week behind the United Airlines counter an employee had that feeling and they had to act on “policy.” Many corporate employees are trained from day one, not to think, but to act from policy. Not one media post has talked about that man or woman. For that person, I choose compassion. They have to go to sleep each night knowing they played a role in a man being carried off a plane bloody.
United Airlines stock prices fell over $1million in twenty-four hours this week. Why? In a moment of chaos someone did not act on that heavy stomach feeling. The problem with this story is not only the airline it’s the hundreds of good people sitting on that plan that did nothing. I’m confident one person on that plane, filming this incident now in retrospect realizes they too could have done something compassionate.
In moments of chaos we have to choose. Chaos or Compassion? Compassion is the practice of having concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. That one choice could have changed this entire situation.
As a professional consultant and speaker I travel. A lot. It goes without saying that my bags have ended up in the wrong city. I’ve missed connections; wiped airline trays with bleach wipes and lifted my carry on into the overhead. I’ve also seen flight attendants help kids reconnect with parents; I’ve witnessed strangers lift bags for another. I’ve seen kindness. I’ve had to choose compassion, even when I didn’t want to.
Compassion! Human nature.
As with most social media outrage moments I tend to sit back and hold space for both sides. It’s not easy. It’s a practice to see the human + being in both. As leaders today we need to take that time. Do not fall into the immediacy of the next tweet. We make mistakes. Let’s throw out the anger and move forward with compassion. If this were your brand that made the mistake how would you want to be treated? Do that.
Make time to feel the human judgments that are so automatic in our DNA and then process under them to the discernment of truth. While I am not currently advising the CEO of United I wish I were. I would have advised him. Don’t react to this, respond. I would have implored him to choose compassion not chaos. We would have used the mindfulness technique of breathing and centering to come up with a better first apology. Mindfulness is presence by taking time to get present with all the emotions happening at that airport, airline counter, and on that plane we could have made a more mindful choice.
United’s company name after all is by definition; to bring together for a common purpose.
Let’s use this experience for good. Can this be an opportunity to have a courageous conversation bout what is good and bad about our flight system? Now is the time for a conversation about policy vs. human care in companies – mindfulness.
I will choose to unite as a human family. I won’t be angry, judgmental or ugly about this situation. There you have it the Hollyanna Pollyanna response to making the world a better place one flight at a time. Compassion!
When you have that dark heavy feeling in your stomach, listen. Be mindful! Slow down! Listen! Lead from that place. I choose COMPASSION! That’s a choice you won’t regret later.