A power tool for change…

The ability to take a video with one’s phone has changed the world! Every mistake, bad customer service moment, police brutality and verbal blunder is recorded for the world to see. The recent video of the passenger on United Airlines flight 3411 being manhandled, dragged from his seat and injured while in the process hearing passengers commenting and screaming in the background “Don’t do it” has left United Airlines with a very big black eye and an inhumane reputation. It has cost them a 1 Billion dollar loss in stock value!

This is a case of where the actions of someone who was not an employee of United Airlines, (Chicago airport authority police officers) who with their actions caused major embarrassment to United Airlines. This brutality stuck to United Airlines and not the Chicago Airport Authority. One of the reasons that it made such a high level splash in the press was the issue of overselling the seats on an airliner. Everyone can relate to being bumped from a flight and missing connections and appointments because of it. If that wasn’t bad enough the physical manhandling of the passenger was brutal.

The president of United Airlines Oscar Munoz made a mistake by automatically defending and justifying the actions, when the harrowing scene of the passenger being dragged down the aisle was far stronger than anything he could say. Unfortunately for him, it made him look like a fool and an uncaring businessman.

This will tar and feather United Airlines for quite a while and the piling on by other airlines continues to damage its reputation and hurt its employees. The dramatic episode is causing a loss of revenue as well is a drop in confidence in the stock market.

Social media and smart phones have altered the game forever! Leaders, CEO and managers need to be aware of how damaging videos can be when taken out of context. The rush to explain only made this situation worse for United Airlines. The question is not just “Is this right?” but whether or not it looks right. In this case it looked bad and wrong even though it was within the normal rules of running an airline. It looked awful, a brutal and harrowing experience for everyone involved.

Leaders today have to recognize that it is an “always on world”, what I mean by that is quite simply you have to assume that someone has their phone on and it has a camera and a microphone ready to record what you are saying at any moment. That means you need to take time to think – not just respond. It’s easy to respond and if you’re defending your company or a staff member it can show.

This “always on world” is growing and getting even more so with closed-circuit television everywhere recording everything. We no longer have time to overreact and communication skills are vital to today’s leader. There is no such thing any longer as a private conversation in a business or anywhere for that matter. Just ask presidential candidate “Mitt Romney” how his remarks at a private dinner helped to damage his reputation or consider the video tape of President Trump revealed in 2005 showing his loutish, aggressive behaviour which had many describing him as a sexual predator.

Before you say “No Comment”, stop to ask yourself: Do I have all of the information? Is it true? Is it necessary for me to comment right now? Taking a deep breath and a moment to think rather than react will make all the difference.