The other day while I was sitting by the gate waiting for a flight, I saw a true artist at work, a gate agent for Air Canada. If you believe, as I do, that all work is theatre and every business is a stage, then you will appreciate this performance.
To set the scene, despite a hectic and frantic morning, I found myself sitting calmly and comfortably with a Starbucks in my hand, awaiting the imminent boarding of my plane. The airport itself was upside down. Hundreds of cancelled flights over the last couple of days were still sorting themselves out. The place was packed and emotions were running high.
What’s this? I receive a text from Air Canada informing me that my flight is going to be delayed 2 hours. As far as I could tell from looking around, I was the only person that knew so far. I probably knew what was up before the agent. I looked towards her and wondered when she’d know. I started to anticipate how the restless mob was going to torch the place.
A few minutes later, the agent picked up the microphone and delivered the bad news. We were all going to hang around for a couple of more hours.
But the thing is how she did it, how she spoke, calmly and slowly, taking care to ensure she looked at every person in the eye. She didn’t say she was sorry; she said that she understood how everyone must feel. That she knew it was awful and that it was incredibly frustrating.
She was magnificent. She told a room of angry, tired, sore people who were at the end of their collective rope that the news wasn’t good, and nobody made a peep. Even now, I doubt myself. Someone had to have muttered a discouraging word?
Nothing. Most everyone wandered off to find a restaurant or a coffee. I am telling you it was like she put a spell on everyone.
Later on, when I returned to board the airplane I spoke with her. I told her what I do, and what I speak about and what I notice. I told her that she was an artist and that it was worth all of the inconvenience for the opportunity to see her work. Twice.
Of course, she thanked me, and she was really touched. As far as her motivation? She said it’s because she cares.
She cares, and caring is really cheap.
Sometimes, of course, not caring can save you some money. Cutting corners is cheaper.
Over the long haul, caring is self-funding. Caring is expensive, but it creates loyalty and word-of-mouth business. Not only do businesses that care make more money, they also help make us all more human. And that’s worth it.