Last week, First Sgt. Albert Marle was traveling between Portland and Charlotte aboard a US Airways flight. He asked the flight attendant if she would hang up his jacket, which was located in first-class seating. More information and detail can be found via this article from Fox News. To summarize, the flight attendant refused because the closet was for first-class passengers only. Placing the jacket of First Sgt. Marle, a passenger flying coach, would be against company policy. A passenger on the plane wrote this on his Facebook page…
A couple of team members and I discussed this incident today at NS4L. Sometimes the best way to learn is through the experiences of others, right? It brought on some interesting questions…
Did this flight attendant do anything wrong? She was following company policy. She didn’t write the company policy. Was she afraid she may get fired for not following policy? Isn’t this just common sense? Here is a member of our armed forces that puts his life on the line in order to defend our country and freedom, shouldn’t we be serving him the way he serves us?
This created an interesting discussion and here is my suggestion for any business…
Prioritize CORE VALUES over Rules and Policy. I tried to Google ‘Core Values US Airways’ and could not find any listed on their company website or elsewhere. This doesn’t mean they don’t have any, but if they do, they are not at the forefront of what they do. Personally, I hate ‘rules’ but even I understand that sometimes they are necessary. However, if you let CORE VALUES take precedent over any policy, then your team will always have what they need to make good decisions.
Our Core Values at NS4L are as follows:
1. Create and Recreate the UCE – Ultimate Customer Experience
2. Stay Calm and Scoot On (When things get tough, remain calm, take a deep breath, and proceed.)
3. Don’t Believe the Hype! (Stay Humble!)
4. Embrace and Shape Change
5. Keep Promises
6. SOC it to Me (Our way of remembering to maintain a Safe, Organized, and Clean environment.)
7. Communicate Clearly
8. SIQ Awesomeness (Service, Integrity, and Quality)
9. Create a Lifestyle!
10. Always Put a Teammate First
11. Serve a HIGHER PURPOSE!
12. If you are late to work, you better bring breakfast!
If you let your values guide your decision making, you can see how this simplifies circumstances that arise (even if they ‘violate policy’). If US Airways had the same values as NS4L for example, the flight attendant could have said, “Hanging this jacket will create the Ultimate Customer Experience for First Sgt. Marle.” or could have said, “Doing this would be serving a higher purpose.” and be able to make a simple decision, even though it may ‘violate policy.’
I want my team to know that if they ever make a decision that is in the best interest of the customer and upholds the core values of NS4L, that I won’t get angry with them should it mean ‘violating policy.’ I think this would be a great practice for all business leaders…
Establish core values with your team. Write down what your values are as a team and then LIVE by them. Make decisions by them. HIRE and FIRE by them. Let your team members know that if they ever get stuck in a situation where they are unsure what to do, ask themselves… “Would this be violating any of our core values or would it be delivering on our core values?”
What are your thoughts? Was this flight attendant wrong or was she just doing her job?