I was leaving a nice hotel near the airport in a southern town. It was short shuttle ride. I was alone with five workers from an airline that was going through contract negotiations. The two pilots and three flight attendants were very animated in their negativity about the contract situation and about their employer.
The ride lasted only a few minutes, but I’d been exposed to an extra 10 minutes of the negativity while waiting for the shuttle. It was quite a discussion. I was more than a little uncomfortable hearing it. My presence outside the hotel lobby and in the shuttle did little to deter the talk. When we were arriving at the airport and the shuttle driver asked which airline I was flying. I sat up tall and proud and said in a clear, strong voice the name of an airline that was a competitor of the one which had been discussed.
As we approached my drop off point, it got very quiet. Had they been unaware of my presence? Or did it dawn on them how their negativity had impacted me? The airline they represented is my second choice for travel. That hasn’t changed, although I take comfort that it’s a large airline. I hope I never have either of those pilots or any of the flight attendants. It’s reasonable to want happy pilots to be flying the airplanes I’m in. The last thing I want is a pilot thinking; “I’ll show those airline execs…”
Leaders must always be checking their attitudes. How it is affects their language and communication. It isn’t just being careful what you say. It’s also about where you say it, who you’re saying it to, and who might be listening. When a leader expresses negativity about their company, or a situation within their company; they must realize they may be spreading poison. Their words can be much more powerful than they intend. Leaders must be in control of their attitudes and remain acutely aware of their situations, including their words.
Points to Ponder –
Can you remember a time when you enjoyed a negative conversation, complaining about something while completely unaware of your surroundings?
Have you ever observed a situation like the one mentioned above? What did you learn about leadership communications?