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Unexpected Lessons on an Unexpected Flight

Today I’ll be sharing a story with you that will help demonstrate how important team dynamics are, not only to the team itself, but to those around the team as well.
But first let me ask you this question:

Do your employees provide memorable moments that enhance the experience of going to work with them?

I ask this because when we talk about workplace culture, the way that the team of employees interacts with each other has a great deal to do with whether you’ll have a positive time going to work each day.
Now let’s focus on flight attendants as an example.
Although the team of flight attendants may often work together on a regular basis, each time a new group of passengers gets onto the plane, the working environment changes dramatically. Brand new faces with brand new personalities, all with brand new expectations have suddenly entered their workplace. The relationship between the flight attendants is one of the only consistent aspects of their day.
And this leads me to my story…

I recently had the opportunity to fly with WestJet for a five-hour flight from Calgary.

As a constant observer of humans at work I am always interested in how flight attendants do their job. I want to see how competent they appear to be, how professional they are, whether they get along with each other, and how they interact with the people whose lives they may have to help save should anything happen.
I have flown hundreds of times, but I already know that this flight will be in my memory bank forever.
Perhaps a clue to my experience could have been taken from WestJet’s Mission which includes this statement: Our goal is to enrich the lives of everyone in WestJet’s world by providing safe, friendly, and affordable air travel (and have some fun while we are at it).
There were four flight attendants on this flight: a male in-flight cabin director and three female flight attendants.
When everyone was seated, and the plane was secured, the announcements began.
I can honestly say that up until that moment, the experience had been pleasant, but certainly not memorable.
The cabin director took the microphone at the front of the plane and began to welcome everyone on board.
Still, nothing unusual about this so far.
Then he began to introduce the crew.
Like every other flight, I expected a brief mention of the flight attendant’s first name and a wave.
Well, I was in for a surprise.
The flight attendant toward the back of the plane was introduced first, but we got more than just her first name—The cabin director told us that she is his ex-wife!
“How is the house that I used to live in with you? How is the dog that we shared? How are our friends that we used to hang out with?”  He asked her rhetorically.
Everyone in the cabin grew instantly surprised and curious (me included), and turned around to look at this flight attendant. However, her expression remained pleasant as she smiled a huge smile directed towards her supposed ex.
Then the cabin director turned his attention toward the flight attendant in the middle.
She was also introduced to us with her first name, but this time the director tells us that she is his current wife and that they have a great relationship with lots of exciting plans that they have been talking about. Just like the first flight attendant, this one smiles and waves enthusiastically.
The curious smiles on many faces continued, as did the introductions.
He finally introduced the flight attendant standing at the front of the cabin with him.
We learned her first name as well, and everyone waited in anticipation of what the cabin director would say next.
“I’ve only just met this woman,” he began, “but I already know that there is instant chemistry and she is likely going to be my future wife.”
Laughter broke out throughout the cabin along with a wave of applause from the 200+ passengers.

What an extremely unique way of introducing cabin crew, as well as instantly setting a warm and relaxed atmosphere for the duration of the flight!

This tone ended up coming in handy when a passenger became ill after a couple of hours. The crew requested medical assistance from passengers, and a team of people quickly appeared at the sick passenger’s seat as the flight crew efficiently and professionally helped in any way they could. Although this was a serious looking medical emergency, no one in the plane was upset— only empathetic to the passenger and to the crew.
Passengers continued to be empathetic even when we had to make a necessary stop in Phoenix (definitely not our destination) to let off the sick passenger. And even though we were grounded for some time as the passenger was let off the plane and his luggage had to be retrieved from the hold, there was still no sign of frustration or a problem from those waiting patiently in the cabin.
The rest of the trip contained no more dramatic events and we safely arrived at our destination.
As we landed, I found myself quite grateful to have been a part of this flight—How many times have you ever said that about a plane trip?

I hope this story has illustrated the importance of the dynamic between team members in a workplace.

As you can see, it’s infectious!
But that sort of positive energy doesn’t happen all by itself – we have to be proactive in creating it – not just hope that it will happen.
Safe travels.


About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.

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