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Monday, March 19, 2012

Can you Celebrate Acts of Kindness?

Recognizing and Celebrating Acts of Kindness

This week I had the opportunity to go to San Francisco for work.  I was going to a pretty darned interesting and neat customer event where I was presenting on "Building Community."  It was a great event with close to 8,000 people in attendance.  I got to meet a lot of great people, share information and learn more about my many colleagues.

While this post may appear to be about travel, it is not. It is about what we can learn from people - strangers - who remember that we are human beings sharing a space and sharing a common goal.  It is times like these that I learn more about humanity and the fact that we all need to take a minute to think about someone else and not just ourselves.

The travel to and from San Francisco meant very long days, but it was worth it.

YFC Fire Fighter in Background attending to fire
Arriving at the airport on Wednesday morning at 4:45 a.m. I thought of my former colleagues that I used to work with at the Airport Authority.  There had been freezing rain overnight, but despite the labour issues plaguing the workers, they were out making sure that things were safe for all of us travelling that morning.  Thanks guys!!  I think of all of you often.

The flights to San Francisco were uneventful, which quite frankly is just fine with me.  However, my journey home was a little more eventful.

Act of kindness - Act I

The journey was very long and interesting.  On the first leg of the flight there was a man who had a very orange and puffy winter coat (think George from Seinfeld) and while he did not wear it sitting in his seat, he decided that he would put it on every time he went to the washroom.  He went a lot.  After about the 5th visit - I am guessing - he ended up on the floor.  Not sure what happened.  During the close to six hour flight, he was on the floor at least three times and hidden behind the curtain in the back of the plane at least three times.  I have to congratulate the way that the flight attendants handled the situation.  It was very professional.  They were calm.  They kept him calm.  They kept the passengers in the vicinity of these "events" calm.

At the end of this flight, I had a short connection - which really is the theme of this trip.  I was in the second last row of this lovely Airbus and wanted to get through Customs and make my connection to Ottawa so that I could get to my last flight.  I want to recognize the kindness of the many people who willingly let me pass by them so that I could get out before them.  In fact, a whole Rugby team who lived in the Greater Toronto Area, let me go ahead of them.  I wish I could acknowledge the team here, but I didn't have time to ask who they were.  Despite this, I say a full hearted Thank You!

Act of kindness - Act II

More often than not people like to tell their stories of how bad something was.  How bad customer service was, how mean people are or how a product failed to live up to expectations.  I think that Airlines no doubt get the brunt of bad feedback in public forums.  I, however, want to focus on an absolutely kind and customer-focused Flight Attendant of Air Canada Flight AC 460 from Toronto to Ottawa on the night of March 16th. 

While he was responsible for Business Class passengers and I was not one, he was amazing to both me and my colleague.  Due to a delay caused by a broken overhead bin, which needed to be attended to for safety reasons, we were left with about 10 minutes to make our connection - the final leg of 10+ hour journey.  Not only did he retrieve our carry-on luggage and bring it to the front of the plane - and properly store it for safety - but he also made sure that we were the first two passengers out of the plane - again an Airbus that was completely full.  He ensured that the ground crew had been radioed in advance and there was someone there to meet us and direct us to our gate.  Ultimately we made it home!

So, this made me think when was the last time I helped a stranger?  Now I will challenge you: When was the last time that you helped a stranger, a friend or a colleague?  If you can't remember, I hope that this will spur you on to help one person a day.  Think about how you would feel if you were in their respective shoes. 

AC logo courtesy of AC website and YFC photo from 2009 Annual Report

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What the Big Bang Theory Can Teach Us about Communications

More and more I enjoy the Big Bang Theory, and no it is not because the theme song is done by a Canadian band - although that is not a bad thing either, but I digress.

The appeal for me really is that with the comedy, there are lessons that we can all take-away and use in real life.  Here's a quick look at the lovable and absolutely amusing characters of the show:

1.  Dr. Raj Koothrappali - This sweet shy boy/man could be a blog posting all on its own.  Come to think of it, each character could have a separate posting; however, I will keep it to one for now. 

With his extreme skyness,  his "selective mutism" condition, and his desire to become a part of American culture, Raj sometimes misses the nuances of situations.  Combine this with his naivety and he sometimes speaks when he shouldn't.  Of course this provides all sorts of comic relief, but the lesson learned is really:  do your homework and know what the issues are both on the surface and, more importantly, below the surface. 

2.  Howard Wolowitz - Wow, there are really so many things to say.  Where would one start? 

Well, despite his over active need for "love" and his incredible collection of terrible pick-up lines, there is a very kind and dependable side to Howard.  I think of the episode when Penny wanted to give Leonard a surprise birthday party because he never had one when he was a kid and just how far Howard would go to help Penny make this happen for Leonard.  Despite being deathly allergic to peanuts, he ate them in order to keep Leonard at the hospital long enough to get the party together.  The lesson we can learn from Howard:  be sure that the people that you choose to be on your team are as dedicated (minus taking a such a risk with one's life) to the cause and doing things right, as you are.  Your team and your communications are only as good as your weakest link.

Big Bang Theory
So really, who has the
higher IQ?
 Just Saying
3.  Penny - Over and above being the eye candy for the male viewers, Penny has a completely different set of smarts than "the boys".  Bringing a softer side of things and a completely different outlook and set of experiences, Penny has actually helped them evolve.  The lesson learned from Penny's character and interaction is when forming your team it is absolutely critical to ensure that you have someone who thinks differently than the rest.  This person will not only challenge you to see things differently, but help your messages be clearer and more on target, thus you will increase your probability of successfully communicating.    

4.  Dr. Leonard Hofstadter - Good ole Leonard.  Growing up with a world famous child psychiatrist and neuroscientist mother who severely lacked expressing any love at all, Leonard is probably the closest to not being a geek of all "the boys".  The lesson that we learn from Leonard is pretty straight forward: be consistent, be steady and never give up.  An important lesson in communicating, Leonard demonstrated this with his consistent pursuit of Penny. 

5.  Dr.  Sheldon Cooper - Perhaps one of the most kookiest characters on TV right now, Sheldon is hilarious.  How the writers came up with the idea of someone like Sheldon is fun in itself.  Part child, part man, part human being who is borderline insane, Sheldon demonstrates one of the most important things that we can learn from The Big Bang Theory.  Lesson learned from Sheldon:  with continuous support from your team, individuals can learn from others in order to become better at a task, as a co-worker, as a person.  Like communications should be, it is a two-way street.  People have to want to help you, rather than just shut you out.   

Finally, the overall lesson that we can take away from the characters on The Big Bang Theory:  be true, be loyal, be honest, and always share.  These are simple tenants to good communications

Do you follow these tenants?  Do you share or do you shut people out?

Photos obviously courtesy of The Big Bang Theory