The pilot died! Or did he?

You and I need information whether it’s good or bad. Even with discouraging news we all “get through the moments” better with reliable data. Such is the lesson taught by an insightful Southwest Airlines pilot. This is a story I’ve told clients again and again.

Southwest is that little “pretend” Texas-based carrier according to a friend of mine who works for Delta, he believes Delta is a “real airline”. Southwest changed its industry. Many airlines in business when Southwest got started are no longer is business. And unlike some of its competition today, Southwest still makes money.

As we say in Texas, it’s my company plane!

Southwest Airlines has never had an onboard fatality. But years ago Southwest had a major situation.

A fully loaded 737 with 149 passengers and a flight crew of 5 was destined to land at John Wayne Airport in southern California. The pilot could not get a landing gear down. Man alive that’s a problem!

The pilot thought if he performed some severe and acrobatic stunt maneuvers with the plane he might jar the landing gear loose. It also occurred to him that maybe he should tell the passengers what they were in for.

Over the public address system he said:  “Ladies and gentlemen this is the Captain. We have a problem. We can’t get one of our landing gears down. We’re going to do this! And we’re going to do that! I want you to fasten your seat belts just as tight as you can possibly get them. I want you to pay close attention to the flight crew as they come through the cabin, they’re going to teach you a position and I want to you get in it and stay in it. I also want you to pay attention to those overhead bins. They’re going to come open and things are going to start flying. I want you to hang on! This is going to be a very, very rough ride!”

Now here’s the point. I’ll bet you a million dollars that no one on that plane liked that news! Safe bet? Of course! But I’ll bet you even more money. I’ll bet you ten million that everyone on that plane got through that moment better with that information than they would have without it. Is that a safe bet? You bet your life! Literally!

No one liked what was happening. Everyone was afraid. But everyone on the plane was thrilled to know that the Captain was still alive and that he had not had a heart attack and died, and the plane was not careening out of control into the ground. Everyone was very glad to know that the Captain was in control and as alarming as the situation was, he was doing everything by choice.

That Southwest pilot knew something we all need to learn … especially leaders and managers. People do better with information than without. People solve problems and accept more personal accountability and get better results when they are fully informed. A lot more than when information is handed out through the old military “need to know” basis.

We live in a world of instant communications. Satellites and 24-hour cable and cell phones, Twitter, Facebook and text messaging not only mean we can know everything, now we expect to know everything! If we don’t we assume the worst. We assume the pilot died!

We believe in the absolute essential need for companies to get more information on the table. Information about who we are individually and aggregately. Not in judgment but in comparison to one another. Without objective and reliable information we jump to all the wrong conclusions. You want and need to know. We think that’s good.

Obviously, we think that self- and interpersonal awareness are as critical to success as any other data. Everyone has this awareness.  For most people it is the result of living their lives and adding everyday life to their own mental database (experiences).

There are more objective ways, reliable ways, quantified ways to enhance self- and interpersonal awareness. Personality feedback instruments are among these more objective ways, and we believe The Personal Strengths Inventory available through PSI Enterprise  is among the best.  Our clients testimonials affirm this position.

In any event, the more information people have, the better decisions, the more successful relationships, the greater personal and professional achievement, and the more personal and career satisfaction they will experience.

We think that’s a good thing, and hope our efforts are helpful.

So, don’t initially jump to conclusion that the “pilot died” when life doesn’t live up to your expectations.  Push the limits on gathering as much relevant information as you possibly can, especially about yourself.

Safe landings!