How do you respond when things go wrong?

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I travel for work – a lot.

In fact, I travel so often that certain flight attendants greet me by name when I check in at the American Airlines desk in Nashville!  I had an usually early flight this past week due to some unusual weather conditions.  To give you the whole picture, my flight was scheduled to leave at 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon to Grand Rapids, MI via Chicago.  I got to the airport at 2:45 p.m. to check in–only to see my flight was delayed (not unusual these days with all the crazy weather).  While standing in line, it got delayed again … And by the time I checked in, the flight was grounded until further notice due to strong winds and thunderstorms.  My good friend and business partner Ron Marks always says, “It’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground.”  Amen!

Long story short, I missed any hope of a connection so booked myself on the first flight out Thursday morning at 5 a.m. Yes, 5 a.m, which means I was at the airport checking at 3:50 a.m. on Thursday.  Lo and behold, I got to the airport and my flight was delayed – again!  This time not due to weather but mandated rest for the crew.  Which, I am totally fine with… I want a well rested pilot. We board at 6 a.m., now missing my initial connection.  While on the phone with AA Exec Platinum desk the next connection gets me to Grand Rapids in time for me to miss my scheduled prospect meeting with our local market manager.

Don’t worry… It gets better!

While on the runway about to head out we get an announcement that due to an incoming storm we are now grounded and need to deplane. Perfect!  Off the plane I go.  Now, I head up to the Admirals Club to get additional assistance only to learn any all other potential flights in alternative connecting cities are booked full (we checked Atlanta, Detroit and Dallas- all full.)  My option was to fly to one of these cities and fly standby.  I think not at this point.

During all this commotion the same gentleman I was sitting next to on the plane (that didn’t take off) is beside me trying to find an alternate route as well.  Karen, the most awesome Admirals Club team member, is working on 2 computers and the phone to find me a flight. No luck.  We finally have to cancel all my flights and I have to cancel 3 prospect meetings, 1 client presentation and 1.5 precious days with our market manager in Grand Rapids. Note, it took us over 2 months to find open dates to do this trip.

When Karen hands me my refund coupon she says “I am so sorry, AJ.”  I simply respond with “Please, don’t be sorry. This isn’t your fault.  You don’t control the weather. I am just happy to be safe and now I can go home and take a nap.”  I say with a tired laugh and a big smile.  We then say goodbye and I am walking out the door when the gentleman next to me says “I don’t want to be weird, but what’s your name?”  He comes over to introduce himself and hands me his card.  We chat for a few minutes and then he gives me the best compliment I can remember as he says “I just couldn’t help but notice how you handled yourself with so many complications. I had to come over and commend you and introduce myself.”  Turns out this lovely gent is a local speaker (as myself) and the next thing you know we are swapping information and planning a coffee meeting sometime soon.

I share this story for 3 reasons:

  1. You control your attitude. Only you can control how you act and react to things that happen around you
  2. You win business by being more concerned about the other person than you are yourself
  3. People notice … They noticed things, actions, words, people… They notice what you do and don’t do and what you say and you don’t say
    I may have never met Steve under other situations, we probably would not have chatted on the airplane as I had already plugged in my headphones and was in podcast mode but because he noticed me I have a new connection in the works.

People notice!

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