Published on: August 3, 2021
by Michael Sansolo
There are some things that improve with age, such as wine, certain cheeses and, I’m told, wisdom for some people. Bad news however will never make that list; it never gets better, only more annoying.
I got a powerful lesson in the importance of communicating even bad news recently. Like many people I am not spending much time on airplanes these days, yet somehow one of the few flights I have taken recently arrived two hours late and, at one point, landed in the wrong airport.
You never heard about it on the news nor did you see videos of passengers and the crew getting into screaming matches as seems to happen far too often this days. Rather, the crew on my flight was greeted with thanks and applause and it was all due to communication.
What happened was this. As my flight neared Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, DC, the pilot made a startling announcement. The airport was being pounded by a powerful storm and, as the pilot told us, the winds were beyond the tolerance for our small-sized regional jet. With that said, we began to circle the area for about 30 minutes.
At that point the pilot announced worse news. The storm was growing and moving toward us. To avoid the winds we were going to head northeast and land at Marshall Baltimore-Washington Airport, 45 miles away from our destination. It also was not where I'd left my car.
Off we flew and we landed safely.
Once on the ground, the crew announced that we would stay until the storm passed National Airport, would take on some fuel, and would fly to our destination, which we finally did.
It was at that point that all of us starting thanking the crew for ensuring we landed in one piece.
The story reminded me about the importance of communication. By clearly telling us what was going on the crew kept us informed and made it clear that our delay, while inconvenient, was clearly the prudent course of action. Frankly, I had no complaint as I kind of like landing alive.
I think the notion of clear and complete communication has never been more important. Like many of you I am absorbing the current news about Covid with a mix of annoyance and dread. It seems apparent that the Delta Variant is a big problem and that means there’s a good chance that all the progress of the fast few months will be fleeting. We may soon be back in masks and even lockdowns.
And let’s keep in mind that Delta is not the last letter in the Greek alphabet and that the novel coronavirus will continue to mutate until it seems, it exhausts the supply of unvaccinated hosts.
What’s more there are already inklings that the supply chain is about to experience another shock, with growing reports of Covid-related shutdowns in Southeast Asia, where many common consumer products originate. Ergo, we might be looking at shortages again.
And that’s why we need communicate. If products are in short supply because of Covid, drought conditions in farm country or the latest round of e-coli related food safety problems, explain what’s happening to your shoppers. They may not be any happier, but at least they might understand why some products are missing or why masks are needed while shopping. It might even convince them that you place high value on their safety.
Remember, bad news never improves with time.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.
And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.