Permission to Bend and Break

Take a few minutes to watch this video below. I don’t want to argue the merits of charging any citizen (let alone those putting their lives on the line for us) for extra bags – that’s for another blog (although, I think it’s the stupidest thing under our sun). But this might very well be the best video you could share with your employees when preparing them to be good critical thinkers. Whether you’re in the service, retail, manufacturing, high-technology [insert your favorite] industry…empowering your employees (and giving them permission) to think critically on the fly is maybe the single most important thing you can do to protect your brand, your customers, and your people. Dispense with your tired old learning and training courses that merely teach your employees what the rules are. Understanding process and protocol is one thing – being able to apply them given the circumstances in a way that supports the broader mission and vision of your organization is another entirely. Encourage them and teach them (yes teach them) to bend and to break those rules even if if means they’ll have to answer for it. Reward them for doing so – and tell every one in the organization about it. There’s a reason we haven’t moved quickly to deploy robots in place of our living and breathing employees: we (most of  us) are uniquely qualified to apply logic, emotion, and judgment to the matter at hand. Although after this debacle, Delta Airlines might very well want to think about more self-service kiosks at its check-in counters.

(Unfortunately Youtube disabled the embedding feature on this video, so you’ll have to click on the image and follow it to the original posted to the site)

Important Note: I am not suggesting you all go out and Boycott Delta…that is NOT the point of this post.  I don’t think the mistakes of few should penalize the many. But the call to boycott (which has now gone viral) reinforces the risks of not empowering your employees to bend and break the rules in the (better) interests of the company.

Image Credit: Randy Son of Robert

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  • Susan LaPorte

    The problem seems to be that Delta employees do not know their jobs. They were incapable of finding out what the military contract said. They are like horses with blinders on who only repeat a script and carry on. You really would not want THEM to arbitrarily decide whether to charge or not. What you need is educated employees or at lease a computer program that would tell them what to do. They should not have the power to make a decision off the top of their sometimes empty heads that could negatively affect my travel plans. Should they let one passenger take more and then tell the next that they cannot just because they liked the way you looked? And, it might also be helpful if all the agents, at least in the US spoke English! Boycotting and putting them out of business will not solve the problem. It will only cause more chaos. Or, is that the agenda of some?

  • https://hrfishbowl.com Charlie

    @susan – even if they didn’t quite understand the rules or couldn’t “find the rules,” they might have applied critical thinking, sound judgment, and averted this entire situation. the problem is we program our employees to rely too heavily on what the computer says or what the rulebook says. and an employee that is “educated” with the wrong education – or only part of the picture – is still going to make mistakes. they need to be empowered to jump outside of their education and apply logic, humanism, compassion, judgment if so warranted – screw what the computer says. obviously that requires boundaries and checks and balances. but i think there are some simple things employers can do to make it more about the right behaviors…not the right rules. Not sure i understand your comment about “all the agents…[speaking] English.” i’ve never in all my years travelling – and the hundreds of thousands of miles i’ve logged – run into a counter agent that didn’t speak english – whether in the US or globally.

    and again, to be clear, i explicitly state this isn’t about boycotting delta. i, like you, don’t believe that will accomplish anything productive.

  • Doug Allen

    The point is that we empower people to apply “Best Practices” to doing what is right. Corporate thinking and what we consider our political savvy (as leaders) has overshadowed our effective and efficient ability to build exceptional moving and shaking companies.

    Here is the point as written in the article;

    Whether you’re in the service, retail, manufacturing, high-technology [insert your favourite] industry…empowering your employees (and giving them permission) to think critically on the fly is maybe the single most important thing you can do to protect your brand, your customers, and your people. Dispense with your tired old learning and training courses that merely teach your employees what the rules are.

    end quote;
    If you do 95% of your job as a leader fantastic and you neglect to stand behind your front line “MANAGERS” and their staff when they are doing what’s right for the company. You lose, the company loses and chances are you will lose a great leader in your team.
    It’s not always easy to do what’s right, but it’s always right.