How to Treat Your Flight Crew

May 3, 2021

My daughter recently got recruited away from her old company for a much more attractive opportunity. Pay and benefits were, expectedly, much better, but two other factors were equally important in her decision to leave. She had quickly risen to run the design department, and there was no one in her area of expertise that she could learn from. She wanted to acquire more excellent skills and continue to grow but had topped out in that environment.

The other important factor was the way senior management treated the company's employees. When she was first promoted and had other team members reporting to her, we had long discussions about how to treat those you lead and why those aspects were important. There were times when her (our) leadership philosophies were not aligned with those of senior management. While she had a fair amount of autonomy in the artistic arena with her group, she felt uncomfortable with some broader management actions that negatively affected all employees, including her team.

Moving On

When she announced that she would be leaving, two unexpected things occurred. Senior management asked her to stay for a period to help recruit and train her replacement. The company's standard policy was to immediately dismiss employees who were leaving and escort them to the door, which was her expectation.

The other surprise was her group and other employees she typically reacted with took her out to a farewell lunch. I told her both actions indicated the respect and admiration that both her team and senior management had for her talent and leadership, and she should rightfully be proud.

How To Do It

Here are some of the key things we discussed as she took her first leadership position:

  1. Treat all your folks with dignity and respect. Usually a 'no-brainer,' but you might be surprised at the number of people who are placed in a position of authority and take the attitude, "I'm the boss of you, and you have to do what I say." While technically accurate, this attitude won't build a sense of loyalty or a desire to follow your lead.
  2. Train them so they can be good at what they do, understanding that the more you invest in them, the better it is for you.
  3. Communicate with them and let them know where you are leading them and why. Remember, communication is a two-way street, so allow your folks to be heard. Then listen to them because often, they'll have something important to say.
  4. Let them make decisions because that's how they grow and develop judgment. Yes, they'll sometimes make mistakes, but if they follow the 3Rs (trying to do the Right thing, for the Right reason, and in the Right way), protect them. Mistakes can be the best learning experience they'll ever have.
  5. Recognize them for what they do, privately and publicly, and emphasize how significant their contributions are to the overall mission.
  6. Reward them for performance, and it's not just about money. Often sincere appreciation for their positive efforts' can have an even more significant effect.
  7. Don't micro-manage them. Be clear about what you need and when you need it. Ensure that they have the capacity and capability to deliver, and then get out of the way and let them do their job.

Granted, this list of ways to be good to the people you lead is non-exhaustive but is a good start and will often bring positive and sometimes unexpected results.

The reactions of senior management and her fellow employees when she announced her leaving means she is learning well. Learning, and leadership go hand in hand.

A Quote To Consider!

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

--John F. Kennedy