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Do They Think We Are Stupid?

These are the words of a representative who works in one of the airport lounges for a major airline. The lounge is a place where business travelers pay to get some quiet time and an internet connection between flights. As frequent travelers, many of them understand the challenges of flying, and know how to handle a delay. I myself was in such a situation today. I asked this nice lady where a certain plane was coming from and when it would arrive. She typed a request for the data into her computer, but it wouldn’t reveal the information. I inquired about a different flight; again, her computer refused the request. I had no choice but to surrender to a three-hour delay because I could get no information on possible alternatives. At that point, frustrated with the process, she said, “Do they think we’re stupid?”

She went on, “It certainly seems that way. I can’t get you the information you need. We get a lot of training here. There are many rules and regulations we need to follow for safety, but we are always doing something different. Not necessarily better, but always different.

The other day, I went to training in the training room. (We couldn’t use our own computers.) This training had to do with luggage and hazardous materials. We clicked on a piece of luggage and then would attempt to drag it onto the airplane on the screen. If it was permitted, then it would go on the plan; if it was not permitted, it would not go on the plane. I felt like I was watching my five-year-old grandson play a computer game!

I don’t know who comes up with this stuff, but it was insulting and demeaning. They don’t want us to really know anything!”

I have seen similar situations in my consulting, so I can guess as to how the video training idea came about: some executive, who is out of touch with what really happens on the front lines, tells some Instructional Design person to “come up with something” for his staff. The problem is that the exec doesn’t know what his people need to know or what new factors in the market now affect his business and the designer doesn’t understand the business, or the people. Thus, click-and-drag suitcases, which help no one.

Leaders make decisions that impact the entire company. To make smart decisions, they need to understand what is happening in their company and the world around their company. When the boss stays in his office and is out of touch with his employees, he can’t get the information he needs to make intelligent, informed decisions. And if his decision is a poor one, he’s isolated from feedback that could alert him to the need for a change.

My question to you is, “Are you in touch with your people?” You are? Great! How do you know? You might think you are in touch, but you have many other issues to focus on. There may be important, even urgent, matters that require your attention. But keep in mind: Your people are most important asset. Yeah, it’s one of the biggest clichés in business. But it’s big for a reason—it’s been proven true, time and time again. The few minutes you’ll spend face-to-face talking, listening, and understanding what your team has to say may yield your most valuable input.

Here is the test for you: Open up your Daytimer or Outlook (or whatever scheduling tool you use) and determine what percentage of your time is dedicated directly to your people over the course of the day or the week. Chances are it’s an embarrassingly low number. Double it. See what you learn. Then, if you can, double it again. You don’t want your employees wasting time playing mindless video games. Neither do they.

Wally Adamchik is President of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting. Visit the website at www.beaFireStarter.com. He can be reached at 919-673-9499 or wally@beaFireStarter.com.

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