So this is great. My day started out pretty uneventfully: wake up, shower, cab, pre-check, admirals club, fly, admirals club, fl… almost. As I waited to take off on an American Eagle flight from ATL to LGA it got interesting; a woman in the back with a questionable child restraining device experienced a [probably not] fleeting moment of stupid. It began pretty benignly. The flight attendants, as I imagine protocol would dictate, consulted the manual – and later an FAA rep – to determine whether the booster seat was compliant. A brief investigation followed several careful readings of the handbook before the final decision was made. I can’t be sure of the official safety seat verdict, but during the course of events the lady grabbed one of the investigating agents. The team briefly huddled to discuss, then asked her to deplane. Naturally the lady chose to stand her ground. By my count three separate people asked her to follow them off the plane. The fourth and final request established a two minute warning and a call to the Atlanta Police Department.
I can’t imagine what was going on in this woman’s mind. Other than making me late, what could she have possibly expected to accomplish? The whole plane remained quite; everyone just sat there rolling their eyes and waiting for it all to sort out. The only sounds were the tearful wails of the woman’s son. He alone seemed to grasp the gravity of what was going down. After a quick briefing on the jetbridge two well armed (in both senses of the word) policemen boarded the plane and politely escorted the woman off. I found the conclusion pretty anti-climatic. After a half a dozen “no’s,” some quality white knuckle obstinance, and 15 minutes of pleading tears to her right, I really expected – and frankly hoped for – some literal kicking and screaming!
As we waited in line to take off, I started thinking about sticking to your guns. Against certain opponents and on select grounds your principles are never worth the battle – for the outcome, by design, can’t go your way; any altercation, no matter how benign, inside the sterile area of an airport is pretty much guaranteed to leave you grounded and possibly in handcuffs. Yet this woman clung to per position anyway and it reminded me of some salesmen I work with who, seem equally keen to ignore reality as they push forward. So what is it that makes us disregard our prospects stop signs? Why do we get so consumed with our own agenda that we miss an opportunity to detour onto a road leading to a better outcome?
I’m inclined to blame quotas, but since that’s not a circumstance this audience is likely to get away from any time soon, let’s consider other possibilities. Say: scripts, smartasses, and static solutions. When we become so convinced we know the outcome of the conversation before it commences, we become the lady on the plane – blindly fighting a battle we can’t win. Remember it’s the customers who deviate from the script that keep the job interesting; you can behave like an expert without chaining yourself to the “expert” path.
So this week, listen up. Sure *most* of the time your client’s problems aren’t original, but unexpected roadblocks arise, detours happen, and – if you’re lucky – a customer will inspire you to innovate as much as your product enables them to do so. When we hear the first request and reroute accordingly, we won’t just keep [pipeline] traffic moving as scheduled, we’ll keep ourselves out of [quota] jail.