If you’ve ever flown the Delta Shuttle between New York City, Boston, and/or Washington D.C., you’ll find that it caters to the corporate leaders and business travelers. You know the ones: a cell phone for work glued to their right ear, another phone hanging on their hip for home use and a third in their $500 Tumi carry on bag for direct access to Dieter, their personal trainer. I’ve never seen so many navy blue suits, white shirts and ties in my life as I awaited my turn to board.
As I eventually eased into my seat and waited for takeoff, typical cell exchanges went like this:
From seat 16B: “Right. We’re gonna need 30,000 more units for this client.”
Seat 12D: “I figure we can help them get to $1.6 billion in revenue by the end of the year.”
And 13F: “Dieter, du bist der beste Trainer der Welt.” (Dieter, you are the best trainer in the world.)
It’s all business on these flights from beginning to end. No “Hello’s,” no “Excuse me’s,” no “Do you mind if I put my bag up here on top of your neatly folded suit jacket so that I can wrinkle it beyond all recognition?” And speaking of recognition, I imagined what I might hear if I asked any of these CEO’s and jet-setters surrounding me how they recognize and appreciate their people: “What? Recognition? Yeah, whatever. I recognize them every two weeks in their paycheck.”
Well, I love being proved wrong. At the end of the short flight as the tires hit the tarmac, the flight attendant went through her usual greeting and announcements as we taxied to our gate. Then she added this: “And finally, we would like to recognize one of our flight attendants who has been with Delta for thirty-one years. This is her final flight and we would like to wish her the best and let her know how much we appreciate her years of great service.” The reaction? First applause. Then rousing applause. Then buzzer-beater applause. In that brief moment, this simple announcement touched everyone’s heart, especially these self-proclaimed titans of industry. What a response and what a great moment.
Appropriate employee recognition can happen anywhere. Delta showed how appreciation can be given at any time and proved that when it’s done right, recognition can be memorable and meaningful. And corporate leaders who we might judge to be cold or unwilling may actually be just excited to participate.
Let’s go and do likewise. Praise anywhere and anytime. And, of course, make sure your tray tables and seat backs in the upright and locked position.