Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance and other books on leadership and change, developed the Energy Bar™ as a free tool to help people in organizations get their ideas across in ways that get people committed and engaged. RickRick has advised leaders from many countries on ways to apply this new tool successfully.


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United Airlines and Bad Energy

 We were about to run a feel-good post about New Zealand Air. But, all I can think about today is United Airlines and the head-shaking disdain I have for how they removed a passenger from a plane. And, for their ham-handed approach to the follow-up.

Jimmy Kimmel Spoofs United AirlinesThe CEO made three public statements about this mess. Each seemed to try to make up for the weakness of the preceding comment. And, I heard that he sent a separate message to employees telling them that they did nothing wrong because they followed guidelines.

Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was on CNN this morning. He said that 70 percent of air traffic in and out of Newark is on United. He went on to say that he gets lots of complaints about how United treats its customers.   

While he was talking, CNN ran a continuous loop showing people dragging the passenger off the plane.

Last night, the late night comics had a field day with United. One even joked that they could have bought each of the four passengers their own jet and still not lost as much as they did when their stocks dropped over $200 Million.

I pay attention to energy. I will assume that the reports I hear and read about are true. If so, here are some things we can learn from this mess:


  • Take responsibility for mistakes.

  • Apologize personally and profoundly when you make a big mistake. (United should have apologized to the passenger who was evicted and to everyone on that flight.)

  • Let the public and the employees know that policies and practices need to change so that employees are encouraged to use their own best judgment. (It’s hard for me to believe that at least some members of the United staff didn’t think of a better way of getting another volunteer to get off the plane.. For instance, I heard that employees could have offered up to $!300 to someone who would volunteer to take a later flight. They stopped their offers at $800. Why? And why put a cap on what you can offer. Given all the attention United has received (and the dip in their stock), $2000 wouldn’t have been too much to pay.

The event and reaction to it just feeds a belief that, as Governor Christie put it, “United puts the customer last.”  United may not learn from this event, but we can.