Knowing How They Feel

It was the late 1940s. Eastern Airline’s chair, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, had a problem. Customers were complaining because the airline was mishandling luggage far too often. When nothing else seemed to work, he decided to take drastic action. 

Rickenbacker called a special meeting of the management personnel in Miami. Eastern’s management flew to Miami and was told their baggage would be delivered to their hotel rooms. It wasn’t. Instead, Rickenbacker had the luggage stored overnight.

It was a hot and humid summer and the muggy hotel had no air-conditioning. Various corporate managers showed up to the meeting the next morning unshaven, teeth unbrushed and wearing dirty and wrinkled clothes.

There was no sign of the baggage all that day. But it was delivered that night, at 3:00 a.m., with a loud pounding on hotel room doors.

Rickenbacker opened the next morning’s session by saying, “Now you know how the customer feels when you mishandle his luggage.” He knew his team would be ineffective until his people learned to empathize with their customers. 

Psychiatrist Karl Menninger put it like this: “It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one.” That is why Rickenbacker wanted his employees, starting with his management team, to experience what it is like to be hooked.

When we understand another’s problem, we will be more effective in business and personal relationships. And if we’re ever hooked ourselves and someone who “gets it” reaches out to help, something wonderful is likely to happen.

And so, we pray: Father, many times it seems like we just skip through life not really seeing or caring how other people feel – what they are going through. Help us to see their real need – have empathy for where they are and what they feel – really feel. Only then can we change our skippy attitude to one that kneels down to lift up the hand of someone in need. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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