Are your words cleared for takeoff?

Something rare happened on an Air Canada flight the other day. I was returning from a conference in Toronto to raise money for a Women’s Leadership Centre in Africa (see earlier blog).

A lot of people were milling around the departure area when a disembodied voice announced a gate change. Not unusual, I hear you say. We trudged off to the new gate. Another disembodied voice told us ‘the equipment’ was being changed. Again, not unusual. We settled in for a lengthy delay. Still nothing new.

On board, we had another 15 minute delay. Then an announcement from the captain – and this is where it was different and refreshing.

“We’re late,” he said.

He paused and continued, “I’m sorry.”

Another pause: “The good news is we have a better plane. We’ll get you to Halifax as soon as we can.”

There was a murmur of appreciation from my fellow-passengers when he finished. I’m sure we’d all been expecting the usual jargon-laden apologies for unavoidable delays.

Instead he simply said “I’m sorry.” It rang true and it was all we needed. His simple honest words built trust. (And he was just as effective in French).

Remember, you are always cleared for takeoff with short, clear sentences and simple, sincere words.

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