By Rose Bentley
It wasn’t British Airways fault that the snow fell last Saturday. And they weren’t solely to blame for the anaphylactic chaos at Heathrow. But for those of us who were caught up in it all, it was a ringside opportunity to experience a brand totally out of kilter with its promise.
Let’s start with that BA promise: To Fly To Serve. What does that mean to its people?
Not much to one BA steward who chatted to us during the hours we sat on the tarmac as the plane kept missing its slots. He shrugged and said that yeah, Management had done something with the brand but it didn’t mean anything to him: ‘ We just get on with it don’t we?’
Not by the BA ground staff who patronized us all as we were herded back through Terminal 5 when the flight was finally cancelled, aghast that we might want some more information rather than a vague wave towards the hotel bus. Or the ones who greeted us the next morning at Terminal 5 and replied to our questions with “No one tells us anything”.
And certainly not by the pilot of our second plane – which left 5 hours late and sat another two hours on the tarmac before take off – whose parting words as we landed at our destination were: “ It’s been a difficult time for all of us – especially for the crew. I hope all of you will agree that British Airways has fulfilled its contractual obligations to you.”
If BA had been true to its brand, that 36 hours could have played out so differently. I would not have reached my destination any sooner or less frustrated but my loyalty to BA would have strengthened thanks to a better experience.
But it didn’t. To Fly to Serve is not a promise, it’s a strapline. Its people don’t live by it, its consumers make a joke out of it.
That’s bad for the brand. Which means that’s bad for business.
By Rose Bentley
Few of us have problems talking to new people at parties, meeting friends of friends or connecting to people with more than two degrees of separation on Facebook. So why are so many of us uncomfortable with doing this at work?
Networking is fundamental to our working lives: just as the lines between work and personal have become blurred, so are the lines between doing your day job and growing your business. Yet many of us hold back from getting out and doing it: a discomfort with coming across as salesy, a worry that we will say something stupid or, worse, ‘off brand’ with the company we work for.
Well, I can dispel all three myths: firstly networking is not about selling it’s about making connections: making friends and maybe eventually (or tomorrow) influencing them or being influenced by them. Secondly, if you are meeting someone for the first time, then they are also meeting you for the first time. We are all interesting if we are first interested. In other words, it’s not about you it’s about them. And finally, people are meeting you, not your business, and if you talk about what you do it’s best to talk about it in a way that feels natural to you, rather than recite the company’s elevator pitch (the quickest way to clear the room).
Why not start with who you know already and work from there: at a Wolff Olins workshop earlier this week I asked everyone to spend a few minutes writing down 10 people who could be useful contacts: not just potential clients, but people who might be great information providers, potential recruits or referees. It look most people less than 90 seconds to create their list, and another 5 minutes to think up good reasons to re-connect with them without feeling forced or uncomfortable.
And as for meeting new people to add to your network – and conferences are usually ripe territory for this – there are some useful things to remember which should make the process painless.
You really will get more out of it. If you go in with a card-collecting agenda it is likely to colour the way you behave and prevent you from making a connection with people. As long as you remember to pick up a delegate list you can afford to relax, as you can then always look people up later
Listen and respond to what is being said
By concentrating too hard on what you are going to say next you could miss useful signals from those you are talking to.
All connections are worthwhile
Go with a positive mindset. The person in the coffee queue with you may not be a potential client now or ever, but they could be a valuable connection (as could you to them).
Treat others as you would like to be treated
If a conversation is really going nowhere, try bringing others into the group or introduce your companion to someone else before making a polite excuse to leave.
People like to work with people they like. And it all starts with a conversation.