En Delta y United Airlines, esas dos breves palabras marcarán una gran diferencia para 2021

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Aquí hay una pregunta de liderazgo cortesía de Delta Air Lines y United Airlines. Al liderar un equipo en tiempos difíciles, ¿es mejor irradiar optimismo o volverse realismo?

Describo algo así en mi libro electrónico gratuito. Flying Business Class: 10 reglas para ejecutivos de aerolíneas estadounidenses, sobre lo que los ejecutivos pueden aprender observando las aerolíneas. (Puedes descargarlo aquí.)

Durante los últimos 10 días, hemos tenido la oportunidad de observar a Ed Bastian, director ejecutivo de Delta Air Lines, y a Scott Kirby, director ejecutivo de United Airlines, cada uno adoptando un enfoque retórico significativamente diferente al que estaban prediciendo sobre el camino a seguir en 2021.

Primer Bastian en el delta. Durante la última convocatoria de ganancias de su aerolínea, me impresionó la frecuencia con la que Bastian y su equipo usaron variaciones de palabras como «esperanza», «optimismo» y «confianza» a pesar de los desafíos actuales.

No fui solo yo quien se fue con esa impresión; Muchos análisis y observadores notaron el «tono optimista».

Pero luego, la semana pasada, Kirby tomó el camino opuesto durante la llamada de ganancias de United. Aquí hay un extracto de sus primeras observaciones:

«Desde el comienzo de la crisis, nuestro enfoque ha sido mantener una mirada clara sobre los desafíos y el curso probable de la recuperación. Eso a menudo nos ha hecho parecer más pesimistas y puede que todavía lo sea hoy. Pero ser realistas en lugar de optimista o pesimista «. nos dio una clara ventaja. »

Cuando Ted Reed caracterizó la posición de liderazgo de United en el sitio web de la aerolínea, El tipo de punto: «United dice que la recuperación está llegando, pero no pronto».

Por supuesto, nada de esto es un monolito. Hubo partes de los comentarios de Bastian sobre Delta en las que se mostró menos confiado y hubo partes de los comentarios de Kirby en el United en las que fue un poco más positivo.

«»[W]Tenemos mucha confianza en el largo plazo «, dijo Kirby una vez, enfatizando también esta distinción entre realismo y pesimismo.

En general, sin embargo, parece haber una verdadera dicotomía. Y el valor para nosotros es usarlo como punto de partida para descubrir cómo liderar cuando las perspectivas a corto o incluso a mediano plazo son problemáticas.

Esto se aplica a toda la industria de la aviación. Seguro que habrá problemas. Delta Air Lines perdió $ 9 mil millones en 2021, y Bastian lo llamó «el año más difícil en la historia de Delta». United Airlines perdió $ 7.1 mil millones durante el año.

Y tanto Bastian en Delta como Kirby en United están de acuerdo en que la recuperación real a largo plazo no se materializará hasta que haya una distribución generalizada de vacunas y la gente simplemente se sienta segura de vivir una vida normal.

Parecen tener diferentes proyecciones de cuándo exactamente podríamos llegar a ese punto, pero lo sabremos cuando lo veamos.

No estoy involucrado en Delta ni United. (Quiero decir literalmente: no invierto en la industria de viajes, en parte porque escribo sobre ella con mucha frecuencia). Pero quiero que la industria y las personas que trabajan en ella tengan éxito.

¿Cuál es el enfoque correcto?

  • El optimismo puede reforzarse a sí mismo. Esto significa que las personas que creen en un resultado optimista pueden ser más capaces de lograrlo.
  • Sin embargo, la confianza es el activo más valioso de un líder. Dígale a la gente que las cosas están mejorando y que corre el riesgo de perder esa confianza si en realidad no mejoran.

Este no es un artículo donde encontraremos la respuesta definitiva. Si ese fuera el caso y supiera cuál es el enfoque correcto, podría tener que dejar de escribir y volver a examinar la prohibición de inversión autoimpuesta por la aerolínea.

Pero es una buena pregunta en la que pensar como líder empresarial, tal vez una que cambie según la industria y lo que sepa sobre las personas que dirige.

¿Necesitan las personas de su equipo escuchar que es optimista sobre la próxima fase de la crisis?

¿O necesitan escuchar realismo y saber que usted comprende los desafíos y que está justo donde están gordos o delgados?

Supongo que lo averiguaremos juntos, pero creo que al menos podemos ir tan lejos como para decir que, sea cual sea el camino que elijas, lo harás a sabiendas y a propósito. Incluso si no está seguro de si se requiere realismo u optimismo, al menos debe saber qué actitud está proyectando.

Y tal vez también vea a Kirby y Bastian trabajar en él durante los próximos meses para obtener un poco más de información sobre el mejor enfoque.

(Memoria: Flying Business Class: 10 reglas para ejecutivos de aerolíneas estadounidenses.)

Las opiniones expresadas por los columnistas de Inc.com aquí son las suyas, no las de Inc.com.

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It wasn't just me who walked away with that impression; many analysis and observers noticed the "optimistic tone." 

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But then, last week, during United's earnings call, Kirby took the opposite tack. Here's an excerpt from his initial remarks:

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"From the beginning of the crisis, our approach has been to be clear-eyed about the challenges and likely course of the recovery. That's often made us appear more pessimistic and that's perhaps still true today. But being realistic instead of either optimistic or pessimistic has given us a clear advantage." 

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As Ted Reed characterized United's leadership's attitude on the airline site, The Points Guy: "United says recovery is coming, but not soon."

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Now, of course none of this is a monolith. There were portions of Bastian's Delta remarks when he was less sanguine, and there were portions of Kirby's United remarks when he was a bit more positive.

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"[W]e're very confident in the long term," Kirby said at one point, and he also emphasized that distinction between realism and pessimism.

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But overall, it seems that there's a real dichotomy. And, the value for us is in using it as a jumping off point to explore how to lead when the short-term or even the medium-term outlook is troubling.

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That much is true across the airline industry; it's certainly in trouble. Delta Air Lines lost $9 billion in 2021, and Bastian called it "the toughest year in Delta's history." United Airlines lost $7.1 billion for the year.

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And, both Bastian at Delta and Kirby at United agree that real, long-term recovery won't arrive until there's widespread vaccine distribution, and people simply feel safe going about their normal lives.

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They seem to have different projections on exactly when we might reach that point, but we'll know it when we see it.

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I don't have a stake in either Delta or United. (I mean that literally: I don't invest in the travel industry, partly because I write about it so often.) But I do want the industry and the people who work in it to succeed. 

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So, which is the right approach?

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  • Optimism can become self-reinforcing; meaning that people who believe in an optimistic outcome might be more likely to make it happen.
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  • But, trust is a leader's most valuable commodity. Tell people that things will get better, and you risk losing that trust if they in fact don't improve.

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This isn't an article where we are going to reach the final answer. If it were, and I knew which one was the right approach, I suppose I might have to quit writing, and revisit that self-imposed ban on investing in airlines. 

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But it's an apt question to ponder as a business leader--maybe one that changes based on your industry, and what you know about the people you lead.

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Do the people on your team need to hear you express optimism in order to help get through the next stage of the crisis?

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Or do they need to hear realism, knowing that you understand the challenges, and that you will be standing right there with them come thick or thin?

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I suppose we're going to find out together--but I think we can at least go so far in answering to say that whichever route you choose, do it knowingly and intentionally. Even if you're not sure whether realism or optimism is called for, at least have a handle on which attitude you're projecting. 

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And also, maybe watch as Kirby and Bastian work through it over the next few months, for a bit more insight into the best approach.

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(Reminder: Flying Business Class: 10 Rules for Leaders From the U.S. Airlines.)

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