Six Lessons in Engagement from Where & When You'd Least Expect It

Not every moment spent traveling over the holidays is awful…just most of them. There’s no denying that any role that deals directly with the public holds challenges and jobs at the airport, particularly during the crush of the holiday season, are the poster child for this kind of reality show. I think that many of us who travel can count on one hand the number of times we’ve seen an airport employee smile.

Last week as I was beginning a long journey home to San Francisco, I arrived at the Richmond, Virginia airport for the first of two flights. I was stressed out and tired when I walked up to the gate area looking a lot like Grumpy Cat. I just wanted to get onboard and start the trip home.

As I was waiting for the call to board, a smiling Delta worker named Angela picked up the microphone and announced to all of us that we were now in her house and she makes the rules. All our ears perked up as she proceeded to tell us the rules.

  • When she says hi, you say hi (and 60+ people in loud voice did indeed say hi back to her).
  • She told us we are going to board in the zones listed on our boarding passes and if we attempted to get in line before our scheduled group, she would publicly embarrass us and send us to the back of the line.
  • If we had more than the allowed two small pieces of hand luggage, she would pick the one she liked best and take it from us and thoroughly enjoy all the contents.
  • We all laughed when she was done. As my zone was called and I made my way up to the front of the line, I handed Angela my boarding pass and said to her, “Thank you for loving your job so much.” She turned to me and said, “You bet I do, can’t wait to get here everyday.”

    As I sat in my seat waiting to take off I laughed to myself and thought well she just schooled me on what engagement is all about. So, here are my six lessons on engagement as taught to me by Angela, the gate agent.

  • Every job, no matter what it may be, is something you can be proud of and passionate about.
  • We all need to take ownership for our job, make it our own and be free to bring personality to the workplace.
  • Take pride in what you do, no matter how menial a task you might be asked to do.
  • It takes more effort to frown than smile, so why waste extra energy.
  • Don’t wait for permission to have fun at work, just do it. It is contagious.
  • We are all CEO’s (Chief Engagement Officers) and we don’t need to rely on others to engage us.
  • I’m so glad I took the time to thank Angela for her engagement. We all need to reinforce this kind of behavior so more of it occurs. Angela’s passion for her work led me to have a much better customer experience than I usually have when flying, particularly during the holidays.

    This engaging experience didn’t make the travel shorter, it was still a 10-hour trip by the time I made it home, but at least my smile stayed with me for the entire journey!