Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
United Airlines is making more money than Death, after he's disposed of Conquest, Famine and War, his three sibling Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
This despite the fact that its brand has become the byword for beating up passengers till the blood flows
and generally being as pleasant as a colonoscopy in a market square.
In the end, we have little choice about the airlines we fly. We also have little choice about how we're treated, as many airline employees have hovered on the fringes of dictatorship.
Their bosses put them in that position. It's clear, too, that one or two employees really don't like the job anymore.
Given all this, you might think that you have nothing to learn from United, other than how not to be.
However, United CEO Oscar Muñoz appeared on CNBC
and said something quite moving about leadership. Specifically about rules.
The airlines have gone out of their way not only to stick to rulebooks, but also to assault their passengers with them.
Muñoz, however, appears to have enjoyed a one-way flight to Damascus and changed his name to Paul.
For when asked about money -- did I mention this was CNBC? -- he turned to talk about other things. Specifically, the need to be a little more flexible toward human beings.
He acknowledged that United had rigid rules. Then, in a blinding flash, he added: " They don't have to be rules
It's odd how often companies have a rule book that they treat as some sort of Bible. Please, you won't meet too many people who actually agree on what the Bible says or really means.
Being bound by rules, therefore, makes for infernal pain. Especially when you're in a service business. (Airlines are still nominally
How many times have you become loyal to a brand or service when an employee has stepped outside the literal rulebook to give you a little more. Not necessarily as an indulgence, but because it simply made common sense?
It's the difference between a flight attendant believing you when you say you have got to go to the bathroom, even though the plane might take off in a few minutes and the one who alerts the captain -- who then takes the plane back to the gate in order to throw you off
Muñoz said that instead of being called rules, "they can be policies or procedures that can be adapted for the moment."
If you can't apply some sort of common sense to your business, how can you expect your employees to be anything other than uncomfortable robots who emit all the welcoming air of a skunk in a perfume store?
Too often with airlines, the sensible thing is jettisoned in favor of the senseless, cruel, asinine thing.
How odd it would be if Muñoz's words actually translated into an identifiable improvement in United's service.
Did I hear you say: "Fat chance."?