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United Breaks Guitars Mon 20 Jul 09

Leadership Is More Important Than Ever In Tough Times

Broken guitar paul j sI've been out of touch for much of the past 2 weeks dealing with a family emergency and then a strategy meeting at work so I know this is old news but I couldn't help but comment.  It seems that Canadian musician Dave Carroll was traveling from Halifax to Nebraska on United Airlines and observed baggage handlers throwing his guitar around and ended up with a broken guitar.  

United being United basically didn't seem to care and wouldn't do anything about it.  However,  Carroll not willing to take apathy for an answer put his musical talents to work and wrote a song about it and made a music video on YouTube.  The song is really quite good and the video has had over 3.2 million views so far.   Here is the video:

Apparently someone with a least a minimal amount of common sense at United has now contacted Carroll and offered compensation, which he has declined and suggested it be given to charity instead.

As United found out, "word-of-mouth" stories have a lot of impact especially if it is not flattering.  Being a troubled company in a troubled industry with an already horrible reputation having 3.2 million customers now think of "United Breaks Guitars" every time they see your name is not a good thing.

United obviously has a leadership problem -- leadership in their management, leadership in their unions and employees who are not willing to show leadership by simply doing the right thing.

This type of situation is easy to get into when things start going bad.  Cut backs in spending, pay cuts, layoffs can really poison the workplace atmosphere.  As leaders it is up to us to keep people motivated, informed and focused on the task.  Other airlines have many of the same problems that United is facing but many are doing better because everyone wants to make things better and to succeed - together.

So enjoy the video and before you laugh about the schmucks at United ask yourself - does my IT department "break guitars"?  If the answer is yes you better figure out what you're going to do about it.

What do you think is the best way to turn around attitude and improve morale in a situation like this?

"Broken Guitar (5 of 7)" photo by Paul J. S. 

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