Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Captain with the Card

Written by: on November 20, 2013

I was feeling pretty good about myself.  There were 16 of us on our way to Los Angeles for a conference on diversity.  16 pastors and leaders from our church traveling to learn more about how to minister in changing social environments – and I was the only one flying first-class!

The leg of the flight from Chicago to LA was over 4 hours and because of my frequent flyer status, I was upgraded to first-class.  I had been dreaming about how I would be eating fine foods and drinking fine wine while my colleagues were mired in economy, subsisting on water and unpleasantness.  A very selfish dream yes, but I am human!

Then our flight was canceled!  By the time we had all been processed onto another flight, my first-class seat had turned into exactly what I had thought of earlier – a dream.  Now I was cramped in economy, drinking water and thinking unpleasant thougths.  To pass the time, I began reading Open Leadership by Charlene Li.

In this book, social technology and the openness it provides for interaction is examined.  I am the unofficial Social Media champion at our church and constantly trying to encourage others of the importance and potential of social media, so I was anxious about what I would be reading, and was intrigued to learn the various ways of bringing an organization stronger ROI results.

That’s when I received the business card.  A flight attendant walked down the aisle, looked at me and questioned, Mr. Smart?  “Yes” I replied.  “I have a note from the captain for you” she said.  On the captain’s business card she handed me, was a hand written note that thanked me for flying United, “even when days don’t work out like they did today,” and he wished me a great day.

Now, I’m not naïve.  I know that my name was generated by a computer system that recognizes those with a certain flight status who have been bumped from first to economy class.  He might not have even written the note – but it changed my day and my attitude during the flight.

Li states that using the openness opportunities that our new social technologies bring can add benefits to an organization.  She speaks of open forums, contacts and places where non-employees can add value to whatever you do, at less cost.  Information is king as long as it’s consistent.  She says we can change minds with customer voices.

I know this to be true.  Members in our church joke that those in my department (which encompasses Compassion and Visitation) are “paid” to care. That’s partly true and I see how the customer, when allowed a voice in an open environment, has a much greater influence.  She comments that we need to “tap into the emotional power of stories.”  Each quarter we schedule a “Glocal” Encounter (Global and Local) in which we talk about missions, share an international meal and generally inform our members about KCC’s mission efforts.  The first few I taught were fine.  But when I began allowing those that had gone on missions trips to share their stories, a voice in an open environment, it was transformational.

Li says that when we relinquish control there are dangers.  And yes, many times those short-term trippers shared things theologically incorrect or a philosophy of missions that I don’t agree with.  But the bottom line, or ROI, is always much better and productive and missions grows.

Which brings me back to the captain’s business card……………..

I’m sure someone in United’s organization has done a Socialgraphic Profile of Frequent Flyers and following the engagement pyramid, have deduced that when something happens like happened to me, then a signed note is in order to restore confidence, and that it has to be from the highest person of importance on the airplane.

If that’s their strategy, it worked.   Charlene Li would have been impressed!

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Phil Smart

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