Chick-fil-A Leadercast 2010 Re-Post: Ed Bastian

Posted: April 3, 2011 in Change Leadership, Chick-fil-A Leadercast, GiANT IMPACT, Leadership, Uncategorized
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As the date for this year’s Chick-fil-A Leadercast approaches in a couple of months I am re-posting some of the previous years highlights to provide a taste of what you might expect at this year’s event.





Ed Bastian President of Delta Air Lines

Delta’s Near Death Experience

  • Delta came within a few days of closing doors.
  • We made lots of poor decisions along the way to this day of reckoning.
  • There lots of denials of the facts of the true situation we were in.
  • The company was made up of 50K people at that time.
  • We had to come to realization that we were not going to make it without a massive change.

The #1 thing we did to turn things around was to reconnect with the people of Delta Airlines!

  • If you take care of your employees your employees will take care of you.
  • We got away from taking care of our employees and this was a fundamental reason that we fell.
  • We have a history of dedicated employees, 20 years ago our employees gave us a plane. This showed their dedication and love for their company, but we eventually turned our backs on these people for a period of time.
  • We made an intentional effort to reconnect with all 50,000 employees in a personal way. We had each one of them come to Atlanta over a period of time where they met with the CEO or another high level executive to hear directly from top leadership the real story.
  • We admitted to each one them that came through the meetings that “We Screwed UP!”
  • This what they wanted to hear, they already knew it, they just wanted to hear us admit it and acknowledge that we knew it. This admission of fault made leadership accountable to organization and helped to begin process of regaining credibility.
  • The US Airways takeover attempt united the company and helped Delta rally to successfully turn around the company. It became a pivotal moment in the history of the company as it provided a much-needed rally point for everyone in organization.
  • Our biggest challenge was with our pilots, the pilots lost a lot.
  • We came within 24 hours of a strike, but we decided to put our swords down and fly together. This was a crystallizing moment in the turnaround of our company.
  • We communicated to the employees that if we could get through the economic downturn without a layoff that it would be a huge turning point for our return as a viable company. We did make it through without laying off any of our front line employees during one of the worst economic times our industry has ever known.

How do you handle setbacks and turmoil?

  • You must first realize that there are more things within your control than out of your control.
  • Make a decision that you are going to play offense not defense.
  • You must be flexible.
  • What you make of setbacks and turmoil will make all the difference in the world as to whether of not you successfully navigate through it.

People underestimate the actual control they have during turbulent times.

  • Most organizations are slow to admitting the actual facts/reality of their situation during down times. This delay in recognizing the reality of the situation delays the process of making the right decisions to navigate through these difficult times.

What have you learned by being involved in non-business activities like Habitat for Humanity?

  • Good companies do good things
  • It is our responsibility to give back to our communities.
  • All Delta leaders are involved in some type of service activity outside of work.
  • Helps me keep my head on straight. Service=Humility
  • Great team building exercises to work on these projects together.
  • Builds morale and employee ownership in mission of company.

Many younger employees come to us worried about the next job, climbing the ladder of success. My advice to you is to worry about doing your current job in an excellent way, that is the best path to your next job.

Most important job is the one you have right now!

What is best advice you got from a mentor?

  • If you are going to succeed in life surround yourself with great people, successful people, people who are much smarter than you. Surround yourself with people who are smarter, look different, think differently and who can look at situation and come up with different solutions, look around the corners and see things you can’t see yourself. This is cornerstone of being successful in life and business.
  • You need to be a perpetual optimist. You need to have unwavering faith in your ability and your teams ability to get the job done successfully. This is contagious in your organization. Your organization will take on the personality of the leader over time. It will either be a positive outlook or it will be a negative outlook. Which will it be for your organization?

I challenge you to Inspire your people!!


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