A Tale of Two Trips – Communication Can Be the Difference

My family and I took a marvelous seven-day cruise recently, from New York to Florida and the Bahamas. A week later, out of curiosity, I was following the progress of our same ship with the same itinerary. Different weather.

On January 4th, a “bomb cyclone” hit the eastern seaboard. The week before, it was smooth sailing. The week after, the ship steamed right through the storm. The good news: the ship arrived safely to port with no reported injuries. The bad news: the perilous trip made the evening news, along with video footage from incensed passengers. The biggest complaint? No communication from the bridge for two days of very tough cruising, except for cryptic announcements about how they were experiencing “rough seas.” One passenger’s response: “No crap!! I could see that!”

Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. Why didn’t they wait the storm out in the Bahamas? Why didn’t they cut the trip short? But the biggest question is: why didn’t the captain talk to the passengers about his plan for arriving safely and relatively on time in NYC?

Communication is critical in leadership. As a leader, if you don’t communicate your strategy or plan, doubts creep in and misery can ensue. People might assume that no communication equals no plan or no good outcome. Many passengers expressed grave concern about their overall safety to the news media. A shame really, since the captain, in an onboard promo video said what made him happy was, “Getting the ship, crew and passengers home safely.”

With 5,000 souls on board, the captain’s first job is to do just that – get everyone home safely. The captain’s second job, some might argue, is to communicate the plan to get everyone home safely to inspire confidence and ease doubts. This doesn’t mean total transparency. Leaders need to judge what information is helpful to their team. Job number one is critical. Job number two is critical for good business: it keeps everyone coming back for more.

Part of me wished that I was on that second trip for the sheer adventure. High seas, flooding cabins, breaking glass. The dramatic tension of not knowing if you’ll get through the storm alive. The rest of me thanks the heavens that my family and I experienced the first trip. Home safe and sound and on time – just like the second trip.

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