Every once in a while, one is fortunate enough to experience something that if not life-changing, certainly provides new perspectives, generates original thinking and creates refreshing variations on presumed and comfortable old themes. When one further exploits these opportunities, one can extract, mine and quarry those experiences, distill them, learn from them and apply them to our lives, both professional and personal. I have just emerged from such an experience and will share some of the applications that I have distilled from those experiences with you.
I was recently contracted to provide intensive training and coaching for advanced negotiation techniques to business and government leaders in China and Indonesia. This was my very first trip to Asia and I was determined to go with a very open and curious mind.
Upon arriving at the Cathay Pacific check-in line at LAX, I noticed that things were being done differently to what had become my accepted norm. There was no check-in attendant shouting “next please” to indicate they were ready to process the next passenger. Instead, the attendant stepped out from behind his check-in station to come forward to greet me and escort me to the counter. All this was done with a gentle demeanor and softness of speech. He attended to me with great courtesy and impressive efficiency. Once my check-in was complete, my travel documents were returned to me with both his hands in a deliberate and respectful manner, (a practice that occurred consistently throughout my travels in China and Southeast Asia). I understood this to mean “Your passport represents you and as such I will treat it and you with respect!”
Once seated in the Cathay Pacific waiting area, I noticed another contrast to my usual and all-too-common domestic travel. I suddenly realized that my auditory senses were not being subjected to the constant and unrelenting assault of commands being barked at me over the public address system, whether or not those commands pertained to my flight. Instead, there was a Cathay Pacific attendant quietly walking around the waiting area with a placard informing us that rows 50-70 were now boarding. I could actually have an uninterrupted conversation over my mobile phone. With this low technological boarding procedure, they were able to board a B777-300ER inside of 20 minutes!
Upon arriving in Beijing after a flight of impeccable service, conspicuous by its absence was again no bombardment of airline capos issuing merciless orders over the loudspeakers. Instead, the most beautiful classical music was being piped in across all the airport concourses. At the gate, an attractive young Chinese woman was waiting for me who had just the right connections to rush me through passport control, customs and baggage claim. She was no government agent or high official, but merely a representative of the limousine service contracted by the hotel. She then escorted me into a VIP tunnel under the airport to a waiting black Mercedes Benz SL500, engine running and driver waiting to load my baggage into the trunk. From the time the airplane stopped at the gate until I was safely in the waiting car having cleared passport control, baggage retrieval and customs was 17.5 minutes.