Making The Connection: The Argument For Being There

a group of people in the shape of a plane

I sat my daughter down with her mother recently to show both of them a video.  I told my daughter, “You might be bored for part of this, but give me 13 minutes.”  As a parent of a teenager and one younger child, patience is something that can be in short supply.  But, she’s generally a good kid.  So, she stuck out the 13 minutes.

I first met Maya Leibman 6 or 7 years ago at an industry event.  I had been assigned to make sure that she got from her car to the panels we had her speaking on and then back to her car in a timely manner.  I was the one amongst us that had the most experience flying American Airlines and Maya was then the head of AAdvantage, American Airlines’ loyalty program.

By the time the event was over, Maya told me and the others, “I know who you guys are.  You’re the ones who took apart your mom’s toasters to figure out how they worked.”  Maya wasn’t wrong then.  Now, the Chief Information Officer for American, Maya makes the argument for human connection in a recent talk that’s worth the 13 minutes:


The Argument For Connection

Maya makes the argument about an office concept that can help foster communication. But, she’s really talking about connections.  It’s why, more often than not (and probably more often than others), if you and I are friends or business associates, you’ll find me on the other end of your phone.  Or, I might just show up in your office or living room.  Human connection is so important.  It’s why I frequently eschew an e-mail to actually pick up the phone and find out how someone is actually doing.

Many of my friends comment on how I’m one of the few people who picks up the phone to call them nowadays.  I get it.  We’re all busy.  But, those connections are so important to me.  And, I hope they are to each of you.

Remember my daughter?  Well, our teenager made it through the whole video.  She commented in the beginning that the video was a bit boring (sorry, Maya).  But, an interesting thing happened.  13 minutes later, she turned to smile at me, “that WAS good.”  Side note: sometimes parents are right.

The Final Two Pennies

I was happy to come across the video on View From the Wing recently.  As with most things right now, I’m running a bit behind on my travel reading.  I would have missed it if not for Gary flagging it in his post.

If we’re friends or business associates, don’t be surprised if your phone rings and it’s me on the other end.  Pick it up, let’s connect, even if you only have a few minutes.

One last note on Maya, and her innate ability to make that connection.  Last year, I made my way to Dallas to visit Maya in her office.  I was there for other meetings and she had managed to find a few minutes on her schedule to catch up.  I was grateful.  In true Maya fashion, she asked me, “What can American be doing better?  Where are other airlines succeeding?”

I enjoy a spirited conversation about the airlines and what they can do better.  But, I had a goal that day.  As a parent, I’m constantly looking for ways to motivate our children.  That includes finding positive role models.  I want my daughter to know that she can do or be anything she wants.  What better example than one of the highest ranked female executives at a major airline, an industry traditionally dominated by male figures?

Maya had been the feature of a Wall Street Journal article.  I brought a copy with me that day.  In true, nerdy dad fashion, I asked Maya if she would autograph it for my daughter. You see, I’d told my daughter about Maya as one of many examples that she can be anything she wants.  Maya obliged, taking the article and a marker from me.  She stopped for a minute, thinking.  In keeping with her character, I suspect she was thinking what she could write to a teenage girl she’d never met that would satisfy her dad’s wish of helping that girl realize her full potential.  A quick scribble and it was time for Maya to get to her next meeting.  That brief moment she took out of her day did make an impression on my daughter.

It was also a connection.  I have no doubt it was one of many Maya would make that day.

a close up of a newspaper

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  1. In a era when birthday cards are replaced by e-cards, and notes to family and friends are replaced by emails, this is a very good article to share for business as well as personal reasons.

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