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Expand Your Influence: How London Heathrow Airport Plays Offense

I realize it's been a while since many of us have traveled, but let's take a trip down memory lane, as the insights below can help us overcome our current adversities in business, and life.

While I was with the Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute, we were training the leadership team at a major airline when we heard a story about how lost baggage got solved at London’s Heathrow Airport. Our eyes opened wide—our ears perked up. Many of us have unfortunately experienced this pain. The baggage carousel is slowing down, most on our flight have already left the airport, and we’re left searching with no hope in sight. The inconveniences of life and business become reality. We then do what any sane person would do—storm into the lost baggage office!

The manager of Heathrow’s baggage department described their team and role as the “face of failure for the organization.” Sad, but true. Their jobs were designed to meet customers in their worst moment.

What they did differently at Heathrow was chase the storm before it could fully form. As the baggage carousel was slowing, they would send an agent from behind the desk to connect with the waiting customers. Nothing special or scripted, just small talk about whether it was their first visit to London or recommendations on where to visit.

By creating this human connection, it didn’t change the outcome of the situation. The baggage was either lost or it wasn’t—but it did diffuse the tension and anger of their customers, so they could now calmly walk over to the lost baggage office to troubleshoot the issue.

In the upcoming exercise of Applying the Playbook, we’re about to explore the Control and Influence Model. Here’s what this experience would look like from the lens of mindset and action.

Other Airports

Control: Nothing - the baggage is lost.

Influence: Nothing - the baggage is lost.

Can't Control: Everything - the baggage is lost - just pray!


Control: Our attitudes, our reactions, and how we show up—let’s do what we can

Influence: Let’s play offense by sending a gate agent to the carousel, building connection, and diffusing the situation.

Can't Control: We can’t control whether the baggage is lost; let’s do our best to not lose a customer for life.

Same situation, same dilemma—perhaps it leads to the same outcome, but yet it feels drastically different. Applying this model, you realize that your sphere of influence expands greatly when you troubleshoot what was previously perceived as uncontrollable to become something you can influence.

We all have our version of a “lost baggage problem” in business and in life— something we believe we have no control over. If we do nothing, we lack grit and throw our hands up, giving up hope. If we tackle the storm head on, we build resilience to know we can do more about this situation than we previously thought, and prepare ourselves for the next piece of baggage.

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