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Now Boarding: Precious Cargo (Your Team)

“blue airplane interior with seats” by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

As you prepare your team to take a journey to success and fulfillment, it can be helpful to think of their careers as a flight where you are the captain, the flight attendant, and crew.

Boarding Pass

When someone new joins your team, it’s important that they know where they are going, about how long it’s going to take to get there, and any potential detours they may encounter along the way. You can provide them with a solid sense of direction by giving them clear definitions around their role and working with them to establish goals.


Large baggage will be stowed away where you can’t see it but it’s still there. This baggage could be the job that wasn’t a fit, the boss they dreaded, the job where their star rose quickly and fell just as fast.

Carry-ons are easier to see but even then, it’s important not to jam anything into the overhead bins if it doesn’t fit.

Make space, and understand that just like on actual flights, most people keep their most valuable and personal possessions in their carry-on luggage and in the context of what we’re talking about here, this could be their skills, dreams, purpose, and past experiences, both good and bad, with them on their carry on.

Seating Assignments

Everyone, and I mean everyone, on your team should be sitting in first class. That might not be the case when they board other flights in your organization, but this is your plane, and they need to be as close to their captain as possible.

Safety Procedures

It’s important that your team understands the structures and processes that are in place and what the protocol is when there is turbulence.

Just like air travel, while it may seem necessary to go over these procedures regularly, there’s a reason for it.


It should feel routine, almost instinctive, when the unexpected happens so your people know where the exit rows, barf bags, and oxygen masks are located (for our purposes this could mean contingency plans, triage matrixes, and how to escalate issues by pressing that call button when appropriate).


Depending on the airline, amenities can vary, just like the workplace. You need to be able to work with what you’ve got. Remember, no matter the flight, your attitude and the way you respond to issues, challenges, and special requests far outweighs whether or not you’re offering peanuts or mimosas.

Encourage self-care: a pillow and earplugs if they need to unplug and recharge, water to keep hydrated, and of course whatever defines “hot towel” for them. And, as you make your way down the aisle, collecting the wrappers, empty glasses, and other detritus (the bad days and the fallout that can happen), that as you do so, the more garbage you can take out of their way, the more room they have to make great things happen.

Amenities that support productivity are also highly underrated. If your team doesn’t have the basic necessities like WiFi, the latest technology, and effective ways to communicate, the flight can be restless and stressful. Having the right tools to do the job should be an expectation, not the exception.

For some, none of this will be enough. And you are human, just like flight attendants. There will be some passengers who will never be satisfied with what you have to offer and you will not be able to please everyone.


Sometimes people are going to decide they want to board a flight to a different destination. Sometimes this will mean they need to book with an entirely different airline. And sometimes, this might not be their choice, but necessary.

Our job, as managers, is to encourage them and help them reach that destination even if it means that thee only available route is with a different captain. Either way, wish them a bon voyage and send them on their way with best wishes and hopefully a few souvenirs of the skill building, professional development, or other formative experiences you and the rest of your team provided for them.

It’s important to note that some of your passengers will be more nomadic than others and that should be celebrated, not criticized.

Baggage Claim

As you continue on your journey together, there will be times when members of your team need to retrieve their luggage from baggage claim. Some will pack light and might have fit it all into their carry-on. Others will have been traveling much longer and therefore have more baggage, some of them even requiring a cart to push to push the heavy load.

Often, the tradeoff between having a more experienced traveler means more baggage. As a manager, think about how you can move out of the way and make room so they can pull that one heavy bag off the cart. You might also want to help them tag their baggage more effectively so it’s easier to identify and not simply getting lost in a back room somewhere.

Baggage is something that, when carried, can feel heavy in burdensome.

Great managers will help their teams determine other, more inventive ways to keep their baggage with them. For example, they could repurpose it as a vehicle and use the wheels to take them to places they might have been afraid to go before or use it as a shield to avoid packing another heavy suitcase with more of the same baggage.

Friendly Skies

Careers can be tricky to navigate and at the risk of sounding cliché, it really is more about the journey than it is the destination.

What are you doing to help your team have a safe, enjoyable, and productive flight?

Anything you would add to the above list?