While sitting on a plane waiting to taxi to the runway, a heavy thunderstorm erupted over the airport. With the pouring rain, gusty winds and strong lightning, it was only a matter of time. Yes, the pilot came on the pa system and said, "We are shutting the engines down until the storm blows over." Forty five minutes later the storm is still a menace and now there are no less than 30 planes waiting to take off when the storm actually clears. The collective mood among the passengers was simply "arrrrggghhhhhhhhhh!"
The lone flight attendant had helped ease the frustration by passing out cups of water, but when the announcement about the 30 planes awaiting takeoff was made, the warm thoughts about the free water was forgotten. The flight attendant, not willing to allow the mood to become hostile, started passing out biscoff cookies-not just one pack, but two or even three. The mood quickly lightened. I overheard the attendant tell a passenger, "These are our emergency cookies. It had not been long enough to really justify using them, but I didn't want to wait. Give this guy a raise!
When change is hard, it's easy for people to lose sight of factors that are out of everyone's control (like the weather) and to develop negative attitudes. Good leaders know they need to pass out some "emergency cookies" quickly or people can become even less cooperative as the change progresses. Examples of some cookies we can use to help soothe ill feelings caused by the storms of change include:
Acknowledging that the change is difficult but reminding them of how they have persevered through worse situations in the past
Creating opportunities for people to laugh and relax. You may have to spend a few dollars (cookies cost money) but it's an investment in improving their morale and willingness to stay the course.
Have as many personal conversations as possible. People have different needs they sense you sincerely care about their anxiety if you at least listen to them as individuals.
Bend the rules but be clear about your reasoning. You don't want to train people that when things get hard in a change that they can simply violate company policy or standards, but if you give a sensible rationale about your actions, most people will not expect it to become a habit.
Our flight arrived about midnight. When we touched down, many of the passengers clapped and as we disembarked, you should have heard the accolades given to the flight attendant. Amazing what a few emergency cookies can do.