Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Trust — and I Need to Learn When to Keep My Big Mouth Shut

was invited to attend a conference called Culture Is Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage by FranklinCovey, which I attended yesterday — and that is especially important within the airline industry, which has had to deal with a clash of cultures as the result of mergers and acquisition in recent years.

There were some similes involving travel — such as the oxygen mask example: how you are instructed by members of the flight crew or the safety video to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others put on their oxygen masks, which became a metaphor during this conference used to build trust with others by extending your trust. It is a metaphor I have used myself in relation to life over the years as I have traveled. When leaders extend trust to others, others tend to generally reciprocate.

Also brought up as an example was how people had lost a significant amount of trust in traveling via airplane after the terror attacks which occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and that the Transportation Security Administration was created to build trust back into the system with the perception of more security when traveling.

I know what you are thinking. No, I did not want to be contradictory — I kept my mouth shut. No one had time for that; and besides, I already had my own little experience where I perhaps should have kept my big mouth shut.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

After I arrived for the conference and settled into my seat at the table, I hear a person walking nearby doing a sound check: “Testing one, two, three. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” He then turned to someone else and told her that “it is a way of saying all of the consonants.”

“Actually, that phrase uses all of the letters of the alphabet,” I chimed in, thinking I was being helpful with that little bit of trivia. “It was originally used in the printing industry by designers who wanted to choose a typeface and see all of the letters to help with their decisions.” The classic phrase is actually still used today for typography on the Internet as well as in print — simply select a typeface here for an example — and many Internet web sites which deal with typefaces now allow you to be able to type in any word or phrase you like in the process of selecting a typeface to use or to purchase.

“Thank you, Brian” he said as he smiled, looked at my name tag and reached out to shake my hand.

“You’re welcome,” I replied as I stood up, shaking his hand. “What is your name?”

“Stephen Covey.”

My face must have turned the same shade of red as my shirt at that moment. Here I was, correcting one of the three main speakers of the seminars and the co-founder and global practice leader of the company. I initially could not tell if he was grateful for my input or was just being polite and not wanting me to know what he was really thinking of me; but we did have a nice brief discussion immediately afterwards just the same.

The State of Trust in Commercial Aviation

After his presentation of trust — much of it was a refresher for me as I already know many parts of it, as some materials published by FranklinCovey were used both during my matriculation while earning my Master of Business Administration degree as well as for my certification as a managerial coach for both teams and individuals — I approached Stephen M. R. Covey and started to briefly discuss the airline industry.

“Hi, Stephen. ‘Quick brown fox’ here again. May I please ask for a moment of your time?”

He graciously obliged, again with a smile.

I expressed my thoughts and knowledge of the commercial aviation industry these days: that airlines are posting record revenues and profits without regard to the day when they may possibly need the loyalty of frequent fliers once again; where frequent fliers are either notified of changes immediately prior to implementing them — or worse, having those policies become effective with no warning at all; and the specific situation involving the allegedly involuntary removal of Jeff Smisek from the role of chief executive officer of United Airlines.

“Am I wrong?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. “You are right.” He went on to say briefly about how the airlines should value the trust their customers have in them for the day that they might really depend on it when the economy falters.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
The panel of speakers from left to right: Shawn Moon, Chris McChesney, Kory Kogon and Stephen M. R. Covey. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Knowing that he was busy with the seminars — and that there were two other speakers who were about to present their topics on culture — I asked him for his business card rather than attempt to conduct an informal interview on the spot, with a request for quotes or a possible interview with him in the future pertaining to his opinion of the state of commercial aviation and trust, as I had been loosely doing a series of articles based on trust, leadership, and maintaining perspective and adjusting expectations. He agreed and handed me his business card. I am hoping to have his thoughts and perspective included in future articles at The Gate, as he has studied and given seminars on the principles of trust — as well as the fact that a financial value can be attached to it.


As I personally believe that trust is a vital key component in conducting business in general, I intend to continue to write about trust and culture as related to the travel industry in future articles based on the topics presented at the seminars at the conference I attended — especially as I keep reading and hearing about frequent fliers whose trust in companies in the travel industry has either eroded or disappeared completely…

…and your experience with trust in the travel industry is always welcome. More importantly, your trust in what I write is critical to me — and I hope to have earned it in order for The Gate to be “the world’s most trusted ‘blog’.”

By the way, Randy Petersen — who is the founder of BoardingArea — still occasionally teases me about that article…

Photograph of Stephen M. R. Covey ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Bonus: A Story Gone Wrong

told a few people about my aforementioned initial encounter with Stephen M. R. Covey — who is the son of the late Stephen R. Covey who wrote the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — but here is the description of one discussion in particular which tended to emulate the infamous Who’s On First? routine performed by the late comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello:

“Guess what happened to me today?” I said about my semi-embarrassing experience.


“Have you ever heard of FranklinCovey?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, this is what happened,” I said, relating my initial and unintentional introduction to Stephen M. R. Covey at the conference I attended, stating that he is the son of the late author.

“You mean Franklin?”

“Who?!?” I answered, stunned.

“Franklin Covey. Didn’t you say he died?”

“No. Stephen Covey was the person who died.”

“Then how could you have met him today if he died?”

“Franklin Covey is not his father. Stephen Covey is his father.”

“Steven Covey is Franklin’s father?”

“No — Stephen Covey is the son of his father, also named Stephen Covey.”

“…so what about Franklin Covey?”

“FranklinCovey is a company — not a person.”

“Oh” was the reply as the person sported a look which was simultaneously half confused and half disinterested.

“Thanks a lot for ruining what was supposed to be a story with some levity. You killed it. It was supposed to make you laugh.”

“I should laugh because someone died?!?”

It was at that moment that I realized just how nicely my face fit in the palm of my hand…

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