Have You Been Shown the Door?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Been There, Done That - Have You Been Shown the Door?

Forward: The purpose of my musings in my Been There, Done That blog, have been to share industry experiences that we don’t often discuss, but we may think about all the time: our careers, our pride or hubris, our loyalties, our desires to do good things and failing just the same, and our undying love for this profession. I think about things that have happened to me and my friends in the past 38 years that I’ve been in the business. I feel moved today – moved to discuss a subject about which I am all too familiar. It’s like a plague and it comes in waves just like accidents. Good people who I admire, trust and aspire to be like, are getting let go. It’s been like this since the beginning of our industry. Due to the stigma of failure felt when being forced out (termination for no cause, forced resignations, or seeking friendly waters before we really want to), we may never truly know how many people in our industry have been in this situation or darn close to it. I’m willing to bet it’s a big number.

What’s a sailor know about sailing who’s never been through a storm?

This is a subject that we just don’t talk about. We all fear that folks will think the worst of us, hurt our reputations, and the less we talk about it the better. We just sweep it under the rug. With my tongue firmly rooted in my cheek, I say to you that there’s not an airport manager worth a damn that’s not been shown the door once or twice during their career. (I count myself among this number.) In many ways airport mangers are just like taildragger pilots – There’s them that’s ground looped, and them’s that’s fixin’ to.

Today I am moved to discuss a topic and a sad badge of honor for the airport professional, who has been discharged or forced out of jobs they love. In a way, my last two blogs, Is The Grass Greener (Is it time to move) and Who’s Airport Is It Anyway (about the prideful airport manager who takes far too much ownership in their operation) are build ups to this one, and I intended to write it much later as a capstone to my blogs this year, but recent events and the discharge of a number of my friends recently have adjusted my timing with this piece.

I’m not talking about discharge for true cause; that is inexcusable and nothing to be romanticized. I’ve seen a number of my peers make stupid, selfish moves that have gotten them fired, or at the worst, in prison. What we’re discussing today is the well-intended, hard-working professional that gets caught in the crossfire. It’s easy to impact someone else’s life, as long as yours is left alone. It happens in many professions – I see this with city managers, school superintendents and even clergy, to name a few. Many times it’s the messenger that gets killed, not the culprit, and the civil servant heading up such an organization has a big red ”X” on his/her back. We are easy pickings as a convenient scapegoat to end an unfavorable situation, even if we had little or nothing to do with it or were working under direction. Politics are mostly ugly and favor those in power, but most egregiously, they are subjective. Politics by committee are worse still - group psychology can be so cruel and someone’s always stirring the pot. Ever hear the phrase, “God so loved the world that he didn’t send a Committee”? Ring any bells?

The purpose of this blog is to shout out to you that have been discharged, or could be in the future, that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. What’s devastating today, is but a memory in five years’ time and there’s every reason to believe that you will be better off, more prepared, and your career will have advanced in ways you didn’t anticipate at the time of dismissal. We’ve all been there - or our best friend has. Learn to Fail Forward. I have. Eighteenth century Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith is quoted as saying that, “Success consists of getting up one more time than you fall.” You CAN turn failure into success! I can personally attest that things do tend to work out for the better and in mysterious ways. Keep the faith. Keep your chin up and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Lincoln died a hated man, and yet today he is revered as one of our greatest presidents. Give it some time. It will ease your wounds. Some of us worry about what people will think of us after we’ve experienced something like this. I know I used to, but a wise person once told me: everybody’s worried about themselves, no one has time to think about you. Believe it, it’s true.

If you are a good airport manager your peers and the industry will know this and you will be presented with many opportunities for redemption and upward mobility. I’ve failed forward a number of times in my career and have been blessed with a diverse and rich portfolio of airport experiences and you can, too.

And remember, the good seaman weathers the storm he cannot avoid, and avoids the storm he cannot weather. Now, go out there with faith in your abilities and know that if the storm overtakes you, you can Fail Forward!

Contact Peter Van Pelt, National Aviation Director, directly: pvanpelt@ksaeng.com