By Steve Moran

I am a little bit obsessed with my dislike of American Airlines and confess a certain level of delight every time they stumble. And, because they are so clueless about fixing their culture, they are always good for an article or two a year.

Their Management Philosophy

Their management philosophy is to see both customers and team members as enemies to be fleeced. Do as little for your team members as you can, treat them as badly as you can get away with. It is no different with passengers. Never help a passenger out with a waived fee or fixing a problem. This, of course, crashes into the customer experience. The only way for team members to “get at management” is to treat customers badly and this happens so often. You can see it in customer reviews. You can see it in the stock price, which is down 30% in the last year versus Delta, which is up 30%.


And, they keep doubling down on the same strategy hoping for different results. According to a story at the website “One Mile At A Time”, they have started a new program called “American Champions” where employees are expected to, on their own time, become brand ambassadors for the company.

According to this article “only 26% of employees agreed with the statement that “leaders at American Airlines make the right decisions that take care of our frontline team members.”

And doubling down on that, they have gone to an every-other-year survey process supplemented with annual pulse checks.

Not As Bad As American

Senior living is not anywhere near as bad as American Airlines, I am convinced of that, but too often:

  • We keep doing the same old thing hoping for better results and it simply never works.
  • We think programs are the way to fix problems. I am not suggesting that programs and initiatives should be abandoned, but they almost always fall short of expectations.
  • It is easy to blame external factors for our problems when we have the power to fix them. For senior living, those current externals include cost and availability of labor and excess inventory.

All in This Together

What American misses, and I worry too often senior living misses, is that when we approach what we do with a “we are all in this together” attitude magic starts to happen. Residents know you have to make a profit (or margin in the case of not-for-profits) in order to serve them well. Team members know you want to pay them more but you can only pay them so much. Both residents and team members will reward you in ways that seem almost unimaginable when they feel loved and valued.

Something that American seems to have completely missed.