United Airlines to revamp scheduling to fight flight delays

CHICAGO (Reuters) – United Airlines plans to change the way it schedules flights and to use new technology to tackle the delays and cancellations that have hurt its competitiveness, company executives told Reuters.

Milit-Air bondholders gear up to defend their rights

For those who like a good scrap over bondholder rights, mark down Sept. 8.

In the Montreal offices of Norton Rise Fulbright Canada LLP, owners of bonds issued by Milit-Air Inc. more than a dozen years ago, are expected to vent their frustration about a recent change in events.

Milit-Air is a special purpose, not-for-profit federal corporation formed in 1998 to operate the NATO flying program in Canada (NFTC.) The structure allowed the company to become a standalone, off-balance sheet item for the federal government.

In 1998 it raised $720 million of AAA-debt capital at 5.75 per cent via a private placement, and in 2002 a further $106 million AAA-rated debt at 5.87 per cent. The bonds are trading at a healthy premium.

Under the program — where Milit-Air trains pilots from Canada and five NATO countries — Bombardier was given overall responsibility for “the furnishing of assets, infrastructure and services in support of the training of the pilots.” In turn, it’s paid tuition fees by Ottawa.

The structure was set up to allow Milt-Air to acquire certain assets required for the program, primarily planes and flight simulators, and lease the assets to Bombardier. In January, Bombardier reached a “definitive agreement” to sell the services agreement to a unit of CAE Inc. for $19.8 million.

The Montreal meeting has been called to allow the bondholders a vote on changing the trust indenture to allow the sale. Because the bonds were amortizing, the amount outstanding is lower than the amount issued. About $263.4 million worth of bonds are affected.

And at least one bondholder, Vern Kakoschke, the president of Toronto-headquartered KF Capital, has made his objections known.

“Who is looking out for the interests of the bond holders?” he asked, noting his views “are shares by other institutional holders.”

“The reality is the sale may put the bondholders in a worse position than they were before,” he said. In the circular, Milit-Air expressed its belief the proposed transaction does “not adversely affect the corporation and its bondholders.”

Perhaps, but Milit-Air wants a parental guarantee from CAE, given that the buyer is a CAE subsidiary. Such a guarantee wasn’t required with the original contract because it was signed with Bombardier.

Kakoschke begs to differ from what Milit-Air says in the circular. For instance, he argues that Milit-Air has given CAE a “weak endorsement” given its view that it has “no reason to believe” that CAE wouldn’t be a suitable replacement. He also wonders how much due diligence Milit-Air did on what the deal means for bondholders.

How wide did Bombardier cast the net for potential buyers for its military flight training business, Kakoschke asks. (The original contract was sole-sourced.) The bond holder argues that a number of U.S. and Canadian companies could have provided the requisite services. “The fair thing would have been for the crown to run a competition to find an operator for the program,” he added.

Bombardier told the world that the division was sold in January. Calls were placed with the company seeking comments on whether an announcement was made about the impending sale and how many potential buyers were sought. A company spokesperson said “that information is confidential.”

Robert Booth, Milit-Air’s chief executive said CAE, best known for its flight simulators’ business, is in the business of military training because “they provide the simulator for the NFTC program.”


The Perils of Our ‘On-Call’ Work Culture

In my work as an executive coach and keynote, clients and audience members frequently talk about their lack of “downtime.” Even when they are home, there is rarely a sense of relief from work.

In a recent investigation, researchers were curious about how being “on-call” affected various health indicators. Studying a group of shift workers provided an ideal opportunity to see whether those who were on-call reported significantly more issues than their off-call counterparts.

Results suggested this was in fact the case. On-call workers reported poorer sleep patterns, which is significant considering the links between sleep and our overall well-being and performance. Research shows that people who do not get sufficient sleep are at a greater risk for physical health problems, such as obesity and poor immune system functioning.

Sleep also affects our capacity to learn and interferes with our memory. Not surprisingly, lack of sleep has been found to decrease our levels of performance. It also compromises our ability to make good decisions, control our emotions and negatively impacts how we respond to and cope with change.

Another key finding was that on-call employees needed significantly more recovery time. This relationship was especially pronounced when there were other issues, such as poor mental or physical health, or work-life balance challenges. Recovery time has been linked to numerous important health outcomes, including absenteeism.

What struck me most about the research was the overall conclusion “the mere possibility of being called heightens the need for recovery.” The unpredictability of whether or not someone will be called contributes to the observed negative outcomes. People are essentially constantly vigilant, searching their environment (e.g., smartphones) for threats. Not surprisingly, this can lead to feelings of exhaustion, as employees never feel fully detached from work.

Although most people may argue they are not shift workers, there is certainly overlap when it comes to the sense of being “on-call.” People are generally in constant contact with the office, as most bring their smartphones home at the end of the day. When people send emails in the evening, it is not uncommon to receive (and even expect) a reply.

This reality makes an interesting parallel to the aforementioned research. When bringing our smartphones home with us, are we not essentially “on-call?” In this similar situation, executives could face similar challenges as shift workers.

The sense of being “on-call” is further reinforced by the lack of conversation about how we manage our smartphones. When I ask clients about the expectations of smartphone use after hours, my question is usually met with some discomfort. Most people tell me there has never been a formal discussion about it. People are reluctant to address it with their superiors for fear the subject will not be well-received or that they will be perceived as not being fully committed to their work

Even well-meaning and employee-centered leaders can unknowingly contribute to the problem. Recently I had a conversation with an executive about smartphones seeming to be a source of significant stress and overwork. As she was agreeing with this assessment, I asked her how this issue had been dealt with and communicated within her team.

She told me how often she discusses the importance of maintaining a work-life balance with her team members and that they know how much she cares about them. She said that while she routinely responds to email after hours, her employees surely know that they are not expected to do the same.

Out of curiosity, I asked her whether she had specifically talked to her employees about her expectations for their smartphone use outside of the office. She said she had not, as she believed that the discussions about work-life balance were sufficient for her employees to understand her expectations.

I asked her to step back and consider whether her employees were interpreting her messages in the way she intended. In other words, did she feel that there may be mixed messages going on here? She paused for a moment and said “I never thought of it that way.” Upon reflection, she could see how even though she talked about the importance of maintaining a work-life balance, she was not following her own advice. So, in the absence of specific direction, it was very possible that her team would be following her lead.

I encouraged her to initiate a conversation with her team and openly share these expectations and field any questions. When we talked again, she was amazed at the discussion that ensued. Because of how much they respected her, the team struggled with how they should handle after-hours emails. They were concerned about asking her, as they did not want her to think she was ‘not a nice boss’ or was unclear in her direction. The downside was this miscommunication continued to exist. When faced with conflicting messages, they decided to follow her lead (i.e. be constantly available) rather than risk making the wrong choice and be reprimanded for their unresponsiveness.

Final thoughts

It seems that being “on-call” is a constant reality in our society. We are continually stretched with multiple and competing demands. This invariably takes a toll on us from a psychological and physical perspective.

Nowhere is this challenge more prevalent than at work, where smartphones leave us connected to our offices 24/7. At the same time, this presents a great opportunity for leaders to address a major contributor to their employees feeling overwhelmed. Taking the time to explicitly state your email/smartphone expectations can be invaluable for preserving and even enhancing the well-being of your team. Better yet, take the time to initiate an open discussion about how your team members would prefer to handle these challenges. Fostering a sense of community and providing concrete direction may be the solution to addressing this emerging and serious problem.

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Driving a Culture of Candor in Business (And How My Therapist Helped)

When Lesson.ly was just a four-person company, team candor drove every element of our success. Each member felt comfortable being frank with the others, providing open and honest feedback, even when that feedback risked bruising an ego. What resulted were better decisions, execution, and output. It was contagious. We felt comfortable challenging one another, because we knew one another’s pushing came from a place of love, from the mutual desire to build a great company, and we saw it, time and again, produce outcomes that meekness has never known.

Then we started growing. From four, to five, to eight, to ten. As CEO, this growth scared me in all sorts of ways. Would I be able to deliver the vision I had promised to all of these people? Was I in over my head? What if I do something stupid and mess this all up? That sort of thing. For the most part, I knew these were false fears, so I started writing them down, logging them in Writer in an effort to reveal their illegitimacies. By the time I was done, there were only a few worthwhile fears left on the page, and the one that stuck out to me the most was this: I fear the team will lose its candor.

If we lost that, I thought, we were sunk. Our lovely product would suffer. Resentment would build from one decision to the next. People would not be challenged; people would not grow. Our clients would eventually catch on and start running for the hills.

To be clear, my fears had nothing to do with the team we’d built. These were amazing people. But even amazing people, like the rest of us, tend to be wary of conflict, even if it has good intentions.

So, I talked this whole thing out with my counselor. He took my thoughts a step further, “People have a hard enough time showing appreciation to another’s face, let alone expressing discontent.”

Appreciation is the root of my counselor’s doctrine. He thinks if we show it all day long, it will make everything better. I am oversimplifying here, but that’s the nuts and bolts of it. In his head, showing appreciation is this ever-available, soul-cleansing activity that nobody seems to take advantage of.

So, like he did at the end of all our phone calls (he counsels me from afar), he encouraged me to practice appreciation every day. Be genuine. Be vocal. Build a habit of sharing your gratitude.

Turns out, the guy is on to something. I have never been shy with the team about how much they mean to me, but I began being more deliberate about my feedback. When Aaron did something heroic, I told him that I admired him. When Corey showed his diligence, I told him that I admired him. When Tara jumped into her first job out of college, without fear, I explained that my younger self was not so bold, and that I admired her.

Then Aaron came to me one day and suggested we create “You Art Awesome” cards that the team can share with others when they recognize great work. He’s a quieter soul than I am, so I loved that he was trying to find a way to share his appreciation in the capacity that he was comfortable. So we made those cards, and they look like this:


So this whole thing starts to snowball. People are working together, they are becoming very candid in their appreciation, and you can almost feel this buzz around the office, predicated on shared respect.

My counselor is a genius. While I was sitting there all day wracking my brain, trying to figure out a way to make people feel comfortable enough with one another to give open and honest feedback, I should have been showing appreciation. Because, as it happens, appreciation goes farther than making folks feel good. It goes farther than creating a chain reaction of positivity. It also opens the door to other kinds of feedback, the kind that isn’t so positive. The kind that pushes you and makes you better if you’re in the mindset to accept it. And appreciation, I’ve found, drives people to that mindset. When you know the person who is critiquing you appreciates you, you don’t mind when they try to help, even when that help means a big swallow of pride.

Would you believe it if I told you my counselor knows not the first thing about business? I wouldn’t either.

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3 Situations Where Leaders Should Keep Their Mouth Shut

Being a leader can be a daunting task. Everyone on the team expects you to know the answer, and few times can you go an entire day without having to make a critical decision. The toughest part is learning when to speak up, or when you to delegate to someone else. Finding the perfect balance is one of the toughest parts of leadership.

For most first time leaders, it seems that the default is to make a decision even if you don’t know the answer. Unfortunately, when leaders approach the problem this way it leads to serious consequences. From my own experience, I’ve learned one of the most important parts of being a great leader is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Below, I’ll highlight three situations where as the leader you should not speak up but shut up. Use these tips to keep your sanity, hold your team together, and be an effective leader.

1. When your team gets in dumb arguments

Studies have shown that humans have a limited number of effective decisions they can make in a single day. Once the number is exceeded, we start to get off our A game. Orders are given without proper thought, emotion clouds logical thinking, and we rush to make a final decision.

To prevent this from happening, make sure to avoid dumb arguments that your team brings to you. Examples include things outside of the business or who should be able to pick which lunch spot everyone goes to on a certain day. These things are not fundamental to the success of your startup. Unfortunately, everyone wants to go to the leader when they need something done no matter how small it is.

When this happens to you, don’t be afraid to keep your mouth shut and walk away. You’ll quickly find out that when you walk away, the argument magically solves itself.

2. When someone needs to vent to you

There are times when team members just need to vent to you. It may be things about their business or their personal life, or they just need a friend to bounce ideas off of.

In these situations, doing less is more. Sit there, listen attentively, and get the other person to talk as much as possible. Too many leaders feel that they need to speak up to solve the problem, but sometimes saying nothing is the right answer. Or if you feel that you must speak, use the five whys rule. Ask why the problem exists and then ask 4 more whys to get to the root of the problem. More questions than answers are a good rule of thumb to follow in these instances.

3. When you don’t know the right answer

If you don’t know the answer to the question, don’t pretend to act like you do. This has been one of the toughest things for me to remember in my own startup. Sometimes, the right answer is saying you don’t know and delegating to another team member. In a startup, these instances should be happening all the time to you.

This is why investors look at the team so closely before investing. When you are lost, do you have the resources on your team to help you get to the right answer? If the answer is no, you need to identify the missing person to get you the right answer. But if you always try to answer everything yourself, you’ll be able to figure out what the problem even is.

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