Recently I flew into Wellington in the middle of a literal sh#tstorm. All I can say is – thank you, thank you, thank you – to the Air New Zealand pilots (and crew) who not only landed the plane but kept us informed and updated.

It was a shocker of a landing. Even before descending, some poor guy was throwing up a few rows down, and the young woman beside me had white knuckles from holding on tightly to the armrest. She looked terrified. While I did my best to keep her calm, I have to admit, I was scared too…

If you live in Wellington you know that landing is often a white-knuckle event. You kind of get used to being tossed around in the air, but feeling the plane swing violently from side to side when you hit the tarmac (at great speed) is truly terrifying, especially if you’re seated in the tail of the aircraft. (Note to self, do not skip seat select in future).

I feel ever so grateful, not just for the pilots’ remarkable landing skills, but for keeping everyone updated about what to expect next.

There are many things leaders need to be (and of course competent is definitely one of them!), but excellent communication ranks right up there for me! It comes from the heart.

Being told what was happening (as it was happening and what to expect) by a pilot simultaneously trying to land a huge aircraft in the middle of ‘said sh#tstorm’ – is really rather impressive.

As humans, we fear not knowing and uncertainty more than just about anything, especially when we have no control over our circumstances. Being a passenger in a plane being thrown around is definitely one of those times. You literally have no control whatsoever.

Never underestimate the impact of a few well-chosen words to inform and comfort people, because if people are not kept informed, they’ll start coming up with their own conclusions.

And because we’re designed to fear the worst, it’s easy to imagine all sorts of doom and gloom eventuating, which probably won’t (like the plane going down in flames!).

I’ve seen first-hand what happens when leaders avoid delivering a difficult message because they fear how people might react. But not keeping people informed is the worst thing you can do as a leader, and incredibly detrimental to workplace culture.

Effective communication made a huge difference on that particular flight, and on safe arrival (in true Wellington tradition) the pilots received a well-deserved round of applause from the passengers.