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Are your CFIs ambassadors or plumbers?Are your CFIs ambassadors or plumbers?

Plumbers serve a great function. They keep the water running and the toilets flushing. They make sure the leaks get fixed and the faucets don’t drip. They do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and when they go home they don’t think much about work. They’re done.

Ambassadors, on the other hand, are never done. These are the people who interact with others on a daily basis to build relationships and foster brand loyalty. Their work demands that they have “soft” or “people” skills, with the ability to persuade others to think or behave in certain ways. Ambassadors are never truly off duty, since everything they do or say is a reflection of their employer, wherever they are. Police are ambassadors. So are doctors and elected officials. Are your CFIs ambassadors, always representing your flight school, no matter where they are? Or are they plumbers—people who do a good day’s work but put their job behind them at quitting time?

The aviation business needs ambassadors who wear their professionalism for all to see and promote GA in all they do. Some of the best ambassadors are active in their churches, or do volunteer work, or act as designated driver more than their fair share of the time. Many CFIs put in extra time at the flight school, organizing social activities, lending a hand, or doing other unpaid duties. We know them when we see them. They’re the instructors who greet everyone by name (even other CFIs’ students). They always make time for questions or advice to junior colleagues, and they constantly work to build the kind of team spirit that makes learning and working together fun and rewarding.

Being an ambassador comes naturally to some, while others have to work a little harder at it. Does your school incorporate soft-skills training to give your CFIs the tools they need to transition from plumber to ambassador? A refresher on basic customer service is a great start. So is developing a reasonable dress and language code. Managers can do their bit by recognizing good ambassadorship with an “attaboy (or -girl!)” at meetings or social events, and reminding the team that their interpersonal and team skills become even more important as they climb through the aviation ranks toward corporate, Part 135, or Part 121 career positions.

Not everyone is cut out to be an ambassador, but everyone can improve his or her social skills, at least a little. Your school will benefit by having more satisfied customers, and your CFIs will find their job to be a little more fulfilling. There’s nothing wrong with being a plumber—we need clear pipes. But adding a module on ambassadorship to your CFI training program can make your instructors even better at what they do. And isn’t that why we’re here in the first place?

William Woodbury is a flight instructor and freelance writer in Southern California.

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