Southwest Airlines…Organizational Health Matters

I missed the live Webinar entitled “Organizational Health – A Powerful Advantage” presented by The Table Group.  So I spent yesterday afternoon catching up at Uptown Coffeehouse in my hometown of Howell.

Some people consider the health of an organization a nuance and others would rather just focus on success (profitability, growth, etc.).  But here’s what I know about me; I am passionate about organizational health.  I could study it for hours and converse about it even longer.  Yes…probably boring many/most to tears.

Why the passion?  Maybe it’s  because I have been a part of so many dysfunctional organizations that I’ve watched them tank, stay average, or even fail because they choose to ignore the healthy side of the equation.  They would rather embrace higher levels of politics and confusion and are satisfied with lower morale, high turnover and low productivity.  Yes, those are the issues healthy organizations choose to address.

The Webinar featured a Case Study of Southwest Airlines featuring Jeff Lamb (SVP Administration & Chief People Officer).  Southwest has been the only airline to be profitable (37 years in a row) and if you travel, they provide levels of customer service that no other provider can match.  Mr. Lamb said that the three core values permeate every level of the company:

  • A fun-loving attitude
  • Servant heart
  • Warrior spirit (hard work and perseverance)

Here are some more Not-So-Uselss-Facts from the Case Study:

  • The Southwest commercials always feature real employees of Southwest.  The philosophy is that an actor could not act out the fun-loving attitude of an employee.
  • When they interview pilots, who are typically serious people and often come from military background, they have the pilots don Bermuda shorts in the middle of the interview.  Picture: wing tip shoes, long socks, shirt and tie AND Bermuda shorts.  They find that it weeds out those who say they are fun-loving but in actuality are not.
  • Southwest has not laid off an employee in 39 years.
  • They hire 90% of their employees from within the company.
  • Southwest believes that you hire for attitude and train for skill.
  • He believes that most companies do not commit to or maintain a healthy culture because they do not embrace conflict and/or handle it by not speaking the kind truth.
  • When interviewees fly on an “interview pass” to corporate headquarters and a flight attendant or desk employee notices a poor attitude, they can immediately contact corporate and the person will not be hired.

Maybe, just maybe, organizational health matters!

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This entry was posted in Choose to Learn, Healthy Culture, Organizational Health. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Southwest Airlines…Organizational Health Matters

  1. Mike in Milwaukee says:

    Mark, You couldn’t be more right. Organization slip, fall and fade under daily demands and fail to recognize the need for a health check-up. People matter. And how people are feeling about their company family makes all the difference as to whether the excel or just exhale!

  2. Mark says:

    @Mike – Thanks for weighing in. I appreciated the image of “just exhaling” and have experienced that image in the form of sighs, exasperation, or frustration (anger). These are all signs of simply surviving, at best.

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