The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

This year I have the pleasure of celebrating 30 years at our LUV Airline. I’ve grown from a Coordinator to an Executive Vice President. I know this happened because of the guidance, support and wisdom of the heartfelt Leaders I’ve had over the years. They invested their time, energy and encouragement, and I believe each of us has the moral responsibility to continue this legacy.

Southwest’s Values are those of care, compassion and grace, but also of direct feedback, honesty and sometimes tough conversations. It shapes the future generation of our Company, and it shaped me! Southwest President Emeritus, Colleen Barrett, taught me tough love and to be comfortable with my sharp edges. That meant how to be assertive, give honest feedback and expect more of myself. In response to being called “emotional,” Colleen once said, “I’m not emotional, I’m passionate.” That passion is one of the many things I admire about Colleen and it came across in all of her work. She corrected me more than once with a firm remark and a red pen all over my written drafts and only to remind me that this was the job I wanted. She taught me how to challenge myself and believe that I was good enough to do more, and for that I am truly grateful. Without her or her tough love, grit and determination, Southwest Airlines wouldn’t be the Company it is today.

Where Colleen taught me to be OK with my sharp edges, my next Leader, Ginger Hardage, showed me how to extend grace. With her, it wasn’t about changing myself, but about learning that there are many ways to achieve what you want, and you can get your message across without using an iron fist. Ginger’s Leadership quality to change the perspective, broaden the understanding and do so with positive intent is a quality any Leader should seek to embrace.

Our loving Culture is iconic — and it’s one that has always included tough love. We didn’t become the Airline we are today by taking the easy route. We know that saying “no,” giving feedback, and even offering a different perspective comes from a place of caring and wanting to grow our Employees. As you think about the future growth of your organization, remember that passion, grace and tough love can all coexist!

XOXO,
Linda Rutherford, Executive Vice President People & Communications

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

Throughout my time at Southwest, I’ve served in a number of roles, starting as a Ramp Agent in Detroit and working my way around our network and into my current role as our Vice President Ground Operations. All of these experiences have given me a front row seat to learn from other Leaders and then to decide what Leadership means to me personally.

For me, being a Leader consists of many things: earning the trust of your Team, being vulnerable, being willing to ask questions, and valuing the opinion of others.

It means showing Hospitality to your Team—how can you ensure every Employee feels welcomed, cared for, and appreciated? We must all create and maintain a Culture where our People want to show up and then feel seen and heard. It’s my responsibility to encourage others to consider different viewpoints, be kind to those with differing opinions, and to ensure we are doing our part to expand the opportunities available to Employees.

We are all Leaders, on some level. I want our Team to have the knowledge, tools, and resources to go make the best decision for the Customer or the situation at hand. Our Employees are empowered to do what they can to take care of a Customer based on that particular person’s circumstances. At the end of the day, they are the ones on the frontlines, ensuring our Customers have a great experience.

I have always put an emphasis on being visible in our operation. To be a good Leader, you need to be witnessing what your Team is experiencing—offering feedback, celebrating the wins, and working together to make improvements when necessary. Leaders are responsible for creating the ecosystem they want for their Team, and you build that by engaging with your Employees and taking the time to understand their perspectives.

I encourage you to take the time to think about the kind of Leader you want to be—and then be intentional about acting on it. There is no greater calling than serving others.

XOXO,
Chris Johnson
Vice President Ground Operations

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

As a 16-year Southwest Airlines Employee, I love meeting new people outside of work because as you run down the list of typical questions, the “where do you work” question is bound to come up. Inevitably, when I share that I work for Southwest, I’m met with excitement and usually a personal story explaining why they LOVE Southwest. Why is that? Our secret sauce is simple…it’s the great People of Southwest! Whether helping a Customer in need, creating a special memory for a young traveler, or just sharing their vibrant personalities with Customers, our Employees make a difference in the lives of Customers and one another.

So, it only makes sense that we would focus on making a great experience for our Employees at Southwest! It’s always been important to us, but in recent years, we have taken a more systematic approach to it. Today, we have an end-to-end Employee Journey comprised of 22 moments that matter to our Employees. It starts when someone joins as a new Southwest Employee and extends even after an Employee leaves the Company (after all, we care about our Retirees and Alumni).

Our Employee experience work is dependent upon Employee listening. We even developed our Employee Journey by asking Employees, in focus groups back in 2018, about the moments that matter most to them. Today, we continue to evaluate our progress against these Journey moments through focus groups, our Companywide engagement survey, and specific Journey moment surveys.

We are constantly working towards improving the Employee Journey. At the beginning of 2022, we launched a new recognition program and platform to provide “in the moment” recognition to Employees. They can earn Southwest Airlines Gratitude (SWAG) Points and redeem them for merchandise, gift cards, experiences, or even Rapid Rewards Points in an online mall. And we’ve improved our milestone service anniversary recognition as well. With hiring at an all-time high, we are working on improving the onboarding experience for new Employees so they start their time at Southwest in the best possible way. And these are just a couple of recent examples of how we are proactively improving the Employee journey.

We’ve always said that happy Employees equates to happy Customers, and that’s good business sense and great for the bottom line. Ultimately, we do it because it’s the right thing to do!

XOXO,
Lori Winters
Senior Director, Employee Experience

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

Our Company Promise commits to providing our Employees equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Southwest Airlines University (SWA U) exists on this foundation. We strive to create training and development opportunities for our Leaders and Employees to continue pouring into our strong Culture, thus retaining our most important asset, and setting up our People to achieve their professional goals.

SWA U is where our New Hires start their career and where we encourage Employees to make learning and development a central component of their journey at Southwest. Our Purpose at SWA U is to equip Employees with the knowledge and training needed to perform their jobs with Safety, Reliability, Hospitality, and Low Cost in mind. To help “Make Learning a Habit,” we offer formal and informal training to increase skillset and to foster personal growth and development.

As a Company, we walk the talk when we say that our People are our greatest asset. We firmly believe that through engagement and development of our Employees, we can better retain them. Training our Frontline Employees with state of the art equipment allows them to learn and experience firsthand the skills needed to perform their job duties. 

We also focus on Leadership and Employee development at SWA U. In order for our Leaders to lead at their peak performance, they must continue to invest in their own development. Our Leaders receive initial Leadership training when they promote into a Leadership position at the Company and all Leaders must complete an annual commitment of Leadership development coursework. Other opportunities available to Leaders include mentorship, cohort experiences, and dedicated learning events through programs offered by SWA U. By investing in our Leaders, we increase their engagement in their work and Teams, and the Employees under their Leadership benefit as a result. It is a win-win!  

My Southwest journey began as an Intern nearly 23 years ago! I am a product of the development and growth opportunities that our great Company offers to its People. I hope that you take the time this year to set goals around your professional development—read a book, take a class, or mentor someone—so you and those you lead reap the rewards and carry a culture of learning forward in your own environment.

 

XOXO,

Kristi Owens

Sr. Director Leadership & Employee Development, Southwest Airlines University

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

At Southwest Airlines, we believe People are our greatest asset. We lovingly call our HR Department the “People Department” to remind us all of that focus. If Employees are our greatest asset, then how do we protect that asset? The Talent Management Team, along with other partners across the Company, provides opportunities that engage, develop, and retain our Employees. 

Our Team has one major advantage—we do all of this in an environment that promotes Servant Leadership with a corporate Culture that encourages a fun and collaborative atmosphere. Traditional talent management focuses on setting clear expectations and goals, making sure employees have a clear understanding of their strengths and opportunities through performance check-ins, and providing insight into career paths and areas of growth for their career. Even though we have the same focus as traditional talent management, I think what makes Talent Management at Southwest Airlines so unique is that our expectations are not just about “what” you do, but also about “how” you do it. One of our Company Values, Humility, literally references “don’t be a jerk.” Having clear behavioral Values ensures Employees and Leaders know how to conduct themselves in order to uphold the Southwest Culture. This Culture enables Employees and Leaders to develop trusting relationships. These relationships support authentic dialogues so Leaders can help their Employees succeed. 

One of the main purposes for Talent Management at Southwest Airlines is to build tools and processes (Check-ins, Competencies, and Performance Calibration) that allow our Leaders to coach Employees to meet their performance and career goals. Talent Management also supports the Employee in their unique performance and career goals, creating career growth opportunities within Southwest Airlines. I myself am a product of this career mobility. I started my Southwest career as a Talent Acquisition Coordinator and now have the privilege of leading the Talent Management function for our Company. I am super passionate about how we can continue to engage, develop, and retain our greatest asset—our People! 

Cheers to 2022 and finding additional ways to engage, develop, and retain your teams!

 

XOXO,

Lindsey Lang

Sr. Director Talent Management & HR Business Partners

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

At Southwest Airlines, we’ve looked forward to our 50th Anniversary for a long time. And while our 50th year looked nothing like we anticipated due to a global pandemic, throughout 2021 we have still celebrated this milestone in appropriate and cost-conscious ways with Employees, Customers, and Partners. As we approach the end of 2021, it’s hard to believe our 50th year is already coming to a close. One chapter of our Company history is ending as we, full of hope and resilience, turn the page to our next chapter.

We’ve experienced some amazing wins and faced some tough challenges in our first half-century. I firmly believe that understanding where we’ve come from and what we’ve been through helps us prepare for the future. One final way we are celebrating our milestone anniversary this year is by releasing a one-of-a-kind commemorative history book: 50 Years. One Heart. A History of Southwest in 50 Objects. This unique coffee-table book brings our Company’s colorful story and our corporate archives to life through beautiful photographs and moments from our rich history.

Through the process of working on this book with many who started at Southwest in the very beginning (or close to it), I’ve been reinvigorated with a fresh sense of who we are as a Company and what we value. Based on my own Southwest experiences and in hearing stories directly from the People that lived them, it’s clear to me that our People-first mentality and disruptive business model are still revolutionary—often imitated but never duplicated.

It has been a highlight of my career to play a part in honoring Southwest Airlines’ golden year. I love sharing our stories—an important part of our Heart—with our dedicated People, key Partners, and loyal Customers. Despite any challenges we face, our future feels bright as we look to the Company’s next 50 years and beyond. As we release 50 Years. One Heart., my hope is that this book inspires all who read it to remember and celebrate the past while looking to the future with unwavering optimism.

 

Happy reading, and cheers to 50 years!

 

XOXO,

Laurie Barnett

Vice President Communications & Outreach

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

Throughout Southwest Airlines’ 50-year history, our Warrior Spirit has been and continues to be a key pillar of our Culture. As I reflect on Warrior Spirit and what it means to me, what comes to mind is a term used in change management: Organizational Resilience.

Organizational Resilience is a company’s ability to anticipate and respond to moments of adversity, change, and uncertainty. As you might imagine, a company with a 50-year history has undergone various periods of uncertainty and change. Over the past five decades, Southwest Airlines has grown to nearly 54,000 Employees, expanded our network internationally, survived economic downturns, and weathered the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining our Culture and reputation for Legendary Customer Service. Although Warrior Spirit is symbolic of how we as a Company respond to obstacles, it is also an example of our ability to push beyond complacency and show up each day despite personal circumstances to succeed at providing Hospitality to each other and our Customers.

So, how exactly have we developed and maintained that Warrior Spirit? By demonstrating courage, exercising discipline, and practicing resilience. Courage to challenge the status quo and take the path less traveled. Discipline to remain steadfast during times of crisis and focused on our vision and purpose. And, Resilience by remaining optimistic, never giving up, and striving to be the best each day.

In addition to those three principles, helping Leaders and Employees navigate change is essential to maintaining our Culture and Warrior Spirit. Given that change is a constant and is now occurring at an accelerated pace, our dedicated change management function, Change Leadership, seeks to make change easier while improving the resilience of our People. Although change is never easy, our goal is to equip Leaders and Employees with the right tools and techniques when planning or navigating change.

As we continue to leverage our Warrior Spirit for the next 50 years, here are a few basic change principles that will help us maintain our reputation for Hospitality and protect our Culture:

  • Always remain connected to the larger purpose
  • Remember past successes
  • Extend grace to others and practice self-compassion
  • Innovate and solve problems in new ways
  • Pause, celebrate progress, and recognize each other

Southwest Warriors – One Team, All Heart!

XOXO,

Biron Pickens
Director – Change Leadership

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

Throughout Southwest Airlines’ 50-year history, Heart has always been at the cornerstone of our Culture. Living and working with a Servant’s Heart, creates unique opportunities for special connections with our Customers and our communities. This giving spirit is brought to life by our 56,000+ Employees who put their Hearts in action every day to create meaningful impact where they live and work.

While the Company has experienced a number of challenges and obstacles over the last five decades, none compare to the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I think back to the height of the pandemic, I’m still awe-struck by our Employees and their desire to continue to support our community partners, working on the frontlines, to help individuals and families impacted – all while experiencing their own personal struggles and uncertainty.

So, what did we do to honor our 50th birthday, while still working around-the-clock to stabilize the business? We leaned into our Warrior Spirit and we rallied!

Inspired by our Employees and remaining true to our rich Culture, we launched the One Million Acts of Kindness campaign to show the world our Heart. The campaign was designed to engage our Employees, Customers and communities to inspire a kinder, more compassionate world.

I’m proud to share that we achieved and exceeded our One Million Acts goal (before the end of the year)! There was no doubt our People would go above and beyond to show acts of kindness every day. From participating in virtual volunteer opportunities, to gifting a Coheart with a coffee or lunch, to donating toys to our official 50th anniversary community partner – the Birthday Party Project – it was clear our Heart was beating strong!

Of course, we couldn’t stop there. To celebrate reaching one million acts, we’re paying it forward by awarding 50 nonprofits with a Million Dollars of Thanks. We look forward to sharing how these deserving organizations will use their travel awards to achieve their mission and spread kindness across their communities.

As we close out our 50th anniversary and look ahead to the next 50 years, I’m confident our Culture for serving others with Heart will remain strong as we continue to connect People and champion communities – the Southwest way!

XOXO,

Laura Nieto
Director Community Outreach

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

Throughout our 50-year history, Southwest Airlines® has become synonymous with best-in-class Customer Service and Hospitality. We are defined by how we treat our Customers and our Cohearts, and it’s what differentiates us from the rest of the airline industry.

We want every Southwest Customer to feel welcomed, cared for, and appreciated throughout their travel journey. Our Employees are experts at doing just that—by connecting with Customers and tailoring the experience to each individual Customer’s expectations. It’s an intentional practice that can cultivate lifelong Southwest fans who remember that one time a Customer Relations Representative spent extra time on the phone with them to resolve an issue, or that time a Flight Attendant helped a mother traveling alone by walking their baby up and down the aisle of the plane.

How we deliver Hospitality evolves over time—we have to take into account the current environment and its effect on Customers. Right now, we’re navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, which has meant providing Hospitality behind masks, welcoming back Customers who haven’t flown in a year, and welcoming first-time Customers who may not be as familiar with travel protocols. Through it all, our Southwest People remain the same. We intentionally seek out ways to be advocates for our Customers and to create meaningful connections, all while empowering our people to customize how they deliver Hospitality based on a Customer’s particular situation.

These principles ring true within our walls as well—they can be seen when our Flight Crews grab food for one another while on the ground,  when an Operations Agent takes a moment to ask a Flight Attendant how they’re doing in between flights, or how our Employees take the time to recognize each other for acts of kindness or lending a helping hand.

I’m impressed every day by our Employees and the lengths they go to serve our Customers and each other. And I hope you’ll join us to hear more—about Southwest and some of the other most loved brands—in our upcoming webinar. Please join me as we share what it takes to have A Culture of Hospitality.

XOXO,

Steve Goldberg
Senior Vice President – Operations and Hospitality

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

We just wrapped up one of my favorite months. There are so many reasons to celebrate this time of year! First, we got to celebrate my favorite holiday, Independence Day, with family, sunshine, food, fireworks, and all things freedom (and a lot of things that sparkle!). We’re also well into the summer travel season, and the airports and planes are filled with people taking vacations and visiting family. Every single day in the summer at Southwest we get to play an important role in fulfilling our Purpose: Connecting People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.

Celebration is an important aspect of the Southwest Culture, and I would even say we might be experts at it! Part of showing up for your co-workers (or as we call them, Cohearts), is genuinely caring about their lives. Do we celebrate service anniversaries and special awards for excellence at work? Of course we do! But we also celebrate the personal milestones—birthdays, marriages, babies, pets, new houses, and even special vacations.

In addition to those personal milestones, celebrating organizational milestones is key to our Culture. We see it as an opportunity to reinforce how much we value both our Employees and Customers — because without either, we wouldn’t be here. For example, on June 18, Southwest celebrated our 50th Anniversary. We held an epic birthday party and invited all of our 56,000+ Employees to join us online to celebrate, and we unveiled the newest member of the Southwest fleet, Freedom One!

That entire week, our Employees all across the Southwest system decorated, played games, and celebrated the milestone birthday with our Customers and, of course, with tons of Heart.

Colleen always encouraged our Employees to bring their whole, authentic selves to work. Celebrating together tells Employees they are a valued and appreciated part of the family. Without our Southwest Family, we can’t get you to see your family this summer. And we know you are counting on us!

We have a couple new items to check out in the Institute this month, including some heart-warming Employee recognition in the latest installment of LUV Mail, and a new podcast as part of our 50th Anniversary celebration. I hope you can feel our love and virtual confetti sprinkles from here!

XOXO,

Whitney Eichinger
Managing Director, Culture and Engagement at Southwest Airlines

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

On June 18th, Southwest Airlines® celebrated an amazing 50 years of service. It’s still hard to believe that we’ve come this far. I certainly would not have predicted it all those years ago when we were fighting just for the right to get our little Texas-based airline off the ground! And I absolutely never expected to be writing to you as the namesake of an Institute created to share the tenets of Culture and Customer Service for which Southwest® is now so well-known.

When I reflect on those early days, I vividly remember wanting to be part of this airline—this new experiment in air travel—and believing in my heart that I could help make a difference. I recognized, even then, all of the influences that would come to bear in building our Company, in particular the importance of taking care of our People and our Customers. I did that best by being perceptive when it came to needs, staying organized, being supportive, and frankly, making sure things got done. I thank my mother for imparting the guiding principle at a very early age to “do good unto others,” which I have tried to live by my whole life. It has become fundamental to the way we live and work at Southwest. But make no mistake: I was one piece of a much larger relationship between our Company, our Employees, and our Customers, and it’s a relationship that has continued to grow and thrive, along with our business.

A genuine sense of Family is at the Heart of our Culture and Customer Service at Southwest Airlines, and we have tried to capture that in every part of the CCB Institute. I could not feel more privileged to be part of it and to welcome you as you explore these truly unique elements of our story. And what better timing to launch this labor of “LUV” than as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Southwest Airlines!

Each month moving forward, we’ll pop into your inbox to share resources to help you make your own impact in your organization and on our world. You’ll hear from friends of mine offering their thoughts and tips on all things Culture and Customer Service. And we’ll also provide opportunities for you to go even deeper through virtual and in-person learning experiences.

For today, I say “welcome!” And I’ll leave you with this gem from one of my favorite books, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: “Choose to be kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.”

 

Sign up to receive the free Colleen C. Barrett Institute Roundtable event: Lessons in Customer Service from some of the World’s Most Loved Brands. This event was filmed in September 2021 with leaders from Southwest Airlines, Drury Hotels, and Chick-fil-A, discussing what makes legendary Customer Service and how to leverage a Culture of Hospitality to win and keep loyal Customers. You will also receive regular updates from The CCB Institute, including information about future events and offerings.

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