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

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Thought Leadership Articles

Quick insights from Southwest Leaders providing relatable and practical guidance in the areas of Service, Culture, and Leadership for every business and organization.

june 24 tl article
Adam Carlisle

Leading Well: Navigating One on One Conversations

At Southwest Airlines, we pride ourselves in putting our People first—whether that’s your Fellow Employee (Coheart) sitting next to you in a meeting or the Customer you’re helping board one of our planes. In my more than 16 years working at Southwest, I’ve had many opportunities to see that People-first mentality modeled by Leaders (first established by our beloved President Emeritus, the late Colleen Barrett).

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Colleen Barrett

Special Edition: Colleen on Sustaining Strong Performance

Have you ever wondered why Southwest Airlines receives such an incredible amount of media coverage? Obviously, we have a wonderful Public Relations Department making sure our accomplishments and activities don’t go unnoticed, but the mere fact that we are a “successful airline” – two words most people think don’t go together – makes us newsworthy. It also leaves us- and everything we do open to scrutiny.

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Chris Johnson

Leading Well: Connecting with People

From the times I engaged with Herb Kelleher (Founder of Southwest Airlines) and Colleen Barrett (CCB Institute namesake!) early in my career, I learned from them the true value of giving your People your time and attention and seeing them for who they are instead of just the positions they fill. To me, that means you have to remember your Teams are made up of unique individuals and never forget the “Golden Rule” when you have the opportunity to connect with someone.

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Elizabeth Bryant

Being Well: The ROI of Being Well for Yourself and Others

If you’ve ever flown before—hopefully with Southwest!—you’re likely familiar with the inflight safety announcement to put your oxygen mask on first before attempting to help others in an emergency. Did you know the same guidance can apply to your daily life, whether professional or personal? It’s true. To be able to meaningfully care for others or lead effectively, you must take care of yourself.

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Lori Winters

Being Well: Incorporating Wellness into Corporate Culture

Life can throw us all kinds of curve balls, and I’ve personally had times when I’ve needed a little extra help—whether grieving the loss of someone close to me or dealing with my pesky knees that tend to have so much trouble! Southwest has been there every step of the way as I’ve been shown tremendous care by my Cohearts and provided with incredible benefits that help with my wellbeing

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Megan Lee

Being Well: Prioritizing Heart and Home in 2024

When drafting a January newsletter, it’s easy to default to common “New Year” themes, such as setting goals and making resolutions. For me, however, the beginning of the year is a much-needed time to reset and reorganize–to make sure my health, my family, and my Team are ready to take on the coming year. Perhaps this rings true for you?

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Whitney Eichinger

Communication: Communicating Culture Through Social Media

As the airline with Heart, we see amazing stories each day from Employees and Customers. We leverage our social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn to celebrate these authentic connections that take place across our large operation and, in turn, make the world feel a little smaller and sweeter!

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Bill Tierney

Communication: Communicating Through Storytelling

I recently read an article showcasing some of the most influential speakers of our time. Each has their individual style, but what caught my attention most is what they have in common—their messages are almost always anchored in a story. Not just any story.

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Tammy Romo

Communication: Communicating Difficult Business Decisions

I’ve always appreciated this quote, but it wasn’t until I moved into Leadership roles at Southwest that I realized the gravity of its truth. Conveying information—even very important information—is nothing more than an exercise in speech if the intended audience either does not understand or, more significantly, does not care.

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Nan Barry

Nurturing Culture: As a Coheart

One of the most endearing qualities (among many!) that I’ve admired about Colleen is the seamless connection she made between the families we serve as our Customers and the families we serve as our Employees. It really is that simple. In her words, “Our approach to Customer Service was going to be the same internally as it was externally, and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful in terms of getting people to really understand the mission of Southwest Airlines.”

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Steve Goldberg

Nurturing Culture: As An Employee

As a People-first Company, Southwest has always believed that nurturing a strong Culture is about nurturing our People. Before I started in Las Vegas in 1996 as a Customer Service Agent, I worked at a lot of companies that didn’t share that philosophy. It was almost like wearing a mask at work—you had to hold back a part of yourself to satisfy expectations and succeed at the job. From the jump, though, I could tell Southwest was different.

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Tennina McAnany

Nurturing Culture: As a Manager

Culture is a term we use often at Southwest. Specifically, having a People-centric Culture helps define who we are as a Company and sets an expectation of how Leaders are to support, guide, and develop the Employees they lead. But it doesn’t just happen because we say it. We have to nurture it. As we’ve grown, we’ve had to consistently ask, “Are we still living out our Culture?” “What does it mean to our now 69,000+ Employees—what are their expectations?”

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6 8 TL
Lindsey Lang

Humankind: Cultivating Kindness in the Workplace

When hosting visitors at Southwest, they often remark that People smile at them in the halls. I’m always surprised that it’s something that stands out. After 22 years at Southwest, it isn’t something I think twice about. The Golden Rule is the standard for how Southwest Airlines Employees treat one another, and it’s been that way since day one. And as a Company, we’ve always endeavored to put People first.

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5 8 TL
Lauren Woods

Humankind: Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

The role of technology within an organization may not immediately bring “emotional intelligence” to mind; but in reality, navigating processes, diverse personalities, and logistical challenges all require extraordinary people skills. Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capacity to recognize, understand, and manage emotions. It requires healthy doses of self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management.

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4 8 TL
James Ashworth

Humankind: Leading with Empathy

At Southwest Airlines, we are known for putting People first. As our beloved Colleen says, “Everybody has the right to be treated with respect, and everyone should be required to treat others with respect.” Our Company Values focus on how we show up each and every day, and one of the best ways to establish a genuine rapport with each other is to lead with empathy.

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3 8 TL
Andrew Watterson

Organizational Identity: Company and Employee Promises

As I think about promises and what they mean to me, I’m taken back to my time in the Army. In the military, a promise is a sacred bond that we honor with our lives. It’s a commitment to serve, protect, and defend, no matter the cost. And I carry that thinking with me every day.

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Angela Marano

Organizational Identity: Vision

On one hand, the word vision seems straightforward – the ability to see. Yet there is so much more to explore when we think about the broader meaning of vision. It is an articulation and visualization of what we want for the future. Vision has certainly been a source of motivation during my career at Southwest Airlines.

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Whitney Eichinger

Special Edition LUV Mail – Valentine’s Day 2023

We want to share this special edition of LUV Mail with our CCBI friends and family to highlight just a few of the many Employees who stepped up and answered the call to help restore our operation. And what better occasion to do so than Valentine’s Day!

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Dave Harvey

Organizational Identity: Purpose

A company’s Purpose is formed in much the same way, either created in an instant to meet a specific, clear need or over time, very deliberately refined. No matter the path, having a Purpose distinctly shapes an organization’s identity and, ultimately, its culture—answering the questions of who we are and why.

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Landon Nitschke

Recognition: Top-down Recognition

At Southwest, we talk a lot about putting our People first. It’s our Employees who make us an industry leader. Recognizing and appreciating them is not only the right thing to do, data shows that it has an undeniable positive impact on Employee engagement.

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Sonya Lacore

Recognition: Peer-to-Peer

At Southwest Airlines, Employee feedback is crucial to our day-to-day business. Our Company was built on the quality of our Employees and the fundamental truth that they—not the nuts and bolts of flying airplanes—are what set us apart from our competition.

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Tony Roach

Recognition: Customer to Employee

We ask our Employees to exceed our Customers’ expectations by extending our Legendary Customer Service, so when our Customers take the time to share the impact our Employees have made in their lives, it is crucial to pass along their praise.

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Juan Suarez

DE&I: Equity

Last month, we highlighted how important diversity is at Southwest Airlines. We continue to focus on increasing our diverse talent pipelines so we better represent the communities that we serve.

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Alex Gorinsky

DE&I: Diversity

Diversity has been woven into the fabric of our organization since its inception. Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines co-founder and former CEO, once said that before Southwest started flying, only business people and the very wealthy were able to fly.

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6 8 22 TL
Ryan Green

Leadership: The Next Generation of Leaders

No one would have ever convinced me twenty years ago that I would one day become the Chief Marketing Officer; simply working at Southwest Airlines and being a part of its famed Culture was a dream come true.

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4 22 TL
Linda Rutherford

Leadership: Tough Love

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.

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5 8 22 TL
Chris Johnson

Leadership: Lead from the Front

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.

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Lori Winters

Attracting & Retaining Employees: Employee Engagement

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.

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Lindsey Lang

Attracting & Retaining Employees: Hiring

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?

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