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

Southwest online rgb rev

Receive updates and the latest resources from the CCB Institute!

october hero

Communication: Communicating Difficult Business Decisions

“The two words information and communication are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” Sydney J. Harris

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. And let’s be honest. In the financial world—my world—discussing performance numbers and the regulatory nuance of broad corporate fiscal management isn’t always riveting conversation. It’s detailed, complicated and can often feel detached from the nuts and bolts of daily operational work. Yet, it is a critical, unavoidable component of every business or organization and the driver for some of the most crucial decisions a leader will ever make. Decisions that can have real-world impact on workers and consumers. So how does a leader move from simply conveying information to communicating genuine relevance and meaning that ultimately leads someone—or an entire company—to acceptance and action, no matter the subject?

One of the most meaningful, impactful practices I had the privilege of experiencing under the Leadership of Southwest’s Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Herb Kelleher, was his ability to genuinely endear his audience to his message—any message. Southwest’s 52-year history is replete with operational successes, funny moments, and reasons to celebrate. Herb excelled in making the most of our victories. Yet, it was in facing challenges, many extreme, that his brilliance as a Leader, specifically a communicator, shined the brightest. It wasn’t just his mastery of language that gave his words influential power, it was his ability to demonstrate how deeply he believed not only in his message but in the Employees to whom he was speaking. He brought us into the moment in a way that resonated personally and corporately. Reflecting on those times, I think the difference between informing and communicating comes down to these three principles:

1) Work from an established foundation of trust. This begins well before the conversation.

2) Speak hard truths clearly and factually. Don’t minimize the facts of the problem or the vulnerabilities of the moment. Own both.

3) Be relatable and show you care. Demonstrate astute knowledge about the rationale and details of a decision and an even greater understanding of its impacts.

I won’t tell you it’s always easy. It’s not. But framing communication in a way that invites individuals into the process and conveys their intrinsic value to the outcome is a solid first step to work through almost any challenging decision. It’s true in business. It’s also true in life. I’m privileged to have learned from the best!

Tammy Romo

Tammy Romo

EVP &CFO and 32-year Southwest Employee

View Thought Leader’s Recommended Resources
employees airplane hearts
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

Read More
jan 24 hero
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?

Read More
december hero
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!

Read More
Scroll to Top