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.
Throughout my career, especially in the beginning, I had Leaders and Cohearts who always checked on me, making sure I felt empowered to do my job the right way. Even more impactful, they made sure I knew that my individuality was what made me a great fit at Southwest. Like Tennina mentioned last month, a cookie-cutter approach to managing won’t motivate our People. Motivation comes when Hospitality—the drive to make our Cohearts and Customers feel welcomed, cared for, and appreciated—is kept top of mind.
How can we nurture this type of environment? I try to do three things daily:
- Ask my Cohearts how they are outside of work—Recognize who they are as a person, not just what they bring to their position.
- Be present and intentional in conversations—Whether you’re helping a Customer or welcoming a new Coheart, people can tell when you’re really listening.
- Stay humble and learn from peers and Leaders—Chances are, they might know a lot more than you.
Being intentional matters. When I have a bad day, the first person I want to turn to, besides my wife, is a fellow Employee. After 28 years of building relationships at Southwest, I’ve realized that these connections, my Cohearts, are the ones who know how to encourage me best—to stay positive, remind me of the bigger picture, and maybe even crack a joke at my expense (because you’ve gotta learn to laugh at yourself sometimes, right?). When we advocate for one another, we can then depend on one another to help reframe a bad attitude and take us back to the importance of Hospitality in the workplace. Again, it goes back to intentionality. A genuine, caring conversation and a warm smile can turn anyone’s day around, just as it has mine, many times.
I’ll always be proud to work for a Company that fosters a Culture of authenticity and concern for its People. Because when we feel like we can be our true selves at work, it becomes easy to remember that our Customers are just like us—they need an advocate, too.