When I talk about culture impacting performance, and culture always, eventually showing up in the customer experience, this is an example.
For years Southwest Airlines has been known for a culture where supporting operations and caring for their employees came FIRST, and because of that, they’ve always been my go-to choice when I fly.
When I read the letter linked here, it was disappointing. It appears that somewhere along the way, more financially focused leaders took their eye off the ball and shifted the priority. It sounds like they put financial results at the top of the pyramid and over time the people, the culture and the operation were weakened. It didn’t happen overnight, as mentioned, Herb built a strong foundation, but it happened.
Now, their stock prices are falling and they’ve had a very public failure so it will get fixed. I’m glad that it will because that’s what their people deserve. I can only imagine how hard it was for long time employees to watch their beloved brand let people down across so many markets. I felt bad for customers, but I really felt for frontline employees. They love their company and are proud of what it has always stood for, so it had to be painful and embarrassing to have to manage that situation.
You can always find the “rest of the story” within the stories of those who won’t be in the media interviews. They’re the people at the front counter, in the home office, the ones running the systems, the operation, serving customers and managing the day to day.
They know what led to the stumbles, the falls, the failures and they’re praying that those in leadership who have the ability to change the course they’re on, will pay attention, finally listen, and make the necessary changes. Changes that help the people and the operation get back to what made them a great brand in the first place. Because if they do that, the financials will take care of themselves.
As for me, I’ll be on my rescheduled Southwest flight in a couple of weeks and I’ll be sure to be extra patient, kind and supportive to the Southwest Ops Team as they work to restore faith in their culture, their service and their company.