What you can learn from Southwest Airlines’ culture

Here is an excerpt from an excellent article written by Micah Solomon and featured online at the Washington Post website. To read the complete article, check out other resources, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

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A consciously developed customer-centered culture is a business advantage that will serve you for years — and inoculate you against competitive inroads. Consider for a minute Southwest Airlines and the lengthy list of would-be category killers that have tried to imitate it: United Airlines’ United Shuttle, Continental Airlines’ Continental Lite, Delta’s Delta Express, and US Airways’ Metro-Jet.

What did these companies lack: Money? Name recognition? Hardly. They lacked Southwest’s relentless focus on culture, which none of its pop-up competitors was willing to slow down to emulate. And all are now bust.

JetBlue pilot meltdown is latest instance of bad publicity for airlines: JetBlue pilot Clayton Osbon launched into strange behavior during a March 27 flight, first flying the aircraft erratically and then ranting about a bomb and Iraq, among other things. Passengers were able to subdue him as the co-pilot guided the aircraft to a safe landing. This incident is hardly the first bizarre incident on a tarmac or in the air that has resulted in bad publicity for the airline industry. Here’s a look at some more flaps from recent years.

This is why someone leading a business today — preparing a bright future for your organization and perhaps for the world — needs to focus not just on nuts and bolts, techniques and standards, but on culture.

Without a consciously created culture, your leadership won’t last beyond the moment you leave the building. Any vacation — or even lunch break — you take is an invitation for disaster: The inevitable complaint I hear from consulting clients and at my engagements as a speaker is this: “Employees act differently when there aren’t any managers around.” But with a great company culture, employees will be motivated, regardless of management’s presence or absence.

Culture matters because:

● The number of interactions at a business between customers and staff is nearly infinite, and only a strong, clear pro-customer culture gives you a fighting chance of getting the preponderance of these interactions right.

● The current technological revolution amplifies the problems of not having the correct culture: Employees not acting in their customers’ best interest will end up having their actions broadcast over Twitter within minutes.

● Business realities are continually changing, and only a strong culture is going to help you respond to, capitalize on and drive forward these changes in order to serve customers and show your business in the best light.

[Solomon then shares his thoughts about how to lead through culture. To read the complete article, please click here.]

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Micah Solomon is a customer service speaker and marketing strategist and bestselling business author based in Philadelphia.

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