At the EO Austin Round Up event last week, we had the opportunity to hear Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, speak. It’s inspiring to think after 4 and a half years of litigation that kept Southwest Airlines from its first flight, the company has grown from three aircrafts serving three cities to more than 550 aircrafts serving 72 cities and having a total operating revenue of $12.1 billion in 2010. Most notable is their focus on their company culture and more than 37,000 employees, which results in their strong customer service. As Kelleher explained, by focusing on their employees, their customers will be treated well, leading to happy customers. Happy customers lead to happy shareholders.
Southwest Airlines’ focus on taking care of their employees, hiring people with the right attitude and valuing their employees as more than people but as people is all a part of their culture. As their mission to their employees states:
We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.
By creating this culture, Southwest Airlines ensures their employees will treat their customers with diligent servanthood as they have been treated by their company. The success of the company is not only due to the culture but the executives that make sure it is enforced, and Kelleher was the driving force behind creating the culture and a company that did things a little differently.
How do you take a lesson from Herb Kelleher and Southwest Airlines? Here’s how you create a company culture.
1. Decide the company’s core values and mission. This gives the company a starting place for employees to become involved in.
2. Get feedback from employees. Do they buy into the company’s core values, mission, and culture plan? What will they do to contribute to the culture?
3. Walk the talk. It’s not enough to tell employees what the culture is. Live it and be an example to your employees.
How does your company create culture?