WOW Word-Of-the-Week #361: Difference

July 5, 2011 by  

Difference – having a positive effect.

Has anyone done something for you that made a difference in your life? Do you feel empowered at work to do the things that make a difference? Is it important for you to know that you have had an effect on someone?

Last month we flew Southwest Airlines to Oakland to start our US/Canada vacation. I have never been a big fan of them. That’s probably because I got spoiled by United and getting first class upgrades! Did you know they have been in business for forty years? Did you know that the  major airlines tried to run them out of business time and time again?

Their on board magazine featured an interview between the current CEO Gary Kelly and past CEO Herb Kelleher, who was critical in the early success of Southwest. When asked what he considered to be the essential contributing factors to Southwest’s success Gary said, “I think it’s the people you’ve been able to attract. Yes, we fly airplanes very well, and yes, we’re very efficient; we’re good at running an airline. But it’s our people who make the difference.”

The Southwest Difference

The Southwest Difference

Did you know that 168 airlines have gone out of business? Southwest has gone through lots of changes and when asked what has not changed Gary’s response was, “I’d say our core values, what we stand for: putting our people first, making our people top priority – clearly that was your principle concern all the years that you led Southwest. The passion that we have for customer service shows up all the time, and our people feel empowered.”

“You know, the story of our captain holding the aircraft for a customer who needed to get to his grandson’s death bed. While that was certainly the right thing to do, and was certainly a very compassionate thing to do, I don’t think that any Southwest employee thought it was an extraordinary thing to do, in the sense that it was unusual that one of our people would do that. And yet it’s fascinating how the external world thought, Wow! That’s something to be proud of: that all of our people know what’s right, and they feel empowered to act on it. That hasn’t changed.”

This week’s focus is about making a difference. Who do you know that has made a difference in someone’s life? What could you do that would have a positive effect on the people around you?