Road Signs For Success

By Kay Caldwell

Why are you in existence? The heart of your business carries a lot of weight with the people that work to make your organization a success. I am a firm believer that the purpose of your organization must be indelibly impressed upon the hearts of your employees. How do you do that? A key factor is communication.

I was reading an article about Jack Wahlig, chairman of the accounting firm McGaldry Pullen. It spoke of how he communicated the expectations for the firm. Each employee received a copy of the company’s Statement of Philosophy, Policy, and Ethical Practice Standards booklet. The opening page states the company mission, methods and objectives. I was impressed with one of the most important ingredients in their success which was simply entitled Beliefs: “We believe…in our clients; in our people; in innovation; in leadership; in teamwork; in doing what’s right; in success.” It is a powerful interconnection for those who work there to know that these are their truths which they work toward.

My favorite organization is Southwest Airlines, since that is where I worked for over twenty-two years. I am amazed how it has grown tremendously over the last few years. If you walk through the front door of their headquarters you feel the “Spirit of LUV” or the “Southwest Spirit.” I lived it and I loved it.

There is an overwhelming sense of celebration of people as you see a breathtaking array of hundreds of large framed collages holding thousands of photographs of employees celebrating at company-sponsored parties, holidays and community projects and company softball teams. There are plaques commemorating awards everywhere: Heroes of the Heart, the Kitty Hawk award, the Sense of Humor Award (which is hung upside down), President Awards and Customer Service Awards.

Southwest’s three sentence mission statement is splattered all around the building with its last line proclaiming: “Above all, employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within our organization that they are expected to share externally with every customer.” This is a very “heart and soul” organization. It is known as a “fun place to work.” Herb Kelleher, our legendary leader for over thirty years is known for saying, “We play hard, but we work even harder.” There is a spirit of service to others. The momentum is to keep the culture alive and the mantra is: “Keep on, Keepin’ on.”

What I have shared with you is only the tip of the iceberg. You may be wondering, does any of this really make a difference? I could give you many examples but I’ll just share one that vividly demonstrates what I’m talking about. When fuel prices shot up during the Gulf War, employees voluntarily — without Herb’s or any leader’s knowledge — began a payroll deduction program to defray fuel costs. It was called Fuel from the Heart. Now that is the pure spirit of Southwest Airlines.

Every organization has the opportunity to make a difference. And every individual in every organization has the opportunity to make a difference. I always challenge every person I coach, train or lead, to “Make your mark.” Ask yourself, “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” What is our use, if we don’t, as individuals, make things better?

The point is simple, really. Regardless of your role, communicate your purpose, your mission and expectations. Those who listen will understand it, believe in it, and build it. After all, this is the destiny and character of your organization.

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