Southwest Airlines is in the transportation business, right? Nope. Not quite. According to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines is in the hospitality business. Last week, I had the privilege of attending a small group session of national thought leaders where we were encouraged to ask him “anything we wanted.”
The conversation revealed how Southwest creates a work culture that is “fun” and consistently ranks at the top on lists of “Best Employers” and “Best Customer Satisfaction.” Civility and responsibility was stressed.
The people in the room were impressive and included CEOs, best-selling authors, and well-known leaders in the speaking profession. I thought I had a good question to ask but was a little intimidated. Ironic, right?!
“Have you ever ignored your instincts or hesitated on an opportunity? How’s your self-talk? Have you made negative comments to yourself that you’d never say aloud to others? Words you say to yourself can help you or prevent you from acting in your best-interests. Your mind is a powerful communicator.”
Even in extremely stressful situations, questions work to manage your internal dialogue.
Quickly I thought, “What would a Master Requester do right now?” The answer was clear. Outrageously I asked, “How do Southwest’s successful leadership strategies apply to our smaller businesses?” Guess what? The answer was worth the possible risk to my reputation.
Gary (we’re on a first name basis now) attributes much of Southwest’s success to having a culture with an entrepreneurial spirit. He added:
“Entrepreneurs are more governed by instinct than research.”
– Gary Kelly
No matter your role in an organization, entrepreneurial thinking gives you more clarity and inspires confidence. Instinctively, you:
Solve problems faster. Because your business must run lean and mean you avoid unproductive red tape and make changes quicker.
Get into action quicker. You no longer have time to wait for redundant proof or strive for unattainable perfection.
Learn to be more attuned to client needs. Each customer becomes critical in a smaller business, so you pay closer attention to their issues and concerns to serve them better.
Surround yourself with the best people. The smartest business owners know they don’t have all the answers. They hire and partner with trusted advisers.
Become more accountable. Entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of hoping a peer will handle the situation. They are responsible for addressing areas which affect the bottom line. Successful owners know their word is their bond and honor their agreements.
Ask better questions. Entrepreneurs’ financial well-being is tied to the success of the business. They seek constant improvement and the wisest ways to invest their efforts and money.
Southwest is a model for entrepreneurial thinking and giving their people permission to react instinctively to serve their customers. While research and data are essential in running a profitable enterprise, trust your gut.
Where could you act more like an entrepreneur? What do your instincts tell you about serving your clients better? If you aren’t sure of the answers, ask. Your clients and the people who work with you will tell you ways to add value to them. You will increase your results and have fun.
Journey On and Ask Outrageously!
About Linda: A recognized authority on negotiations, workplace issues and strategic communication, Linda Swindling, JD, CSP is an author, media expert, a “recovering” employment attorney, and a professional speaker. Contact us to book Linda to speak at your event.