Building, Defending, & Maintaining Culture

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The full story may not be out, but it appears that a Southwest Airlines gate agent acted inappropriately when she saw an unexpected name for a child. When a mother names a child with an unusual name that is not obvious how to pronounce, she might expect unusual reactions, but apparently the gate agent went beyond surprise. What was certainly inappropriate, if true, was the agent posting the boarding card, with the child’s full name, on social media. This was an invasion of privacy & violated the child’s security.

Southwest Airlines is used in business schools across the US as a model company, particularly for its outstanding customer service and employee culture. Company culture must be so thorough & ingrained that it guarantees the front line–the face of the company to the customer–instinctively does the right thing. Southwest has been great at doing this, but this incident shows that companies can’t rest on their accomplishments.

It’s easy for the culture to get battered & eroded by the winds of a fast-changing, media-driven world. The leader’s job is to build, defend, & maintain the desired culture.

The USA Today version of the story is here:

And you can read a short Forbes article extolling the company culture at Southwest Airlines here:

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