This has been an unusual month, as I’ve traveled to four different cities in the last three weeks. Two of my flights have been on Southwest Airlines, which is celebrating its fortieth birthday. I doubt I flew on Southwest 40 years ago – according to the magazine, not many people did that first year. But I remember flying Southwest before they knew how to manage the open seating process as well as they do now. I remember standing in a waiting area with everyone facing what appeared to be a blank wall where the door would open. As it got closer to time, people would edge closer and closer to the wall to be first onto the airplane. I’m surprised no one got mushed against the wall!
The inflight magazine this month includes 40 lessons from 40 years and I thought some were worth sharing.
#22 Remember your chief mission. “Don’t let the onboard jokes fool you. Southwest’s official No. 1 priority is Safety.” We talk about many different programs and services and outcomes to measure and buildings to build. We worry about meningitis vaccine programs, and football games, and registration. We have a lot of fun, but the No. 1 priority doesn’t change - Education, in all its facets.
#27 See your business as a cause. “Southwest’s mission is Freedom to move about the country. Before Southwest only 15 percent of adults in the United States had flown on even one commercial flight. By the end of the century, 85 percent had taken to the skies.” The article goes on to say part of this increase is attributable to the “Southwest Effect” because prices go down when Southwest enters a market.
We call it ‘becoming Tier One’, or ‘Access and Excellence,’ but even though we have different ways to talk about it, I think we can agree that we have a large purpose, a cause – making top-tier educational opportunities available to a wider population than has been traditionally served by the top-tier of universities.
#32 Set and renew noble expectations. The article says most corporations have expectations, but Southwest Airlines employees can recite them. That’s not the most interesting part to me. What’s interesting to me is the fact that the Southwest expectations are simple, clear and they really are noble. “Warrior Spirit (be courageous, display a sense of urgency), Servant’s Heart (follow the Golden Rule, put others first) and Fun-LUVing Attitude (don’t take yourself too seriously, celebrate successes.)”
There are several more that might apply, but I’ll end with #33 Increasing size should make you a force for good. The point of UTSA’s growth is not so we can be one of the largest colleges in the state; remember No. 22, our chief mission as education and No. 27, seeing our business as a cause. Our growth enables us to educate more students at the highest level.
The parallel isn’t exact, of course, but we’re only a couple of years older than Southwest. What are the lessons that can be learned from our success? What do we do very well and where do we have room to improve? Can we come up with 42? What lessons would you include on the list?