I first learned about the carefully crafted culture of Southwest Airlines back in business school. I was intrigued by the notion that such a large company would place so much focus (and expense) on creating culture, rather than focusing on profits. I didn’t realize it then, but the two often go hand in hand.
Here’s a recent article from The Washington Post which offers a few powerful tips for building your company’s culture, as has been so successfully achieved with the culture-centric focus of Southwest Airlines. It’s a good, short read: http://vant.ge/R79Wom
Here’s how you can start leading through culture:
- Articulate your central philosophy, in just a few words if possible — a few meaningful words. That’s right: A company’s culture can begin with words, but those words need to represent a decision — something you actually stand for, a decision then expressed in the clearest, and ideally fewest, words. Find a central operating principle. Think of the Ritz-Carlton’s “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen,” or Mayo Clinic’s “The needs of the patient come first.”
- Elaborate on your central philosophy with a brief list of core values — a list short enough that every employee can understand, memorize and internalize, yet long enough to be meaningful. Your core values should cover how customers, employees and vendors should be treated at all times.
- Include the wider world: Your people want a sense of purpose that goes beyond an ability to exercise stock options at a favorable moment. More inspirational: a version of the “triple bottom line,” such as Southwest’s “Performance – People – Planet” commitment and annual report card.