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Communication Keeps Southwest Airlines Flying High

Southwest Airlines has built a culture based on communication. Chairman Herb Kelleher insists on absolutely honest communication with employees. When Southwest started in Texas, they faced impediments to starting up that were instigated by the competition, but they succeeded in getting the proper authorizations to run flights in Texas.

In order to keep prices low, the airline had to turn its planes around in ten minutes. The industry said it was impossible. Because Southwest employees did not know it couldn’t be done, they were able to turn planes around quicker than any other airline.

The standard turn around for Southwest is now 15 minutes because airports have become more congested. The effort to get a plane turned around in that time requires open communication and teamwork from all employees on the plane – even the pilots help unload the baggage.Southwest has cultivated a casual atmosphere that has allowed employees the opportunity to talk to their managers and those higher up in the company. It is this casual atmosphere, as demonstrated by their uniforms and the fact that everyone uses first names, combined with the empowerment of employees that allows the company to make decisions quickly.

Kelleher has a reputation for thinking and talking straight. His honesty and actions have allowed employees and unions to negotiate in good faith with one another. When the pilots agreed to have their pay frozen, Kelleher froze his own pay. It is actions like these that help employees know that the company is a team. It isn’t employees versus management. It is everyone working together to create a better, more profitable company.

All information is compiled from “Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.

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