Your Culture? It’s What Your People Do When You’re Not Looking!


Share on LinkedIn

southwest airlinesCulture is often seen as the softest side of business management – it’s perceived by some as being all ‘touchy feely’. The reality is that often it’s the hardest side of business management – and the ones that get it right, are the ones that get ahead. One such business is Southwest Airlines, the low cost US airline, and they work really hard on this stuff. My definition of culture is ‘the way we do things around here’ (deliberately or non deliberately, consciously and non consciously) and I came across this definition from Herb Kelleher, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines which I think works brilliantly. He says ‘Culture’ is…..

‘What people do when no-one is looking’!

I love that! South West Airlines spell out to their employees the behaviours they expect and encourage them to live them in everything they do, and this creates real competitive advantage. For examples, cabin staff are allowed to do the announcements in a style that reinforces their own personality. Here are some of the things that their staff have been heard to say…

“There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.”

“Your bags will be available on carrousel x. if you do not find them, they will be available in 2-3 weeks on eBay.”

“In order to enhance the appearance of your flight crew, we will be dimming the cabin lights.”

In fact, if you really want to see this in action click here to see this in action, check out this video of the rapping steward!

It’s all about the Behaviours that people demonstrate – that’s one of the ingredients of an UBER Culture which is Characteristic #5 of The 7 Characteristics of 3D Businesses! Winning businesses work hard to establish a clear set of ‘behaviours’ that people understand and live… consistently. The key ingredients of an UBER culture are:

  • Everyone Understands what’s expected of them and behaves accordingly and consistently as a result
  • Systems and processes are Built to reinforce and support those values and behaviours
  • People are Engaged, Empowered and Encouraged to deliver them
  • People are Rewarded and Recognised for doing it!

So, 3 questions for you…….

  1. Have you established the preferred behaviours you want from your people?
  2. Do they live those behaviours when you’re not there?
  3. Crucially, do they live those behaviours when your customers are?

If the answer is ‘no’ to these questions, then there’s a fair chance that you’ve got some work to do! A starting point might be to download our Free eBook Creating An UBER Culture which expands on the key elements of UBER culture, and crucially helps you see how you measure up – The answers you get might not be pleasant, but at least you could start doing something about establishing and reinforcing your culture you want!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Andy Hanselman
Hi there! I help businesses and their people create competitive advantage by 'Thinking in 3D'! That means being 'Dramatically and Demonstrably Different'! I research, speak about, write about and work with businesses to help them maximise their sales and marketing, their customer service and their customer relationships.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here