No this isn’t a story about opera or the performing arts. It’s not a story about the melting pot of America either. This is a story about great corporate culture!
Yesterday, I took a break from all my normal work routines, flew to and from Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines, and toured Zappos’ current and future facilities in Henderson and downtown Las Vegas – an area called “East Fremont”. What a treat! And what a vivid reminder about the power of employee engagement and corporate values on organizational performance.
I’ll be honest. I usually cringe when I hear the name Southwest as part of my travel plans. I have Premier Executive status on United Airlines, and I’m used to being treated as “one of those people” – receiving complimentary first-class upgrades and by-passing long security lines due to my preferred status. On Southwest, I’m just an average Joe with no perks, and not even a seat assignment. I quickly lost that need for entitlement on my flights yesterday though as I received nothing but exceptional customer service beginning with the gate agent who checked me in for my return flight home when I arrived at LAX for my flight to Vegas and especially our flight attendants on both flights. Don’t tell me you don’t love experiencing the great sense of humor and funny announcements that only a Southwest flight attendant can share! Rocco in particular (pictured above) was warm, inviting, and flat out hilarious all the way home. J The Southwest culture is all about customer service and fun. It’s just done with a certain creative flair not generally accepted let alone condoned in other organizations.
And if my flight on Southwest wasn’t enough to open my eyes and remind me about the power of culture, oh my gosh you need to take a tour of Zappos. It’s free you know?!? Thanks to Tony Hsieh’s vision, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, at Zappos knows how to treat their customers and one another. The Zappos’ culture is so powerful that it literally exudes the DNA of the company with every person you meet. From Randy (also pictured above), the shuttle driver who first picked us up at the airport, to the culture guides who led us on a tour of the building, to Jamie, the Speaker of the House who actually gave us a personal tour of the planned downtown community, everyone shared their Zappos’ experiences and values with us openly, generously, and altruistically simply to make a bigger difference in the world. While someone could probably monetize the value this sharing of insights has brought the company, nobody does. Brand awareness and market share clearly grows from these interactions, but that’s not why they share their culture with us. They know that if they create a powerful corporate culture based on rich values – and share it with others – only good things can happen from there.
So what are you doing to define the core values of your organization? More than that, what are you doing to keep them alive and present with every one of your team members. Based on what I experienced yesterday, we at Plus Delta have our work cut out for us if we want our core values to guide our actions as prominently as they do at organizations like Southwest and Zappos.