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Colleen Barrett on Southwest Culture


Last week, 360 People squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder into a meeting room at headquarters for one purpose—to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Southwest's Companywide Culture Committee at the group’s semi-annual meeting in Dallas. In 1990, Colleen Barrett, then Vice President-Administration now President Emeritus, had the vision to start this committee with the purpose of inspiring Employees to own, strengthen, and promote the legendary Culture as the Company grew.  In fact, the original committee contained only 48 members whose first undertaking was the coordination of the Company’s 20th Anniversary celebrations. Fast forward to today; the Committee has now grown to over 350 active and alumni members from various locations and workgroups across the Company.  Their original purpose of this committee remains the same; and their vision is to champion a Culture through which everyone knows that he or she matters.  Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and Chairman Emeritus Herb Kelleher have been quoted on several occasions saying, “it’s probably the most important Committee at our Company.” Ginger Hardage, Senior Vice President Culture & Communications, has taken the reins on leading this powerful Committee, and on Wednesday gave a tribute to our President Emeritus whose vision and principles continue to guide the committee today.  Various committee members then took turns sharing their fond memories of when the Southwest Culture hit home for them. Through the years, Southwest has been cited and praised for doing things in a non-traditional way, Employees are huggers, not hand shakers; the Company has a record amount of “LUV Couples,” (Employees married to other Employees); and Employees take pride in referring to one another not as Coworkers, but as Family.  The mission of Companywide Culture Committee is true to our core values and purpose—to put Employees first.