I knew that I was in for the "Flight of My Life" when I arrived for a Cinco de Mayo pot luck lunch at the People Department (what Southwest calls HR) in Baltimore/Washington in 2008. I was still dressed in a semi-business professional attire (suit minus tie and jacket), a uniform for my previous job as a Recruiter for a staffing agency in downtown Baltimore. Since starting my career here as a Recruiter for Southwest Airlines, my semi-business professional attire has seen only a handful of trips outside my closet!
Starting a new job is always exciting, scary, and stressful in equal parts. Unlike other such transitions in my life, I felt extremely comfortable with my transition into Southwest Airlines, and I jumped at the opportunity to come to the pot luck lunch to meet my new Coworkers for the first time after the interview process. The food was delicious, and my soon-to-be Coworkers were all fantastic. I left that afternoon assured that I made a great decision and that I was coming to work for a wonderful organization that emphasizes the importance of "hiring for attitude."
I later found out that a picture that the Team took of me in an Extra Large Pink Sombrero, which was plopped onto my head and snapped with no explanation during the Cinco de Mayo pot luck, was later used in an e-mail introducing me to the entire People Department. I was affectionately known in Dallas as "Oh...you're the new guy with the extra large pink sombrero..."
This was my first official introduction to the Fun-LUVing attitude, Southwest Style.
I am a relative newbie by Southwest Airlines standards, (11 months and counting) but I can confirm to all the readers of this blog that what you hear about Southwest Airlines is true: we're a hard-working Team of many, with a Servant's Heart the size of Texas, and we LUV to have fun!
I wanted to share my personal experience of SWA's "Fun-LUVing Attitude" (Have Fun, Enjoy Work, Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously, Maintain Balance and Perspective, Be a Passionate Team Player), and here are some of my personal testimonials...
* Here at Southwest, I elevated my cubicle decorating/gift wrapping art installations to whole new heights - in fact I might even have elevated it to an art! The Team here in the BWI People Department worked together to gift wrap our new Manager's entire office in red wrapping paper, as a gift to welcome him to Baltimore/Washington. For any of you looking for a great Teambuilding activity, $25.00 in wrapping paper and cheap tape from the dollar store can go a LONG way.
* While attending a four-part Leadership Training Course in our Headquarters in Dallas, my Team selected "Wildcats" to be our team name. After the fact, I shared a picture of Jack, (my orange Tabby) in a Lobster Suit with the rest of the Team, and Jack officially became our mascot, requiring me to have a picture of Jack in a new outfit every month. I don't think Jack enjoyed it as much as we did, but I just couldn't let my Team down...
* I received positive feedback and a "Way To Go!" from my Managers during my performance appraisal for arranging/instigating an after-hours Teambuilding session, which utilized plastic cups, ping-pong balls and adult beverages... Yes, you get the idea... (See exhibit... wait, no, I just received word that the pictures in my digital camera have been deleted).
Now, from reading this blog entry, along with your experiences interacting with the wonderful Employees of Southwest Airlines at all of our Stations and out on the frontlines with the singing or rapping Flight Attendant, every holiday becoming a wonderful reason to decorate the gate areas, etc., you may think that working at Southwest Airlines is all fun and games...which is only one-third true.
Working for Southwest Airlines is really about the wonderful balance between busting our bums and working hard, treating others with LUV and respect, and having fun and never taking oneself too seriously. It's the fine balance between the three that makes Southwest Airlines a fabulous Company to work for, an environment that fosters professional growth, and to enjoy and support each other and the wonderful work that we all do!
PS: If you are interested in seeing the entire set of pictures for the office that was gift-wrapped or any of the other office art, please click the link below.