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Moving My Cheese

cbarrett1
Not applicable
Southwest Airlines Employees are very familiar with the term "moving cheese," and it relates to changes and adapting to those changes.  Well, by now you probably know that my life will be changing significantly over the next year or so as I give up my Membership on Southwest's Board of Directors and my Corporate Secretary role in May of 2008 and my title as President next July.  I've always felt that change and new challenges are vital to our growth as humans Rest assured, even though I am giving up my Board Membership and my management position, I won't be going very far because I will still be part of this fantastic Company for five more years after July 2008.  Many of you know that, for 40 years, my absolute passion and the thing that gets me out of bed every morning is Customer Service.  Keep in mind that, at Southwest Airlines, everyone is in the Customer Service business, whether they be serving our External Customers (our passengers) or our Internal Customers (our Employees), so when I say "Customer Service" I really mean all of you, whether you are an Employee, a Customer, or just a reader of this blog.  I am so excited that I will be able to devote my attention to this passion.  In our press release, I said that my duties at Southwest have been a labor of love, but being in labor for 40 years is a bit hard on the body.  My avocation will truly be my vocation, and I am looking forward to having more personal contact with our Employees, something I have missed due to the demands of my position.  I am also looking forward to a five-day work week after years of working 16 hour days, seven days a week.  I'm even looking forward to being a bigger part of this blog in the future. Herb Kelleher and I are simply taking a step back from our responsibilities, and we can do this because of the vision and Leadership of Gary Kelly, our CEO, and the Team he has built.  Herb and I will still be around on a daily basis for six more years, so you aren't getting rid of us, and as Herb said, "this is neither a good bye nor a farewell"--we're just moving some cheese! 
19 Comments
chuchoteur
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Gosh! Colleen, you took my breath away for a second there... Thank you for all those years of dedicated service to Southwest, and really I admire both Herb and you for taking what must have surely been quite a difficult decision! It is kind of difficult to find the right words, but yet again, through your faith in the Southwest family and your willingness and trust in being led by others, you are setting an example for all of us... ... and as you say, it is nor a good bye or farewell! :o)) Raphael
Cindy9
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Now thats two really BIG pieces of cheese that you are moving!! You know, the logical part of me can truly understand why it would be time for you to make these changes...You are such a huge part of why SWA has become such a great company.. Although, I have never met you, I seem to be a bit emotional over this press release.. I go back to the logical part of me that knows that you not only know whats best for this wonderful airline but you could use that 5 day work week after all these years of service in such an extremely demanding and dedicated position.. I read your columns and they help us, the customers, see what a caring and wonderful person you seem to be and I have no doubt that your shoes will be huge to fill.. I seem to find myself wanting to both congratulate you and hug you at the same time.. I can only say that I wish you all the best in your change and there is no doubt that your (other) family has to be more than happy to finally have some time with you and you with them... Both you and Herb have made this company like no other, through hard work, caring and LUV, you have given all of us so much more than an airline...You have given us friendships, trust and the best group of people in the industry!! Not to mention free drinks, peanuts and lots of smiles.. :o) Tell Herb that I will be drinking a toast to both of you and give yourself a ((((((BIG HUG))))))))) from me!! Congrats to both of you!! I hope your spare time is filled with all the LUV that you have shared over the years with all of us..
FriendofBlogBoy
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Colleen, Thank you for a great blog explanation to help set to rest all of those hearts that are fluttering across the Southwest system, both internally and externally. When I first saw the news online yesterday, I was both shocked and not at all surprised. Those sorts of announcements, such as the one about you and Herb, always seem to cause us to stop in our tracks for a moment. One minute we're racing down the road and then suddenly we see a speed bump and we hit the brakes. Our forward progress doesn't stop, it just slows down a bit as we go over the bump and then we continue on. That is why I was not surprised. Following Herb's reassurances to people after his health issues a few years ago, it became very clear that a lot of thought and care had gone into designing a continuity plan that would safeguard the health of Southwest Airlines, as a highly successful business model and as a place oozing with CULTURE. As much as we as people want to cling to our heroes and leaders (which you both clearly are), we have to be reminded that the greatest gift and legacy a leader can give is not the success of the organization during their constant presence, but its success after they have left it. A great deal of the legacy that both of you, but you in particular, will leave at Southwest is the very special culture that flows through the bloodstreams of 33,000+ Employees, and through them, out to millions more of your Customers. Of course, a huge part of our confidence that you give us is embodied in so many very talented and skilled leaders who manage all of the day to day activities of Southwest. Naturally, the epitome of that leadership is found in Gary, who we know will continue to demonstrate a Servant Heart, a Warrior Spirit and a Fun-LUVing attitude as he keeps Southwest the best airline in the world! Best wishes always to you and Herb on a well-deserved "step back", Kim External Blog Boy 🙂
Sajith
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Colleen, Such outpourings right from the heart make it real clear why SWA is a very different company. Of all the corporate blogs that are out on the internet, SWA is simply the best. Unlike others, the company culture and image are the same. All the best for your vacation.. rgds Sajith
Francisco_Delga1
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Colleen, Thanks for all that you do. Southwest continues to thrive because of you and your fellow employees. I always equate the golden rule with Southwest because you guys truly treat others the way you would want to be treated. You guys have done so much for those of us serving in our military and we are forever grateful. You are a true leader in that you put others before yourself. 16hour days seven days a week..... what a labor of love and i thought i had a rough schedule. take care ..... USS BLOG BOY
Anonymous777
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Maybe Herb will go into business consulting? If I am ever start a new business of any kind, I would love to have a few hours with Herb just to pick his brain.
kfrancis1
New Arrival
Colleen and Herb, the stitches that hold this company's heart and soul, our creators of culture, and my pride as an employee. You both deserve a break but I'll still be here with open arms when you all decide to "boomerang." Much Luv to you both, Kristen Francis
Lou__SWA_BWI_Fi
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Colleen, When I first read the news a multitude of emotions filled my body. Shock, sadness, numbness, worry for the future, but glee for you and Herb. Although I don't have the pleasure of seeing both of you each day in the Big-D, all the ways you have communicated to me makes me feel like I'm right there in Dallas. I am so thankful you have brought this wonderful company to fruition to allow me to have a great career that brings together my SWA family with my own family. I know after you leave we will be able to maintain the culture you have taught each and every one of us. Although you will still be working for the next few years I wish you the very best and will continue to look forward to your column in the next issues of LUV Lines. When I no longer see "Colleen's Corner" then I will be truly sad yet it will be with a smile to know you will be happy in you next phase of life. Thank You!!
rstark
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I have said it a hundred times: If Herb Kelleher is the "soul" of SWA, Colleen is undoubtably the "heart" of this great company. Glad to hear you will be taking some more well-earned time off while still remaining associated with a group that needs you as much as you need us. Thank YOU for your dedication to the customers and employees of Southwest Airlines. You truly changed the world. Ray Stark PHX Captain
CAROL_SEARCY_MC
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To Colleen and Herb, Congratulations!! Congratulations for so many things. Congratulations for creating and nurturing the best company in the world! Congratulations for having foresight, incredible planning and decision making skills! Congratulations for the superb employee selection process that SWA has apparently utilized over the past 30 something years! Congratulations for making this difficult decision to take a much needed break! You both definitely deserve it. I am a retired SWA employee, still enjoying the freedom to fly and so many other benefits that I have come away with as an employee of SWA. I learned so very much at SWA - I learned how to love people (not just family), I learned how to have fun and work hard so that others could have fun an enjoy life. I learned how to appreciate team spirit and the SWA culture. I learned that people like Herb and Colleen and Gary don't just happen! I feel super blessed and extremely fortunate to have worked for a company that is led by such indomitable forces. When I first received the news, I set dumbfounded - a bit in shock. I then said to myself, "Oh, my goodness, what is going to happen to SWA." I soon regrouped and realized that Herb and Colleen know exactly what they are doing. As leaders, they know that they are leaving the company in good hands with Gary and all the rest of that 30,000 something employees that really love SWA and share in its culture. So, why am I doing all this babbling? Because I wanted to say 3 things: 1) Congratulations, 2) I have the greatest respect for you and the company that you have so lovingly built, and 3) Thank you for allowing me to share a few years of my life at SWA. I wish you both the best!!
carroll3
New Arrival
You both will be mentioned as much as missed, I love you both and words cannot say what my heart feels, I hope my actions speak volumes as we all need to become more Herb anc Colleen-like to keep this thing called LUV going and growing. You have made the world a much smaller and better place for anybody who has worked for Southwest or flown on Southwest. Thank you a million times over and over. Peace be with you both.
michael_gallagh
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good luck; but before you go fix websites. each time i get on black space occupies left side of monitor. do enjoy riding airline.
Anonymous777
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I hope Herb takes some time to write his memoirs.
Kathi
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Colleen, I am so honored to be part of this amazing Company that you and Herb have built and nutured. I remember the first time I met both of you in the old terminal one in Phoenix. You made an amazing impression on me that day as you do everytime I have the priviledge of seeing you. It was an amazing day when your announcements came out. I guess years from now your Employees will be saying, "What were you doing when Herb and Colleen made their announcements"? You make that kind of impact on your Employees, this Company and our Customers. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn from you and grow with you. Thank you for building my future. Thank you for the personal touch you bring every holiday, birthday, and anniversary. Thank you for taking care of our Family members in the Armed Services. Thank you for being who you are and having the passion and determination to bring to fruition, Southwest Airlines. The Thank you's could go on forever. Congratualtions Colleen, this is very much deserved. I look forward to six more years of your greatness and inspiration! Kathi Woodley
Darrell_J_Piers1
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I was a wee lad of 23 when I first met both Herb and Colleen. They arrived on a shiny new -300 series and had with them a boat load of politicos and business types from the Houston area. Their mission was to show off just what SWA can do at airports like MDW and HOU if given a chance. I remember vividly meeting Colleen for the first time. We had tables set up at the end of a vacant concourse for social times and Colleen came to my table and introduced herself to me. Little did I know that the meeting was the first of many more. 8 years later I was a member of her own Culture Committee. Love and awe is all I can muster right now to describe the dedication and drive Colleen evokes in her daily work for all of us at Southwest Airlines. I am 45 years old now and my gut went ill reading Colleen would be stepping back soon. And end of an era--- Yet when I thought it through-- Colleen would say to me- I was the next generation to keep the Culture alive. It will be with honour, love and with a personal loyalty only I will understand- will I move forward and continue our Tradition, our way of life. Saying thanks seems so.....insignificant when we owe so much to Colleen and Herb. I am grateful I have a personal connection with both Herb and Colleen. My life has been enriched and challanged having been mentored by these folks. It is healthy to have heroes in one's life. I am lucky I have two. What more can you say ? I love them both so very much. Darrell J PIerson
Dennis8
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I don't know whether to be glad you are stepping down or be afraid. You plan on changing boarding to assigned seating. You plan on changing to a mile based rapid rewards system. These changes are likely to start 30 days after dec. 8, which is the earliest your rapid rewards rule changes can be made. As a result, I don't know if it is you who has decided to change the airline in a dramatic way, and make it like a legacy carrier, or if it is the guy you picked, or you are leaving because you don't want to see this happen. I doubt that is the case though. Either way, in my mind, and from what seems to be an overwhelming majority of your rapid reward members, it seems that your changes will be a negative for this airline, and, cause me to go through IAH, which is closer to my house, rather than run all the way to hou.
Maryellen_Good
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To Herb and Coleen So glad to see you both are not far away. I just want to thank you for taking care of my two sons that work for you. One of them has moved on to a different profession but only after spending fifteen years with you. And the other is still there after fifteen years. With all those years of the children working there, my husband and I have enjoyed trips to see relatives. From a mother of two SWA employees and a person that was accepted into Southwest twice ; I thank you from my heart. And I will be using that privledge again to go to California from Chicago to help my aged parents who are very ill. Thank you, thank you, thank you
Leah4
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Thanks for all you do, Herb & Colleen! I would LUV to meet you & get your autographs someday! Colleen, I read in my newspaper a few weeks ago that you were in TUL; that's where I'm from! 🙂 Too bad I couldn't have seen you.
Marie_Davis
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Dear Ms. Barrett, I just read that you will be retiring next year, so I will stop everything I'm doing and write the note I've been meaning to write for over a year now. You have done a marvelous job. SWA has become the industry standard, and this from someone who a decade ago was uncomfortable with the Southwest approach. SWA has responded to customer needs and comfort, by streamlining the check-in process (which used to require standing in line 3 times for a flight), by keeping flights affordable, by quick turnarounds and convenient connections, by a superb frequent flyer program (which has me foresaking my others and flying everywhere I can on SWA with a SWA credit card and using SW partners). Your articles in Spirit Magazine reveal a President who cares about customers, employees, and the American need to connect affordably. And she is a lovely woman in my age bracket demonstrating how top leadership in our country can be female, mature, and excellent. Thank you for my airline; that's how I've come to feel about SWA, like thousands of other people, I'm sure. I hate to see you go, and wish you the best. I can't help but be concerned that the personal touch (prompt phone answering by human beings on this continent, excellent empowering website, the freedom for regular folks to fly affordably) might be going with a change of leadership. Please communicate my vote for continuing the style which you've brought to blossom at SWA. Sincerely, Marie Davis