I was in Philadelphia (PHL) on a Tuesday morning in early October when one of our non PHL-based Employees came in. He had arrived in PHL late the previous day and had left his laptop on the plane. Hoping to find it before flying back out later that day, he was understandably anxious, and one of our PHL Leaders was doing his best to help him. After a few minutes, however, it appeared that the laptop had "walked off."
This Employee made a perfunctory nod to his role in this – that he had been negligent in leaving his laptop behind – but then proceeded to lay the blame completely at the feet of the PHL Station with the following angry statement (I paraphrase): "In the old days that laptop would never have disappeared. Southwest's Culture sure has changed." The Culture gods, of course, have a sense of humor, for about five minutes later the missing laptop appeared - it had been in a safe all along.
In a sense, of course, this Employee was right. SWA's Culture had changed. Where he was wrong, however, was in thinking that the change was in someone else. PHL Employees had done nothing wrong – in fact, they had taken excellent care of a fellow Employee's valuable property. Where the Culture had changed was, in fact, in him; he assumed, without basis, that our PHL Employees were somehow so devoid of Southwest Spirit that they would steal his laptop; he failed to give them the benefit of the doubt.
For my fellow Employees, the moral of the story is that we are - all of us - responsible for Southwest's Culture every day, in every interaction with a Customer or Employee. Cultural problems are almost never "out there;" they are almost always "in here." If we all focus on the part of the Culture over which we have control – our own behaviors – the rest will tend to take care of itself. If we all obsess about the supposed Cultural failings of "others" while ignoring our own, then will our Culture be in trouble. Let's not let it happen.