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Why Southwest inspires fierce loyalty

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in Best-Practices Leadership,FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers

One day, Southwest Airlines marketer Lorraine Grubbs-West was told to go home early and have her sons and husband dressed and ready to go by 3 p.m.

Her husband had been ill with cancer for more than two years and her house was dotted with tokens of her colleagues’ support … not to mention the sick leave they’d donated so she could spend time with him in the hospital.

At 3 p.m., a limo pulled up and Grubbs-West’s entire staff piled out. They said they were sending her family to dinner at a five-star restaurant and then to see a performance of A Christmas Carol.

The family enjoyed an unforgettable evening. Her husband died a few weeks later.

Here’s the principle underlying thousands of what Grubbs-West calls equally generous gestures from the doting Southwest “family”: Take special care of your people when they’re going through hard times personally.

  • Southwest’s benefits department advised Grubbs-West on how to maximize insurance payouts during her husband’s illness, even though it cost the self-insured company a lot more.

  • Just three months before Grubbs-West’s husband died, her mother died unexpectedly. On the morning of the funeral, colleagues from the marketing staff descended on Grubb-West’s house to clean and prepare it for guests, make food, and organize.

  • Grubbs-West recently went looking for a co-worker who was supposed to help her with a project that morning, and discovered that the colleague had been up all night in the emergency room with another colleague.

  • When a manager had been out for a few weeks after foot surgery, the whole staff picked up lunch and brought it to her home to share. The manager thanked them for reassuring her that she was still part of the team.
—Adapted from Lessons in Loyalty, Lorraine Grubbs-West, CornerStone Leadership Institute.

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