Lift spirits with stirring stories

business woman giving speechYou can deliver great speeches that rally the troops.

A more lasting way to motivate people is to share triumphant stories. Employees tend to heed stories from their peers and customers more than rah-rah lectures from their CEO.

At Southwest Airlines, CEO Gary Kelly treats storytelling as a core element in uniting the company’s 46,000 employees with a common purpose to serve customers. He arranges for such stories to circulate among the workforce.

For starters, he cites examples every week of employees who excel at service. This public praise is rooted in a real in-the-trenches story, and everyone at Southwest hears about it.

He also uses video to spread inspiring stories about employees providing exceptional service.

For example, a Southwest customer recalls the day she and her family dropped off her husband at the terminal for his six-month deployment in Kuwait. Kelli, a Southwest gate agent, saw the family and asked if they wanted to go to the gate.

“It bought us 30 more minutes to spend time together,” the customer says.

In another video, a passenger says that Southwest’s low fares allowed her to take five round trips from Orlando to Birmingham to help her daughter battle serious health issues.

With 40 straight years of profitability, Southwest stands out by highlighting heroic accounts of devoted employees. Kelly understands that the best way to motivate is to step back and let stirring stories do the work for him.

— Adapted from “Southwest Motivates Its Employees With A Purpose Bigger Than A Paycheck,” Carmine Gallo,