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Does Your Team Feel Your Appreciation?

“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about” -  Brené Brown

Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, passed away on January 3rd, 2019 at the age of 87. Kelleher is known as a pioneer and innovator in the aviation industry, a nonconformist whose vision and creativity transformed commercial aviation.

Kelleher, loved by the employees at Southwest Airlines, was a leader who loved people and didn’t think twice about taking the time to get to know those who helped make Southwest a success.

Appreciated Employees Tend to Express Their Appreciation

On October 14th, 1994 Dallas AP news posted this, “Employees of Southwest Airlines want the world to know how much they appreciate Chairman Herb Kelleher, who’s been known to help lug baggage and dress like the Easter bunny to greet holiday passengers.

So, the workers Friday ran a full-page ad in USA Today, in honor of Boss’s Day and their flamboyant leader. The ad thanks Kelleher, 63, for ″remembering every one of our names,″ listening,″ and ″for being a friend, not just a boss.″

Southwest has about 16,000 employees nationwide. Employees pitched in to raise $60,000 for the ad. The suggested donation was one hour’s salary.” (1)

The USA Today ad read;

“Thanks, Herb, For remembering every one of our names. For supporting the Ronald McDonald House. For helping load baggage on Thanksgiving. For giving everyone a kiss (and we mean everyone). For listening. For running the only profitable major airline. For singing at our holiday party. For singing only once a year. For letting us wear shorts and sneakers to work. For golfing at The LW Classic with only one club. For outtalking Sam Donaldson. For riding your Harley Davidson into Southwest Headquarters. For being a friend, not just a boss. Happy Boss's Day from Each One of Your 16,000 Employees.” (2)

Herb Kelleher put in considerable time and effort to validate and affirm 16,000 employees, giving each one a sense of acceptance and belonging. In other words, Herb connected with his people on a deeper level than most.

Making Your People Your Top Priority Enhances Your Bottom Line

From the baggage handlers to the customers Kelleher understood the empowering effects of expressing genuine appreciation to all who helped make Southwest Airlines a success while other airlines were struggling.

How well do you know those who work for you? Aside from their responsibility and first name how well do you know the people helping to make your organization successful? Would your employees donate an hours’ salary to say “thank you” to you?

Most leaders agree that placing people first should be a priority, many leaders believe in the importance of practicing this simple principle yet, some consider themselves too busy to get to know the people working for them.

Statistics Show Employees Favor Relational Leaders

How well do you know your employees? You may not have 16,000 like Herb Kelleher but, statistics show that relational leaders get far more people “willing” to go the extra mile for them than authoritarian leaders do.

In 2018 an article appeared in Forbes entitled “The Top 5 Qualities Employees Want in A Leader,” the five headings alone spoke volumes, the article though brief is worth reading. The five qualities are;

1. The Ability to Listen, Genuinely

2. The Willingness to Give Credit Where It's Due

3. The Ability to Adapt to Their Team

4. Infectious Passion

5. Unimpeachable Integrity (3)

Herb Kelleher exemplified all five qualities, is it any wonder 16,000 employees took out a full-page ad to say thank you?

An effective leaders’ influence goes far beyond his or her title. Influence and respect like Kelleher had with his employees can only be earned by building relationally. Developing relational connections with your people cannot be overstated.

How Well Do You Know Those who Work For You?

Take a moment to consider these questions as you think about them.

1. Are any of your employees celebrating a birthday or anniversary soon?

2. Has anyone gotten married, engaged, had a child or grandchild recently?

3. Has anyone earned a degree or is about to complete their work for one?

4. Has anyone purchased or sold a home recently, or closing on one soon?

5. Do you know any of your employees’ favorite sports team, music group,

movie, hobby?

One thing I do to remember birthdays and anniversaries is to put them in my calendar and set an alert for the morning of, when my phone alert goes off, I send them a simple text first thing that morning with my best wishes, it only takes a minute. I’ve been doing this for years, this small thoughtful act pays great dividends in the long run.

“Love is always bestowed as a gift - freely, willingly and without expectation. We don't love to be loved; we love to love” – Leo Buscaglia


2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell 10th Anniversary

Edition (p. 123)

3. Forbes: The Top 5 Qualities Employees Want In A Leader

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.*****


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