I’m headed to Dallas this morning for another conference; but one that is entirely different than the others I attend during the year. This one is called the “Southwest Culture Connection,” being held in the corporate headquarters of Southwest Airlines at Dallas’ Love Field. The program promises “a rare opportunity to experience one of the world’s most admired organizational Cultures firsthand.” The day features presentations and discussions with Southwest executives, and a tour of their operations is included.

Anybody who knows me is aware that I have long been an admirer of Southwest and its founder, Herb Kelleher. They’ve been on my radar since the days they hired stand up comedians for in-flight performances (I tried to find stories related to that, but a search for “Southwest Airlines hires comedians” only turns up pages and pages of stories about their funny flight attendants). The history of the company is remarkable, and they’ve built an impressive operation over their 50-year existence. I’ve made it no secret that they are my favorite airline to fly.

At times my “brand enthusiasm” can interfere with the course of normal activity. When speaking at a conference in Texas a couple years ago, I was approached by a woman after my presentation. She introduced herself and said, “I’m with Southwest Airlines,” and those were the last words the poor woman got to say. I was immediately off and running about how much I love her company. She had to listen to me prattle on, when in reality I think she just wanted her parking ticket validated. Regardless, she was very patient with me. When I think about it, I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

The truth is that the culture that has been developed and nurtured at Southwest Airlines is one that would be beneficial for the workers’ compensation industry. Their philosophy is one that puts their people first, with the knowledge that energized, motivated and empowered employees will go above and beyond in serving the paying public. Effective communication is key to this process, and that skill is crucial (yet too often missing) in the world of managing the aftermath of a workplace injury.

As I think about it, there have to be some similarities between dealing with customers on both fronts. Handling the general public at an airport probably isn’t that different from managing the claims of injured and inconvenienced workers. Both groups likely enter the facility/system with pretty much the same attitude, and how they are treated when they get there is what makes a difference towards a positive outcome.

As a businessperson I am interested in learning how Southwest has maintained their positive culture through their impressive growth. I want to see how it could help contribute to both sales and success for my company. As a representative of the workers’ comp community, I am interested in what lessons could be gleaned for improved recruitment and performance within the industry.

Or at the very least, I could come back with a good pre-workday safety presentation for the office.

Ok people, take off your headphones and put down your stupid phones. I’m talking here. It’s time to fasten your seatbelts low and tight across your hips, ‘cause it’s going to be a busy day. Please take a moment to review the safety card located in the pocket in front of your desk chair. It will familiarize you with all of the safety features of your workspace. This office has two exits, one in the front and one in the back. In the event of an evacuation, screaming employees will lead you to the nearest one. If you find that your workload is leaving you under water, you should don the yellow life vest that is stored under your seat. Simply place the vest over your head, secure the buckle and pull on the red tab. If it fails to inflate then this just wasn’t your day. Don’t inflate the vest until you have followed the screaming employees out the nearest exit. We don’t anticipate a problem with my blood pressure, but in the event there is an issue, 4 excuses for whatever has gone wrong will fall from a compartment over your head. Place one of the excuses on the desk in front of you and breathe normally. You may need to assist co-workers with their excuses, but always secure your excuse first before helping others. Well, that’s the do’s and don’ts for today. Don’t sit back and relax, there is work to do. Just remember to do more do’s and don’t do don’ts, and we should all get along just fine. Thanks for being you – at least as much you as we can tolerate.

Oh yeah, I was born for this.

The day will end with a VIP dinner at an undisclosed location. I don’t have any idea where that will be, but it is probably not a super-secret location like Dick Cheney’s basement (private joke for long time readers). Maybe it will be the company cafeteria. I understand it has a killer view of Runway 13R at Love Field.

So, with that, I’m off. There is no better way to get cultured than this. I am really looking forward to the day.

I’ll try to contain my enthusiasm. But it won’t be easy.


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