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A Strengths-Based Culture Takes Off at Southwest

A Strengths-Based Culture Takes Off at Southwest

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 55
  • Learn how Southwest Airlines is building a strengths-based culture and what that looks like during the challenges of a worldwide pandemic.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Dana Williams of Southwest Airlines was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. Dana shared about Southwest's journey to embed CliftonStrengths within its corporate culture, including:

  • A movement toward a strengths-based culture starts with building your tribe
  • How applying your strengths in your work and at home is not a "one and done" experience
  • What it looks like to lean into your strengths during the challenges generated by COVID-19

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

You've got to integrate strengths constantly. ... And so it's a constant. It's a tool. It's a language. And I feel like character is revealed in the fog of war. And I feel like strengths are revealed in the fog of war, and what we're dealing with right now.

Dana Williams, 17:53

What I've learned ... is that when you take care of employees, the customers do well. And we're in the people business; we just happen to have aircraft.

Dana Williams, 25:19

Start building a small group of like-minded people that are passionate about strengths. ... Pause and take a breath. And don't worry. ... I ... learned from a counselor way back, "Manage inside your hula hoop. You can't change people outside the hula hoop."

Dana Williams, 33:03

Jim Collison 0:01

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on June 26, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:20

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live on our live page, right above me is a link to the YouTube channel that'll have the chat room. Love to have you log in. Many of you are already doing that. So I appreciate you doing it. If you have questions after the fact -- you might be listening as a podcast or on the recorded version on YouTube -- you can always send us an email: Don't forget, if you're on YouTube, subscribe. Follow us there, a great way to do that. You can follow us and subscribe on any podcast app. It's getting real popular. All the cool kids are doing it. Just search "Gallup Webcasts" on any app, and you can then listen every week. Jillian Anderson is our host today she's a Subject Matter Expert for Gallup, and Jillian, that sounds super important. Welcome to Called to Coach!

Jillian Anderson 1:13

You know, we were joking before this, you get called "Subject Matter Expert"; people ask you what you're a subject-matter expert in. So today we get to be subject-matter experts around around building a strengths-based culture, and Jim, we're so excited to get to be hosting Southwest Airlines here today -- the LUV airline -- get to spotlight them and share their story. Happy Friday to everybody who's joining us. We've got a fantastic group -- crew who's live today. And we're also excited to get to host this as a webcast recording for groups that want to be able to come back and think about, How do you build a strengths-based culture within your own organization? And how do you bring that to life if this is something you're passionate about and see the power in?

Jillian Anderson 1:51

I am thrilled to get to host Dana Williams today. Dana, finally! We were -- supposed to do this webcast on March 13. And Dana, you and I were together March 11, I believe it was, at Southwest headquarters in Dallas, Texas. You know, and folks, if you're listening in, you know, you can think back to that time frame. Obviously, that week in particular was the very early onset of how COVID-19 was hitting our country, and particularly the airline industry feeling that very deeply at this point. And, you know, being a few months out from that initial onset, Dana, we're looking forward to kind of hearing from you about how Southwest has been leaning into your strengths during this time.

Jillian Anderson 2:38

And, you know, I think about all of the work that you did even leading into that season to build a strengths-based culture, and a lot of that is what you've been leaning into for creating resiliency during this season. So folks, just for some background here, before we, before we know it spotlight Dana. Within Southwest, just incredible work on building a strengths-based culture. You've got every single executive leader who has actually been coached around their own strengths. You've got 60 strengths coaches across the organization, and growing across departments. And you've got over 90% of leaders who have opted into saying we want to provide strengths-based leader and manager development across Southwest. So pretty incredible when you think about all the work that's been done to set you up for building a strengths-based organization.

Jillian Anderson 3:24

And Dana has been a part of this work since the very beginning. Dana, I think you started working with strengths about 8 years ago and as, as a member of the marketing department, a leader in the marketing department, became certified 5 years ago, and the rest is history from there! Before we get into Southwest story, I just want to start personal for a minute here. Can you just share your own Top 5 strengths with the group that's on here?

Dana Williams 3:50

Absolutely! And thanks again, Jillian, for having us. And I sit here representing a team of people. I mean, I'm just the spokesperson for so many people that have helped start this journey. But my Top 5 are Ideation, Strategic, Futuristic, Maximizer and Individualization. So, they come to play a lot, and especially right now. So --

Jillian Anderson 4:16

I know. We're going to tap into that a little bit later too, because I want to hear about what you're dreaming about what that Ideation, we've got -- cause that's a fun one to lean into. And Dana, remind, remind me how you first initially got introduced to strengths, because this was actually outside of Southwest, right?

Dana Williams 4:30

Yes. So one of my colleagues, and at the time, my best friend at work, Ann Murray, brought strengths to our marketing department from her church. Her church had been doing it, and they're still continuing to do it. And we used it as a, as a tool in our leadership meetings. And then we started kind of just, you know, reading the book and developing some training for our marketing leaders around it. Didn't really have any, any knowledge about how to grow a coaching business or anything about coaches until Kelly Bacon kind of introduced us, along with our -- we have a university called Southwest Airlines University. And Angie Sanders was with us the whole entire way as we were deciding what tool we wanted to use. Even though the company wasn't ready for it, we just created our own grassroots effort, and a couple of other departments started doing that as well.

Dana Williams 5:25

And then we kind of all started connecting together and sharing what we were learning. And then, before long, our leaders approved for us to become coaches. And then at that just started the movement. But Kelly and her team at Gallup were just so patient with all of us as we waited for that opportunity to come, and we were ready when the opportunity came. And I think that was a huge key in all of this.

Jillian Anderson 5:51

So let's, let's go back to some of those early days, Dana. You know, it's, it's fun because you had been a part of this since the very beginning. You, Kelly Bacon, Brian Brim from our team, I know, were a part of there. For me, it's been fun to join in, in the last several years here. And, but take us back to those, to those early days. And for folks who are listening in and just thinking about, you mentioned grassroots, right? If we were to just kind of pull back the curtain and get an idea of what this looked like as it was taking off, give us a little peek of behind the curtain.

Dana Williams 6:21

Yeah, it's interesting, because I think what Ann and I were both passionate about it, and our leaders were passionate about it. And I think that helped a lot. And then they were able to help endorse it with other leaders. While the university wasn't ready to take on that for the whole enterprise, they agreed to stay with us as we walked through that opportunity and started developing our own training. So we, we kind of use the material from the book. We brought in different speakers. We -- every time we had a training, we would kind of bring in different things about the strengths in those early days -- I think it was 2012; I think we've had like six reorgs since then. But during 2013-2014, we had a reorg. And all of our leaders and marketing, we really looked at everybody's strengths and how everybody -- what looked good.

Dana Williams 7:11

For example, My story is I didn't know I had Strategic until I did my strengths. And I was, at that time, moved into an opportunity where I could build strategic planning and worked on the brand as we rebranded in 2014 to the heart that you see now. And pulling my -- using that Strategic, but I learned from, from just studying and everything that I could learn grassroots that I had to work on that. I couldn't just go and be Strategic, and I had to really practice it daily. And I think that good analogy was using like a gym. You got to go work out every day or those muscles aren't going to work.

Dana Williams 7:51

And the other thing I learned is that I could not develop my strengths by myself; I had to work in conjunction. So Ann became a great partner in that. Now I have other partners I'm working with across the enterprise and within marketing. But it's kind of fun, as we progress, to look back and think through of how it happened. Because at the time it was just happening. We just, I think because I have Ideation, Futuristic and Strategic, I was constantly always thinking about what can we do next? And what are opportunities? What's the challenge? What's the solution? How do we use strengths as a tool for that?

Jillian Anderson 8:25

Yeah, I love that. You know, in your comment just even on the, the power of community and hearing some of your partners that came alongside you with this, you know, Don Clifton talked about that early on: that our strengths grow in the context of community. So having other people who are, you know, see the world a little differently from you can be really powerful as you're thinking about working together. And I know you guys did marketing, revenue management, you know, you had some great leadership that kind of took off and said, Our departments are going to be committed to doing this early on. Give us an idea of, I think of the the Hamilton song that says, It's not a moment; it's the movement, right? Give us an idea of how did you how did you move from those early grassroots stages to this being a movement to across Southwest?

Dana Williams 9:07

Yeah, I think what -- I'm going to give you guys probably 3 things to think about today as you're building your movement. And one of those is to build your tribe. And we -- when revenue management, which is part of our commercial team, when they started joining the strengths movement and became coaches about the same time that Ann and I did, we started kind of working closely with them, just ad hoc, just grassroots. What are y'all doing? Hey, what are you doing? Ann and I were both in a lot of cross-functional, integrated teams. One of the teams we were in was called "Team of Teams."

Dana Williams 9:39

And I asked the leader if we could bring that -- strengths into that group, because I knew that was an influential group. And I knew that was a group of leaders across the enterprise. So my Futuristic was someday, someday, these will be the ones that will be our advocates. And so we did strengths with them, and right after that, we got calls from these various departments saying, Can you come and strengths with our team? So we did, after we became coaches; that was a powerful movement. And then it just kind of went from there. But by the time our CEO said, "I want to do strengths; I believe in strengths," we already had this little tribe kind of formed of about 6 to 8 people. At the same time, in marketing, we were adding more coaches. So that was a benefit. And that freed me up to go and help across the enterprise and let the people within marketing focus on marketing.

Dana Williams 10:32

And of course, I had an amazing, I have an amazing leader that believed in strengths and let me do that. It wasn't even my day job. My day job was marketing. But I just integrated it -- every time we put a team together, I'd do the team grid, and say because I did so much cross-functional work, a lot of integrated marketing, whether it's you know, setting up Max or Hawaii or whatever, I always did a team grid as we pulled those groups together. But that was the start of it. That helps give you kind of that background.

Jillian Anderson 11:04

Well, and I think it's really fun. I mean, Dana, I actually remember sitting next to you on a plane when you guys were planning your, when you were first, I think, getting ready to launch your flights to Hawaii. And you know, and I love how you, you know, first of all, just bringing your marketing thinking to all of this and, and authentic branding, right? And, yeah, there has been numerous times where I've seen you pull team grids together and think about, OK, how are we positioning people to play to their strengths and accomplish this objective? You guys have done a pretty masterful job of using this as a very effective tool toward actually driving your business. You know, and you -- you share a little bit about kind of going from the mo -- from the moment, that early grassroots effort to the movement. How do you create sustainability around all of this, and how do you help really with that integration piece?

Dana Williams 11:53

Well, I think coming alongside you guys was great, because between our leadership, Angie at the SWA U [Southwest University], and between Kelly at Gallup and your team, we were able to build together a roadmap and a plan. But really, the second point that I have here is really get those leaders engaged early on, because they're going to be your advocates. And if they're not engaged, it just takes longer. And once we knew that Gary Kelly, our CEO and their executive team and his managing director was all about it -- and she became a coach -- that's when the movement started. And they started planning executive coaching through your team with our leaders. And then we started doing training within the senior management committee once a quarter and just bring a little bit of strengths in. And that helped a ton because then that's when the movement started.

Dana Williams 12:48

And, of course, Angie and her team weren't set up to manage building the coaches network. None of us were, but we as a coaches tribe helped. And what we did was we worked with Angie. We all had different day jobs across the enterprise, but we worked with Angie Sanders and our SWA U folks to help build a coaches network. And we started there. Instead of starting with champions and all that, we wanted to start with, make sure all the leaders were engaged and had the coaching. Then let's get all of the coaches build the coaches network. And the way we did that was we actually, when a leader said "I want to do this, and this is my gonna be my coach," and they got him signed up for coaching. Angie would meet with them. And then I would assign them one of our form, one of our coaches that was a seasoned coach to help mentor them through the process.

Dana Williams 13:41

And so some of us had 5 or 6 departments we were working with, but that helped the movement go. If we didn't have that -- we didn't wait for Angie to get a department in place because we knew, you know, that wasn't going to happen quickly. But we did that. And now she does have an amazing person in place that's kind of managing all of that. And one of the other cool things we did was working with you and Brian and having a monthly coaches call, where we could talk about our wins, our struggles, what we were going through as coaches, things we needed. And we would work with you guys to kind of figure out what that was.

Dana Williams 14:20

And I'll talk through COVID, and how we've, we've dealt with that, but, but that's what it was up until March. Lots of calls and lots of connection points with that tribes. We have the tribe connecting, we have the leaders. And then what we did in marketing, and now some of the other departments are starting to do, we built our own advocate network. Now advocates are not coaches. They're just people that love strengths. They just get excited when they hear strengths, and that's where you want to spend your energy because there's always going to be somebody saying, Nah, I did that. I'm not interested. You know, I don't have time. Don't worry about that. You know, it's kind of like Mr. Rogers' "Go find the helpers." Go find the people that are passionate with this, and go work with them. And that's where I spent my energy. And that's where the team spent their energy.

Dana Williams 15:07

And that -- and the reason why, think about this. We are in a situation now where nobody knows who's -- what's going to happen, right? People are moving around, whether they're moving for personal reasons or other reasons, maybe because they're getting furloughed or whatever. You've got to have a network that keeps growing. And it can't just be one person. It's got to be the tribe that you're building. And that tribe will keep -- we still had several coaches, even last year, that became a coach in one department, and they moved into another department, and they still were able to help and grow that, that coaching within that department. So that was the exciting thing for me to watch all that happen.

Jillian Anderson 15:48

Yeah, and you know, there's a, there's a common theme even in what you're sharing, Dana, right, of going where the energy is to some degree. So even going back to, you know, very initially when you had marketing and revenue management, a couple groups who the leaders were on board and said, Hey, let's, let's, you know, really invest in this as departments almost became early departments to say, We're going to show the power of a strengths-based approach. So you kind of go, go to where that energy is, then building this, this tribe, like you said, you know, you've got kind of this network of coaches internally. I love what you're sharing within marketing, because building these -- fueling kind of these advocates and folks who are already, you know, they're the ones who are listening to this podcast and coming up with ideas to bring into their team.

Jillian Anderson 16:32

So following kind of where that energy is, and then you've been able to build that into a pretty robust roadmap that really is allowing kind of department by department. I do want to just lean into one question based on what you shared here, because I think it's a common one that we get across, and particularly the strengths coaching community. But within organizations, if we're looking for leadership buy-in around this, right, what's just some ideas around, like what's worked for you guys on, you know, you've got leaders who are invested in this. What's gotten you to that place?

Dana Williams 17:03

Yeah, in fact, I got a call from one of our senior leaders in December, and said, like at the end of December, and said, Can you come January 8 and do a strengths with our leadership? And this group was all senior leaders. Some of them had not bought in yet to strengths (some of them had), because they have just, they've been so busy with operational issues, they hadn't had time to do that. So I knew that going in. And so I have Individualization. So I kind of customize that morning of training time with them based on that, based on what their needs are, knowing that.

Dana Williams 17:39

And I had them build a plan based on their goals for the year and apply their strengths and work in teams around that. So that they were seeing that, you know, this is not a "one and done." This is my third point. You've got to integrate strengths constantly. It's like we, in marketing, we don't have an activity with our leaders, with our team without doing some kind of strengths or talking about strengths when we have the group together. Even last Friday, I did that with our leadership team, and we talked about change through strengths. And so it's, it's a constant. It's a tool. It's a language. And I feel like character is revealed in the fog of war. And I feel like strengths are revealed in the fog of war, and what we're dealing with right now, and how to use that.

Jillian Anderson 18:27

Yeah, let's go there, Dana. I mean, I think we're bringing some some really powerful stories of what you guys have done and, you know, maybe one other just element to add in for, for folks who are particularly thinking about that roadmap. I know you guys have had kind of department-by-department sign-up, and it's, it's a 3-year journey of leader and manager development around strengths. So it's not a like, We're just introducing this once. This is a cultural movement that's baked into now how you're thinking and operating. You've been investing in this; you've still got a further journey, you know, in terms of how you're integrating all of this with across the organization playing to this. But when you think about the reality of what we're experiencing right now, you know, the last several months, COVID-19 hitting. This has been huge for the airline industry. Give us some insight into -- How do you, how do you lean into strengths in a season like this? You know, what's, what's life like for you right now?

Dana Williams 19:19

Absolutely. I think when I saw you March 11, and you were set up to train our coaches then, and we kind of had -- I was like, this, something's happening here big, and we've got to be ready. And so you kind of pivoted what we were talking about, and we went right into the 4 things that a leader needs during, during a crisis from their, from their followers. And it was Hope, Compassion, Stability and Trust. And so immediately, that -- we had been working in a small leadership group around COVID for about 2 weeks at that point, and that next week was when everything kind of hit. And I just put those 4 words up on the board; I said, "Team, this is what we need to focus on." And then we put them in a strengths grid. And I looked at the grid and I said, "Before we start, look how many people have Futuristic here! Let's lean into that right now and think about where we want to be. We don't know what's going to happen, but what does that look like?" And how, because I knew that would energize them to be planning out what the next week would like, next 2 weeks, next 3 weeks.

Dana Williams 20:29

And I feel like that same analogy we use with our marketing that we do with our internal marketing. And I just, because I've been a marketer at Southwest for so long, I always believe that you always market internally first, and then externally. So we've been working side by side with our communication team. And I was excited to -- I work really closely with them. So I've been mentoring that team for a year and they have 4 coaches now. And it was incredible to watch how they manage all of this.

Dana Williams 21:00

Our leaders have been incredible, tons of communication. If you look at anything Gary Kelly or even my my leaders have done, it shows the Trust, the Compassion, the Hope and the Stability. It's like the realism versus the optimism. You know, we're going to get through this. There's the optimism. The realism, we don't know what that looks like. There could be furloughs, there could be. And they've been very honest. So there's that trust that's built. And that stability. So we've been working with our leaders and I have some great collaborators in marketing that I work with on a daily basis. And Alyssa is one of them. And we just kind of start thinking through -- she's got Activator, and I've got the Ideation, and we kind of start thinking through what do they need right now? And working alongside our strengths coaches Michelle and, and Chelsea and Alyssa, we have really sat down. And we meet every month; it's just a small team, and talk about what are our team needs? And we came up with resiliency and did that last month.

Dana Williams 22:04

And right now we're working on, What does strengths at home look like? You know, you're parenting, you're, you're trying to do your work. Oh, and then also there's marriage situation. And so a partnership situation, you know, whatever, your roommate situation -- this is the new normal. So how do we take, and working with Austin at Gallup, how do we take our strengths? It's the same thing that we're learning from him that happened at work you apply at home. So again, my third point is integrate strengths daily. Don't feel like it's a "one and done." And I think that's the myth that so many companies I see when I talk to them about strengths. They're like, Oh, we've done that. And I'm like, No, no, no. Tell me what you've done. And it becomes a, it becomes a great tool, a great framework, a great language for everybody, especially now. And then for our people to feel like, They care about me and they want to teach me about what this is like gonna be. So we have a team of coaches in marketing and then outside of marketing working on what could this look like at home? That's kind of where we're going right now.

Jillian Anderson 23:12

Well, it's fun. It's fun. I can already hear your kind of Ideation and Futuristic. You know, thinking like, Where can you take this next? And how do we integrate this? And that integration piece, really your third bullet there, I think is such an important one. Like we talked about, it's not just the start of things. Right. And it's, you know, just going back to that March 11 day, goodness. I remember flying in that morning, and we had a plan for the afternoon of what we were going to do with coaches. We got there, and you showed up, right, to let me in the lobby. And, and you were like, Hey, I mean, the feeling at headquarters was palpable that day. And Gary Kelly, your CEO, I think you showed me the the video he sent out to all employees.

Jillian Anderson 23:13

Folks who are listening in, I mean, if you just Google any, any videos that Gary's done, just incredible when you see. And like, one of the phrases that stood out was, in that video, you know, just recognizing, like you said, balancing realism and optimism. And, and saying my job as a leader is to tell you when things are really good, and to let you know when things are tough. And you think about how that builds trust for employees, you know, hearing something like that, and you guys have been doing so much communication, you know, through this season. And, and, and that afternoon, we did pivot. We went into the room and said, "This is not the time for us to go with Plan A. This is the time for us to go with, Let's think about how we lead well in this season." Anybody who's not familiar with the "Needs of Followers" research that you referenced, that's really our Gallup research around what is it that followers need from their leaders.

Jillian Anderson 24:22

And those 4 elements, I know you guys have been using those to think about how you even do companywide and customer communications. Let's go there for just a minute because I think with your marketing background, you -- you're trained to think about that employee and customer connection. So all of this work that you're doing internally -- you've said you're doing a lot of mentoring with your internal marketing teams -- what do you see as the ripple effect for the customer in all of this?

Dana Williams 25:10

Yeah, I think, so I've grown up at Southwest. I've been off and on with the brand for almost -- a long time; a long time! What I've learned and been trained are, you know, is that when you take care of employees, the customers do well. And we're in the people business; we just happen to have aircraft. It doesn't matter that we can't fly everybody that wants to fly right now, or they're not ready, but when they're ready, we're going to be there for them. We actually have a fare sale going on today, which is great.

Dana Williams 25:41

But when we look at, when we look at marketing, and we look at the stages. We do research too, like you do at Gallup. We do research about what our customers are feeling. And one of the things that really popped is they wanted to feel safe, and what would make them feel safe was when people wear their masks. So that was one of the things that our customer experience team worked on is what are all the things -- and our operations team did an incredible job. So it's not one department now working on marketing; it's all of these pulling this data and research and then pulling what can we do operationally? And what do the customers want? And really focusing. I mean, that was important for me today to hear who are the customers that you guys have on on this podcast? I want to know what they want to hear. I want to make sure they feel heard. And that's what customers want.

Dana Williams 26:32

And so all of the communication we've been doing, coming out with the Southwest promise, now coming out with the fare sale for the fall, so it's August through December that you can book your travel. And I think today's the last day of the sale. So if you're watching this, today's the 26th of June. But it's -- we've always been known as, you know, the pers -- the company, that brand that cares about humans and people. And I've just been raised that way. And I think you'll see a shift right now in empathy of other businesses. And I think that the tool to help with understanding our employees with strengths is the same tool that helps our customers feel like, They care about me. I'm important to them. So we're not talking about us all the time. We're, we're crafting our communication around what they need.

Jillian Anderson 27:27

And Dana, I think I shared this to you when we connected quick the other day, but that, that Southwest Promise video -- the first one that came out -- I teared up when I saw it. But it was, you know, and I think from that, from the outside coming in, initially working with you, I was like, Oh, this is a, you know, fun brand. What's the brand experience actually gonna be like? And I think you've stated it really well. I've seen how your values have guided your decision-making during this time. And that phrase, I don't want to miss what you said there. That phrase that you said of, "We are a people business who happen to have aircraft."

Dana Williams 27:59

Yeah, the customer service business. We just happen -- I mean, we could go sell any, you know, that's what we do. And everything, and we work so hard to get the customers. But our employees, we know that -- I know if the marketing department's worked really hard, and the operations. And everybody's worked hard to get that customer. We want to keep them and we want them to be, we want them to know that we care about them, and that they can trust us. And so it's the same thing in building an internal program as we're doing externally. I always start internally first, and then we go external and build it.

Jillian Anderson 28:31

I love that. And we have -- so much of our Gallup research shows the power, we actually have a book called HumanSigma. That's the power of employee engagement and customer engagement. And we see the absolute biggest lever that you can pull to impact customer engagement is employee engagement. So the work that you guys have been doing -- I think your story highlights that so nicely, what that ripple effect starts to look like. Dana, I want to play to your Ideation and Futuristic. You alluded to a couple of these things. You know, we're kind of going past, present, future here, right? Like the grassroots story, you've got this beautiful roadmap in place, how you're dealing with COVID-19. What are you dreaming about? So you mentioned a few things. Give us a little picture.

Dana Williams 29:12

Well, one of the things that Ann used to tease me about, as I said, I knew we would have made it in strengths when I see someone from Gallup speaking to all the leaders. And that happened when Brian spoke to them. I was like sending Angie a text -- "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh," then Anne and Brian, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh -- this is happening." So I think my Futuristic plays out. So now here we are, we have Tiffany, who manages our coaches now through SWA U, and then we have all of our amazing leaders at SWA U that are our facilitators, and they've been amazing to train in strengths. So we're trying to figure out how do we continue growing this as we're kind of in this "pause" time?

Dana Williams 29:54

And so one of the things that we started doing was meeting weekly instead of monthly, because there's a lot of needs, and that connection point is so important with your tribe. So even if it's for 30 minutes, that's what we're doing right now, to kind of plan and prep what we need. And so that's been beneficial just to share, Here's what's going on in my team. Here's what I need. We can cross-pollinate other coaches, we can, you know, just work together as a team. But I think in the future, I think, as everything's starting to come back, I think that we'll see a lot of coaches continuing to mentor. Besides our department and two other departments, they're starting to build some advocate teams. And the advocate teams are a reminder -- those are the people who don't, they're not Certified Coaches, but they have a passion for strengths.

Dana Williams 30:45

So in marketing, we had the leaders pick somebody in each team. And that way that leader has that person kind of helping bring a strengths activity into each, each moment when the team is together that makes sense. So my vision is that as we grow these different departments that they'll build the advocate team as well, because as people move around, you don't want to lose that momentum, right? And keep, and keep that going. I also think, like I say, character is revealed in the fog of war. So strengths are revealed. You get to really point people quickly and work quickly when you've got strengths as your bedrock, as your platform. And I think that's been really crucial for us now, as we go through in transition, the company, we have an extended time-off program, we have a separation package going on. And so people are going to be moving around.

Dana Williams 31:39

So the thing I'm hearing from leaders on when I ask them, What do you need? What's going on? I think the help through transition. So I think really bringing up strengths and change is just we got it -- we had that discussion this week with our coaches in marketing. We got to keep that first primary out there, because everybody's changing. And, and then what does strengths and wellbeing look like? And how can we -- because wellbeing is huge right now. Right? And and so being able to take what's going on in the culture and bring it in to your people, I think is huge. And then applying strengths, the integration of strengths on it.

Jillian Anderson 32:16

Yeah, I think we've really heard those integration stories. Dana, I want to -- you asked about audience groups earlier. Yeah, I want to, in a couple minutes here, I'll invite Jim to come back in if we've got some great questions from our group. But let's call out just a couple audience groups. And if you were to give advice for, let's say, new coaches who are listening in, and they want to do this movement that you're talking about, you know, where, where do they start? What, what advice do you give to that audience group?

Dana Williams 32:46

Great idea. So if they don't, if they're not in a company, if they're an individual coach, but maybe they're working with a company, I would say find the partner -- find a collaborator there that they can work with to help build that. And then start building a small group of like-minded people that are passionate about strengths. If they're within a company and they want to grow it, but they know they can't grow it that fast, I want to tell them to take a pause and take a breath. And don't worry. Just continue working on themselves. I have a theory that I've learned from a counselor way back, and he just said, you know, "Manage inside your hula hoop. You can't change people outside the hula hoop." You've got to, and so really focus on yourself. And that's one of the pieces of advice I give to a lot of people as they're starting out. Just work on yourself. Listen to Called to Coach every week, read the articles, stay smart, become an expert. Get those people around you.

Dana Williams 33:46

I can think of some of the people in my certified class who are independent, and I think about what they might need and I would say, Get people in your class or get people in your church and just start. And I have done it with my church and some of the groups within my church are excited about it; others haven't quite gotten it yet. And I spend my time with the people that are passionate about it because they're going to be the people that go out and talk about it. Does that make sense?

Jillian Anderson 34:10

We hear that theme come out with it again. Let's move to the leader population. So let's say you're a leader in an organization. And, you know, I mean, I bring in, goodness, some of our Gallup research with this, we get to look at a lot of the power of strengths-based organizations, you know, and you look at organizations that really play to this. It's a business strategy because you're unlocking performance that we see organizations that play to their strengths, 18% increase in performance, 19% increase in sales, 73% lower attrition, 23% higher employee engagement, when you're truly thinking about how to play to the strengths of your people. So if you've got a leader inside of an organization that's going, "How do I create a culture of strengths?" What advice would you give?

Dana Williams 34:52

Yeah, I was on a phone call yesterday with a leader, and, and that was his question. And leaders have so much on their plate right now: trying to build the business, create demand, all the things, manage the people. They need a tool that is going to give them a quick insight into their people. And one of the things that this leader said yesterday is that has helped him so much understand, at working and leading his people from a distance, how to understand each of their strengths and how he can help craft his communication based on where they are. That would take mountains and months and years to do if you didn't have a tool that was so well-established and so researched. That's where I'm like, why would you even go anywhere else? This is, this is the tool. And, and it helps speed up the process of change and get quickly to where people are -- especially in coaching right now at a distance and leading at a distance.

Jillian Anderson 35:57

Thanks, Dana.

Dana Williams 35:58


Jillian Anderson 35:59

Jim, what are we hearing from some of our friends who've joined us today?

Jim Collison 36:01

Yeah, we're getting some good questions from the chat room. Mark asks a good one. And I think this is -- I want to -- Dana, I want you to spend a little time on it. Like the overall culture at Southwest, how much did that play into the success? In other words, strengths and the culture were almost, I mean, they were perfect for each other in a lot of ways. Do you guys sense that? Or talk a little bit about it.

Dana Williams 36:21

Yeah. So I'm trying to understand the question. Overall great culture Southwest is known for allow for this innovative strengths culture to be more easily flourish? So absolutely. I think we have one of our former VPs that is really big on talking about culture right now and how important that is. Our culture committee was started in the '90s. And it has been flourishing ever since. And we have people from all across the company that get selected to be on the Culture Committee for the enterprise. But then we have within each department, marketing always has two culture leads and then we have people that do things within that department. So it is a way of life at Southwest Airlines. As far as how strengths played into that, I think that that culture is, if you did probably a strengths grid for most of our leadership that we know of their strengths or people, this is a learning culture. And we are a culture that are achievers; we want to achieve things. And so what is the quickest way I can achieve something is with strengths. And so I think having that culture was great, but we did not -- having that, having that opportunity worked. Does that help answer your question?

Jim Collison 37:32

I think so. One of the -- at the very end there, and I think this is a very valid question, where do you get pushback inside the organization? Do you have those?

Dana Williams 37:40

Absolutely. That's -- every time, you know, there's always going to be a naysayer. Always, even in a great culture of Southwest. "I don't have time for this. I've done it. This is not me." And I'm like, that's just not the right -- I'm not going to spend my time there. I will, I will say, "I totally understand. When you're ready, we're here." Let everybody around that person get ingrained and ingratiated, and then all of a sudden, I've seen a total flip, where someone who didn't want to do it now is like the band, you know, band leader for strengths. So it just takes time. And don't worry if people aren't engaged in it. Spend your time with the ones that are.

Jim Collison 38:21

I think that's that's really good advice. Don't, you know, you can spend 80% of your time trying to influence the 2%, right, where that could be used well in other places. There had been another question. I'm gonna -- there was a couple around this, but how are you guys measuring the effectiveness of strengths inside the organization?

Dana Williams 38:39

Yeah, we are working on that right now. Because we were just getting ready to do that when COVID hit, to start. So we do have some measurement tools that we're doing for engagement. And so our engagement committee along with our SWA U committee and the coaches are working on kind of tools that can help measure that. I can tell you, from marketing, we have seen an increase in engagement over the last 5 years, with just the fact that people are -- they feel like their work is meaningful. They feel like they're valued. They feel like somebody at work cares for them. And so we've seen those kind of things pop. And it's because the very first week they come into marketing, we give them their strengths. And then we put them in a Strengths 101 class, and then they get assigned a buddy. And it just, you know, it doesn't stop from there. Even in our, in this environment right now, we're making sure all those people that came in this year are feeling connected and, and part of the movement.

Jim Collison 39:40

Yeah, Jillian, do you want to add anything to that?

Jillian Anderson 39:42

Yeah, no, it's, it's a great question. I mean, you know, and folks, you heard me share some of the stats that we've seen from our own meta-analysis within Gallup of strengths-based cultures. And so you start to look at -- and I know that's one of the things that we're really working on. Dana and Kelly and Brian, the rest of our team are thinking about How do you actually quantify the impact within an organization? If any of you have read our Harvard Business Review article on the additive effect of different sciences, you'll see exactly what Dana's talking about -- that there's almost this ripple effect that if you have a culture that plays to their strengths, we know that automatically connects to driving an engaging culture. If you have an engaging culture, we know that automatically connects to higher business performance.

Jillian Anderson 40:24

And so, you know, you kind of see this ripple effect of everything. And if we can start to kind of quantify some of those things. I think, right now, what we do have -- probably two things in place. First of all, qualitatively, even what you're sharing, Dana, right, which is some of the stories of those early groups that have gone through this and are saying, Wow, we've actually seen changes in, in our, in our departments. And then, two, I think, from the quantitative perspective, the two places you have quantitative are your engagement survey right now. And then also your -- as we roll out, so I alluded to this earlier, you know, you've baked in opportunities for focusing on strengths. You referenced that, you know, orientation, you've got an introductory opportunity, you've got a whole group of facilitators that does strengths discovery classes, right. And then you've got department by department, we've been rolling out strengths-based curriculum for leaders and managers. And if you look at that journey, at every point in that journey, we actually do an impact evaluation. So if someone goes to a course on leading with my strengths, and then the next one is, you know, leading my team's strengths, and then coaching to performance on my team, we're getting, we're getting quantitative measures after each of that -- in terms of the effectiveness of those -- that we can start to go back to in terms of Are people learning this and applying it, and is it making a difference in how they're actually leading?

Dana Williams 41:44


Jim Collison 41:45

Dana, some questions. Justin asks about maybe reaching -- where strengths has reached. So there's been a question about the cabin crew. And then additionally, I think Dan had asked about hourly or like call center workers. Are -- is, is it -- has it made its way down into some of those areas?

Dana Williams 42:03

So, interestingly enough, yes, we haven't been able to get it all the way down to flight crew, pilots, baggage handlers, people at the stations. We do have some of our, what we call CS&S, some of the people that are on the phone with our customers, they have been, they have a strengths movement going on within their department. So, but, but yeah, I mean that if you talk about Nirvana, that would be, you know, 5 years from now that we get to see all these employees, every employee that comes on board knows their strengths, and they know that they're valued.

Dana Williams 42:43

They feel that way already being at Southwest, but just to say it's, I love that analogy that somebody gave me one time that it's like putting an X-ray up to see people quickly and say, "Oh, this is how this person's wired." And it's like, oh my gosh, this is such a quick way for us to connect and communicate. And as we get into this agile environment of marketing and all the other things that are happening in our -- with changes in our world, we've got to figure out a way to quickly, quickly connect. And, and that's one of our purpose statements is that we want to connect with people and make sure that they are doing the things that they want to do, and they're energized, whether they're a customer or an employee.

Jim Collison 43:24

Have you found, as, Jillian, one second -- go ahead.

Jillian Anderson 43:26

I was just going to add in there with the, I think the question around just the different populations, I know some of this, you know, we've got a 5-year roadmap in place, and there's a lot to come still. And some of those populations are the future in that roadmap. You know, obviously, this is continuously evolving over time. But I will say, you know, even just thinking about your, your marketing approach -- and every audience group's a little bit different -- we've had to think differently about if you've got, you know, baggage claim that you're trying to. You're not going to sit down and have an hour team discussion about your strengths in that kind of an environment. We got to think about how to package things in ways that it's like you've got your 5-minute Quick Connect as a team when you come in. How do you connect that to creating a safe environment for people? So I think, you know, we are thinking about how that looks a little different with each of those different audience groups.

Dana Williams 44:12

Absolutely. And that would be amazing down the road that you've got a crew on a plane, and they all come in to meet each other for the first time and they can connect so quickly. "Oh, you've got Ideation. So do I." And maybe we could create something to do with the customers today. You know, I -- that's, that's my Futuristic and my Ideation.

Jillian Anderson 44:28

I love it.

Jim Collison 44:29

Dana, Dan's asked twice now. So I feel obligated to get it up there. Can, can you ask about how you guys -- you mentioned this, but -- you mentioned the team grid a couple times. How actually, I mean, just from a nuts-and-bolts standpoint, you just put a grid together, printing it out, and how are you using them?

Dana Williams 44:44

So yeah, so basically we haven't done it with a ground ops, which is -- you asked, I think, about when we open a station. But with the leaders of that station might have done it. We have, we had, I think, some folks go and do some California strong leadership teams at one point. But what we do is I have the team grid. And most the time if I'm devel -- if we have a cross-functional team that don't work together on a normal day, then we'll pool. We have the Gallup platform. So we can pull everybody's strengths, put it in a grid and quickly see what's, what's the DNA of this team right now? And what do we need to focus on? And where are some areas we might have some blind spots? And what are some areas of strength we want to focus on? And we kind of -- it quickly kind of gets that team going.

Jim Collison 45:29

I think, for those who attended the Summit, we had Danny Lee talk about strengths grids. Is that right, Jillian? Do I have that right? In kind of digging, digging into those, yeah, it was a big hit, from what I've heard. Do -- you know, we also know, in building a strengths-based culture, getting, you know, one of those steps is getting senior leadership, especially the CEO level. And so there was a question; let me bring it up. How frequently does your CEO or other leaders endorse strengths to your teams? Staff, video, those kinds of things.

Dana Williams 45:56

It's kind of funny. It's -- they have because we're the last -- since 2018, they've been working on their strengths and having strengths activities with -- at least once or twice a year. But I will see our senior leaders, we have what's called rallies, where our senior leaders will come in and talk to all the employees. I'll see them say, "Well, remember I've got this talent or I've got that," so that it's offhandedly they're talking about it all the time. But there's not like a focus of you've got to, you know, there's the the genuine times that they do their strengths. And then there's the times you just hear them grassroots talk about it, which I love.

Dana Williams 46:32

My favorite thing is walking down the hall and hearing people talk about their strengths. I mean, that's when I know we -- that's another way we knew we had made it. And then Brian Brim came in and talked to our leadership last fall, when we rolled out or updated core values, and he applied the strengths to that. And everybody got to talk about the strengths along with the core values. So again, it was the layered effect.

Jillian Anderson 46:53

Yeah, and I'll add, I think, you know, every single executive has had one-on-one strengths coaching. I think one of the other things that ended up being powerful is that you actually, so if you think about kind of your top 60 leaders, you know, they're, they're getting this to some degree in some ongoing touchpoints like what you've described there -- one-on-one coaching, right? But all of those leaders, and Angie Sanders, who leads your, you know, SWA U leadership work, did a lot of work around this. She met me one-on-one with every single ... and essentially gave them an opt-in option for their department to join the strengths-based journey, and laid out what that curriculum would look like and everything that came with that.

Jillian Anderson 47:30

And I think there's something powerful in giving a leader an opportunity to opt in. Right, where they have to kind of put some skin in the game and say, All right, I feel like this was important to invest in. So almost that department-by-department approach, which might have been driven driven a bit by how your, you know, budgets are set up, ended up actually being something powerful in terms of creating some, some buy-in from those leaders as well.

Dana Williams 47:52

Absolutely. And one of the fun things that happened was Angie put together a chart of all the leaders that had signed up. And so some of the other, and they said, "Here's who signed up so far." Then the other ones had that fear of missing out -- "Oh my gosh, I need to sign up! I haven't signed up yet." So that kind of happened, a little -- that kind of helped too.

Dana Williams 48:12

Positive social pressure.

Jim Collison 48:13

A little FOMO. I was gonna ask that question: Do you find, as you're rolling this out, do you have departments who hear about this, who go, "Hey, what about us?" Has that happened?

Dana Williams 48:27

Well, most of them heard all the senior leaders heard about it, and then it would trickle down. And some of those influencers I talked about that were in the team of teams or other areas would talk about it. And most of the time, it was because they weren't ready yet. They were making some org changes or things were going on, and we were like, Don't worry when -- you know, Angie and team are there for them when they're ready. And so I think a lot of that was, was going on for those that couldn't jump right in -- they were a little bit bigger departments.

Jim Collison 48:55

Angie joined us on the afterparty for the Summit. So we had a chance to have her. So it was great, great hearing about that as well. That's recorded -- if you attended the Summit and you haven't watched the afterparty yet, Angie joins us on it. One more, as we bring this in for a landing, so to speak, one more question from Dan. And I think it's a good one: How much time do your 60 staff coaches spend coaching? If you think about what they have to do and the work that's done, how does that work inside your organization?

Dana Williams 49:23

Yeah, because most -- you have to remember that in most departments, I think revenue management was -- had some dedicated coaches. Our coaches, like in marketing, they have day jobs. So this is part of just part of their growth and their development, as, you know, as somebody that's interested in org health and in developing people. And so a majority of them do not, this is not their full, this is not what they do all day long. But they are the band leader for it within their department and making sure that the leaders are coached. So like we divided up our leaders in marketing, and we each took a certain group of leaders and just worked with them. And I just hear from those leaders whenever they need something or as we're coaching or as we're doing some change, or as we're going through COVID. And so everybody has kind of a point person -- our Communications team did a great job. They divided up their team that way, and have one-on-ones with their senior leaders quarterly, and make sure they're coaching. But they all have day jobs, too. So there isn't that many within the group that do this full time. They pretty much do it as part of just because that's a development opportunity for them.

Jillian Anderson 50:41

Yeah, and I'll add in, just from a structural perspective, you know, as folks are kind of listening in and thinking about what that structure looks like for your coaches, so if we go back to like when a leader opts in with their department, right, that's when they're identifying kind of that dedicated coach within their department -- coach or coaches. And we've built in, in that roadmap, so all those kind of learning touchpoints for leaders and managers, that coach has some pretty specific asks of, you know, coaching every individual leader and manager that's a part of that department. Once they've learned about their own strengths, coaching them then around their team grid is part 2. You know, so there's some pretty specific, I think, kind of asks with that group. And, you know, if you think about having probably about 30% of your time for somebody who you're asking to be able to do that is probably a fair ask for somebody who's got another day job.

Dana Williams 51:28

And so, and so to answer the question, I would say probably 25% to 30% of their time.

Jillian Anderson 51:33


Dana Williams 51:33

Yeah. Is about average.

Jim Collison 51:37

Well, it's good, it's a good number. And I think we see that in a lot of organizations. Right, Jillian? I mean, I think that is, that's pretty typical. I'll be honest. What I did for Gallup, in this format, up until just COVID was, you know, 35%-40% of my time. And, of course, things got so crazy, we went full time on it. Dana, I'm assuming strengths is needed more now during this time than it ever has before as people, as things are going on. If you were to kind of summarize the -- this time in maybe just a couple sentences of what have you guys learned, and how are you going to move forward? How would you summarize that?

Dana Williams 52:15

Summar -- in relation to strengths?

Jim Collison 52:17

Yeah, yeah. I mean, how has strengths helped you guys get -- so if you were just to kind of summarize how having that has helped you get through this, and then looking ahead, yes, just a quick summary as we wrap it.

Dana Williams 52:26

Yeah, and I think, I think to summarize my top points is, you know, getting the tribe, making sure the leaders engage, and then integrating. So as I look, during COVID, I would say the integrating is going to be huge. So whether it's building a team grid for a quick team you've got to put together to get something done, or if it's to figure out because you're in transition, and you've got to move people around. Let's understand who those people are and help them get into the right place that feeds their strengths. Or if you're coaching somebody in or out, you know, again, that, that who is the this person and how can I help them be their best self? And then third, I think it's while we're in this pause time, and we can't do a lot of growth building for strengths internally, because everything's kind of in a pause time, how do we keep that going with what we have? And so developing these programs like strengths, how do we bring strengths at home? How do we help our employees? Because the one, one thing that stuck out with all of them as we've been talking to them through these last 90 days, or would you say 16 weeks?, is no matter what happens, the company care, will care for you through that? And, and that gave them, and they wrote back and said, "That really helped me to hear that.' And so the way we care for them is to understand who they are, help them understand who they are, and then help them develop a plan for what that looks like through transition. And that's what's on my mind right now.

Jim Collison 53:54

That's a good, good way to wrap it. Jillian, let's thanks -- let's thank Dana for her time here.

Jillian Anderson 53:58

Dana, thank you so much. Yes, you know what, and I was, I was thinking back to just that infamous kind of March 11 day that we had together. And I remember Angie standing up in front of the room and saying -- I think this was at the beginning of everything, right? -- and she said, "This is an opportunity for strengths to be the hero." And and think about that for just a minute, because it's not StrengthsFinder the assessment, that's the hero. It's the strength in your people. And you talked about how you guys have invested in and you value your people, you're caring for your people right now. And I think that's this beautiful picture that we get to see through your story during this time, is that's where it is a bit of a business strategy, where you're thinking about, if you really, really -- what a more important time is there for you to lean into giving people the opportunity to think about how are they playing to their strengths to be resilient in this season? And, and that to me was was really powerful to hear that this is the opportunity to step up with your strengths when you're facing, you know, unprecedented challenges around you.

Jillian Anderson 54:57

I'll leave you with a fun thing I learned from Southwest, if you want to hear this. So I remember working with some of your, your coaches that taught me -- Dana, you're gonna have to check me on this. This chocks in, right, which means that your -- this is what you do if you're going to signal a plane to put the blocks in behind it and stop the plane when it comes to the ground. This is chocks out, which means the blocks go out from under the plane and you're ready to take off. I think that's such a good analogy for when you're investing in a strengths-based culture, right? You're doing all the groundwork to be ready for chocks out so that when those tough moments come, you can still take off. And that's kind of a fun way to think about that with Southwest.

Dana Williams 55:40

I love that. And I always think put the oxygen mask on you first, right? There's a lot of analogy in that, the wellbeing that we want our people to have. We want them to know who they are, so they can help take care of their employees, their families, their customers. And what better way than strengths, right? I mean, Hello! So that's, yeah, that's my analogy.

Jillian Anderson 56:00


Jim Collison 56:01

Dana, thank you for joining us today. Jillian, we ought to schedule this for a year from now, just get it on the books, to follow up, right? And I think all the future story that has yet to be done, we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. And, and so there's some incredible work yet to be done and some incredible stories yet to come. So Dana, thanks for coming and sharing. Thanks to Southwest for being such great partners with us and be willing to share this time with us. Not everybody will do that. And so we just appreciate you doing that for us. So, ladies, if you'd hang tight for me, one sec.

Jim Collison 56:31

Let me wrap up by saying, make sure you guys take advantage of all the resources we have available now through Gallup Access. You can get access to access. I hate to say it that way, but it's the way it works: is the easiest way to sign in, uppper right hand corner. Just sign in; tons of resources available for you on that site as well. And so we'd love to have you do that. Bottom of the page, by the way, out there, you can sign up for the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter to stay up to date on everything we do every single month. A great way to stay in touch with those things. If you want to stay in touch with us and follow these live webcasts, just head out to Follow us there, a great opportunity to get kind of a early announcements of the things that are coming up; a great way to kind of know. Oh, and I should say, make sure today, if you're listening live, get over to that fare sale that's going on at Southwest right now. That's right. That's -- as soon as I hang up, I'm heading over to t where I want to go. If you have questions for us, not about fare sales, but any other questions you can send us: Don't forget, join us on our Facebook groups: That would get you in our big group. And if you're not a Facebooker, and that's OK, you can join us on LinkedIn: "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" is what you'd search for. Just ask to be invited in; I will let you in as well. Want to thank you for joining us today. It was an hour that flew by and so we thank you for joining us.

Jillian Anderson 56:49

Huge thanks, Dana. You're incredible.

Dana Williams 57:19

Well thank you guys for all you do, and for being there for all of us during this time. It's been great.

Jim Collison 57:49

You are very welcome. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Dana Williams 57:51


Dana Williams' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Strategic, Futuristic, Maximizer and Individualization.

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