CEO of US Airways
In my case it's not necessarily words of advice, but more advice I received through example. The example is Herb Kelleher [former CEO of Southwest Airlines], who I've gotten to know over the last 10 years. Knowing how great he's done, I've tried to hang out and watch and learn through osmosis. He is so good at listening, and has really taught me how important it is to listen to your employees. If you watch Herb in action, it really is phenomenal. He is completely engaged and never looks over your shoulders to see who else is in the room. It's not out of principle; it's just who he is.
I try really hard now to have forums that allow employees to talk to me, rather than me being in front of 1,000 people. Four times a month, I put myself in a room with 30 or 40 pilots and flight attendants, and I talk for 10 minutes; they talk for 50. It's not just listening out of respect -- you can't imagine how much better you can do your job when you operate this way. When you're leading a big organization like an airline, there's a whole lot you can miss, so you have to start by listening to people. Then you can decide what the right course is.
I'm nowhere near where Herb is as a listener yet, but just yesterday, we had one of these meetings and someone told me about going to check in and all we had available was first class. She was traveling with her 10-year-old, and he wasn't allowed in first, so they couldn't fly. I don't think that's right. I didn't even know we had that policy, so it's going to change.
We went through our archives for nearly a decade of collected wisdom that still holds up.