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Who Are You…Really?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011
posted by Lee Cockerell 12:10 PM

Hello Everyone Around The World

I love the following article because I love Southwest Airlines and they love me. The difference between Southwest and Delta service is light years apart in my opinion. I have flown both of them many times  waand there is just no comparison. As my grandson Jullian said to me recently when I asked him what he thougth the difference between the two arilines was, he said, “Delta says NO and Southwest says, YES. That is pretty much the way it goes when you have to deal with the two airlines when you have a problem that needs to be resolved.

The interviewing systems Southwest has in place is very interesting to me. Put people under pressure to find out who they really are. Southwest has a great process for bringingn Can Do people into their organization and we the customers win. Can Do people stay cool, calm and collected under pressure which I would call professionalism.

Are you hiring Can Do people for your organization? If not then why not? It is probably the most important things a leader pays attention to as in reality, your people are your brand. An airplane is an airplane is an airplane. I recently had a Southwest flight attendant tell me, “I love our company.” I guess that is why I love Southwest. They deserve their great rating and reputation and so does Delta. Take are everyone…Lee


PS: My public seminar in NYC in September has booked up beyond my expectations. The link is: in case you are interested in attending.
William C. Taylor is cofounder of Fast
magazine and author of Practically Radical:
Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and
Challenge Yourself
, published January 4, 2011. Follow him
How Do You Know a Great Person When You See One?In the still-raging debate over my two posts about
why “Great People Are Overrated,” the one (and perhaps only) question
that went under-discussed might be the most important question of all: How do
you know a great person when you see one? Is “greatness” purely a
matter of raw brainpower and technical virtuosity, or is it impossible to
discuss individual talent without thinking about the team, the enterprise, and
the very mission of the organization?

The front page of yesterday’s New York Times offered an in-depth
account of how innovators in one industry are wrestling with that very
question. The piece reports on the radical new admissions policy at Virginia
Tech Carilion
, the country’s newest medical school. The process
“has enormous consequences” not for just for aspiring doctors, the
Times says, but “also for the entire health care system.”

Here’s what the fuss is about. Rather than evaluate candidates
strictly on grades, scores on standardized tests, and how they present
themselves in an interview, Virginia Tech Carilion now subjects candidates to
nine brief interviews “that [assess] how well candidates think on their
feet and how willing they are to work on teams.” The technical term for
the process is the M.M.I., or the multiple mini-interview. The Times calls it
“the admissions equivalent of speed-dating”: nine eight-minute
conversations about an ethical dilemma, on-the-spot decisions, even health-care
policy that aim to capture who candidates are, not just how smart they are.

“We are trying to weed out the students who look great on
paper but haven’t developed the people or communications skills we think are
important,” said Dr. Stephen Workman, the school’s associate dean for
admissions and administration. “Our school intends to graduate physicians
who can communicate with patients and work in teams,” added Dr. Cynda Ann
Johnson, the school’s dean. “If people do poorly on the M.M.I., they will
not be offered positions in our class.”

Finally, medical schools are catching up to what best companies
have known (and practiced) for years: Being a star performer is about more than
just individual star quality. Indeed, companies that are incredibly selective
about whom they hire — companies that have their pick of the best talent in
their field — have learned to make their selections based on character as much
as credentials. For these companies, who you are as a person counts for as much
as what you know at any point in time, and you capacity to work in a great team
is as important as your drive to be an individual star.

No company that I know of is better at testing for character than
Southwest Airlines, which just published a fantastic special report on the ideas and practices
that have allowed it to thrive
for 40 years. Before you object
to comparing getting in to an elite medical school with getting a job at
Southwest, you should appreciate just how hard it is to be hired by America’s
most successful airline. Last year, the company hired fewer than 900 people,
from 90,000 résumés! That’s a lower ratio of admissions to applications than at

Over the years, Southwest has elevated the practice of identifying
its most valuable performers, understanding what makes them tick, and devising
interviews, group exercises, and other techniques to probe for those same
attributes in new employees. One of my favorites is called Fallout Shelter.
Imagine you’ve applied to be a flight attendant. You show up for an interview
and learn that it’s a group session rather than a one-on-one discussion. Seated
in a semicircle, facing three representatives from Southwest’s People
Department, you and 15 or 20 other candidates are greeted with a scenario: The
bad news is that the world is on the verge of nuclear apocalypse. The good news
is that you’re in a fallout shelter. But the shelter is nearing capacity. It’s
your job, as a group, to reach a consensus about who else gets in. Then comes a
list of possible occupants: a biochemist, a farmer, a teacher, an
adventure-racing champion. Keep in mind, the officials add, that your choices
will seed civilization for generations to come. Now get to work!

The candidates leap into action: Some people speak out fast and
forcefully, others hang back and listen, someone steps in as a diplomat when
tempers flare, someone else cracks under the strain. What’s the point of the
exercise? To simulate the challenge of keeping cool while flying at 30,000 feet
in an aluminum tube filled with grumpy passengers and fidgety kids. The time
compression, snap judgments, and group dynamics of Fallout Shelter are meant to
reproduce the cabin pressure that all flight attendants confront (and have to
master) on a daily basis.

As the group gets absorbed in its task, the Southwest judges watch
intently. They’re not looking for the right answer. They’re looking for the
right attitude. “It doesn’t matter what solution the group comes up
with,” Sherry Phelps, who spent 33 years as part of the company’s People
Department, told me a few years ago. “What matters is how they’re
interacting with each other. Who’s emerging as a leader? Who’s soliciting other
people’s help? We’re not interested in specific answers or a particular style.
We’re looking for what makes you who you are.”

You don’t have to create your version of speed-dating interviews
or Fallout Shelter exercises to recognize the wisdom of both approaches. You
can’t measure the greatness of an individual without figuring out how that
individual fits in to your team, your organization, and your overall mission.

So let me pose the question again: How do you know a great person
when you see one?

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