Alumna's Flight Plan for Success

Published on Friday, October 2nd, 2009

"High-flying alumna" by Jacqueline Reis, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Colleen Barrett is a woman to be reckoned with. She can speak frankly about running a successful airline, “We need at least six to eight round-trips a day,” and she can pick budding talent out of a crowd “I think you’re a doubter, but I think if you came to work for us, you’d be a hell of a happy camper.”

This is exactly what the Southwest Airlines president emeritus and 1964 Becker College graduate did, and more, at the first lecture of the fall 2009 Franklin M. Loew Lecture Series season.

A Texas transplant from Vermont, Barrett’s presence is both commanding and charming. She set a comfortable tone by sitting at a desk on stage and inviting the audience to interrupt her with questions. She also illustrated her points with video of happy Southwest employees.

With talk of treating a business like a cause, and creating “customer evangelists,” Barrett stirred the energy in the room and possibly came away with a few converts. While she said that the airline gets thousands of applications for only a few hundred jobs, she said she could quickly identify those traits that work so well at Southwest. She singled out a few students in the audience in whom she saw potential.

Barrett shared some of the ingredients in Southwest’s recipe for success:
• be dedicated to employee service as well as customer service: "Happy employees = happy customers; happy customers = happy shareholders."
• empower employees to do the right thing
• live by the Golden Rule
• do whatever it takes
• have a “fun-LUV-ing” attitude: create an atmosphere where employees can be themselves
• unite employees with a common goal, and treat each other like family
• under promise and over deliver