Fully Focused: Paying Attention To What Works

Recently, I spent several hours with Simon Sinek (www.sinekpartners.com), a very creative New York marketing strategist.

He has developed the "Golden Circle" approach to understanding business and focusing on what your strengths and course of action should be. His model codifies the three distinct and interdependent elements that make any person or organization function at its highest ability. It's all based on the biology of human decision making and the way in which people interact with each other and with organizations and brands in the formation of cultures and communities.

Sinek wanted to hear about my time as CEO of Southwest Airlines and the stories behind the development and growth of the airline. I took him through the many trials and tribulations that occurred before I arrived and those that we worked our way through when I was there for three years at the time of airline deregulation.

A few days later he emailed me to thank me for taking the time to visit.  I asked him about the one highlight of information that he garnered from our visit?

This was his reply: "What I enjoyed most about our talk was learning not that you guys had a grand plan on how to build Southwest, but a major reason you were successful was how good you were at paying attention. You not only paid attention, you isolated what worked then kept doing it. After you kept doing it, you codified it, and it worked on its own.

You didn't fixate on what didn't work and try to fix it like so many businesses - you identified what was working and amplified it. You didn't get into a defensive hunker down in the bunker mode. You didn't spend all your time evaluating and defending. You amplified that which worked. Like 'Golden Circle,' you operated 'counter intuitively.' You were paying attention."

Are you paying attention to what works?

Howard Putnam speaks on leadership, change, transformation, customer service, teams and ethics. He is the former CEO of Southwest Airlines and the first CEO to take a major airline, Braniff International, into, through, and out of Chapter 11, getting it flying again in less than two years.

Published: September 28th, 2011

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