CEO voice-mails help company take off

Gordon Bethune, the phenomenally successful retired CEO of Continental Airlines, recently told a New York Times interviewer that he was a disciplined and consistent communicator to employees:  “I did a weekly voice mail — every week for 10 years, a three- to five-minute message. Every week I’d tell them what was going on. And we had a daily update with our stock price, our on-time performance, who did what to whom in our industry. So the employees always kind of knew what was going on. They had direct access to me, and direct access to the information … And we never lied.”

I love his formula and it’s had to argue with his success.  He took over as president as Continental seemed headed for bankruptcy number three and engaged his colleagues in an effort to win over customers.  Together they moved the airline from being ranked last in every measurable performance category to winning more JD Power customer satisfaction awards than any other airline.  Continental’s stock price rose from $2 to over $50 per share and it began a string of five straight years as Fortune’s most admired airline and six years as one of its top 100 workplaces. 

Obviously, they had to do a lot of things right to make that climb.  From a communication perspective, information and insight provided via routine outreach helped create a sense of importance, trust and common purpose.  It’s a simple approach that clearly helped fuel a powerful culture. 

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