Camaraderie (Letter No. 8)

Hey Tech Leads-

I’m on Southwest Flight 1171 from LAX to Phoenix where I have a few meetings today. I have no idea why Eric Thomas thinks it’s a good idea to get up at 3:00 a.m. Five a.m. I understand; but (like you) I’m useless so early in the morning.

So I dreamily watched the flight crew interact as we boarded. It was all smiles and hugs and back slapping and a flight attendant handing out some special Godiva coffee she brewed up in the back to the ground crew, gate agents, mechanics, pilots, pretty much everyone within earshot. The gate agent guy put lids on the pilots’ coffee. It smelled warm and sweet as they walked it by my aisle seat.
And I wondered . . . why in High Tech America have I so rarely felt the kind of camaraderie going on at the front of this Boeing 727? Why haven’t I created it? Why haven’t others?
Maybe these folks are just warmer human beings and that’s why they’re drawn to the service industry. Maybe they have the shared adversary of grumpy early morning business travelers. Maybe they only cross paths from time to time and it unites them because the times they see each other are special, rare occasions. Maybe they’re just happy with their jobs, and they share that.
Whatever it is, something shared unifies them.
One of the most admired companies in America today, Southwest Air famously had one of the warmest CEOs in the history of CEOs (no small feat considering he was a lawyer by training). Maybe, even years after his retirement, his spark created the warmth of this moment, just one single moment at the front of this 727 around 5:00 a.m. on a Thursday in Los Angeles, one of many similar moments probably happening all over the country that makes Southwest such a unique organization.
If you’re taking a tech lead role, you too can spark these shared, unifying experiences that make our lives rich and lead to greatness. Let’s explore ways to do it in letters to come. For now, just know you don’t need permission, processes, or an offsite “team builder,” and just go be great!
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