Herb wouldn’t put up with this.

Pictured at left is Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly. In this 2005 photo Mr. Kelly was giving an interview about the importance of integrity in business. He had just been crowned CEO of Southwest Airlines. Remember them? The LOW COST airline?

I guess Gary’s integrity was compromised by recent hikes in jet fuel costs because Southwest “missed” required inspections of airplanes for structural cracks. That’s bad. Mr. Kelly immediately put three employees on leave while the situation is “investigated”.

Here’s another example of of a company in need of an ethics program. That program needs to start at the desk of Gary Kelly. His little lapse of character cost Southwest a record $10.2 million dollar penalty imposed by the FAA.

It gets better. Seems an FAA inspector “looked the other way” during the time these inspections were supposed to be taking place. I wonder if the way he was looking was up, perhaps for falling aircraft. Maybe the FAA should consider an ethics plan too.

I don’t know if Mr. Kelly knew these inspections weren’t happening as required. I do know that he sets the tone of the company. If he wanted the rules followed to the letter, they would have been followed. Sure, there’s often a loose canon that can bring shame on any company. But when you have a situation where more than one employee is aware of the goings on, you’ve got a serious company-wide problem.

We need to demand higher standards from business. I won’t fly Southwest again because they do not care about my safety. Safety is an airline’s first priority and Southwest doesn’t care about it. I wonder what else they don’t care about.

I may discontinue all the other services I provide and just focus on this one important concept: Businesses must have an ethics plan and they must live it.

Businesses that try to do the right thing, all the time, will prosper. It doesn’t mean they have to “give away the store”. Doing the right thing is cheap. Inspecting those airplanes wouldn’t cost $10 million dollars. Not inspecting them will cost a bundle. Flights were canceled as 41 planes were grounded.

The greatest cost is the lost trust of the customer. Repairing lost trust is very expensive.

Please think about an ethics plan for your business. Please.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
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