Do You Show Your Unsung Heroes Love?

Ideas from Southwest Airlines and others who succeed in recognizing unsung heroes, can show examples to ensure these critical team members are recognized.

Show Employees & Unsung Heroes LoveSouthwest Spreads Love on Valentine’s Day

Each year, on Valentine’s Day, servant leadership proponent Southwest Airlines praises an unsung hero or department with their Heroes of the Heart award and recognition. Below is a video clip of Ginger Hardage, Southwest’s Senior Vice President Culture & Communications explaining the award and other ways the company shows their LUV (the Southwest Airlines stock symbol). Hardage explains how they use the holiday as an opportunity to celebrate unsung heroes. She goes on to detail how the company practices what others only preach – that people are the most important component of their company. See how Southwest celebrates their unsung heroes:

[ UDATE:  My apologies… Unfortunately this video is no longer available. ]


Ideas to Celebrate Unsung Heroes

Whether it is on Valentine’s Day that you show your employees love or not, we can learn some great lessons from Southwest Airlines. The company has consistently exemplified employee recognition and servant leadership that resulted in their sustainable success and leadership among their competitors. Some ideas learned from Southwest and others who succeed in recognizing unsung heroes, include:

1. Special Occasions for Unsung Heroes: Supporting roles are often overlooked. Therefore, these positions require special attention when it comes to recognition. Do you celebrate events like Customer Service Week, Administrative Professional’s Day or similar events? Consider also instituting an all-encompassing event like Southwest Airlines did, to catch any groups not already recognized by such broad events.

2. Peer Recognition Programs: Do you have a peer recognition program? Is it well supported (funding) and promoted (internal marketing)? Most companies have these programs, but fail to fund them adequately or promote them regularly. Therefore, as a leader concerned about your team and it’s sustainable success, try setting this as an objective in your team’s professional goals for the year. For example, objectives could include “Delivery of at least 1 peer recognition award each month”.

3. Regular Gratitude: Beyond formal programs, consider scheduling time to show your gratitude, or participate in other routine programs like Thank You Thursdays. These regularly scheduled blocks of time and events are reminders to call your attention – and that of your teams – to sharing gratitude.

If you consider how critical so many unsung heroes are in your team, you may be surprised how little recognition they receive. Southwest Airlines recognized this issue and established an annual event to not only thank those teams, but also remind the entire company of the importance of these team members. To ensure sustainable success in your own organization and recognize those making critical contributions, be sure you show your team the LUV!

Question: How do you show your unsung heroes your gratitude?


Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

1 thought on “Do You Show Your Unsung Heroes Love?”

  1. Great post – our goal at MeritShare is to give some visibility and recognition to the unsung heroes in an organization.  Typically, their direct peers know they are great employees but often times those outside of their direct team have no idea.  Ginger’s recommendation of a well funded and well promoted peer recognition program is spot on.  Great to see such positive practices in place at Southwest!

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