Sonya Lacore | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Sonya Lacore

Background:  

Southwest Airlines is known as the world's largest low-cost air carrier and is based in Dallas, where it is now in its 45th year of operation. 

The Mistake:

My first trip as a Southwest Airlines flight attendant left without me.

After all the training, the excitement and jitters leading up to my first trip, I wanted to arrive early. That meant commuting from New Orleans, where I lived at the time, to Chicago, where I was based. During training, we are taught to always show up on time.

“We are an on-time airline,” they would tell us. As a new hire, being a no-show usually meant the end of your career.

Unfortunately, I misread my trip sheet and missed my first flight. I thought about all the hard work in training, everything I’d been through to reach this moment. Was it over?

It was an honest mistake but I feared the worst when I went to talk with my boss.

My first trip as a Southwest Airlines flight attendant left without me.

The Lesson:

My leader listened to me and we had a detailed conversation about what happened. I vowed never to misread a trip sheet or no-show for a flight again.

But the logistics of missing my first flight isn’t the lesson here.

What has stuck with me through the years? Being given a second chance. For that, I’m eternally grateful. Had someone not given me that second chance 15 years ago, I wouldn’t be in the leadership role I am in today at Southwest.

I learned the value of second chances. I also learned the difference between honest mistakes, such as the one I made, and careless or intentional behavior.

All these lessons have served me well as today I am responsible for all 14,000 Southwest flight attendants. It’s been like a guiding light for me during my years as a leader.

Follow Southwest Airlines on Twitter at @SouthwestAir.

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