Staying connected and overcommunicating were the key ways Southwest Airlines took care of its team members during the COVID-19 crisis, said Linda Rutherford, senior vice president and chief communications officer at Southwest Airlines (and 2021 Top Women Leading Travel & Hospitality honoree) during last week’s Women Leading Travel & Hospitality Virtual Exchange.

When responding to a question about lessons she learned during the pandemic, Rutherford focused on managing her internal teams and cited two guiding principles: “one is staying connected with people, and the other is that you can’t communicate too much.”

Rutherford said that before the pandemic, Southwest Airlines wasn’t an organization that did a lot of remote work. Therefore, when team members were forced to work from home, she and other leaders at the company made an extra effort to do regular, virtual check-ins with everyone.

“We extended grace because you didn’t know what people were dealing with at home,” said Rutherford. “We got really creative with different ways to make sure we connected with people in the virtual environment every day.”

Also, because there was so much happening in the world — in addition to work — Southwest Airlines made sure it “communicated a lot and that we repeated ourselves … you really can’t communicate too much.”

During the session, Rutherford was joined by additional 2021 Top Women Leading Travel & Hospitality honorees, including Stephanie Linnartz, president of Marriott International, and Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-founder of AmaWaterways. Lisa Oswald, senior vice president, global head of customer service of TravelZoo, and Women Leading Travel & Hospitality board member, moderated the discussion. To view the entire discussion from the Women Leading Travel & Hospitality Virtual Exchange, please click here.

The 2021 Top Women Leading Travel & Hospitality report features women leaders who continuously showed resiliency, perseverance and grit through difficult times. Honorees were chosen based on several criteria, including position within their organization, scope of responsibility within that position, career achievements, and involvement within the travel and hospitality industry. To download your free copy of the 2021 Top Women Leading Travel & Hospitality report, click here.