Building a Culture of Empathy with Former United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp Co-founder and CEO Kevin Oakes, and i4cp senior research analyst Tom Stone, facilitated a conversation with special guest Oscar Munoz, the former CEO of United Airlines. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Oscar Munoz is former Chairman and CEO of United Airlines, was the first Latino CEO of a US Airline, and is New York Times bestselling author of the book Turnaround Time: Uniting an Airline and Its Employees in the Friendly Skies (Amazon).
  • Munoz shared many interesting stories and anecdotes from his career (see recording above), including what he found when he first joined United Airlines as their CEO. He said what he saw in the employee population was the Three D's: Disengaged, Disillusioned, and Disenfranchised. He knew that bringing in new technology or providing traditional training wasn't going to move the needle to improve the culture and engagement levels.
  • When asked what, as the new CEO, he was going to do about the situation, Munoz' public response (including on CNBC, etc.) was "I don't know yet." He recognized the needed to ask questions and listen to as many employees and stakeholders as possible in order to really determine the best path(s) forward.
  • Oakes noted that this approach aligns well with what i4cp's research on Culture Renovation has found works best: not a bunch of executives gathering in a closed-door meeting to decide what to do, but rather implementing a full listening strategy and then working through the many steps involved in successfully renovating a culture. (i4cp members also have access to i4cp's guide Supercharge Your Listening Strategy.)
  • Munoz shared his reflections on the situation that occurred with a United Airlines passenger (Dr. David Dao) that went viral and was a black eye for the organization. He learned many lessons from how he and the organization responded to the incident--see the second half of the recording above for his very open reflections on that saga.
  • Munoz also shared his personal story of having had a massive heart attack--only 37 days into his tenure as CEO at United--that required a heart transplant surgery.

Links to resources shared on the call:

About Next Practices Weekly

This series provides a forum for HR leaders to come together, discover, and advance cutting-edge human capital practices. Each week, you’ll hear from executives from some of the world's largest and most respected organizations.

To ensure open discussion, this event is exclusively for HR practitioners. Vendors and consultants are not permitted to attend.