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Ginger Hardage recently retired as Senior Vice President of Culture and Communications at Southwest Airlines after an illustrious 25 years, where she served as a member of the CEO’s executive leadership team. At Southwest (the nation’s largest airline), Ginger led a team of 150 people responsible for building and sustaining the organization’s legendary culture and communications enterprise.
Recognized by many as a foremost global authority on building and sustaining organizational culture, Ginger was responsible for the activities that nourished the culture and the internal and external communications function. At Southwest, Ginger was a tireless ambassador of the world-famous Southwest Culture, leading to honors like 23 consecutive years on FORTUNE’s “Top 10 Most Admired Companies in the World” list. Most importantly, Ginger helped champion the values that have made Southwest a culture of enduring greatness – we put people first, we treat customers like family, we nurture our culture, and we try to change ahead of the times.
In addition to leading Southwest’s “Best Place to Work” initiatives, Hardage led the airline’s culture and communications evolution, expanding the communication functions to include more robust internal communications capabilities and a more focused corporate philanthropy program. She also led the airline’s Culture Committee, employee recognition and engagement, and all companywide celebrations.
Upon retirement, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said “Ginger has made countless contributions to Southwest. She has been an invaluable business partner, advisor, and mentor. She brings constant, positive energy and enthusiasm to all those around her, and that is infectious. She has built superb teams that we are very proud of, and that I know will continue her special brand of excellence.”
Throughout her career, Ginger has received countless awards and honors including the PRWeek Top 50 Power list, PRWeek 50 Most Powerful Women in Public Relations, Texas’ Most Powerful and Influential Women, and “Legendary Communicator” by Southern Methodist University in 2007. Ginger was inducted into the Public Relations Hall of Fame in 2015, received the Legacy Award from the Plank Center for Leadership in 2016, and was selected for the James C. Bowling Executive-In-Residence Lecture Series at the University of Kentucky in 2005.
Ginger currently serves as a Trustee on two global boards—Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Arthur Page Society. In Dallas, she serves on the board of The Trinity Park Conservancy, was recently President of the Trinity Commons Foundation, and is an advisory board member for the City of Dallas’ Center for Performance Excellence. Ginger previously served on advisory boards of Novartis in Basel, Switzerland; Business Civic Leadership Center, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Big Brothers and Sisters of Metropolitan Dallas; Southwest Cares; and the Council of Public Relations Firms.
Before beginning her career at Southwest Airlines in 1990, Ginger held a variety of marketing and public relations positions at Maxus Energy Corporation, Diamond Shamrock Corporation, and Life Insurance Company of the Southwest.
Ginger earned a B.A. in advertising/public relations from Texas Tech University and was recognized as an outstanding alumna by the College of Mass Communications at Texas Tech University.
In 2017, Ginger launched Unstoppable Cultures, a brand designed to help organizations create and sustain cultures of enduring greatness. Ginger’s expertise and worldwide recognition is highly sought-after as a consultant and speaker, and she has accepted engagements at organizations like Google and Princeton.
Unstoppable Cultures: Creating and Sustaining Organizations of Enduring Greatness
Every company has a culture. For some, it's a culture of innovation - new, never been done before ideas. For others, it's fun (birthday cakes and costumes are often involved). For some, it’s toxicity and gossip. There are cultures that celebrate loyalty, hard work, or profit above all else. There are cultures that are both intentional and accidental. There are cultures that draw people in and ones that drive people away. There are cultures that detract from the mission of the organization, cultures that must be overcome or compensated for, cultures that derail or dead end. Surely, you can resonate with at least one of those descriptions.
But then, there are cultures that are unstoppable. Unstoppable Cultures put people first, are consistent in nurturing their culture through systems, and are relentless in storytelling. In this signature talk from Ginger, she will walk you through these critical characteristics of unstoppable cultures. You will undoubtedly leave with both practical and inspiring ideas on how to begin the journey of building the culture you always dreamed of for your organization.
Building a Brand from the Inside Out
What do you think about when you think about a brand? A logo? A website? A stock symbol? Maybe. But these are just expressions of a brand; they are not what brings a brand to life. So if not these elements, what is the most important thing when we think about our brands? Ginger has a simple answer - people.
In this inspiring talk, Ginger discusses why employee engagement is the single most important element when any of us are thinking about our brands. She knows that the way an organization behaves on the inside will find its way to the outside and that the true character of any company is expressed by its people. In “Building a Brand from the Inside Out,” learn from this 25-year Southwest Airlines veteran about creating an “employee first” culture where employees are engaged, act like owners, and are connected to their organization’s purpose.
The Power of Purpose
If we look back to our parents’ and grandparents’ generation of organizations, winning was often defined quite simply - as producing the most widgets for the least amount of money. Profits along were the name of the game to companies and a paycheck was all that mattered to employees.
But times have changed. These days, leaders understand deeply that aligning their organization to a deeper, rooted purpose - and ensuring that their employees and even customers are bought into this purpose - is critical. Purpose mobilizes an organization in a way that profits alone cannot; today’s most successful companies consistently thread purpose and values throughout their organizations, including hiring, training, customer delivery, and performance management. In this talk, Ginger will inspire with insights from category-leading companies that are harnessing a well-defined purpose to propel their success.
Waking the Zombies
How many people do you know who are “workplace zombies?” They show up, get tasks done, and earn a paycheck, but the lights aren’t all the way on. These workplace zombies - doing all right on the outside but checked out on the inside - are signs that a culture is on its way to being dead. And it’s happening more than you may think - Gallup estimates that only 31% of the US workforce can be described as truly engaged.
But there is hope! Leaders can impact change in the cultures of their organizations and awaken the zombies. In this talk, Ginger will lead you through steps you can take to transform your culture from one with disengaged employees to one who is bought into the mission of your organization, excited to come to work each day, and alive inside.
It’s OK to Smile at Work
Most of us agree that the culture of an organization is something that must be intentionally designed. The strategies and principles behind an organization’s culture must have champions, leaders who are decision makers and influencers and can impact the values and practices of employees. However, what about all of the employees who aren’t in charge of culture? Is there a place for entry level sales associates, finance, and legal managers, and administrators to impact culture?
The answer is absolutely yes, and in this talk, Ginger will speak on how every single individual can play a role in shaping and reinforcing the cultural values of their organization. Ginger believes that it’s okay to smile at work and that sometimes something as small as a smile can create a ripple effect on a company’s culture.
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