“From that point on, the power of name recognition has resonated with me,” Jeff Pinneo said, recalling a profound moment in his early career. Pinneo was a flight attendant, welcoming passengers onboard a Continental Airlines flight to Houston when a Continental vice president walked down the jetway, held out his hand and said “hi Jeff, I’m Charlie Bucks. How are you?”
Pinneo was stunned that a senior officer from his company ACTUALLY recognized him AND knew his name! Moreover, that moment was amplified by the fact that Pinneo’s original application to join Continental Airlines was accompanied by a letter of recommendation that was addressed to Charlie Bucks several years earlier.
That simple gesture of calling Pinneo by his first name “Jeff” proved pivotal in what became an illustrious 30 year career, ultimately becoming the CEO of Horizon Airlines and later CEO of Medical Teams International.
So why did that encounter mean so much to Pinneo? It’s because the executive took the time to find out who was working the flight, remembered the young light attendant from the original recommendation letter, and, in a gesture that particularly struck a chord with Pinneo, Bucks used his first name: “Hi, Jeff.” That made it personal, that resonated with Pinneo and that moment became pivotal in his own CEO style many years later.
Fusion Leaders, like Pinneo, prioritize actions that “fuse” their teams together around their organization’s mission or purpose. They understand that the power of many always wins over the power of one. They understand that truly successful organizations differentiate themselves from their competition by creating an impassioned workforce that shows up on Monday morning committed to a shared purpose, committed to the goals of the organization. They understand that their role, as CEO, is to connect every employee in their charge to their organization’s purpose. And, as this story illustrates, they understand that the connective tissue that “fuses” teams together can begin with the simple act of spending time with front line workers and calling them by their first name.
Under Pinneo’s leadership, Horizon grew its revenues from $415 million to over $720 million, increasing profitability in all but one of the years following 9/11. Pinneo and his team received many honors, including the prestigious global award from Air Transport World magazine, which named Horizon as its Regional Airline of the Year.
Pinneo credits his team and Horizon’s culture of “mutual respect” when reflecting on the highly successful results the company enjoyed. “For us the huge differentiator was—and is—people and the culture,” Pinneo explained. “A culture of mutual respect is the hardest to replicate [competitively]. It’s precious when you have it. It destroys you if you don’t have it.”