"Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then place it on your child. If you are traveling with more than one child, start with the one with the greatest earning potential."

This memorable flight announcement from Southwest Airlines is just one example of how Southwest has become a leader in customer loyalty. The company empowers its employees to create Defining Moments, resulting in happy employees, loyal fliers, and higher revenues.

NYT best seller Dan Heath, who co-authored with his brother Chip Heath "The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact", was a recent guest on The Tony Robbins Podcast.

He shared how everyone in life - parents, organizational leaders, teachers - have the power to create "Defining Moments" and why these moments are worth the investment of our time and energy. These moments often occur as part of mostly forgettable/routine occurrences, as well as during occasionally remarkable experiences.

The 4 Common Elements of Defining Moments

Every defining moment shares 4 common elements:

An elevated moment is an experience that stands above everyday experiences. These may occur during a concert, a ball game, or even during something so special as your wedding day. They engulf us in the circumstance that is unfolding around us. They captivate our consciousness, and boost our sensory awareness.

Heath shares his experience of staying at Los Angeles's top-rated Magic Castle Hotel, which exceeds The Four Seasons in positive reviews on TripAdvisor. At first glance, it appears to be a simple, ordinary, hotel. However, it specializes in creating defining moments throughout the property for its guests by elevating ordinary experiences to an extraordinary level.

Realizations and epiphanies are also part of defining moments. Creating an opportunity for employees or customers to have an ah-ha moment - to realize a new way of thinking - becomes a moment that they will never forget.

When leaders create a sense of pride, they are creating defining moments for their employees. Pride occurs when we are recognized for doing our best. As I shared in a previous column, one of the most effective, scientifically proven ways to build a culture of trust and loyalty is through public recognition.

Heath refers to recognition as "one of the great under-utilized super-powers of an organization." He shares that many organizations suffer from a "recognition gap." 80% of managers surveyed think they give strong recognition, but only 20% of employees think they receive strong recognition.

The fourth element of a defining moment is connection. When people feel connection to other people (individuals or groups), to a place, or to an event, their bonds are strengthened. Referring again to my column on building cultures of trust, creating strong collaboration among team members by working on a difficult assignment also strengthens organizational loyalty.

The Type of Moments We Remember

Heath discovered that there are 2 types of moments we disproportionately remember:

  • The peak of the experience
  • The end of the experience (known as the peak-end rule)

Peaks are the moments that don't happen often throughout the day. An experience may last 12 hours, but our memories will most vividly recall the peaks. These are the moments that our daily routines don't deliver.

Often, these occur as a grand finale in an otherwise mundane experience. This is why it is so important for speakers and presenters to finish strongly; this is what their attendees will remember. This is why we dig deep at the end of a race to finish strong, or why a book or movie that fails to wrap up the story with a memorable ending will often receive lukewarm reviews.

Small Efforts; Big Impact

People and organizations are operating with unprecedented speed and efficiency. Occasionally we must slow down and consciously focus on human connection. By injecting fun, creativity, and recognition into everyday experiences, we measurably increase happiness and loyalty.

What are Southwest's funny flight safety announcements worth?

In 1.5% of the company's customer satisfaction surveys, respondents mentioned the flight safety announcement as one of the most memorable aspects of their flights. Heath and his research team concluded that by doubling that amount to 3%, the company could earn an additional $140 million a year in incremental revenue because it stimulates loyalty.

That's quite an impressive ROM: Return on Moment!