Category Archives: Leadership

“If you knew then what you know now” in 140 characters.

If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.” — Mark Twain.

In just the recent past, job coaches were recommending that candidates have an elevator speech ready for any opportunity. Then it became a sound bite. Now a candidates’ opportunity may be only within the 280 characters of Twitter. So let’s turn the tables. As a leader, you serve as a mentor for the people who will want to succeed. They use Twitter as much as we use email. So in 280 characters, what advice would you give? Sorry, no short links or video allowed. I’ll compile and publish the very best, crediting you. So what worldly leadership wisdom would you tweet?

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Filed under Leadership, Training

Thank you, Mr. Marriott.

You know you are getting older when, instead of attending birthday parties and weddings, you are attending funerals. I’ve come to realize that some of the greatest stories about individuals and their impact on others only seem to come out in the eulogies. Before I get any older, I wanted to express my admiration and appreciation for the example Mr. Marriott gave me as a leader and how it has formed my management style.

While still in college, I joined Marriott in 1976 as a charter member of Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara. And just 5 years later, I was fortunate to serve as the opening director of services for Marriott’s 100th property, the Maui Marriott Resort, the first in the state of Hawaii. What I remember to this day was how Mr. Marriott would walk the backstage areas and greet everyone with a smile and a handshake. He didn’t wait for someone to approach him. He initiated the interaction. As managers, we all went through orientation where we learned the mantra of J.W. Marriott, Sr., “Take good care of your employees and they’ll take good care of the customers.” And in the gesture of Mr. Marriott, Jr. walking around to introduce himself to all of us, it was obvious the mantra wasn’t simply a slogan, but really something that drove the leadership philosophy of the company. While I left Marriott shortly thereafter I always remembered that example.

Eight years ago, while I was general manager, The Inn at Bay Harbor became the first Renaissance franchise in Michigan. While Mr. Marriott was not able to attend the conversion ceremonies, the regional team, all of the same generation as Mr. Marriott, exhibited the same genuine warmth in greeting all our associates and welcoming them to the extended Marriott family. And every Marriott regional VP has done that with every subsequent visit. That gesture was very apparent to me because I had not seen that kind of management culture since leaving Marriott.

Thirty-five years after my first day at Great America, I was the charter general manager of The Henry – Autograph Collection which for 21 years stood as the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn. Mr. Marriott came through on a tour of the property. Since The Henry is a franchise, he did not have to do that during his two-day tour as there are many Marriott managed properties in Detroit. But he did. Serving many years as a Board member of General Motors, he had visited often when it was a Ritz-Carlton. Many of the same associates were there to greet him on his first visit to The Henry. We had the line of associates upon his arrival and he took the time to shake everyone’s hand. But what I remember was that on our tour of the property, he made it a point to acknowledge every associate as he had done in Maui.

Between my days in Maui and my time at The Henry, I have worked for other corporate hotel companies and had the chance to meet very senior staff and had them visit my properties. I can tell you that the genuine appreciation that Mr. Marriott shows on every visit to every associate just doesn’t happen in other hotel companies. And there just doesn’t seem the sense of collaboration, that “we are in this together” feeling that Marriott leaders create. The lesson here: It all starts at the top. A handshake and a smile from the Chairman may seem like a very small thing, but it certainly made an impact on my leadership style. From day one, I understood you simply can’t lead from the corner office.

I am sure many Marriott current staff and alumni have stories on how Mr. Marriott and Marriott International have affected their lives. What’s yours?

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Filed under Hospitality, Leadership

Three things you can do now to get ahead of your competitors.

Don’t serve to sell to customers. And don’t serve to satisfy your customers. Serve to WOW them.

Don’t treat customers as they would expect. And don’t treat customers as they want to be treated. Treat  them better than they want to be treated.

Here are three things you can do now that can WOW your customers and set you ahead of your competitors:

  1. Define and dissect just one of the “ow” or WOW” moments in your company’s customer experience. Take a potentially negative “ow” and make it neutral. Take a neutral moment and make it a “WOW” reward. For example, educate your customer service representative not to say “May I help you?” Your customer obviously needs help if he or she is approaching the representative.  The proper response should be to greet the customer and ask “How many I help you?” Even better, “How may I serve you today?”
  2. Today walk through one of your competitors’ locations with a mindset to “Be Their Customer”. What are some of the little things that they do better than you? How can you improve upon those touchpoints to enhance and differentiate you from them? Too often, in our day-to-day operation, we live in a silo mistakenly thinking that our competitors just sit there with no intention of doing anything different than before. Get out there to see for yourself how “the other guys” are doing.
  3. Use the CASE Method to improve the customer experience. Identify just one different idea outside of your industry that you can CASE (Copy And Steal Everything) that would enhance the customer experience. For example, shopping mall food courts offer free samples of their menu to passing customers. If you work in a hotel, could you CASE that in your restaurant at lunch of your signature dinner dishes? How can you offer free samples from your company to potential customers?

QUI QUESTIONS: Why only three? Because nobody remembers Number Four. Why now? Nobody cares how good you used to be. So do it now. And be GREAT out there!

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Filed under Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Leadership

What if we train them and they leave?

The very best customer-focused companies create a training budget that goes beyond orientation and the first week on the job training. It includes regularly scheduled retraining sessions or a budget for staff to attend corporate or appropriate offsite training sessions, as well. Marketing and advertising get the customer to your company the first time, but service brings them back. So there should be periodic retraining of staff to remind them of what outstanding service should look and feel like to the customer. Sometimes I get pushback from the decision-maker who says to me, “Retraining is too expensive. What if I bring you in to train them and they go to my competitor for fifty cents more an hour.” I tell them that is the wrong question to ask. It is not “What if I train them and they leave?” The question should be “What if I don’t train them and they stay?”

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Filed under Leadership, Training