Who Are You?

The first thing you should figure out about a new employee is not what they can do...but rather who they are.

Most employer-employee failures happen as a result of culture misalignment, not the inability to do "the job". So, ask yourself why job descriptions are largely task oriented, why interviews focus so much on experience and why we spend so much time showing someone how to do it. Instead, spend more time getting to know what makes someone tick, understanding their world view and what their dreams are...this is the stuff that counts in the end.


My Short List.. of Interview Questions

There are a lot of experts that can tell you how to interview people. There are seemingly countless methods, techniques, tests and scenarios to sort talent into the right groups...or to vote them off the island. Over the years I have tried many of these with varying degrees of success. But, my short list...the questions that get me the information I absolutely, unequivocally must know...

  1. What do you want to do with your life (what are your dreams)?
  2. How can we help you get there?
  3. What do you like to do for fun?

If people can't answer these with some degree of certainty, they're likely just looking for a job. You want someone with dreams and a reasonably thought out idea of how to achieve them. You don't want someone who hasn't given this an ounce of thought or wants to do just enought to get by.


First Hospitality Linchpin Award

At least as far as I know it's the first. Inspired by Seth Godin's latest book, Linchpin, I was determined to replace the traditional and tired "employee of the month" award with something more meaningful. We awarded the first one yesterday...


The Power of a Hug

The power of a hug is remarkable. It goes further than a nice smile, pleasant hello and a handshake. It goes further than using someone's name or recognizing a repeat guest...it goes a lot further. It crosses a line. It gets personal...it means you really do care. There's no disguising your feelings once you give someone a hug.

Doubletree can't buy enough ads to convince people they care this much...neither can you. So, spend the ad money on a Louree Jefferson. Better yet, a bunch of them.

P.S. Do you think Louree needs a resume? Most remarkable people don't.


Microbrand Fanatics

Successful companies have a very strong connection with their customers...their brand resonates clearly, and there is little ambiguity about the values they represent and the benefits of doing business with them. And, in large part, what makes up an organization's brand are bunches of microbrands...one for each person associated with the company. Microbrands define each of us through our actions, our stories, what we wear, how we handle pressure, whether we smile or frown. Some people understand the importance of building their own brand...how even the slightest change in behavior, presentation or approach can alter life in a big way. Others don't...they either don't understand how important they are to the system, or they simply don't care what people think about them. If they're lost, show them the way. If they don't care, get them off the bus.

One way to move your organization forward is to get people excited about their microbrands...get them consumed with the idea that they can make a difference....both for themselves, as well as your team. The best way to to do this is to get some examples, some microbrand fanatics, on the bus...so, they can evangelize for you. You need to find people who act like this...

They ask people (bosses, subordinates, customers, etc.) how they're doing?
They smile a lot
They communicate well
They experiment
They dress nicely
They're on-time
They help others
They're kind
They teach
They are committed to learning
They read
They don't whine
They solve problems
They take initiative
They take risks
They say "we" a lot
They say "I" very little
They're humble
They look to take blame
They offer others the credit
They're focused

Of course, there's more...but, you get the picture. Find people you're proud to be with...under all circumstances

The Power of A Voice

Lately, I've been looking at a lot of hotel websites, some good...and some, not so good. I've also called many of the same hotels. Interestingly, no matter what I experienced while looking at the website, it was almost immediately replaced by what I felt when talking with the operator, reservations agent, etc.

We all focus a lot on our on-line presence...because we're told it's really important. And, it is...often the difference between getting the call or not. But, don't let that overshadow something far more critical to the sale...your voice. Be sure to spend  at least an equal amount of time on that part of the experience too.

One Manager Exercise

Do you run your place, your hotel, your store, your company with one manager? If not, could you? If you don't think so, list all the reasons why and start chipping away at those obstacles...immediately. Some that come to mind...

  • Reporting
  • Legal
  • Financial- salaried people reduce hourly rate of pay (they work tons of hours)
  • Skills
  • Oversight- Measuring the performance of others
  • Scheduling
  • Management
  • Guest Satisfaction

You may never get to the one manager state, but you will improve your organization if you scrutinize your status quo...guaranteed.

Of course, the other way to look at this...run your place with only managers (or, those with the skills to fit into that category as you currently have it defined). Who could be promoted today, tomorrow, in a week or month?

Raw Talent

I recently read this quote in a WSJ article..."A good employee or a good sales associate might be worth five or 10 times an average one.". It's a very good article about the value of service...definitely worth the read. But, it's this quote that really garnered my attention. I think a great employee is worth far more than five or ten times that of an average associate...probably a hundred times more, maybe higher. Here's just part of my basis...based on my short twenty-two years in the biz:

Great Employees

  • don't need to be managed
  • don't break important rules...and break the less important ones for the right reasons
  • think and create
  • are accountable and responsible
  • have passion
  • don't need to be motivated by you...they're self-propelled
  • make you look good
  • are trustworthy
  • have fun
  • think first about the team, then of themselves
  • seem to get it that the customer and their co-workers are more important than they are
  • leave when they know the time is right...for a better experience
  • they smile a lot...and get others to do the same

They play to win

Average Employees

  • spend an inordinately long time in training
  • work for pay, not for the experience or the ride on the bus
  • break rules for selfish reasons
  • hang-on to the job because it's owed to them
  • blame everyone else for things that go wrong, especially the customer
  • need constant motivation and incentive to do a good job
  • are afraid to fail
  • do just enough to get by
  • take risks to benfit only themselves
  • are late a lot
  • often seem troubled about things
  • they frown alot...and get others to do the same

They play not to lose

You've noticed that my list is based on personality, traits and character...not on job skills. My list is based on raw talent...what a person comes equipped with before you get your hands on them. Raw talent  is based on how people see themselves and what they want to accomplish in life...it's the seed for passion and remarkability. And, unfortunately, it can be the foundation for average. Your job is to sniff out what's underneath...before they get on board.

Average people need jobs. Extraordinary people want them.

Mine is just a partial list. I would love to see yours. I'll be spending more time on this subject in an upcoming podcast...and will be happy to highlight your add-ons.

The Front Line

A very relevant post by Seth...Receptionists.

I've been ranting about this same subject for years...our industry doesn't perform so well when it comes to investing in the people who really make our business go...those on the front line. We notoriously pay just enough to keep warm bodies in positions which ironically get the most guest touches of anyone on the staff. I know leadership and experience are valuable and that some properties are exceptions. But, there is definitely an inequity in a good chunk of our industry. How much do you pay a front desk agent, a housekeeper, a steward? Do they particpate in an incentive plan, profit sharing or some other reward for performance program? We need to rethink our compensation models...for the most part they're broken, paying people for function vs. great service. If you pay people just enough to keep positions filled, it's likely you're going to receive performance that's "just good enough" to get by.

Spend more on people than anything else and show them you care...it works better that way.

Setting People Up

Are you setting people up to win…or to fail?

If you’re in control of a property, department or shift, you need to think about this.

Are you fostering an environment of creativity, passion and energy? Do you really listen to people and thank them for their ideas? Do you give credit for mistakes? Do you care about their dreams…do you even know what they are?

Or, do you hope no one disturbs the flow of things? Do you wish people would just show-up, shut-up and “do their job”? Do you hope that everything just goes according to plan?

If you aren’t living and working in the first section, you are doing yourself, your staff and the organization a huge disservice. You are setting them up to fail.

You’re primary responsibility as a leader is to set people up to win. If you do that well, the rest of the plan has a chance.

To Think Or Not To Think

I apologize in advance…this is a long one.

I’ve often proposed that you should employ “thinkers” to ensure your organization moves forward. While I stand behind that theory steadfast, I admit I’ve seen some disastrous situations unfold as a result of under trained or improperly placed individuals. Or, worse, great people were placed in stifling environments, eventually conditioned to keep their ideas to themselves. In either case, I’ve seen things go into the crapper just the same. So, what to do?

Stick with thinkers…and fix your approach.

There are two basic ways to go about doing business when you have employees:

The easiest and still the most common method (because there are so many models to duplicate) is to adopt “old school” command and control tactics and set-up a working environment perfectly designed to serve one cause…protect the company’s financial well being. Put a number of people in charge, hire a bunch of drones, create as many rules, SOP’s and procedures to be sure no one steps out of line and beat it in to employees to “do good for the company and we all win”. This may sound extreme and far fetched. Or, it may sound eerily familiar. How do you know? Your workplace is average, your product is average, your price is average, the guy sitting next to you is average. No one takes risks, no one argues or debates, no one puts forth crazy ideas. No hail mary’s, not even a reverse. No one is having any fun. Everyone does just enough to get by.

If you set-up your company or department this way…for people to just get by, that’s exactly what will happen. They will perform just well enough to keep their jobs. And, you as a leader and your organization will be average in the process. Ask GM, American Airlines, any major bank or the less than stellar sandwich shop down the street.

On the other hand, you could try something different. You could take a few chances and set-up your company to be really great…for everyone.

Passionate, imaginative, creative people have a natural tendency to prosper and to be successful. And, they want to be with others just like them. They don’t want to be average. And, they certainly don’t want to fail. All you have to do is get a core of these folks on your team, put them into a position to win and get out of their way. The rest will take care of itself.

Getting them on the bus

Hiring these sorts of people takes guts, patience, compassion…and money. It means you’ll pay more than everyone else and care for them like your children. And, you’ll listen, even if you know their ideas are wrong.


Having winners on your team is only half the battle of winning. Put the right person in the wrong position or give them responsibility they can’t handle (no training and/or no tools) and the game’s over before you get started. The key is to put people in the right seat on the bus (thanks for the analogy Jim Collins), train the mechanics until they become second nature and set-up just enough rules to keep people out of trouble and to free their minds to “think”. You don’t want them thinking how to complete the report. You want them thinking about how to best serve people. Yes, mistakes will be made, sometimes costly. But, it’s a small price to pay for fabulous ideas, exceptional service and blowing the doors off your competition.

Keep winning

Finally, it’s vitally important to keep the winning, thinking culture alive if you’re going to sustain success for the company and for everyone involved. Remember, remarkable people want to be a part of something important and they want to prosper. So, give it to them. Reward them for thinking differently, for taking a chance…even for making a mistake. When something works, give them stock, bonuses…and genuine appreciation. When something doesn’t work, give them credit for trying, be nice…and listen to the next idea. Then, talk about avoiding the mistake in the future.

To win, failure must be accepted and even encouraged if the end result is better than the missteps along the way. A great leader has the foresight to embrace that concept ahead of time.

Creativity Leads To Remarkability

Want a creative work environment?

Try this...

First, hire smart, passionate, caring and honest people


Allow them to “act” and “express” themselves
Have Less rules
Have Less structure
Preach Adaptive
Train them to Improvise
Give people Freedom to “play”

In other words, Get Out of The Way!



A lot can be learned from Starbucks. That’s one of the reasons I regularly read John Moore’s Brand Autopsy blog (he was with Starbucks in his previous work life). Recently, he wrote about “touchology”. Here’s an excerpt:

For Starbucks, high-touching its business is about empowering and trusting store partners to be real, to be genuine, and by all means … to be human. Starbucks does not give partners a detailed script that instructs them what to say and how to act with customers.
Instead, Starbucks acknowledges store partners have been trained to understand all facets of the business and the company trusts these partners to show their personality when interacting with customers.

Sound familiar? Hire passionate people, let them be real, creative, etc.

John also makes a good point about training. Being adequately trained is paramount to success in the people business. It instills confidence and allows the personality of the individual to really shine. It takes the guesswork out of the job and gives the employee the freedom to be themselves, much like what sop’s and standards should do. On the flipside, if you over train or put up too many barriers and constraints, your guests will be dealing with robots. Obviously, it’s a fine line.

People want to do business with people. So, let them.