A 20-year hospitality career has led me to a special place. I am developing the Global Citizenship function within Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Global Citizenship is Starwood’s tag for Corporate Social Responsibility and it encompasses taking good care of the environment plus taking good care of people.
I grew up in a loving family tenaciously committed to working hard, standing by their word, and helping others along the way. My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Stanczak, appreciated those characteristics, instilled confidence in me, and nurtured my instinct to do the right thing. As a result, I won the Good citizenship award at my eighth grade graduation. It all started there! Acting on these basic principles has served me well over the years.
When things start to feel too complicated, I remind myself to stick to the basics…to stay focused on the task at hand and to treat people the way I want to be treated. Staying on the right path can be simple if we let it be. That understanding helped me navigate through the early days coaching and counseling associates, re-stocking the sunday brunch buffet, or conducting a hotel quality assurance review.
In 2001, I took on my first role at Starwood’s headquarters. My, how things can feel overly complicated at the “corporate office.” It became essential to work hard to keep things simple. I was privileged to learn from a distinguished group of mentors full of warmth, creativity, and smarts. They shaped my management and leadership approach by teaching me that a problem halved is a problem solved, to stay positive, that everything communicates, and to enjoy loads of laughs along the way. In various leadership roles that followed, I learned that in-person dialogue is more impactful than e-mail, to solicit ideas from every level of the organization, to never stray too far from the frontline of our business, and that there is always time to say thank you.
An especially memorable role at Starwood was working to revitalize our Four Points by Sheraton brand. That work started with listening to guests and then focusing on the basics to drive improvements. Our uncomplicated approach resulted in unprecedented guest satisfaction scores and unit growth.
And now, I have the extraordinary opportunity to help mobilize Starwood’s global scale and harness the incredible passion of our people to take good care of the environment and give back to our communities. With a portfolio of 1,000 hotels and 145,000 associates in 100 countries and nine brands, things could get complicated. Here’s to the friends, mentors, and experiences that will help keep us on the right path!