This is a guest post by Mitzi Perdue. Mitzi Perdue is a speaker, author, and businesswoman. She is the widow of Frank Perdue and daughter of Ernest Henderson, founder of the Sheraton Hotel Chain.
WHAT MADE THE SHERATON HOTELS GROW
My father, Ernest Henderson, built the Sheraton hotels from one hotel to more than 400 during his lifetime. As a child, I’d often ask him the secrets of how he did it, and one of his answers was, “It’s the employees at every level who make a hotel a success.”
So what did he do to create engaged, committed employees?
Success Tip: Employees at every level create success.
The answer is he created for people a better vision of themselves.
When he’d take over a hotel, often one that had gone into bankruptcy, he’d typically make it wildly popular and profitable, usually within a couple of years. Here’s how it was done. On day one, he’d start by calling a meeting of all the hotel’s employees. They’d often be a very demoralized group, each one of them worrying that the new management would want to do some “house cleaning.” After all, if a hotel was in severe financial straights, wouldn’t it be reasonable to believe that the employees were at least partly responsible? And needed to go?
Father’s reaction was the opposite. He believed in the employees and told them at this first meeting that he wasn’t going to fire any of them. Instead, the new management style was based on making it possible for them to show just how good they were. He’d also tell them that he knew the future success of the hotel depended on them and they were now on a winning team with a bright future.
Then, beginning that day, he’d start backing up his words with actions. Part of a hotel turnaround would be refurbishing the guest rooms and public rooms, but that was never where he first invested money when taking over a hotel.
Success Tip: Give people a bigger vision for themselves.
No, it was in refurbishing areas that the public would never see, such as the employee locker rooms or dining rooms or showers or modernizing the kitchens or laundry rooms. He even had his top decorator, Mary Kennedy, pay attention to the décor of the employee areas before she went about renovating the guest rooms.
This is a guest post by Jason Cooper. Jason is a communications professional at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to leading a multi-media communications unit at the university, he helps leaders improve their communications. You can also follow him on Twitter.
Leaders are usually in leadership positions because they have proven themselves in some capacity. They may have had the best technical skills, or the boldest and best ideas, or maybe they found themselves in a leadership position because they knew how to work with and motivate a team of people to accomplish far more than they could alone.
As leaders rise, however, there is a tendency to let it go to their heads. The faster a leader rises, the more likely this is to happen. Pride begins to set in, and pride is the gateway drug to arrogance.
“Pride is the gateway drug to arrogance.” -Jason Cooper
Leaders must strive to never confuse their skills with their value. I may be “better at” something, but that doesn’t mean I am “better than” someone. People matter! They may have a different skill set or serve in a different capacity, but they matter.
“Lousy leaders are ‘better’ at everything. Arrogant talent is a barrier to the growth of others. Humility opens doors for others.” ~ Dan Rockwell
Leaders who alienate people by their arrogance rarely last. But leaders who value people and elevate others create long lasting impact. Research continually reinforces that the ability to engage with people is a key indicator for success and employee performance.
Arrogance and Humility
No one sets out to become arrogant. We can each think of someone who we have known who over time has grown to be full of themselves. If arrogance is in fact something that can develop over time, then it also stands to reason that there are things we can do to avoid it happening to us. But it can be tricky. One can simply go through the motions in order to wear their humility like a shiny badge of honor.
A professor of mine in college would, after leading the class in sharing positive feedback regarding our in-class presentations, transition to sharing criticism with the phrase, “Lest a man [or woman] think more highly of himself than he ought…” In his honor, here are a few suggestions on how to cultivate humility.
“Leaders who alienate people by their arrogance rarely last.” -Jason Cooper
Seek out those who by the world’s standards are near the bottom. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Treat them as equals (because ultimately they are). You’ll find that you are not so different from them.
2. Intentionally share the credit with your team even when they aren’t around.
Some companies are leveraging the power of the Internet in such a powerful way they are increasing market share, earnings, and revenue at an incredible rate. Others are struggling, not fully realizing the potential or understanding what it takes to win with today’s technology.
John Patrick’s answer is that it is all about attitude. He says companies with a “net attitude” have an extraordinary advantage over those who don’t.
Having a net attitude “makes constituents happy,” says John Patrick. Because your “website is your brand,” it’s important to make it accessible, easy to use, and focused relentlessly on a positive customer experience.
“The prescription starts with a single word, attitude.” –John Patrick
No matter the definition, most of the people I have met who are successful in any field have failed. Usually many times. Some may fail publicly. Some may fail magnificently. Still others mask their failures or let them go unnoticed on the way to a goal. Many keep at it until what was a failure ends up a success, making the fail inconsequential.
“Failure is temporary, but defeat is permanent.” -Tom Panaggio
One of the most important skills today is the ability to be comfortable with being a novice. The world is changing so fast that new skills and knowledge make all of us feel uncomfortable. Embracing our inner novice, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, and accepting being bad at something on the way to mastering it is the most important way to stay ahead.
“The ability to learn quickly is the most important skill to have.” –Erika Andersen
Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a firm that focuses on leader readiness. She’s the author of three other books: Leading So People Will Follow, Being Strategic, and Growing Great Employees. All of her books are full of actionable advice from her three decades of advising and coaching executives.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Erika about her research into being comfortable with being continuously uncomfortable.
Be Bad First
What does it mean to be bad first?
It means being willing to go back to being a novice – to being not-good at new things – over and over again. As we move through our lives, it becomes increasingly challenging to accept the need to “be bad first.” We come to rely on and identify with our expertise; we get used to being treated as knowledgeable and experienced. To have to go back to being a beginner in order to acquire new skills and knowledge – especially in the public setting of work, in full view of our employees, bosses, and sometimes our customers – can be scary, embarrassing and frustrating. I wrote Be Bad First because I’ve come to believe that in order to succeed in this ever-changing world, you must be able to learn new things continuously and well – and that requires, among other things, getting good at being bad first.
There’s a generational change from Boomers and Gen-X to Millennials that is also at play. How do different generations react to this concept?
Generally, we’ve found it’s somewhat easier for younger folks to be bad first in the service of learning new skills. They tend to be still in the process of developing their expertise and are often therefore less “stuck” in what they already know. Also, most Millennials have grown up experiencing daily change in technology, communication, society, and business – for them, keeping up with ever-accelerating change has been the norm for their whole lives. However, many Millennials have a hard time with other aspects of new learning – especially Aspiration and Neutral Self-Awareness.
4 Mental Skills for Learning
1. Develop Aspiration
Let’s talk about your ANEW concept. A, for Aspiration, is the first step.
The model at the core of Be Bad First consists of four mental skills for learning that we call ANEW: Aspiration, Neutral Self-Awareness, Endless Curiosity, and Willingness to Be Bad First. Becoming adept at these skills will allow you to be a high-payoff learner, a master of mastery.
Aspiration means, quite simply, wanting something that you don’t now have. In terms of learning, aspiration is key because we only learn the things we want to learn. For instance, you can say over and over that you want to learn Spanish – but if you don’t make the required effort, it means you don’t really want to do it.
“Great learners unearth and then build their aspiration.” –Erika Andersen
I believe we often tell ourselves we want to do things because we worry that if we don’t actually want to, there’s nothing we can do about it. Fortunately, that’s not true. You can change your level of aspiration: you can make yourself want to do something. The secret is to identify benefits that are personally motivating to you of doing or learning that thing, and then envisioning a future where you’re reaping those benefits. (You may have noticed that you do this automatically when you do want to do something.)
So for example, if you decided to ramp up your aspiration to learn Spanish, you’d think about ways in which you might benefit from doing that – and perhaps the one that really resonates for you is that it would enable you to be a part of the team that’s expanding your company into the Chilean market. You imagine yourself in a couple of years, on that team, living in Santiago and building new business. If that’s personally exciting to you, I suspect you’ll suddenly find yourself taking real steps to improve your Spanish.
By the way, the problem many Millennials have with Aspiration is their belief that wanting or not wanting to do things is permanent and unchangeable – and they tend to reinforce their not-wanting by saying things like “No, I don’t want to – it’s just not me.” However, I’ve worked with Millennials for whom the idea that they can consciously change their level of “wanting” is hugely liberating, once they accept it.
2. Cultivate Neutral Self-Awareness
N, Neutral Self-Awareness. That one grabbed my attention. I think all of us have witnessed someone who is completely unaware of something – thinking they have a strength when everyone else knows it is a weakness. What’s the best way to see yourself objectively?
Wonderful question! The place to start, when trying to become more neutrally self-aware, is to note how you’re talking to yourself about yourself. Our self-awareness (or lack thereof) lives in our mental monologue. We’re continually commenting on ourselves internally: I’m great at that – I’m terrible at that – I used to be good at that, but I’ve lost the knack – I’m terrified of trying new things – I don’t mind making mistakes – I’m a slow learner – I’m the smartest guy in the room – I already know that…. You get the idea. Sadly, this internal commentary can often be dead wrong – and we tend to accept it without question because it’s happening inside our own head, most often beneath our conscious awareness. It’s like subliminal advertising!
So the way to become more self-aware is to recognize and question what you’re saying to yourself about yourself. For example, let’s say your boss tells you that you need to get better at delivering tough news to your employees. Perhaps your first thought is, What? I’m good at that. I may not be as direct as my boss would like, but at least I don’t make my folks feel bad.
Once you notice that you’re saying this to yourself, rather than just accepting it as true, ask yourself, Is that accurate? That has the effect of taking you “off automatic” and causing you to examine your beliefs about yourself more consciously. You might then realize that you don’t really know if your self-talk is accurate. So then you ask yourself, What facts do I have in this area? You might then remember that one person on your team has been consistently missing deadlines, and you’ve been “waiting for the right time to mention it” for months. Or that quite often when you think you’re being clear with employees about changes you want them to make in their behavior, they don’t seem to get the message. Now your self-talk about where you’re starting from in this area might shift to something like, I can see my boss’ point – I don’t seem to be very good at communicating difficult messages in a way that works.
And you notice, in this example, that as your self-talk becomes more accurate, you’re more neutrally self-aware, and better able to understand and accept what you need to learn.
(Many Millennials have a hard time with this because their parents have told them they’re great at everything, so their self-talk about their current strengths and weaknesses in areas of new learning is both woefully inaccurate and somewhat “stuck.” However, this same approach to recognizing and managing their self-talk is equally effective if they buy the core premise of needing to get more neutrally self-aware.)
“Accurate self-talk frees the brain to focus on learning.” –Erika Andersen