From my humble beginnings as a housekeeper, I took the motto of my parents, “play the hand you’ve been dealt” to heart. Step by step, I was able to maintain the foresight that is necessary when you strive to play a bigger game in life. Once I had a vision of what was possible, I found out the information I needed to prepare and position myself to seize opportunities to grow professionally. In this second part of this two-part series, I share more key moments that occured during the second half of my career with Marriott that challenged me to face my fears, eat humble pie, inspired my passion for developing leaders and enabled me to realize a dream that many believed to be impossible. If you missed part one you can read it here.
Prepare Yourself for the Next Level
Soon after my promotion, I started to have discussions with the HR Director about my aspirations with the company. Although I wasn't in a supervisory position, I was allowed to take advantage of several supervisory and manageement training classes that he and his staff conducted at the hotel.
After constantly questioning him about specifics related to managing a housekeeping deparment, my housekeeping manager began to train me on ordering housekeeping supplies, contacting and building relationships with vendors, how to read a P & L statement and understand how managing our labor cost and expenses enabled us to meet our department's budget. My first housekeeping manager saw something in me before I recognzed it. His patience and willingness to train me in areas outside the scope of my job responsibilities helped to prepare me for an unexpected opportunity that occured two years after he left because of a promotion.
In 1998, Marriott broke ground for its first Courtyard hotel in Columbia. I was encouraged by our HR Director to apply for one of the hotel's housekeeping supervisor positions. I applied and was offered one of the positions. It was a bittersweet promotion. I wanted to become a housekeeping manager in the full-service division. After being advised by the HR Director about the growth occuring in Marriott's limited lodging divisions, I joined the staff at the Columbia Courtyard NE location at the beginning of 1989 as one of its housekeeping supervisors. Seven months later, my boss decided that he and his wife were going to return to Florida. I was promoted into the housekeeping manager's position. I traveled to Augusta, GA for two weeks of training before taking over the responsibilities of the department.
After recognizing the advancement opportunities within the Courtyard division, I made copies of all the department manager's position description. Just as I had while working in the full-service division, I used them as a developmental guide to prepare myself to take on more responsibility within the hotel.
Don't Assume that Your Success is Guaranteed
Soon after my housekeeping management promotion, I learned an invaluable lesson that serve as a defining moment in my development as a leader. Mary, a member of the housekeeping staff, met with the hotel's GM and informed her that I was speaking to her and other staff members in a disrespectful manner. I was called to my boss's office to discuss the matter. After listening to Mary, it became clear to me that I couldn't assume that because I had worked with this same staff as a supervisor that I had it made in the shade. I apologized to Mary and promised her that I would do better. I decided to schedule one on one meetings with each staff member to get their feedback on how I could be a better manager.
Humility Improves Your Relationships
During each meeting, I explained to each team member that I needed his or her help in becoming a better manager. I asked each person to write down on an index card the one thing that he or she believed I needed to STOP, START and CONTINUE doing as their manager. This was not an easy thing to do, but I struck gold. Out of these meetings, I realized that I had a lot of growing to do to become an effective and successful Marriott manager. I used the feedback from these meetings to tailor my approach towards my team members. As the staff recognized my commitment to making changes in my behavior, they in turn were much more receptive to my suggestions on how we could improve our performance as a team.
Rally Support in the Face of Difficulty
My GM recognized my commitment to becoming a better manager. I was given the opportunity to be a member of the opening task force team for the Raleigh Airport Courtyard. I was required to fly to Raleigh for this assignement which meant I had to face my fear of flying. This experience taught me that I would have to face my fear of the unknown to achieve my goal of becoming a Marriott GM. A few months later, I was promoted into the restaurant manager's position. I traveled to Spartenburg, SC for two weeks of training before taking on the responsibilites of the department.
The department's customer service scores improved, however I struggled for months to meet the restaurant's budget. My inability to do so created a lot of tension in my relationship with my new GM. For the first time since I started working for the company, I started to think about resigning. I shared my concerns with a former manager who had become a GM. Soon after this conversation, our regional manager saw to it that I receive additional training. The extra training and mentoring I received enabled me to improve my performance and my relationship with my new boss.
Aspire to Build Up those Around You
When Marriott went through a reorganization of the Courtyard division in the early 90's, I was promoted into the hotel's Operation Manager's role which consisted of managing the housekeepng and restaurant departments. I was given the opportunity to become a member of the Courtyard Mid-Atlantic Diversity team. I enrolled as a part-time student at Midland's Technical College to expand my business management skills. I had been able to accomplish a lot with a high school diploma and on the job training. As much as I loved my job, I realized I would need additional skills and knowledge to maintain my career progression. Besides, I had always believed that I would return back to college once my kids got older. The more I grew as a leader, the more I focused on training staff members to take on additonal responsibilities. I began to mentor several staff members who had hopes of becoming leaders within the company. I wanted to create a legacy of developing successful leaders.
Embrace Your Experiences Wholeheartedly
In 1994, my GM enrolled me into the Dale Carnegie Leadership Course. One of the perks of attending this program was that students were able to assist in another class. I was given the opportunity to be a teacher's assistant during the next 12 week class. The six months I spent immersed in the Dale Carnegie Leadership Course increased my understanding of the role our emotional intelligence skills have on our level of personal and professional success. While enrolled in the Dale Carnegie Leadership Course, I began to tutor one of the housekeeping team members for her GED. This young lady had lost custody of her children. She was making efforts to get her life back on track so that she could regain custody of her children. When she signed up for a home through Habitat for Humanity and was accepted into the program, I helped her complete the 500 sweat equity hours for her home. I didn't broadcast my actions to my new GM, however, he got wind of it and told his boss. Our new regional manager showed up to support our efforts on the day that her house was dedicated and she received the keys to her new home.
Thee months later, I was recognized at our quarterly manager's meeting as the Manager of the Quarter for our area. Afterwards, I spent two weeks in Greensboro for front desk management training and in December of 1994 I was promoted into the hotel's Assistant Manager position. On February 9, 1995, I was promoted into the GM's position at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Wilmington, NC.
Your Story is Still Unfolding
It doesn't matter where you are right now in your career or the conditions of your personal life, if you want to be better, do better and experience better, it is a real possibilty that you can make it happen. I've written this article because I'm in contact with a lot of people, young and older, who seem to be under the assumption that the success they see other people accomplish is beyond their reach. I don't buy into this story. I believe that if we are willing to truly work hard and work smart on a consistent basis to produce results relevatnt to what we want in life, we increase our chances of succeeding beyond our own expectations.
You will experience in life what you are willing to be in life. If you are willing to be successful at what you are striving to accomplish in life, you will take it upon yourself to learn and become the person that can manifest the reality that you want. Will it happen over night? In most cases, it will not. But that's the joy of the journey. You get to be the co-creator of your personal evolution. You get to witness and celebrate the small wins that you're making on the road to navigating what you deem to be better exeperiences in your life.
Don't put off celebrating your progress, no matter how small. When you face difficulty seek out those who will support your endeavors. Make sure that you are consistently interacting with people who are striving to make their lives stand for something. It doesn't have to be great in the minds of others, it just has to be great in your mind. Don't fall into the trap of believing that bigger equals great. Martin Luther King Jr. Stated, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” Whenever you are contributing value in the lives of others, regardless of your position on your job or the state of your personal life, you are expressing the seeds of greatness within your potential. Stop underestimating your value. You are a person of great worth. You deserve all the goodness that you are willing to do what it takes to experience in life.
Actionable steps you can take to set yourself up for success include:
- Begin to prepare yourself for the next level.
- Don't assume that your success is guaranteed.
- Humility improves your relationships.
- Rally support in the face of difficulty.
- Aspire to build up those around you.
- Embrace your experiences wholeheartedly.
You can read part one of the series here. It is my hope that by sharing specific details of my story you will be inspired to tap into a greater measure of the seeds of greatness in your potential. You can do this. You are worthy of experiencing good in life. You matter.
If you know someone that this article could help, please share it with them. I would appreciate it.
Dare to Be Great!
Founder, Grow Forward & Flourish
Note: You can be a catalyst for positive change in the lives of youth young adults and single parents residing in low income households by supporting the Elevate Dreamers Mentoring Initiative. All proceeds from my Ebook Lead to Succeed go towards funding the mentoring initiative. Click on the link for additional details and to purchase. Thank you in advance for your support.