Summary of Key Points: "The Spirit to Serve - Marriott's
Way" by J.W. (Bill) Marriott, Jr. and Kathi Ann Brown
Ralph Waldo Emerson said in 1870: "The true test of civilization -- is the kind of (person) the country turns out". Mr. Marriott suggests this twist: "The true test of a company is the kind of manager it turns out".
On "Hands-On" Management
According to JW, the Marriott "hands on" management style is not what makes Marriott be Marriott, but what makes Marriott be at all! In addition to keeping senior management connected to (employees), regular field visits by senior management teach volumes about what is working in the field. He can't think of a single tour in all the years that he has been on the road that didn't teach him something. He is constantly impressed by the ingenuity of associates. He invariably returns home with index cards filled with ideas about things that they should be doing or things that are out of whack and need fixing. "Those ideas quickly find their way into the hands of members of the team at HQ who can either solve the problem or spread the word about a good concept that works." Managers need to understand the basics of the company's products and services to manage with depth. For many years their chief financial officer and other nonoperations executives have been required to attend the company's "food school" to gain a bit of "hands on" experience with the products and services that form the basis of Marriott's world.
On Personal Involvement With Employee Concerns
Mr. Marriott recounts that his dad particularly enjoyed talking to his employees. Marriott's corporate legend is full of stories of his father perched on a hotel lobby sofa, listening to the family problems of one of their associates while senior managers "cooled their heels" waiting for him to return to the office. He confirms that the stories are true. His Dad felt very strongly that the concerns and problems of the people who worked for him were always worth listening to. In his eyes, a successful company puts its employees first. Mr. Marriott says: "I couldn't agree more. When employees know that their problems will be taken seriously, that their ideas and insights matter, they're more comfortable and confident. In turn, they're better equipped to deliver their best on the job and to the customer. Everyone wins: the company, the employee the customer." "The philosophy of putting employees first is particularly important in (the hospitality) industry, because Marriott is in the people business, not just the service business. Customers are not just affected buy the tangible parts of the business but the intangibles as well. If the people who are responsible for supplying that human touch are unhappy, tired, stressed, poorly trained, or otherwise distracted, they're probably not going to do a good job. On the flip side, if employees are content, confident, and generally happy with themselves and the job, their positive attitude will be felt in everything they do." The Marriott "Pathways to Independence" is employer-sponsored welfare reform done right. An employer needs to stay involved with new employees to help them overcome their failure points. Other areas of success: "overmanaging" by design and work-life programs. He recounts many ways in which these tasks have become more daunting as the nation's hourly workforce has become more multicultural in makeup. Many of their hourly associates "must cope with complicated immigration procedures, interpersonal cultural clashes, and social discrimination, in addition to the pressures of child care, elder care, substance or domestic abuse, or housing problems." To that end, Marriott started a toll-free consultation service for their associates staffed by social workers who field questions and find solutions to just about any problem. And they can do it in more than 100 languages. They rolled out the 800 Associate Resource Line (ARL) on a national basis in 1996, after a two-year regional trial run. Although the program is based on intensive studies of their associates' needs, the thinking behind it is actually pretty simple. At heart, it's really just a higher-tech version of Mr. Marriott's Dad's "let's-sit-on-the-sofa-and-talk-this-out" approach to taking care of employees. An associate with any kind of question, problem or crisis can dial up the ARL and immediately connect with a trained professional who listens, counsels, and follows through until a solution is found. In addition to providing concrete help, the program gives their associates a sign of out commitment to them. The vast majority who have tapped into the ARL felt even more positive about working at Marriott after getting help with their problems. That's particularly important to Mr. Marriott. He wants their associates to think of the company as more than a clock in-clock-out job. JW points out that the company, naturally, benefits when the ARL is able to lend a hand to an associate. They wouldn't be able to justify the program if it didn't. But more important, they've seen dramatic drops in turnover, absenteeism, tardiness, and short workdays among those using the service, all of which are very good signs that those associates feel more in control of their lives. "That's what it's all about." Another long standing practice he cites, and one he has no intention of giving up on, is his own habit of answering nearly all of the letters that come into his office from Marriott associates. If an employee takes the time to write to him, he feels he or she is owed a response. In his own words: "Usually, associates contact my office because they've got a problem or complaint that they want to bring to my attention. Small or large, the matter is investigated and we get back to them. Some of what is driving me is -- you guessed it -- his hands-on habit, but it is also because I want to ensure every Marriott employee feels that he or she can get a fair hearing. Even if the problem isn't resolved in the associate's favor, I'd at least like all to know that (they) received respectful attention." Overall, he concludes all of the above are important -- training, work-life programs, safety nets, profit sharing, promotion, a willingness to investigate concerns -- but none is as important as having hands-on managers in place who possess the people skills to support, encourage, lead, inspire and listen to associates. A manager without those skills is going against the grain of the organization and seventy years of corporate culture. He or she might be able to make good financial results for a short time, but in the end, the lack of people skills will always catch up.
He devotes a whole chapter and a huge amount of attention to this topic. Overall summary: after more than forty years in business, Mr. Marriott concludes that listening is the single most important on-the-job skill that a good manager can cultivate. A leader who doesn't listen well risks missing critical information, losing (or never winning) the confidence of staff and peers and forfeiting the opportunity to be a proactive, hands-on manager. When you listen with your ears, open your mind, too. Listening should be an opportunity to learn.
Too much to summarize here. He covers what he calls the "need to preserve order amid change"; "preserve change amid order"; how important it is to "never believe your own hype" ("Among other things, we must continue to build and maintain a corporate culture that values and celebrates success, but remains critical of self-analysis."); the importance of "team" and "value of the organization more than individual players"; the Hospitality God Star program which requires associates from front-end recognition to in turn recognize who behind the scenes, in the 'heart of the house', helped them to do their jobs well; their "First Ten" program (concentrating on the first 10 minutes after a customer arrives); and lastly a great chapter entitled "Listen to Your Heart -- And Don't Look Back", which is exactly as it sounds.
The book is peppered with his favorites. Here are a few:
"Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him." -- Aldous Huxley
"Personally, I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught." -- Winston Churchill
"A little neglect may breed great mischief's;for the want of a nail the shoe is lost, for the want of a shoe the horse is lost, for the want of a horse the rider is lost." -- Ben Franklin
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"It takes two to speak the truth -- one to speak, and another to hear." -- Henry David Thoreau
"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"No tree grows to the sky" -- Frederick Deane (Marriott Director)
"Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true." -- Demosthenes
"All for one, one for all, that is our motto." -- Alexandre Dumas the Elder (The Three Musketeers)
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent -- " -- John Dunne
"Not to decide is to decide" -- Harvy Cox
"I have made mistakes, but I never made the mistake of claiming that I never made one." -- James Gordon Bennett
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