Today marks my ten year anniversary with Marriott International. On this day, in 2006, I started as a Loss Prevention Officer at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel, under the direction of my first leader and mentor, Hank Dees. Since then, I’ve grown—both personally and in terms of my career—more than I could have ever imagined.
In my several roles with the company, I’ve been challenged, I’ve failed, I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned a lot of lessons. Despite these setbacks, I’ve always tried to take what I’ve learned and move forward, so today, I want to share with you a few things I’ve learned on this decade-long journey.
1. Don’t take things for granted.
Nothing in this world is guaranteed. Not your salary, not your pay check, not the number of hours you can work, not the wonderful people you get to work with. Tragedy can strike, the markets can fall, businesses can change and you can find yourself in a very different situation very quickly. Take stock in the things around you that you enjoy and be grateful for them. Be thankful for what you have while you have it, and you’ll appreciate it even more.
2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Sometimes you can learn a lot more from “why did you do that?” than from “you shouldn’t do that.” Experience isn’t gained from success nearly as much as it is earned through failure. When you make a mistake, it’s usually because you were trying something new. As long as you are acting with integrity, learn quickly and make the situation right, there’s a lot of good that can come out of doing something wrong.
3. If it hasn’t been done before, be the first to try.
I’ve noticed that the most successful people in this and other organizations are the people that are willing to go out of the box, try new things and risk failure (playing on the last thing I learned). When I start a new role, or a new project or a new assignment, I always look to see how it’s been done, and see if there is a better way to do it. Embracing this has helped me innovate with the way I do things, bringing more efficiency, happier teams, happier customers and a happier me.
4. Always be flexible.
Some of the best opportunities came from the willingness to be flexible. Whether it was a task force assignment in another city, the acceptance of another project, or more responsibility by working another shift, being flexible opens doors and introduces you to new people. Working second shift? You’re limited to the people you interact with during your time there. Get offered to work firsts or the dreaded thirds? Jump at it while you can, those opportunities will introduce you to new people and help you grow your personal brand.
5. Learn to listen.
As someone full of ideas, listening is something I struggle with. I hope I’m not being too hard on myself, but I also want to be honest so I know I have room to improve. By actively listening, you’re showing people you care. And when listening, always know that there is more than one side of the story, so be sure to listen to as many perspective as you can, you never know what you might learn.
6. Use the golden rule.
If you want people to treat you with respect, you have to be willing to respect them. We all have differences and things we disagree upon, but learning to keep those to yourself and not give into the office chatter is something that makes great leaders great. It’s something that I’m always working on.
7. Travel more.
The irony of working in the travel business is that many of us spend 10 hours a day speaking with and greeting travelers from all around the world, but don’t get the opportunity to travel ourselves. Companies give us personal time off so we can spend them exploring the world and spending time with people we love and care about. If you get 14 days off in a year, you can invest them on a nice long excursion to a foreign place, or break them into 3 or 4 day weekends and explore a dozen different cities each year. Whatever you do, get out and see the world. One of the worst things you can waste is your time.
8. Make work fun.
You don’t get paid because you have fun, you get paid because you’re there to do a job. But, that doesn’t mean that doing your job doesn’t have to be fun. No matter how monotonous your task (folding sheets, checking people in, patrolling the parking lot, or entering information into a database) there’s always an opportunity to make it fun. Sing a song in your head, make a game out of it, challenge yourself with incremental goals, or reward yourself with mini luxuries for your success.
9. Never say, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
One of the easiest traps to fall into is the trap of accepting the status quo. “Well, we’ve always done it this way,” is an easy way for someone to ignore the possibilities of improvement and to focus on other things. Always take an opportunity to learn why things are the way they are, and to see if there’s a better way of doing them. You could help the company save money, better serve its customers, or make its associates happier—all of which are big wins!
10. Ask people about their passion.
Many of us work to support our families and our lifestyles. We use the money we make and our time away from work in many different ways, and I think it’s so fascinating to learn about the interests and passions of others. You might be sitting next to a classical guitar virtuoso, across from a landscape oil painter or down the row from a budding entrepreneur. These talents and passions are what make us so unique in our lives away from the office, so why not be curious and celebrate them when we’re together in the office? It will give you something to talk about and show people that you care. You’ll be surprised what you learn, and surprised by how few people even bother to ask, “What’s your passion?”
11. Share what you know.
If you think hogging information will help you keep your job, good for you. Me? I like to share. Whether it’s the faster way to do something, a keyboard shortcut I learned, intelligence about an account, or exciting news about a fellow associate, I always take the opportunity to share. Through this, you’re demonstrating that you care about the people you share with, you’re helping to make their day/task/job easier and you’re helping to bring the organization further. As my Director of IT just reminded me yesterday, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
I’m so lucky to have had the support of my family, my wife and so many talented leaders and co-workers that trusted me, took a chance and let me “do my thing.” There’s no way I could mention them all without forgetting a few, so I won’t even try. But to all of those that have helped me grow as a person, a friend, and an associate: thank you. Your investment of time, patience, advice and opportunities is what has helped me continue to move forward.