“A successful hotel is great, but assets deteriorate…the way you interact with people — employees, colleagues, guests — that’s what sticks.” ~ Gerard Kiladjian
I’ve long advocated focusing on one’s professional value rather than transferable skills. This shift to value from skills becomes more important through the arc of our careers. As we move along that arc, we become more valued for the wisdom we bring to situations and challenges.
“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment…” ~ Cicero; quoted by Chip Conley in Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder (Amazon Kindle link).
Over the next few weeks, I’ll profile some folks who I believe are Legends of Wisdom (a mashup term taken from Chip Conley’s Wisdom at Work and Mike Tyson’s Legends Only League of retired sports champions). First up: Gerard Kiladjian, President of Principal Hospitality.
Gerard Kiladjian: Meeting People Where They Are
Gerard has a long and successful career in the hospitality industry. His expertise has been guiding independent, boutique hotels to financial stability and success. He recently made the leap from General Manager to Owner. We talked about how his experience in running properties has affected his role as an owner.
What Mastery Do You Offer? How Do You Add Value To Your Work and Colleagues?
Gerard noted that the hospitality sector is ALL about people — guests, employees, and business partners. How one communicates with each group determines the success of each interaction. One approach doesn’t work for everyone. He makes a strong effort to meet staff and guests “where they are” — how they are reacting to the conversation at the moment. Regardless of the issue and who he’s talking with, he focuses on the situation, not the person.
As the owner (as opposed to the GM) he tries to put people more at ease. It’s a different relationship; he’s not a member of the team. However, he knows the operations and the challenges. His role is to educate and support.
How Has Your Professional Identity Changed From GM To Owner?
“As a GM, I knew the ‘ins and outs,’ the details, of running a successful hospitality operation. I always ran it as if it was my property.” While the transition to owner hasn’t changed much, a lot of the “day-to-day, mundane things” have disappeared from his plate.
The relief of the daily detailed operational tension has provided the opportunity to be more strategic regarding the property. He can think more long-term and leave the short-term decision-making to his GM. However, having been a successful GM, Gerard can share his wisdom with his leadership team.
As he grows Principal Hospitality, Gerard’s goal is to offload the more short-term decision-making to the GMs of his properties, while he focuses on long-term strategies.
As You’ve Evolved Into A Legend Of Wisdom, What Traits And Qualities Have You Had To Lose?
Everything that Gerard learned and used at each level of his career is still used as an owner. As a GM, he talked with staff on a regular basis to understand their challenges and provide the necessary support. As an owner, he needs to let the GM handle those issues; he can’t get as involved in the staffs’ issues.
He has to be careful not to interfere and undermine the GM’s role.
What Traits and Qualities Have Your Repurposed To Be More Meaningful As A Legend Of Wisdom?
Gerard knows to listen to his team and to keep an open mind to different ways of operating. He learned that from his experience in running branded properties where he had to report to corporate leadership. He knew what was required for the building, but had to adhere to corporate policies.
His experience as a GM has caused him to honor his team’s role in running the property. “I’m not there to solve problems, I’m there to support the building managers in solving the problems. I make the investment in the tools they require. It’s their job to make sure the tools are used appropriately.”
What Would You LIke Your Professional Legacy To Be? How Do You Want To Be Remembered At The End Of Your Career?
“I try to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s exciting to hear people say that I was the best boss they’ve worked for. That means I did something right and they’ve matched me against other leaders and saw value in how I worked. That’s a great legacy.”
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