‘A leader must always be prepared to listen, inspire and motivate’
But, the new generation prefers to work in the lobby. They sit at the table in the hotel lobby and, with people around, they have their earphones and enjoy that and they want to work as a team.”
Craig Smith, president and managing director for Asia Pacific of Marriott International, was born in Washington DC. When he was just two months old, his family moved to Mexico and subsequently to Ecuador, Venezuela and Hungary — they were always on the move as his father was a diplomat and then ambassador.
Smith went to Brigham Young University in the United States and got his bachelor’s degree in city planning.
The 53-year-old hotelier recalled that the first job Marriott gave him was at the Hyatt in California. In those days, if someone wanted to manage a hotel some day, they would have to start from scratch.
“They offered me either a front desk manager’s job or that of a housekeeping manager. I picked the housekeeping manager’s post as I had already been a front desk manager before. I wanted to learn about housekeeping and how to order supplies. Besides, I would be in charge of more people while at the front desk, I would probably be in charge of just four or five people. A housekeeping manager would be in charge of 60 people.”
Smith was subsequently promoted to front office manager, resident manager and was human resources director briefly become becoming general manager. He kept growing with the company.
“I believe in people and I believe people can do great things so that, as a leader, you can’t do all the things yourself, you have to take care of the people who work for you, making sure they are supported and are happy,” says Smith.
He believes knowing how to lead is very important in his career as it’s crucial to know how to motivate people, set goals and be a source of inspiration for others.
Each year, he would conduct an evaluation of himself and ask those working for him to tell him three things he was good at and three things he could have done better.
“My assistant would put the list together and I won’t know who said what, so every year I read about what my staff think of me. Sometimes, it hurt my feelings but it helped me to be more aware of myself because, as a leader, people around you will only tell you what you want to hear. And, over the years, I can see I’ve improved in some aspects that used to be criticized by everyone.”
Smith says he’s very focused because he needs to keep track of everything and he would discuss it with his managers once a month.
“I don’t beat people up at those meetings. If the results are bad, I would ask my staff what I could do to help them and what they need.”
“As an executive, you only have so much time each day,” says Smith. “And you have to split it between your health, family and your work.”
Smith has five children, and when he’s with his family, he will focus 100 percent on them and that having a good vacation with the children is better than just staying with them after work.
“It’s the same with my wife. I make sure we take short vacations, just the two of us, which I found very important and helpful.”
With everything happening on the social media nowadays, one of the important things for the hotel industry is that it must listen to their guests, Craig Smith believes.