‘A leader must al­ways be pre­pared to lis­ten, in­spire and mo­ti­vate’

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG - By SO­PHIE HE in Hong Kong so­phiehe@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

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.

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