Director of Sales & Marketing, Sheraton Philadelphia University City Hotel
June 25, 2021
What do you love most about being a leader?
The most rewarding aspect of leadership is mentoring, developing and uncovering talent in others. After being in this industry for more than 25 years, the thing that brings me the most joy is watching someone I have mentored in the past, advancing in their own hospitality career. Knowing I played a role in someone’s success is what motivates me to do what I do.
What is your management philosophy?
We have seen phenomenal changes in our industry since I started (Remember those giant function books?). As we continue to innovate our products and technology, I have come to realize that at our core, hospitality success starts and ends with the basics. Building organic and authentic relationships with our customers, taking care of our associates, paying attention to details and getting them right, anticipating guests’ needs, owning it when we fall short, having empathy for others and paying it forward whenever we have an opportunity will always be the cornerstones of our success.
What inspires you to be great?
As the mother of two sons, I wake up every morning wanting to be the best example I can for them. Knowing that they are constantly watching me makes me want to always try harder. I live my life hoping to show them that there is nothing a woman can’t do when she sets her mind to it.
How do you inspire team members?
With my team, I think it’s important to not only be transparent with where we are and our goals but to walk them through my thought process when I make decisions. I find that my willingness to share ideas, discuss strategies, results and different tasks promotes a trusting work environment and ensures that we are all invested in our success. When you hoard information, only one person stays knowledgeable.
I also make it a point to get to know my team members as people first. I want to know about their families, hobbies and what is important to them. I like to find out what motivates them and how they like to celebrate wins. At my former hotel, our team loved going out for meals during the holidays and other big moments. At my current property, I realized that those big celebrations didn’t work for my team. Instead, they prefer to celebrate by sitting together and sharing a home cooked meal. One year, I decided to bring chili and cornbread into the office for just the Sales team. It has evolved into a full Holiday meal for other Departments and somewhat of a tradition five years running. It’s not always about a grand gesture, sometimes it’s focusing on the small details.
Due to my love of cooking (and all desserts), I work out almost every day. My team can vouch that I try to share my love of fitness with them as well. I have been known to make everyone stop what they are doing, stand up and stretch for a few minutes or have a mini dance break at their desk. I will also grab someone and take them on a walk around the block or go grab a coffee just to make sure we keep moving and get a little fresh air. Making sure everyone enjoys coming to work and that we can have fun puts us in the right mindset to serve our guests with a smile on our face.
What advice/tips resonated with you most from mentors throughout your career?
Two pieces of advice that have always stuck with me are:
- “A strong leader accepts blame and gives credit. A weak leader gives blame and accepts credit.” I have always tried to approach criticism with the mindset that it is an opportunity to get better at what I do. Being open to critique and owning mistakes doesn’t mean failure, it makes you human. Your response to a critique is often more memorable than the critique itself.
- “Leaders don’t create followers, they create other leaders.” I never want to be the star player on an average team. I always want a team full of Jordans and Lebrons around me.
What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the past year?
I am sure I speak for every hospitality employee around the world when I say that this has been the toughest year of our careers. The most pressing challenge has been staying positive in the face of the unknown. Leading a team when you have no concrete answers to give them about the future of the business or their own futures was a first. Offering hope while I was concerned for my own job, family and safety was overwhelming at times. In addition, as a Sales leader, I feel personally responsible for keeping this building occupied and for every employee furloughed. While cancellations were coming in left and right, we stayed positive on property and our team focused on doing what we do. We called our local clients and neighbors and continued to check-in. Not just to “sell” but to see how they were faring. To share our concerns and hope. We leveraged our relationships. Through reaching out, we were able to secure a block of rooms from our partners at Penn Medicine that has kept our doors open and sustained us through these difficult times. I am proud to have played a part in helping the Sheraton Philadelphia University City remain one of the few properties that was open in our city in 2020.
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you to the Davidson family. We may not be first responders but we are all the ”forgotten” front line. We have continued to interact with guests during such turbulent days and through so much unknown. Thank you for all you do and for your commitment to safety and hospitality. I am proud to be a part of this family.