Leaders need to lean on purpose through crisis
Leaders need to lean on purpose through crisis
08 SEPTEMBER 2020 8:45 AM

Speaking during a recent AHLA webinar, Hyatt Hotels Corporation President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed that leaders need to focus on their core principals to guide decision-making in difficult times.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—A crisis can test who you are as an individual or as an organization, and leaders from Hyatt Hotels Corporation and the City of Chicago said it’s important not to lose sight of your values.

Speaking during the latest installment of The American Hotel and Lodging Association’s virtual “The Forum” series on leadership, Hyatt President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed that businesses need to value their people and their core principals.

“At Hyatt, I would say the dimension that has served us extremely well and has been essential is our own (sense of) purpose,” Hoplamazian said. “That is to care for people so they can be their best. That purpose has been our guiding light and our North Star as we have managed through what has turned into a significant adjustment, a reduction in the force in our business and many other steps we’ve had to take to ensure we have a long future.”

Lightfoot phrased it as “making sure that you don’t lose sight of your values.”

“It’s easy when you’re in a crisis to say, ‘The things that we thought we were going to be doing, the values that we espouse as an organization, those are luxuries for a different, easier time,” she said. “What we’ve been focused on is making sure we keep our values (of) equity, inclusion and making sure we built up literal wealth but also emotional wealth across our city and we keep those values front and center.”

She recognizes there’s a cost to maintaining values through a crisis, but not maintaining them could be even more costly.

“You’re going to have to start literally from ground zero, and you lose legitimacy both internally with your people but also externally with the various audiences that all of us are trying to reach,” she said.

Lightfoot preached the importance of long-term thinking particularly in the need to make long-term investments in difficult times, like her efforts to develop in the southwestern area of Chicago.

“As one of my team members put it, I try to play chess, not checkers,” she said. “And when you’re playing chess, you’ve got to think strategically many, many steps down the road.”

Hoplamazian talked about the importance of continuing to invest in and grow programs that might not be focused on immediate return on investment and are more geared toward making the world around your organization a better and more inclusive one, like Hyatt’s commitment to Opportunity Youth.

He noted diversity is at the core of Hyatt’s business.

“We are a global company, and we operate in every possible imaginable marketplace, culture and environment around the world, and the diversity of our workforce is just stunning and magnificent, and so is the diversity of the guest base we serve,” he said.

Hoplamazian said the company’s work with Opportunity Youth is vital and will continue to grow.

“Three years ago, we made an extraordinarily ambitious goal as a company to employ (and) hire 10,000 opportunity youth by 2025, a very, very lofty goal that we set,” he said. “I'm proud to say that we were on track as of the end of 2019, during which time we employed about 2,000 opportunities across the world.”

The hiring efforts took a hit with COVID-19 as staffing across the hotel industry cratered, but Hoplamazian believes the trend of greater focus on diversity in hiring will persist across the industry once employment bounces back.

“We really feel like many companies, and many organizations have focused increasingly on diversity, equity and inclusion over the last several months, in particular,” he said.

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