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Hospitality Leaders: Why You Will Never Regret Paying it Forward

In today’s world full of political, cultural and social divide, the act of paying it forward can go a long way. Doing a good deed for someone (or repaying it to another) is never a bad idea, whether that means paying for someone’s meal without them knowing or returning a wallet you found lying in the street.

Of course, the act of paying it forward is meaningful at both a personal and professional level. As we welcome fall and the season of giving, there’s perhaps no better time than now to discuss how hospitality leaders can effectively give back and show that they genuinely care about helping others achieve success.

Giving Back to Your Associates

As a seasoned hospitality leader for over 20 years, I can tell you that you should always strive to surround yourself with people who want to continually learn and succeed. Similarly, your best associates will want to work in an environment that promotes continual growth and development. If you don’t plan for success by giving back the fundamental hard and soft skills needed to succeed, you’re unfortunately planning to have your associates fail.

Paying it forward doesn’t cost a thing but your own willingness, and it will produce massive results. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Virgin Pulse found that 60 percent of employees feel their relationship with their employer positively impacts their focus and productivity. In other words, a positive employer relationship drives employee productivity (and ultimately satisfaction).

But don’t be mistaken: paying it forward doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. At the end of the day, the process is all about harnessing what you have to offer—your skills, personality, strengths, kindness—and offering it to those who can benefit in hopes that they will do the same for others.

For some leaders, this may mean taking time to personally mentor a new associate just as someone may have initially taken them under their wing upon entering the industry. For others, giving back may be something as simple as writing a personal “thank you” note for a job well done. For others, even something as simple as a smile can go a long way.

I understand how easy it can be to get caught up in the “whirlwind funnel” but, as a leader, you must ask yourself: “How can I give back to support my associates?” At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to show that you care about leading them down a path of success.

Giving Back at the Local (and Global) Level 

If you don’t know your community then I suggest you hit the pavement, get out there and introduce yourself. For example, I have gone so far as to visit my competitors to personally let them know who I am should they need anything from me. Being present is a simple yet powerful tool when it comes to building strong relationships; being open, honest (and even vulnerable) will open greater doors of opportunity. After all, we’re all in the hospitality business at the end of the day.

If you’re familiar with your local community, consider taking a page from organizations like eyewear brand Warby Parker, which sponsors a local Little League team in its neighborhood. Or, consider TripAdvisor’s charitable approach to giving back; the company buys its employees lunch three times a week and, in return, employees donate what they would have spent on those lunches to charities of their choosing. If you can’t afford to buy lunch three times a week for your employees, consider doing it for one or two months of the year as a random act of kindness.

Allow me to share one of my personal favorite experiences of giving back at a global level. I once had the opportunity to host a virtual presentation for a prestigious hospitality school based in the United Kingdom on the topic of how to be successful in the hotel industry. The presentation gave me a platform to share my wealth of knowledge and expertise with a variety of students and professors. Not only did the event draw in an overwhelming response of questions, but some students even reached out to me privately in hopes that I could support them further in their approach to working in the hospitality industry.

I love sharing this story because of what it taught me: that there are people who are passionate about learning and wanting to grow in such a fascinating industry who, in time, will give back to others down the road.

At the end of the day, paying it forward is a much-needed reminder that our job, our experiences and our success isn’t just about us. Giving back proves that it’s all about others and less about you. So be open and honest, share real life experiences, and carve out time to give back to others. Also don’t forget that your ability to develop strong leaders in your industry will speak volumes about who you are as a person, and that won’t go unnoticed.

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