Are you the GM you thought you’d be?

I remember with crystal clarity the moment I decided to become a general manager of a hotel. It was in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the early 1980s, and I was standing in the Palm Court lounge of the Dunfey Netherland Plaza. I remember looking up to the mezzanine level seeing Norman MacCleod in a dark suit and highly polished shoes walking from his office, surrounded by Brazilian rosewood and art deco frescoes. 

Not only did Norman inspire me to become a general manager, but as I observed him, he represented the quality of GM to which I would aspire. I reached the goal of becoming a general manager in the late 1980s. 

Through almost three decades — which consisted of managing and working almost every department in various hotels — I have been honing my craft as a general manager. On occasion I find myself reflecting on that day that I decided to become a GM and wondering, “Am I the general manager that I first aspired to be?” 

The general manager of today is much different than the general manager of the past. We typically have fewer mid-level managers for support, and technology and the demands of global business make the role of the GM much more challenging today than ever before. The bar is now higher. I firmly believe hospitality management is a dynamic craft that needs to be honed and requires continuous development in order for the manager to be effective and relevant. 

I can honestly say that my concept of what a general manager was 30 years ago and what it is today are only vaguely similar. I am conscious as I walk through my own property that there are staff members who may look at me and at some point may make a decision that they, too, want to be a general manager someday. Cognizant of my role in that regard, it is incumbent on me to always present the highest level of excellence, knowledge and vision in order to be the example for future general managers. 

The question “Am I the general manager I first sought to be?” will have different conclusions depending on where you are in your career as a GM. So, I pose these questions to you: Do you remember that moment when you decided to become a general manager? How do you stay relevant and keep your vision alive? Are you the general manager you thought you would be?

I look forward to hearing your story.