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My five stars: ‘General Dad’

My children have asked me many interesting hospitality-related questions over the past two decades as they grew up enjoying all the perks associated with living in luxurious hotel rooms and suites around the world. One of the most interesting was a two-part question from my youngest son, John, who was an inquisitive and talkative 3-year-old at the time, which sounded something like this: “Dad, how many stars do you really have, and why don’t you wear your general’s uniform at work?”  

At first I could not understand what he was saying. Then I noticed he was playing with his toy soldiers on the floor, who were commanded by none other than General John, and he was wearing a tiny army jacket with five gold stars on each collar, which my wife had lovingly stitched along with his name on the breast pocket: General John Gorman. 

So I said, “Excuse me, General John, sir, what do you mean?” He replied — as only a 3-year-old can — “Dad, I am a five-star general, and you are a general with five stars, but you have no uniform, and I don’t see any stars on your jacket. Why is that, Dad?”

Again I was puzzled until I discovered that he had been telling all his playmates at preschool that his dad was a five star general (meaning, of course, general manager of a 5-star hotel, not an army), but he really did not understand the difference and did not seem to care much, as he loved to salute me as soon as I came home each evening. (I must admit I also loved it very much, as it was just so cute.)

Since that day many years ago, I have often thought about my “rank,” which I “fought” extremely hard to obtain, and all the “troops” I have “commanded” on many “battlefronts” during my “tours of duty” around the world. So, after looking at some old photographs from that magical day many years ago, I recently decided to ask my current “corps commanders” if they could come up with a more suitable and perhaps less militaristic title for their “general” over coffee and donuts during one of our daily e-breaks. Below are several of the alternate title suggestions they provided:

Guru: Very appropriate for this part of the world. 

Champion: I like that, but can’t help recalling a 60s TV show about a “wonder horse” with the same name.

Coach: I really like being that, because that’s what we all must try to be to all our people, a great coach.

Governor: This also makes sense as I do govern, but it’s a little too colonial for this part of the post-colonial world, and for the modern hospitality business.

Boss: I really hate being called that. Have you ever played the online game Bosshole?

Commander: Shades of James Bond and 007 — I love that one. Commander Gorman … now that sounds really cool.

Dear leader: Yes, that was an actual suggestion from one of our younger troops, just back from a short training stint in the kitchens of Pyongyang, North Korea.    

Chief: This reminds me of an old cowboy movie, so I will pass on that one.

But I did warm to “chief” when used as part of the title I liked most from all those suggested, which was CMO (chief motivation officer) because that is what I try I do here, every minute of every day — motivate our people to improve our products and our services, and thereby improve our revenues and profits, in that order.

How about you, dear GENERAL managers around the world? Do you have any other suggestions for a more suitable title, or do you all secretly enjoy being saluted just like General Dad?

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