Retirement must spur mentoring

Now in my 60s, part of what keeps me young (apart from the hair-loss-inducing challenges of rearing my Millennial progeny) is the learning that comes from keeping up with changes in our industry, be they technological, financial, service-oriented or from a creative-application standpoint. To me, the thought of continuous learning is a critical driver and a constant source of brain activation. Mark my words: the day you stop learning is the day you die.

And the ability to pass on this new learning — as well as the application of 30-plus years working as a hotelier — only turbocharges my enthusiasm. If you are in the same age range as me, you better spend a few moments examining what drives you to continue. Be honest, as it may only be financial need at this point. If it is, then by all means make your final years on the job productive — and not just for you, but try to impart a lasting legacy. Call it going out with a bang, and a good one at that.

Retirement must spur mentoring.

A hundred years ago, we had an established apprentice network whereby a young worker could learn at a master’s side. There were few schools, and the literacy rate was miles below where it currently resides; it was all experiential learning. Over the years, the apprentice would absorb the expertise of the master and, in doing so, ultimately serve as his or her replacement.

We should not confuse today’s interns as the early cogs on the apprentice wheel. Many in the hotel industry see interns simply as a source of interim or (heaven forbid) cheap labor — in for a few months then spat out and replaced by another soul in a continuous carousel of replacement labor. This is not a healthy outlook, as it doesn’t help propagate future success for the company to which you gave your best years (one of several reasons, I might add).

True mentoring is based on a commitment to pass along your knowledge and experiences in a continuous fashion, not just over a few weeks each summer, but through a program of nurturing and reinforcement that takes place over years. We are not just talking about teaching a few office and industry skills a la the present-day intern system, but bestowing a set of values and work ethics that will last a lifetime. Think of the Zero the Lobby Boy character in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” While parodying the hospitality trade in an absolutely hilarious manner, the film was essentially an example of bona fide mentorship.

If you find yourself approaching the retirement guillotine, I am not suggesting you single out one member of your staff, give him a funny cap and keep him by your side at all times. Rather, I am encouraging you to take on the role of mentor to members of your team. It is a necessary affair to ensure your own legacy as well as that of your company. Give them the wisdom of your years and, at the same time, step out of your safety zone from time to time — something likely done by getting in touch with all the latest technology developments.

The hospitality world needs its next generation of leaders to be sharper and stronger than ever if we are to survive all the external forces and consumer-behavior shifts pinching our profits. And in order to groom these leaders, we need mentors with decades’ worth of tacit knowledge and experience.