Fairmont brand leader’s advice: Play the long game

In HOTELS week-long series of stories featuring advice from female leaders at Accor, Paris, our focus shifts to Mansi Vagt, global vice president of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, who writes about her experiences and what she believes is critical for women in hospitality to succeed.

Her comments follow reports earlier this week from Heather McCrory, CEO of North and Central America, Accor, as well as Chief Development Officer Agnes Roquefort, along with Senior Vice President Sales, North and Central America Valerie Gavin.

HOTELS: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Mansi Vagt: Stay the course. The fact is that as you advance in your career, it gets harder, not easier. We have a (false) perception that once we reach that next level or that ultimate dream job that it’s going to be all sunshine and roses. What you quickly discover is that each advancement brings with it a new set of challenges; new relationships to navigate, new problems to solve, and therefore a lot more to learn.

Over the years, I’ve found that building your resiliency by accepting this truth and then balancing it with a healthy amount of appreciation, pride and passion is what makes for a long and flourishing career. Be grateful, celebrate the wins, learn from the loses and then get back up and keep at it.

I’ve only gained that perspective over time, and I truly wish the younger version of myself didn’t take everything so seriously. It is possible to do hard and good work and enjoy the journey at the same time. That balance is critical.

Mansi Vagt, global vice president of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

In addition, don’t let the little things cloud your view of the long game. We can’t all run at full speed all the time. It’s not healthy or sustainable. This past year has brought that truth to light. At the same time, I encourage young women starting out today not to be discouraged by their failures or what seems to be a daunting climb to their ultimate goals. It is all possible, but it requires patience, resiliency, and a true passion for your work. As they say, life is a marathon, not a sprint – so you might as well enjoy the ride.

H: What do women need to do to embrace their leadership journey?

MV: First, always be learning. I started my career in digital marketing at a time when no one really knew what that meant. It required me to be in a constant mode of educating myself as the tools, platforms and channels were shifting around us every six months. However, that lesson has stuck with me as I’ve moved into brand management and my current role.

While the hospitality sector can seem to be slow moving at times, we exist in an environment where our guests’ expectations are always three steps ahead. If we aren’t building our brands and experiences for the guest of the future, we will quickly get left behind.

Second, speak up. I know this can be tough for young women and especially women of color who may not feel as comfortable or safe speaking up and sharing their thoughts in new environments, but we need more female voices (and especially female voices of color) at the table in all levels of decision making in our industry. We need more diversity of thought and conversation to make better decisions. I promise you that your voice matters and that your opinion not only counts but can make us stronger.

Third, be thoughtful every day. We work in the people business and over time our jobs and day-to-day starts to feel repetitive. Our egos can get in the way, feeling that we know our jobs well and have done it all. That’s normal but fight that instinct to give into the automated response. As women, we tend to (but not always) score higher on empathic reactions. Use that strength. It is what makes us better at connecting with our colleagues and guests, and therefore positioned to be excellent hoteliers.

Fourth, keep it all in perspective. Never forget that your job is not who you are. It is a big part of what makes you a fulsome and well-rounded individual, it sustains and provides for you and your loved ones, and it helps you learn, grow and develop your skills. But your personal relationships, hobbies, passions, advocacy and responsibilities are equally important, and that balance should never be forgotten. Each of us needs to feel respected, valued, taken care of and appreciated to be the best versions of ourselves and achieve great things. That cannot only come from one source in our lives.

Finally, enjoy yourself. How lucky are we to be in an industry that brings joy to people? We are part of a business that delivers incredible experiences to our guests every day – ones that they will treasure and remember for their lifetimes. I end every day with that reminder, no matter how hard it may have been – and it has certainly been a very hard couple of years. But if you aren’t having a bit of fun and enjoying the opportunities we have to put smiles on the faces of guests walking through our doors, then this may not be the right journey for you.