More on defining Organizational Culture…(PPC and more)

More on defining Organizational Culture…(PPC and more)

We have a host of authors within our book by Kersten and La Venture  1 that exposes the various definitions of organizational culture. There is a theme that emerges based on shared core values, beliefs, and principles.  This hints at behavior and how that behavior is communicated to a greater audience (p. 2-3).  That behavior exists within and outwit the company.  It governs the day-to-day operations and the lives that work within that community.  Yes, a community.  Marriott views their associates as a greater family.

Core Values
Core Values of the School of Hospitality Leadership
Yet, as I decipher these words, I am left with one thought, one word.  Service.  Servant leadership is a common phrase we hear about the university, and incorporate it in our culture.

The definitions of organizational culture are incomplete without the inclusion of servant leadership or service.

You may be thinking:  But it is all apart of that definition, when you argue for that commonality of themes within organizational culture.

Yes, and no.

Service is inter-woven and stands alone.  Why?  Maybe it should be the overriding concept?  See still in a heated debate.

Maybe if we address behavior.  Behavior is action.  Behavior is developed with immersion with in a unique place.  That place has three environments–physical landscape (natural/man-made environment), economic and socio-cultural.  Everyone is a product of their own three environments.  A host of variables will define those environments and shape how your beliefs are formed from the roots of those variables.  Core values remain, but the breadth and depth of those values shifts and adapts, matures and grows over time.  Some of those core values will stick with you and others you will shed with maturity, personal growth and reflection.

Life happens.

You bring these dynamics into any company.

Each individual of a society makes up the culture.  I am getting away from service and need to bring it back.  We will get to culture shortly.

Warning, service has a broad definition.  For this argument, service is the want to do something for someone else.  Not just because we have to, but because we want to.  It is the right thing to do.  We have within our hearts the want to help.  And that does have its hang ups.  We are after all human and considerably flawed.

Some have this ability to help more than others.  They have this innate compassion to such a degree that it is second nature.  No questions are asked.  Deep down we all do, but we are stymied by our own fears.

That is why I want to call it a service heart.  Some would label it as the heart of service.  But several colleagues and I have been gnashing on changing that.  I’m sure that phrase has been around for a bit.  And anyone can develop a service heart.

We have come to that conclusion that that phrase incorporates those core values.  In tourism, we have a lot of choice in products.  Some similar, some different.  What creates competitive advantage now and in the future will be the service. The human element.  People will want to return because of the people helping them fulfill their expectations.  Because we want them to return ‘home’ to us again and again.  Thus, our behavior is paramount to fulfilling the expectations of our stakeholders.  All of them.

So, at the heart of organization is a culture.  We should hold commonality, without the lost of identity.  That is something that isn’t really articulated within our first readings.  Identity.  We each bring our own sense of self to the work environment.  I have posed this question before.  How do we retain our own sense of self in a workplace that may or may not have the same common values as our own.  Today, we are seeing disparity in our society.  Not all of us possess the same beliefs.  We have our own unique cultural attributes that we bring into a workplace.  How do we mesh this divergence?  Some are not always the same.  Should we or should we not ask people to change that culture to conform (shudder) to that workplace culture?  Do the mission and vision of a company posses the flexibility to handle various cultural nuances?

Acculturation exists in tourism.  Simply defined, it is the moment when two or more cultures meet and something happens.  You can either have assimilation of one culture with another.  Yes, there may or may not be dominance of one over another.  The second may be nothing happens.  Or friction.  There is too much difference that problems occur.  Could we now extend this concept into the workplace because of the diverse backgrounds of our employees.

So, maybe I should hint at diversity.  Diversity, in its simplest terms, is about the difference in a workplace.  It identifies that difference and should be embraced. We can all contribute to our workplace. Yet, the definition is limiting to us in trying to understand that difference and how to handle it.  It doesn’t get to the heart of everything.  It doesn’t offer strategies.  Laws aren’t strategies.  There is still some mysticism with diversity.  If we extend diversity and marry it with the concept of cultural intelligence, especially when working in a global world, we can develop strategies and broader, better behaviors to handle that diversity.  Remember these are my interpretations of my own readings and research.  Don’t take it as face value.  What kind of Socratic professor would I be, if I didn’t ask you to think for yourself.  Read, digest, understand and reflect.

Culture today is so much greater, broader in definition than what some might think.

This is when I tell you that I hate definitions.  I think they are limiting.  I don’t think they encompass the expanse of variety that exists.  Yes, we need a foundation on which to start.  But how many of us stop and do not explore the many layers, the breadth and depth of those definitions. Culture is one of those definitions.  That is why later on in the semester we will be examining Cultural Intelligence.

The discussion continues…

Footnotes

1. Kersten, J., La Venture, Kelly, Lui, Katherine E. Welch, & Cervenka, Debbie. (2015). The human factor to profitability : Building a people-centered culture for long-term success / Jeanette Kersten, EdD, SPHR, and Kelly La Venture, EdD ; with a foreword by Kat Lui, PhD, and Debbie Cervenka. (First ed.).

“What Now?” Moment…

“What Now?” Moment…
Time
Don’t let time be the enemy

As I have explained in the post Developing Managers, meeting planning is all about project management.  It doesn’t matter how the sales lead is generated, how you come by the business, it comes down to managing time.  It can be your breaking point. Therefore, preparation is vital.  Success hinges on lining up those ducks in their right positions, and having enough flexibility for problems.

Today, marks the middle of the second week of classes, and for the next six weeks my students will be given information about their scenarios.  I enjoy this time, creating this reality of challenges.  This journey isn’t easy.  Life isn’t always a bed of roses.  They will have to think, use their respective brain power to sort out the twists and bumps.  And this morning, I barked a laugh at my latest creation.  One group will not be happy.  Welcome, to real life.  I hope they have listened to me over the course of their time here.  I hope they remember that I just don’t sit in my office during office hours and at other times for nothing.  I hope they have that epiphany.

[Knocks on the glass] “Hello, anyone out there!  Any of my students?  Hello?”  Questions.  It comes down to asking questions.  Don’t assume anything.  One lesson you must learn as an event planner is don’t assume you know what the clients want.  You don’t.  You may think you do, but in all reality, you don’t!

Get off your respective posterior and come and talk to me.  One requirement of my meeting planning class is they have to meet with me eight times over the course of the sixteen weeks to discuss their projects.  Everyone has to be there unless their team leader and I approve the excuse.

Hopefully, by now they have identified their roles and responsibilities.  There has to be a team leader, one that will be responsible for getting the job done–the broader goal.  The others will be accomplishing the objectives or individual tasks to get to that broader goal.

How they start is up to them.  Have they researched the craft of meetings?  Have they cruised around their books, the Internet or other sources to understand the process?  Are they waiting to be told?  I hope not.

Floppy Disks
Floppy Disks

My time in event planning and sales was during an era when paper ruled the desktop.  I started out as a sales coordinator.  A glorified personal assistant to the other sales managers and ran an office.  Thank the good Lord, I have been a gadget girl all my life. Old school floppy disks! I worked part-time at an office supply store to supplement and pay for my schooling. I sold the first renditions of IBM and Dell computers. On my desk at the hotel was a 286 processor with probably 50 k of memory. Five and quarter-inch flimsy disks were my life saver.  The convention calendar was this behemoth book that had its own desk.  For a small hotel, we had two or three major file cabinets full of client files.  Some as thick as the city phone book (four inches or more).

Personal planners crammed full of written notes.  Notebooks full of third-party information.  Day-to-day was all about pushing paper and making phone calls, pounding the pavement and finding leads as well as execution of various events or tour group arrivals.  Forget cell phones.  Landlines with a complex web of office numbers and only ten speed dial buttons (if that).  Back-up wasn’t an option.  Lose your personal planner–deep, heart stopping, whole-body anxiety attack until you found it.  Total disappearance meant frantic hours of combing through all that paper to recreate your day-to-day work life.  And if you didn’t keep meticulous notes, (I just laughed), you were on a bar stool later that night crying into your drink, casting curses and prayers simultaneously to the air and powers that be that you did what you had to do or your other associates had your back (another little snicker).  What did I say about life being fair, it isn’t.

Cue JoePa:

The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.

Time management has various dimensions.  One of those critical dimensions is communication which is basically the sharing of information.  An exchange process.  If you aren’t prepared for the encounter, it will show.  If you don’t value other points of reality, a host will lose value.  The process is stymied by the narrow-mindedness of others.  Basically, don’t be myopic.  Try to see the whole picture.  See beyond that picture.  Your developed skill level and capabilities at this point in time may not be as developed as others.  Do not discount experience, even those with just an ounce.  You do not know the complete picture.  You don’t know what that experience was and the depth of impact or how they handled it.  Get that through your mind.  Open your mind, open your heart, open your soul to receive.  The only way you can work together, and that doesn’t mean you can’t lead, but the only way you will all succeed is if you listen and contemplate.

So I guess that comes full circle to that leadership role.

But before we get into that, I wanted to over up a reminder.

I believe that there are four points to successful meeting planning from a customer standpoint:

  • Know your client–that means asking open-ended questions, and some closed ended questions
  • Know the product you sell–and it is more than you really think it is…
  • Know the community in which you are embedded and operate
  • Know yourself

Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.

What will the leader of these projects do?  What do event planners do out in the real world?

I can tell you a fraction of what you should or shouldn’t do from my own experience.  To learn more about leadership, you need to study.  Study those that are successful in a variety of fields.  Read trade magazines and look for case studies.  Visualize the problem and look for plausible solutions.

  1.  Be receptive to ideas.
  2. Don’t over hash things that nothing gets done.  Make a decision.  You can revisit it, but it shouldn’t rule your lives.
  3. Listen to your gut.  Know the difference between right and wrong.
  4. Know standard operating procedures.  If there aren’t any, create them.
  5. Events means experience.  Someone has their heart on having a wonderful experience.  Own it for them.  Make it happen.
  6. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  7. More than one person is affected/effected by the choices you make, especially financial ones.
  8. Time means one thing to you, and something different to another.
  9. Be inquisitive.  Study from experts.  Find a mentor.  Ask questions.
  10. Research the craft.
  11. Keep a reflective journal
  12. Be respectful, responsible, accountable.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Respect yourself and others.  Doesn’t mean you have to like them, but respect means more than what you think.
  13. Listen, just shut up and listen.  And listen with your mind and heart.
  14. Demonstrate empathy, sympathy.  But don’t let anyone run you over.  There is an art to negotiations, learn it.  Compromise is key.
  15. I know I’m going to get in trouble for this.  The customer may not always be right in every situation.  Sometimes you have to take the lead and help them realize reality.  You don’t always want to be their friend.
  16. At the end of the day, there are a host of people counting on you.  Some for a pay check.
  17. Tough decisions are painful, but manageable.  Tough love is the hardest.
  18. Be proactive rather than reactive.  Damn tough sometimes to recover in service execution.  (And if my PPC students are reading this, service is a broad term.)
  19. Study ethics.  Again, every single person is governed by a set of core values and not.  Some don’t have core values.

    Core Values
    Core Values

But what do they mean?  Do you understand them?

20.  Be cognizant of your environment.  Don’t live in a vacuum.  Be aware.  Be open to change.  Change is hard.  Embrace it.  Look for it.

So those are just twenty odd observations to consider, digest and reflect upon.

A good leader knows when to lead, knows when to walk beside and help, and sometimes remain behind and let you on your own.

Location, Location, Location…

Location, Location, Location…
Ford's Theatre
Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC

I have lived in a host of different cities, states and one country.  The depth of knowledge about those locations various with experience.  I love to get out and talk to people, and I’ve met some interesting people along the way.  I love to explore and more than likely will get lost.  I always find my way back.  Every experiences brings a whole new set of learning.

Another year is upon us here at Stout, and I’m teaching Development of Tourism Attractions, Convention Meeting Planning and People Process Culture.  The former course expands and expounds on concepts learned in the Principles of Tourism, extending it into the heart of the three environments–socio-cultural, economic and natural/man-made as well motivation, and planning.

It peels back the layers of tourism.  Tourism is an act of doing something and depends on the viewpoint in which you view it or peel back the layers.  There are tangible and intangible elements that are part of this dynamic process, and we need to know why some destinations and their attractions are more successful than others.  As leaders or managers of the future, we will be part of that success and/or failure.  What we do, when we do it, could be a defining moment.  (For those of you in tourism, remember the mantra.)

At the heart of any attraction is a motivation.

Echoes of those reasons why people travel to a destination and its attractions, percolates through my mind, and I’m sure others.

“Something I always wanted to see.”

“It is on my bucket list.”

But that is from a customer point of view.  What about the others?

Why did Disney decide to buy up a large mass of swamp land and orange groves in the middle of Florida to create Disney World?

Why place it there?  Why create something in the middle of no where, and hope that people come?

Begs the question posed in A Field of Dreams:  “If you build it, will them come?”

The process of building attractions is long and arduous.  It takes time to build attractions from concept of the idea to opening.  Disney World was conceived as a supplement to Disneyland in 1955 and opened in 1971.  During that time of development, Walt Disney died unexpectantly in 1966.  Disney World and especially Epcot could have died right there on the table.  But it didn’t, and more on that later.  Yet, that is a long time for an attraction to be built.  Some rise in less time, and close just as fast.  The Internet is peppered with a host of attractions that opened and closed quickly because they couldn’t sustain numbers or creativity.  Walt Disney World has several areas that have been closed and abandoned because they weren’t as popular as they once were.

Visit to Disney World, 1977
From left to right, Mom, sister, me and brother at Walt Disney World, 1977

So, this hints at one aspect of motivation and decision-making.

Even leadership (Waves at my PPC group, bringing them into the conversation).

Your stakeholder’s needs change over time.  All of them.

But who are your stakeholders you ask, besides customers.

  1. Customers
  2. Employees (all levels)
  3. Governments
  4. Financial
  5. Host Community
  6. Others (that arm-chair traveler that hasn’t even made a decision yet, but is bombarded with a mountains of information both by word of mouth, and through other distribution channels and has an interest)

Their needs and wants will change over time as their lives change.  It can be short or long-term.

Disney World’s Epcot Center is now going through a major renovation.  The original vision of Epcot is a far cry than what Walt had in mind.  That vision was transformed because he wasn’t there and those that came after, nixed it in the butt.  Roy Disney, his brother, wasn’t the creative genius that Walt was and deferred to others.  If you read any books about Walt’s life and his company, his creative style and visions were a prime directive for the company.  To lose someone so young in their mid-60s, without a concrete succession plan, will have far reaching effects on the company.  And it did.

An attraction is just a structure.  An idea.

People make it come to life.

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog
Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

People are the resource that propel it into the future.

Even destinations and their success depends on the people who manage it, work within the boundaries, and even visit.

So, this then suggest a management/educational journey down two different paths.

At times these paths, one of tangible origins and one of intangible, coalesce and merge.  At other times, they run parallel.  And during times of stress, anxiety, and erosion, diverge.

So, we are at the precipice.  On top of the mountain and have a vista to explore.  We can see the concrete but the human element is clouded in degrees of mystery.

Let’s begin…

 

Developing managers…

Developing managers…

In my convention and meeting planning class, I have them do a lengthy scenario based project. They are broken into teams, and given a type of meeting or event. Over the course of the 16 weeks, they are given information, and curve balls to develop the scenario.  The purpose of the project is to develop their research, analytical, and problem-solving skills.  It’s 500 points and I’ve had success with the project in the past as well as seen some students not take it seriously.  Former students have commented on the project and agreed that it was a worthwhile exercise. Jenna Blandi-Jurgil was one of my first students in my meeting planning course that I created at Eastern Illinois University.  It was one of the first renditions of the project that has since seen several adjustments.  When asked about the project this past week, when she spoke to my current students, she had this to say:

Jenna Blandi-Jurgil
Jenna Blandi-Jurgil Meeting Planner at American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

“Everything I did in that notebook, I do now in my real job as an event planner.”  ~Jenna Blandi-Jurgil

Today, I had one of the group leaders in asking questions. She was the only representative from their group for the meeting, and I had an opportunity to talk about their project and what she needs to do as their leader. Over the course of the conversation, I reminded her about the purpose, and talked about the ‘curve balls’ I gave them.  I revisited the process of event planning and roles, responsibilities of an event planner.  Event planning is all about project management from the inception of idea, through the planning and execution of the event or meeting, and finally the post event or meeting stages.  That planning remains a central element of the whole process.

Jenna reinforced several key points that I constantly articulate in class.  That if you are prepared, that your planning is thorough, the attendees won’t ‘see’ the interworking of a meeting or the flaws.  They won’t see any problems.  They can enjoy their experience and network without interference.

I love using examples when I try to explain concepts.  The concept I wanted to talk about because I was aware of some potential difficulty with the group that would need to be addressed was leadership.  I try to use simple visuals that would aid them.  I asked the person if they played any sports.  They told me that they played basketball and volleyball.  Bingo.  I could talk about volleyball.

I played volleyball since I was about four years old because my Mom was a former coach and referee.  She actively took me to games and included me in practices.  My earliest memory is of attending a game at my father’s place of work, his high school, and watching the game, chasing after the volleyballs, and listening to my Mom.  My next memory is of the volleyball players that she coached coming to my hospital room and visiting when I had my adenoids removed.  They brought me orange cream Popsicle to ease my sore throat.  There was a camaraderie about them that I didn’t understand at an early age, but would later on.  Something vital for success.

I really started playing seriously in seventh grade.  I played through high school always earning a spot on the team and playing every match.  I played club ball at Penn State (yes I tried out for the team, but I decided not to continue.  That it wasn’t what I wanted.)  I played Division I in Scotland, but hardly saw playing time due to certain politics and favoritism on the team.  I can’t blame them, those ladies had been playing a long time.  I was a backup but still gave it my heart.  That is another point I stress with any project.  Give 115% and you will succeed.

My brother and I
My brother and I wrestling.  I have my team jersey on from Penn State Club
Lounging in the dorms
Me in Penn State’s West Hall’s Thompson Hall after volleyball practice

I was a back line specialist and setter.  I was in part the quarterback and leader on the court, but also a team member to others that would lead.  I wasn’t the captain, but still had a leadership role.  There has to be a certain cohesion between group members.  There has to be a dialogue on and off the court.  There has to be an ease of conversation in order to achieve a goal.

In high school, we made it to regionals.  Unfortunately, I had injured my ankle and wasn’t able to play.  It was my senior year and played two sports.  Regionals fell during softball season and I was their primary catcher.  During a game, I suffered a high ankle sprain that ended the season for both volleyball and softball.  But I still went to the regional game, and watched us make it through to the final match against our rival.  I supported them from the bench, even begging the coach to tape up my ankle and let me play.  Memories still linger of that year, and I recall the first match of the season against that same rival, and utilized it for explaining leadership.

We are all part of team, don’t get me wrong.  But in such sports, there is more to consider.  That year we were hitting on all cylinders, making a connection that could see us go all the way to State if injuries hadn’t plagued us near the end.  We had this groove, this underlying current that others could recognize.

My high school days playing volleyball
My high school days playing volleyball

Yet, I’m drifting away from my story.  Okay, first match.  Now living in a small town, you know everyone, and more than likely play sports with and against friends from rival schools.  I did.  I had a friend on our rival volleyball team and decided to focus in on her.  I was at service and she was straight down the line from me, with a rather tall hitter in front of her.  I had pretty good accuracy and knew I could place it at her, or on the line.  I waited, watching the other team and how they were lining up.  Watching, observing, examining the other team and your alignment is key to knowing where to place that first shot.  The front line of our opponent had set up to switch hitters, leaving my friend open for attack.  That means all of their hitters were congregated in the center to switch as the ball sailed over the net.  So first service, up and with some power, down the line at my friend.  My friend’s receiving of the ball was off, and it sailed into the stands to her left.  One point to us.

I went back to service and set up again.  Again our opponents lined up to switch hitters, leaving my friend vulnerable.  Second service like the first with even more power.  Let me put it to you this way, and gloating somewhat, but I am aware of what my strength was back then.  My service style was unpredictable.  Hard and fast, or with a soft touch that had people scrambling to get to it.  Yet, I could place it with some deftness at any point.  If I could have utilized a jump serve, and with that accuracy–oh, boy…they would have been even more difficult.  Second service went over the net and right at my friend.  This time, with a slight curve to my palm, I was able to put a curve on it, and she misjudged the line.  As it dropped rapidly, it curved to the left hard, drawing her off her position as well as the girl next to her.  She had remained flat on her feet and stumbled into the other player. The ball ricocheted off her uneven arms, and sailed right into the third person on the back line, bouncing off her thigh onto the floor.

New tactics were called in by our rival coaches and I watched as they made adjustments.  My own team knew me as I knew them.  All along we made subtle adjustments to what I was doing.  They knew what I was up to, my plan of attack.  They knew I would hammer away at one member of the opposing team to get them to shift, to change tactics.  My teammates knew to watch carefully and be prepared, especially our 6’4″ left hitter.  Our opponents stopped shifting players as I served.

Yet, I wasn’t done even with them changing tactics.  I had the confidence to continue my onslaught.  A third time saw the ball skim the back line as an ace.  And then it happened, then I saw what I had been hoping for.  My friend’s teammates started shifting dramatically to help her.  Well dramatically may be overstating the fact, but there was a clear adjustment to aid her.  The front line pulled back to the attack line, abandoning the attempt to shift hitters.  They returned to the classic formation, but with a left leaning.  Moving to shield my friend for another attack.  Beautiful holes opened up, ready to be exploited.

I remember relaxing before stepping to the line.  I remember taking a deep breath, concentrating on what I wanted to do.  I took my time, and focused.  This time with the softest touch, enough to get the ball over the net, I dunked it between the net and their attack line, to the farthest right corner.  I’m sure a collective gasp went up from the opposing teams spectators in the stands as the ball just dropped short, and their girls quickly scrambled to try to get the ball, to keep it in play, but their efforts weren’t enough.  Imagine six players surging forward towards the ball, hungry to get at it, to try to save it, keep it in play, at least to get it back over the net, and failing.  Crash, bam, nada.  One more point.

We lost that match after a furious battle.  Our only loss for the year.  But those moments still resonate with me and helps me to explain leadership.

A leader knows when to direct, when to stand back and trust the people they work with.  Knows when to take the lead and put their foot down to see things accomplished.  Preparation is key not only with you and your team, but also knowing the field of play in which you operate.  If you don’t, you are bound to fail.  I knew my team.  I knew when to take the lead, and direct.  I knew when to pull back and trust the process.  I knew when to be a team player, and let others take the reins.  I didn’t chastise, but encouraged.  I built confidence, not erode it away.  I asked the right questions when they needed to be asked as my teammates did the same.  There was a level of communication that successful teams possess that helps them reap rewards.  Wasn’t always perfect, but no team is.  Expectations were realistic, and goals, objectives obtainable.

And then knowing the field of play in which you operate.  There was some dysfunction on my team, and I won’t go into the politics of it.  We had an uphill battle throughout the year, and yet, we understood our ultimate goal and objectives.  We were on the same page and adaptable to the current climate of play.  We also knew how important it was to know our opponents.  Their strengths, weakness, opportunity and threats.  We knew, even with odds stacked against us, we had a chance.  And we went for it, with the thought that nothing was or is impossible.

I knew those players.  I knew one really well.  I wasn’t intimidated by their presence, their past accomplishments (they were the best team in the state for a host of years and still are) or their ‘rhetoric’ on the court, and by their parents on the sidelines.  I heard them, I listened, and I understood.  I knew their goals and objectives, and what they wanted.  But I had a job to accomplish and would adapt to their desires.  I knew myself and remained true to my convictions.  I read the signs they were projecting and exploited their egos.  Some would argue, since with that loss, I was the one with the ego.  Perhaps.  But I knew I had to ask the questions that needed to be asked.  Those questions were in my service and how I played, how I directed the team, and what I did on the court.  And how I utilized the strengths and weakness of the other team, manipulating them against them.  We beat them the second time around hands down, and earned a spot at regionals.

Joe Paterno
Joe Paterno

As Joe Paterno, who I admire, and not just because I’m a Penn State alum, but more, stated:

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”

Sometimes the best strategy for a leader is to do nothing at all.  Continue with your goal and objectives, and let the opponent fail at their own weaknesses.  This is readily apparent on the field of sports.  Trust yourself.  Trust the process.  You focus on the fundamentals, give 115% heart in their execution, and more than likely will triumph in the end.  You may not succeed at first, and I know, I have been in that position many times and must remember that a dose of failure is also a dose of success.  You learn about yourself and others.  You learn what you need to do for the next opportunity both as a leader and team member.

And so I asked my student, what did you take away from this story.  After teasing them with several questions, because it was probably too early on a Friday morning for the both of us, they came to the point I was trying to make.  Preparation.  Know yourself, know what you are capable of as well as your team members.  Make lists and other aids to help you accomplish your goal.  Know the field of play in which you operate, not just the class, and what the professor wants you to deliver, but also, be cognizant of your functionality as a team–your team, your playing field.  If you are going to lead, set the standard by which you will operate, and stick to those goals.  Be adaptable to the external forces swirling around you, and listen to those voices, observe how things shift, and change with the external forces acting against your desires and all those that are on that field of play.  Try to understand everyone’s internal conflict and make strategies that are both achievable and obtainable for everyone.  It is about moving forward with realistic success.

And remember how to act on that field.  How your actions reverberate around each player.  Act with a sense of morality and civility.  Don’t just assume, but articulate.  Walk the walk, and talk the talk.  Respect isn’t blindly given, it is earned and can be easily squandered away.  Which led in part to a talk about core values.

But that is another post for another day.

Weekend fun…

Weekend fun…

Visited Mall of America this weekend to shop and to see the new JW Marriott hotel attached to the Mall of America. Awesome property, and employees so welcoming. The design of the front desk caught my eye because I have been saying for years that eventually we will be getting rid of the front desk as we know it, especially with the advanced application of technology. We are tethered to our gadgets, but this Marriott is an example of how to integrate technology, function and design with luxury and style. Other hotels are doing the same, notably Hyatt and Hyatt Place. I’m looking forward to see what the concept will eventually manifest into.

On the road again…

On the road again…
Horatio Nelson Jackson
Horatio Nelson Jackson

And in tourism, we are talking about the history of tourism, and how the tourism umbrella, the value/supply chain has evolved in organization and complexity over the thousands of years it has been in existence.

Students are assigned a discussion question after watching the Ken Burn’s documentary about Horatio Nelson Jackson‘s road trip across the United States in 1903.  The documentary is called ‘America’s First Road Trip’.

Jackson, Crocker and Bud the dog, in their 1903 Winton
Jackson, Crocker and Bud the dog, in their 1903 Winton

The film depicts Horatio and Sewall K. Crocker, and eventually Jackson’s dog Bud criss-crossing the continent in a 1903 red colored Winton.  Throughout the film, the students will see the lack of roads, the lack of services, we take for granted today.  A real authentic experience.  How many of us have packed up the car, and gone on that long road trip?  My family did just that when I had just learned how to drive.  We went from east to the west, circumventing the north of the US, and then down through Rockies, and across the southwest, south to get back home.  Sixteen states one summer.

Dad and the station wagon
Dad in front of the old station wagon, late ’60s

Looking back at that time, I remember the fun, but also the cramped, conditions.  We weren’t in a station wagon, but an old Chevy Caprice Classic. Cramped space for five at the time.  Now that I examine that time period, I realized how much I have matured as a traveler.  How much our industry has gained over the years.

That our industry has a complexity.  That there are a lot of dots to align to create an experience that people will enjoy.  And what if they aren’t?  What happens?  Over the next few weeks we will be discussing this more, and getting into that complexity.  Discussing the needs and wants of the tourist, matching those needs, and the relationship to the three environments.  How place attachment is developed, utilized by the marketing efforts of a destination.  What value we can create and exchange.  The impact on the host community.

And how has authentic travel has changed, and taken on new meaning.

We’ve come a long way…baby…

We’ve come a long way…baby…

At the Airfest today We’ve come a long way …baby.  That is in tourism.  No conversation in tourism can escape the history and development of the industry.  It is one of the oldest industries in the world, and will survive even in the hardest times.

Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752

If you map out a historic timeline, especially innovations in transport, or the use of money & credit, lodging, and every other aspect of tourism,  these advances are mirrored with the advances of man and their need, want to travel. We as an industry have pushed for a host of technology to aid in the planning process.

What is the next big innovation?  What are we going to develop to take us to the next level?  Do we even have the innovators out there to see us to that level?  Everyone is so caught up in developing apps, and other platforms for mobile technologies that they fail to recognize or even acknowledge that travel is now becoming far more expensive for a host of people.  Expensive even in the basics, like maintaining your own car, putting gas in the tank, and utilizing the poor roads that crisscross this nation.  That a form of isolationism is creeping back into our society.  How many would rather stay at home now then face the roads, and the headaches it could cause?  Or even the airport with its congestion and delays?  Sure our backyard is full of wonders to explore, but like many, I want to travel further, farther than my current zip code.

My wander bug crickets loudly and is becoming more pronounced.  Yet, I am strapped for cash due to other responsibilities.  That vision of traveling every three years to Scotland is in the past, and must be re-evaluated.  I may not be the only one with such ambitions, but reality takes a chunk of change out of the planning process.  This begs a question.

Have we reached a stagnation point in the tourism life cycle?  Are we on a decline?  Is travel abroad or even domestically reverting back to a luxury item?  Certainly, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs at the moment.  And the new planes, the new innovation to use a form of space travel, is far too costly and an elite luxury item.  Maybe that has even stalled.  Who said, “the road is paved with grand intentions…” ~ mind the pot holes…

What if we got back to basics?  What if we returned to simpler motivations, and apply them today?  What if we applied common sense, and people started to wise up, especially those bent on destroying a good thing.  The average cost of an airline ticket hovers around $350 if you examine the statistics published by the Bureau of Transportation.

Avg Cost of Airline Ticket ~BoT
Average cost of airline tickets for three major areas…https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares/compare/airports-metropolitan-areas/chart/MSP/ORD/WASMETRO

As you can see it has come down compared to 1995.  Yet, is this skewed?  Those numbers for 1995 are adjusted to inflation.  And any economist will tell you, what you bought for a dollar yesterday is not the same as what you bought today.  There are a host of variables when it comes to understanding value, especially from a consumer standpoint.  And this doesn’t take into account the seasonality of tourism.  But are companies hurting not just the consumer, but also, themselves by not understanding value?  Have they lost insight into what value truly means?

I priced out several tickets to Scotland for next summer, and the hidden fees were astronomical.  I was surprised that Virgin allowed me to see the breakdown of the $1200+ ticket for peak season.  (Believe me, I know that you are going to be paying a hefty price for peak season, and distance is a factor.)  Carrier imposed charges were more than 38% of the total cost.  Is that for fuel (they say so, but um…that seems a lot, especially if you fill every seat and at different class prices…$7000 for a seat in upper class, and includes a chauffeur? (can you hear me saying whoop de do???))  Is that for services on the flight?  Is that for food?  Is that for security? (actually no, security is built into the taxes and only cost a measly $5.60 for the 9/11 tax).  The base price of the ticket to just step on the aircraft, and sit down in economy was $510 dollars (42% of the cost).  To me that is for the service, that is for all the quirks, and nuances…that Virgin delivers.  It should also cover the fuel…let’s just say the mystery of how the cost structure is broken down seems a little fishy to me…but then again…I don’t have all the information and can’t give you true, informed opinion.  Virgin posted at $22m dollar profit before taxes last year, up from the year’s previous losses.  Um….

So the question remains, are we stagnating in the tourism life cycle, especially in transportation.  Are airlines, and other transportation offerings gauging prices to control the consumers?  Are they trying to keep most of us from traveling?  What about the promises of other alternatives, like high-speed rail in the US?  We do have an aging infrastructure, and not much is being diverted to help that area.  Even back home in Pennsylvania, the conditions of the bridges are horrible, and I cringe every time I drive across the older construction.  This past summer we had a Bridge Collapse in Ridgeway that sent three construction workers to the hospital.  If 80% or more of our population loves their cars, and we want the economy to strengthen, tourism can be a healthy contributor to that end.  I question the management of funds at all levels, nationally, statewide, regionally and locally that are invested in our infrastructure.  We want the next development in cars, but not at the expense in the lack of decent roads to travel upon or an understanding of the consumer.

I’ve given out the next assignment that underlies the economic impacts of tourism to both the host community, and the consumer.  The students are given a pseudo plane ticket to a remote destination, like Savergre, Costa Rica.  They are given variables, like a budget, and now have to map out their plans, and the effects.  I want them to see the frustration.  To see that it the frustration not only lies with the consumer, but also the destination.  That if you don’t have healthy numbers traveling to your area, services suffer.  And some don’t want a lot, just enough to keep the small entrepreneurs in business.  What happens if you don’t have those numbers coming?  What happens to the livelihood of the host community?  What happens to the consumer?  What will they do?

So…still left with lots of questions…