Just over a year ago the Maple Tree Inn experienced a change in management companies, now Waterford Hotels & Inns. When I started at the Maple Tree Inn I added the job to my LinkedIn profile, but didn’t fill in any of the details about the job until recently, when I added Transition Leader. That is what I have been doing for the past year or so, transitioning with the owners, hotel, employees, guests, and vendors.
Change, no matter how small, is never easy. It is our nature to find comfort in the familiar. Never the less, change is inevitable and most often, when we look back, we think; “that was good”.
When I first arrived to take my position as General Manager, the hotel had one bird named Maple. Secretly I was thrilled, I had wanted a bird for years and had always succumbed to the desire our family had for a cat. Having to care for Maple seemed like the best of both worlds, bird by day, cat by night.
Maple was, like the rest of us, facing change. She was angry, confused; and as a result couldn’t see, at that moment, things were getting better. How do you make changes and do it in a way so that everyone is ready and can embrace the change? Where do you start?
I did have a vision, one that started with the owners; Bay Area community leaders, with a desire for their hotel to be a cornerstone of Sunnyvale; top in rankings with the community, guests and employees. A product they could be proud of and a legacy that could be passed on for generations.
When I was asked how I was going to make the shift that needed to happen, I responded “from the inside out”, which seemed a bit flip. On reflection I realized that there was no real formula. In the beginning it was a bit of “one foot in front of the other”, always with the desired outcome in mind.
I started listening to my guests and watched to see how they were getting along at the hotel. Many things came out of this, but one main thing was that everyone seemed to love Maple, and wanted more than anything for her to have a mate. As it turned out someones’ cousin had three birds and wanted to give away one because they were not getting along. This of course speaks directly to “just because you get another pet, it doesn’t mean they are going to get along”. I did the research on how to integrate the birds and decided to get a new cage with a divider so Maple could, at the very least have a neighbor if the union didn’t work out as her long lost love.
When Romeo arrived he was loud, skinny, and big eyed like a Margaret Keane painting. Did I mention loud? He had never been handled and I’m not sure if I mentioned his lung capacity was capable of breaking an eardrum. I was positive, at that moment; it wasn’t going to work out, but that was eight months ago and true to his name he has charmed us all. All except Maple, who enjoys his neighborly ways and is happy to have the divider to keep him in his own playground.
Recently one of my staff asked me what I learned from Romeo. After a moment I answered, “Patience is what I learned”. Just because I had a plan and direction I needed to be fluid, able to respond in real time and adjust accordingly. Romeo couldn’t be bought with a promise. I had to be consistent, stand my ground yet be flexible, work with him everyday to show him what was expected, and be aware of his capacity and ability to move forward.
My work with Romeo is a nice metaphor showing what I need to do as a leader tasked with transitioning the Maple Tree Inn to the next level. Proudly we have received a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor, and moved our ranking from 15 to 8 in the last year.
As for Romeo, he is happily learning to perch on my hand (without taking a chunk out of my finger) and tweets a “cat call” when someone of interest passes by.
Barbara Pressman, CHA