Amy Geltner with American Hotel Register is a Leadership Development, Training and Organization change Leader with large company experience supporting multiple employee populations including sales, service, operations, and administration. She is a true business partner and coach to managers including President, SVPs, VPs, Sr. Directors, Directors and Managers in multiple states. Her Leadership Development experience includes creation of succession planning program for high potentials; needs assessment, design, development, implementation and sustainability of leadership and coaching programs for management; and execution of distance-learning events and direction of legacy learning tools to sustain program content and learning objectives. She also has Learning Management System implementation and administration experience. She is a well rounded generalist with proven skills in program development, key initiative implementation, training and presentations, staff development and motivation, budgeting and expense control, organizational development, employee relations, recruiting, planning and administration at the corporate level.
Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for Learning Insights, featuring learning professionals improving performance to drive business results.
: Welcome to another exciting and informative edition of Learning Insights, brought to you by our good friends at Training Pro. Stone Payton and Lee Kantor here with you this morning. Lee, this going to be a fantastic segment. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast, Director of Organizational Development with American Hotel Register, Ms. Amy Geltner. Good morning.
: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
: Sure. Well, Amy, can you share a little bit about American Hotel Register before we get too far into this to set some kind of context?
: Absolutely. So, this is a good analogy that I’ve given for American Hotel Register. So, if you cut the roof off of a hotel, and you turn it upside down, and you shake it, everything that falls out is what we sell and distribute. And we do that in the hospitality industry primarily and beyond. So, from soaps, and shampoos, to towels, to linens, so furniture, equipment, all those things that we sell and distribute.
: So, now, that’s hotels all over America or it’s all over the world?
: All over the globe because a customer goes to a Marriott in New York have the same experience when they go to Marriott in Singapore. So, we distribute throughout the world.
: So, now, we’re here to talk about the leadership development program that you guys have implemented.
: Now, when you’re implementing a program like that, what was the rationale behind it?
: So, leadership development, absolutely, helps drive long-term success. I mean, there are studies that are saying just linking leadership practices to your percentage of sales, your bottom line. It can be linked to decrease to turnover and increase in productivity. So, it’s a no-brainer that there is a cost to not providing leadership development. So, we definitely want to create a program and have it here in American Hotel.
: Now, was that … Had there not been a program previously, and then you spearheaded it, or had there been one before, and you were just kind of tweaking it?
: There had not been one. Prior to myself joining, they had just started one. So, there was some participants selected, and the program was in its infancy. And then, they said, “We have this group of people. We have them starting a program. Here you go.” So, from there, I got to really be creative and kind of create what exists today from that.
: So we’re kind of building it from scratch. There was some beginnings, but you had … It was kind of in that, you got to implement your vision?
: Absolutely. It’s kind of combining it with what they had already started, knowing what they had told participants, and then kind of took it to where my vision was.
: And then when you’re deciding that kind of at a strategic level, the why behind it is, you know, you mentioned there are some bottom line reasons why, but is it also part of the company’s culture that elevate learning and leadership? And then, that was also behind it?
: Yeah, absolutely. So, American Hotel braces it. It is kind of supported from the top, all the way down throughout the levels of the organization. And, I mean, we spend more of our time at work sometimes than we do at home, so why not make it a really great place to be where you can grow and develop.
: And then, you mentioned there’s some specific, like an ROI attached to leadership development that’s been established, I guess, and best practices throughout the industry. Have you started to see some of those results or is it pretty soon?
: We have. We’ve seen people that go through the program that have been elevated, either an expansion of their role and a promotional opportunity who really made an impact on the business through some of our strategic initiatives.
: And then, in this case, I would imagine that even a small increase could have a large impact for the company.
: Yeah, absolutely. It’s exponential.
: When you’re doing a program like this, it starts at the top. Is there an opportunity for people maybe at lower levels to participate in some manner as well?
: We have programs that we’ve created that focus really kind of on that director level, on the management level, but also at the associate level. So, associates that just have an interest in management finding out, “What is it. I think I want to do it. I want to learn more,” we developed a program for that level as well.
: And then, how did that come about? Like, can you talk a little bit about that?
: Sure. That was actually a project that came out of our manager level class. So, we had that group bond together to determine, “Hey, we need … We have this gap. We want to deliver a program to our associate level. What would that program entail? What content do you think they need to know about in order to get to a manager role?” Because they work closest, they developed all the content. They helped deliver the program. And I helped. And I facilitate the overall program to make sure that it came about.
: And then, when you’re implementing it at the associate level, the deliverable for the associate, like, how did how do they interact with it?
: It’s always a blended learning approach. And we try and get people together to network because that’s always a cross-functional group. We would never just do it for one specific area of the business. We’d call leaders or potential leaders from all areas of the business to foster that kind of cross department networking.
: And from there, they’ll meet and do classroom sessions, but also get to do job shadowing and interviewing of the different levels above theirs. They will have what-would-you-do type scenarios that they need to solve business cases, team project, individual projects. So, whole host of things, so that it’s not just ingot. It’s very interactive, and it takes a lot of commitment and engagement among the participants.
: Amy, this is Stone here. Where do you get all of this content? Because, I mean, you … I’m sure you’re very bright and very well versed in a lot of these domains, but you can’t possibly know all of this, right? You have to source so much of this material inside and out, right?
: We try to do everything internally. So, we’ve leveraged a lot of the brain power within the organization. Now, yes, I do a lot of research, and have some good outline, but I leveraged a lot of our subject matter experts and a lot of our great leaders throughout our own organization to help develop the content. So, our senior leadership team has been very, very involved and has delivered sessions for me.
: Well, for me, that sounds like the ideal scenario. And I’m trying to envision myself in a similar role walking down the hall in the C suite, and telling senior executives, “Hey, I need you to do this. Will you sit down with me?” How do you … How have you been able to build a kind of environment where they embrace that opportunity, and they’re willing to invest the time and energy to do that?
: It’s part of our culture. American Hotel is third generation family-owned. And our owner is frequently seen sitting in the cafeteria, eating lunch with our associate. But our entire senior leadership team is just … They embrace learning. It’s embodied in our culture. Every single person kind of walks around and embodies our culture. And it’s just kind of a minute when you here.
: And do you have them actually involved in direct instruction, or is it more you’re drawing the subject matter expertise out of them, and then packaging it and redelivering?
: No. They actually come and deliver the session. So, they are speaking directly to our leadership program participants. They’re also the ones being job-shadowed a lot of the time. So, it gives them deep exposure to the people in the program and some of our high-potential associates. It gives those associates really nice personal connection with our senior leadership team and just leaders throughout the organization.
: And then, the information flow regarding the content that you want to provide in your curricula. So, now, if they’re that involved in the program, I would think they’ve got ideas on that, and they’re going to, at least, have an open mind to entertaining ideas that that flow from the other sources. Is that accurate?
: Yeah, absolutely. It works both ways.
: Now, what are some of the challenges? You mentioned that your company works globally. Is there any challenges dealing with the global workforce when it comes to this?
: Oh sure. First of all, I mean, just time zone differences. So, if we are partnering on delivering, say, presentation skills to our partners in AMIA, I better get here super early, so that at the end of their workday, they still have time to digest the information. So, the time zone difference, just cultural differences, language differences, all of those things are challenges, but we’ve been able to navigate those so far, and it’s been exciting to go global now.
: Now, I would imagine cultural differences would have to come into play. Like in some cultures, maybe a leader behaves differently than they do in a different culture. How do you kind of make that translation?
: Our leadership development programs here haven’t really expanded. We’ve done kind of soft skills training and other competency development training and offerings, but the leadership development is usually handled at the local level where they can leverage some of our content if they want, but it’s because of those cultural differences and just differences in approach and leadership that, then, locally, they’ve kind of been asked.
Now so far since you’ve been implementing this do you have any stories you can share or maybe some person that’s really gotten a lot out of the program or has risen to the occasion or some intended things that have occurred.
So without getting into that particular quirks of the past was in manager level program and wholeheartedly 100 percent engaged right and did every assignment really kind of went above and beyond and was asking for you know kind of like a sponge. Anything else you can give me what else can I do. And just was one of the stellar participants in that regard and got a lot out of it. So at the end of the program we said okay what what was kind of your biggest takeaway. What did you.
What did you appreciate about being a participant in the leadership development program. And he said Well as I have more relationships across the business than I ever thought I would I thought I could call up.
I’m not in this area of the company and I can call a manager who is in this office that area the company across the United States for me just to have a leader to leader conversation about how I’m doing with an associate and I’ve got her into it. And I was able to have a really good discussion with my associate just because I was able to have that peer level connection. He was able to get an expansion of role after that after he completed the program. He had kind of more responsibility and needs additional special projects that came out of it because of his cross-functional exposure his development work on himself and being able to kind of promote some of the good qualities that he had. So it was kind of a success story it makes it makes you feel good as a facilitator of a program.
So tell us a little bit about the assessment. If you needed to do employee on the front in the back in have you found that the term egregiousness kids and really helps facilitate this whole process.
Yeah that’s another big takeaway. So when one’s you know kind of a big focus of our programs is self awareness or to get some of that self awareness. We partnered with an outside organization to help deliver some assessments for our programs to some level programmable to 360 degree reviews and those are super valuable where you know you self-assessed your boss assesses you you’ve got peer level assessment as well as direct support level assessment. And they’re all giving you feedback and it’s great great to understand kind of where you see yourself and then how others view you. So we always incorporate a 360 degree review and then we also couple that with the Myers Briggs type indicator which is a personality assessment personality style. They kind of understand it you know from a self-awareness perspective how you behave what your tendencies are and how that couples with maybe the perceptions that are formed in the 360 degree are you. And then in certain levels of the program will also implement an emotional intelligence. So we’ll take the emotional intelligence and that self-awareness piece with the Myers Briggs personality as well as a 360 so you get a really robust assessment of your self your qualities your characteristics.
And then the part the company that we partner with the help and administer those assessments from then it helps each participant in a coaching session delineate out what are the themes that we’re seeing. What are the areas of opportunity and what are the areas of strength. And then from that they develop their individual development plans. So it’s it’s a really robust look and assessment of yourself to determine kind of what areas that you watch will work on as part of this program as part of your individual development.
Lou that sounds dangerously close to personal accountability to me. No I think that’s fantastic and would a more balanced foundation that must set for the world taking some responsibility for their own learning and being equipped to fully capitalize on everything that you’re that you are providing.
Yeah that is more was. What do you like the most about this. What do you find the most rewarding about getting a chance to do this every day.
Watching the aha moment at various moments of the program at various stages for various participants at different times and each time that I can make someone a better professional period for anything that we share or provide or facilitate that is success to me. So watching an aha moment because they have connected with a senior leader on some level they had and built a relationship they hadn’t had before learning something in the class. So like I’m going to use that that makes a lot of sense to me or I have done all these assessments and I never realized X about my personality. And I’m working on it and here’s my plan to do that. Those aha moments happen. All throughout the program at various times. And that that’s the biggest reward for me is seeing those now.
Can you share some may be best practices for the different constituents like what would be best practice if somebody’s going through the program want to get the most out of it. What are some of the things they can do to get the most out of a leadership program.
So 100 percent engage with all the various things that will approach them. So we are police saying we’re not babysitting they’re all there in the program. And as long as they put in the effort they’ll get you know a lot out of it. So some of the things that they can do is beginning every session. We facilitate a fun quick team building exercise. Now a lot of rebuilding but we do ones that aren’t and that aren’t easy at all the participants are like OK I like your symbolic effect but it really if you take it for what it is really learn to extend yourself and connect with somebody else. The groups have jelled really quickly just by hosting some of these things are just you know go with I am here to learn absorb and make connections and they’ll get a lot out of it. So if they leverage that if they take the assignments that week they get assignments after every classroom session that they have to do. And they again wholeheartedly embrace them and say OK how can I take this and apply it to my every day. They’re only going to become a better leader for it. So you’re only helping themselves if they do that 100 percent engagement with all the various activities that they’ll be exposed to and have had the opportunity to leverage as part of these programs.
Now what about from the standpoint of leadership when they’re thinking about doing this and implementing it. What are some of the best practices they can do from you know when they’re kind of leading the entire program.
So they all the assignments are action assignments. So nothing is out there and there might be some reflection part of it but there’s always a OK Go test this out in the real world. You are all in leadership roles are you. As a leader so this action assignment is something that you have to actually do. So they they all have to kind of do these actionable implementations throughout the program.
Amy back in the day when I heard something much more like a real job I had an opportunity to participate in various training programs. And I can remember I almost always initially felt a little bit exposed.
And I know and I really appreciate this. You know this action oriented approach. But I can tell you in some cases I felt exposed in many cases I felt exposed initially and I know that in some of those training sessions very quickly I just felt like it was a very safe environment to practice my skills. And in other cases I didn’t feel that same level of safety and comfort. And I don’t know what they did differently. But you may I just wonder if there are some things that we can do. Leadership can do. Trainers can do to make it truly a safe place to practice new new skills.
And so we talk about that from the get go senior leadership teams that are ready to welcome all of the probe into the participants during our kickoff.
And in that kickoff the first thing we do is a icebreaker activity.
And one of the things that we can say this is an environment to learn it say anything that says that within these four walls that this team because we’re all leaders we expect that we all treat it as such. And you don’t leave us in this room and speak about anything that might be confidential that we talk about in here as a leadership team. And so you kind of can see all the practices you know that you know relief. OK so we can just have an open honest good conversation learn from each other knowing that it’s completely safe and we just posture that remind them every time we get together.
Well I’ll tell you my experience when that has happened when the person running the Sessions has done that there’s there’s a degree of intimacy in this bond that that group for at least that was my experience. I’m talking lifelong friends it was it was like we all jumped on that scary rollercoaster together right. And then we got to the other end of it. It’s just a different level of relationship. It sounds like you can do that on purpose. If you invest the time energy to do the kinds of things you’re talking about front yeah or not.
My last crew they said I think it was stuck in session and they said Can we please just hang out in this room and have lunch together with a program just to continue the network. Absolutely. We will bring lunch Jane will extend the room time. And we’ll keep the group together for every they’re out.
And I saw groups that meet for lunch that we’re in the very very first program that we did that didn’t have you know each other very well before it started in the program.
So well sidewall aside from sleeping really well at night knowing that you and I mean that kind of impact all the way back to the early conversation you were having about horror. Why.
Imagine the horror you’re doing for the organization when your business groups and Southern organizations that are interacting at that level have those kind Baret especially if it’s cross-functional and you now you’re just deepening your really it’s a cultural thing you come to a part of the culture of the company culture breaking down barriers.
I mean it just got to connect people.
All right. I got an A because you have you have the coolest job on the planet. It sounds thrilling but I guess I got to know the backstory. How do you get when you get to hear her.
Ok so my background. Well I grew up and family on Passionist so learned really. You know the value of a dollar and working hard at that ethic. So I think growing up in that me and then graduating college I got to experience a company that was more of navigating bigger corporate politics and navigating just a larger organization but still being able to kind of affect a subsidiary of that bigger corporation. And then when I found an American hotel register being a family owned organization willing to take risks allowing people to be creative and try new things was just kind of a great marriage. So it was if it was meant to be be cliche. It was meant to be and things happen for a reason. So I think we found each other at the right time and in my career as well.
And if what they were looking for and it’s been a fun ride so far can you share a little bit for the people who do not work in family owned businesses maybe something that’s special about working in a family owned business that maybe is different than a non-family business.
Yeah I think it’s there. Being able to feel I’m going to say it like love from the family members they really truly care about it so yes. And it’s it’s felt in our culture and it’s a very unique and people say well describe their culture. It sounds so cool. It’s hard to put words to but it all comes down to family. There are prominent throughout the business they’re walking around there and ball there. They’re so warm and they’re so caring. And that I think when you hire people who embrace that as well then it just continues to foster.
Yet while you’re seeing we’re talking about culture a lot in this conversation and we talked about leadership obviously but how do they help kind of create that environment where they’re encouraging this lifelong learning because that’s part of the culture as well.
It sounds like over there did the owners do that.
Yeah. Like how did how do you as an organization kind of encourage learning. And you know throughout maybe in a more informal way than structure way or do you kind of both so as part of our performance management process.
There’s always this element of personal development. And so we’re always having conversations and trying to have more frequent conversations with our associates about what is it that you want to do. Where do you want to go out. Do you want to grow. And not necessarily you have to be promoted but how is it that you want to expand your skills. How do you want to try new things. And we’re in that culture that allows us to experiment and try new things and think outside the box and that’s embraced here when you’re given that kind of civility and leniency and that the place that people want to stay well I think we’ve done a pretty successful job here Amy of creating leadership development program in the.
Any of those folks that maybe don’t have their program off the ground yet would kill us all if any might you offer someone in a similar rule in an organization who is now being tasked with or is in the process of at least beginning to craft the concept of a leadership development program. Is there the Aimi methodology. You know the Aimi check list of Make sure you do these things or don’t do these things get off the ground.
Sure it doesn’t take much time and research that everyone thinks that it does and it can kind of be that’s like big butts he met. Oh my goodness. I have to develop this entire program. But I would say words of advice. It takes a village. Don’t try to create it in a vacuum by yourself leverage either are great leaders you have in your organization or the expertise throughout your organization to help develop it. Have your top leadership support. That’s critical. They’ll they’ll help you drive it. Talk about it. Advertise it and then they’ll help. The kind of the fruits of all of that labor and then to safety. Be creative and be flexible. Try saying that it doesn’t work and just we kind of do constant check ins and I say you know feedback’s a two way street and I think I can deliver a program I think that participants are getting a lot out of. But I want to hear from them. So throughout the program are checking in. Is this working. Are you getting what you need. It’s your development. You want to make sure that you’re getting something out of it. So you know leverage the expertise and leadership within your organization. He created kissable and and get feedback.
I think you just rattled off the 12 chapters of your book on this topic.
You know that’s fair. Is there a book in you on this or another topic you think I don’t know what you think of her. Right exactly. If you don’t read the book you know at least turn this into an across dick or something for us learn.
Right now when you started this did you start with this large vision or were you kind of beta test this in a smaller way.
I’m a big picture thinker so I think the end goal of where you kind of want to go and I would take every single program we start with that program and just get feedback along the way and the next program seems to be a little bit better than the next program we’ll get better. So I just continue to build throughout the years as we continue to roll it out. And I don’t even know where it’s going to go now. I keep listening to purchase. So you eyes in one ear for a reason. I’m sorry to hear that one reason I listen to try and get from the purchase spends how we can keep making it better and tweaking it and to a lot of research and a lot of networking and who knows where it will go.
I’ve got a couple of tactical questions. Before we wrap because I happened to be the director of organizational development at business radio for all six of us. But what is learning to be done in that kind of thing.
So sometimes it does for me because I I’d marry someone in the tricky business. My first question is when you’re wrapping up the session you’ve had some some good learning. I struggle with how to kind of tie a bow on it and feel like they’re equipped to go out and apply or are there just some good best practices. I don’t know how to help them. Let them know that they know and urge them to take some action on it on the on the other side.
Yes. Those individuals have a plan that they create at the onset throughout the program.
They’re encouraged to continue those conversations with their managers after a lot of the relationships that they built or shadows that they’ve done waiting years leaders most sessions continue they are informal mentors they thinking they can leverage that the projects that we have Mindo extend beyond the program length so we’ll conduct about them on a project in the program. But even though the programs kind of their graduate and wrapped up structured program they continue on with that project and it’s usually tied to one of our strategic initiatives that takes on a whole life of its own. So that learning doesn’t stop with the programmer learning doesn’t stop in the classroom it’s just kind of a continual thing.
Well and that’s real world when it is tied to those kinds of projects right.
So yeah right. Yeah. So my second question actually I have a thousand but we have time for one more question Is it not. I’m I’m very easily distracted by shiny objects. So run this question through the tilter but there seems to be all these cool tools and apps and different ways that you can share little chunks of information. Have you had some experience with success. I don’t know. Like putting pieces of the learning after the like in an audio or video or whatever in order to provide some reinforcement on the back side of what’s been your experience with our on.
Yeah I think there’s no single best way for all participants to learn. So we want to leverage as many different audience as possible. Where we haven’t learned early on we did experiment too much with that. Now I mean we’ve got people who are that art or traveling for a big part part of their job. So if they’re not here for a live session we are looking at know that mean for the parts that make sense that they can still leverage and get content in the collection even though it might be via video conference. So we’ll leverage that. We’ve also used a tool that was an online tool that was an assignment they did outside of class that was really focused on their professional presence. So they had challenged in this online tool to kind of read a bunch of things about presence and authenticity and then they had to go into action assignments from that. So they leveraged an app but an online learning platform to do that. And that was outside of the classroom. So I think their technology is great and I would love to have a you know unlimited budget in order to know truth. So I think you got to find a way out. But there’s a ton of great opportunities to leverage technology as part of the program not just face to face connections.
Now do you do anything at the end to celebrate them go through the program or is this just an ongoing thing that doesn’t really have an end.
We do. So when the kind of formal classroom sessions wrap up we have a graduation celebration and it’s something different every time we try to do something outside the box we’ll find very memorable. We’ve done a senior leaders all come and attend this graduation. We’ve had a cooking demo where they cooks the food that they were that we were seeing as part of the program we’ve done a scavenger hunt locally. But they had to kind of take photos of their teams and then meet back for a wrap up and there’s always something fun and extracurricular but we did do some sort of celebration with senior leadership.
I feel like that kind of thing is really important and fundamental top of my game. Someone who would be walking in your office right now with balloons celebrating a more Ballou’s conversation.
I know it has been an absolute delight having you on the show. So much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me.
And you are right. Until next time this is stone Payton for Lee Kanter our guest today Miss Amy Gellner with American hotel register and everyone here at the business review family say and we’ll see you next time on learning insight.
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