Etiquette & Engagement: Classy

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Etiquette Tip: Ladies and gentlemen are classy when receiving feedback.

Even when you value feedback—hearing it is not always pleasant. Constructive feedback—whether from friends, colleagues or customers—can cause anyone to feel vulnerable or defensive. Being told about your shortcomings can be deflating. On the other hand, positive feedback can be challenging to hear as well. You may feel the compliments are undeserved or that you are receiving sole credit for a group effort. Even when the praise has been rightfully earned, you may feel too humble to accept the kind words.  However, a lady or gentleman should accept positive and constructive feedback with deference and class. Think of feedback as a gift. If someone gives you a gift—whether it’s a gift you’ll treasure or a gift you don’t like at all—don’t you accept the present with grace? Don’t you acknowledge and express gratitude for the gift? You wouldn’t openly disparage the gift to the giver. At The Ritz-Carlton, we are committed to seeking “opportunities to innovate and improve.” You can only improve if you are open to feedback and willing to recognize shortcomings. You may hear feedback that lacks true insight or is irrelevant to you or your organization. However, when you express receptivity and respond with class, your friends, colleagues and customers have the opportunity to contribute to your growth. 

The motto of The Ritz-Carlton is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto sets a tone of goodwill and grace for all.

Inspired Thinking: Fail Intelligently

“The biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work.” – Charles Kettering, American Inventor

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

One of the common questions asked in a job interview is, “What does success look like in this position?” While that is an important question, an equally important question is, “What will happen if I fail?” You may not want to ask that in a job interview—because you don’t want to suggest that you may fail. However, how your organization handles failure could impact your success. When you start a new job, your learning curve is huge, and it’s likely that you will fail many times when you are first starting. For example, you may set a time frame for a goal that is reasonable from your past experience but unachievable in this new work environment where the red tape is harder to penetrate. Will your fledgling failures be seen as learning opportunities? Or will you retreat from taking risks? At The Ritz-Carlton, there are two Service Values that encourage our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—to feel secure when exploring new territory. One Service Value states, “I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience,” and the other Service Value notes, “I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.” These two Service Values give our Ladies and Gentlemen permission to take on new risks and hopefully, learn from failing intelligently. As Charles Kettering points out, we often find out what works when we eliminate what doesn’t work. How does your organization guide new employees from mistakes to achievements?

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. 

Dear Ritz-Carlton: Collaborative Culture of Innovation?

Dear Ritz-Carlton: Many companies have innovation on their checklist. How does The Ritz-Carlton best leverage this concept?

Answer from Jennifer Blackmon, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:


Innovation is at the core of The Ritz-Carlton culture. We understand that the best ideas and concepts for change will come directly from the individuals who are actually doing the work and that is why we foster a collaborative culture of innovation. There must be a process in order to nurture ideas, and leadership has to champion it. When a team member has an idea, how do they share it? What happens to it? Who will follow up on it? These are the questions every organization should be able to answer. If employees go out of their way to share ideas and all they ever hear in return is the sound of crickets—it won’t be long before they stop trying. Every organization has some extremely creative employees. Recognize and nurture their talent and give them the opportunity to see an idea through. When managed correctly, innovation will positively affect the bottom line, the customer experience and create employees who are passionate about the company.

Join us for a one-day symposium, “Your Journey to Service Excellence.” The day includes a keynote speaker, a Q&A session with The Ritz-Carlton executive panel, an optional networking reception and presentations about legendary service, employee engagement and developing a customer-centric culture.

Inspired Thinking: Creative Leaders and Collaboration

“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.” — Ken Robinson, Author and Speaker

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

6+3 = 9 but so does 5+4 … There’s often more than one way to solve a problem, and your way might not always be the best. Collaboration, innovation and listening are important problem-solving tools that every organization needs. Creative thinking—with the business mission in mind—should be an integral part of your culture. When challenges arise, leaders might have a solution. However, if they take the opportunity to solicit input from employees, they might find an even better solution. Service Value 9 at The Ritz-Carlton states: “I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.” This Service Value inspires our employees—known as the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton—to speak freely and share their ideas openly. The Ritz-Carlton understands the value of a culture that listens to employees and encourages creativity. One tool The Ritz-Carlton uses to foster innovation and communicate process improvements is called Lions Share. The purpose of Lions Share is to share knowledge, strengthen best practices and promote creative problem-solving throughout the organization. What tools or strategies does your organization use to stimulate a creative culture?

Building a Collaborative Culture

How many organizations would consider the collective knowledge of their workforce among their important assets? Every day your workforce uses their intelligence to perform their duties and support your organization’s mission. Because your employees are busy, they rarely take the time to share their knowledge with their coworkers or industry counterparts. The result is a missed opportunity to share ideas, learn skills and help others grow as individuals and employees.

The Ritz-Carlton enables our Ladies and Gentlemen to share their knowledge through a platform that is referred to as Lions Share. The purpose of Lions Share is to communicate and improve upon best practices. Every employee has access to Lions Share’s repository of best practices and solutions used by other Ritz-Carlton properties around the world. Chances are if a property is encountering an issue, others have faced a similar situation. By sharing this knowledge, we can quickly resolve issues with positive business outcomes.

Benchmarking Internally

According to Ralph Sibanda, Area Manager, Performance Improvement for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company L.L.C., “Lions Share is a great platform we have for recording and sharing our best practices from all our hotels. It’s the first place to stop if you are facing an operational challenge within your area, because it’s more than likely someone else had the same challenge and came up with a good idea to overcome it, or it will give you the beginnings of an idea to help you succeed.” He also believes in the accessibility of the program. He notes, “A great solution from one hotel may be input by a Front Desk agent, for example, and then benchmarked by an Area Vice President to share with other hotels.”

Lions Share offers more than great ideas to overcome challenges; it also holds best practices from other properties that enhances the guest experience, increases revenue and captures cost savings. One of the advantages in having Lions Share accessible to everyone is that the top performing submissions have been tested in various regions and have proven results.

Janet Souter, Vice President Quality for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, sees the future of the Lions Share as providing more social interaction between the Ladies and Gentlemen working around the world. The workforce would be able to share how they have refined or adapted the process to their property if they could “Like” or leave comments. Ms. Souter loves witnessing the evolution of ideas that come from the Lions Share. She has observed, “When I travel around to our properties, I ask our top performing hotels to tell me the secrets of their success, and it never fails. They have at least three or four initiatives they have put into place as a result of benchmarking other properties on Lions Share. The result of this is that they get a great idea from another property and then they continue to refine the process and make it their own and even better.”

Encouraging Employee Participation

In today’s competitive environment, the ability to collaborate as a team is critical for individual and organizational success. True innovation requires collaboration. When you are able to publish an idea or a process and gather feedback from different departments or even geographic locations—the idea takes on a life of its own. Growth is organic and through the evolution of testing and reporting, a good idea at one location becomes a great idea company-wide.

A collaborative culture not only improves organizational processes, it also encourages employees to look for ways to improve the organization. Employees take on a more active role when they see their ideas are valued and impact your organization.

The best way to create a culture of knowledge-sharing is to first practice it at every level. The more senior management uses it, the more effective it will become in changing the culture. Second, put in place the knowledge-sharing technology and train and educate people in its effective use. An innovative and collaborative culture cannot be launched overnight. However, with the right tools and guidance, you can create the opportunity to harness the talent and intelligence of your team into a usable format. How efficient would your organization be if your workforce had a place to share their knowledge? 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.