Each month, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (RCLC) features an interview with an employee—
also known as a Lady or Gentleman of The Ritz-Carlton—in order to share an insider’s view of the organization. This month’s interview is with Rajesh Khubchandani, General Manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, the host property for many of our courses.
RCLC: Please tell us about your career with The Ritz-Carlton.
Mr. Khubchandani: When I graduated from hotel school in 1990, I knew that I was going to find a way to work for The Ritz-Carlton. I began my journey in Asia working at several high-end hotel companies. Then I then joined Marriott Hotels in Canada but still had the goal of working for The Ritz-Carlton. In 1997, I was finally able to join our brand as Director of Operations for The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common.
I was part of the opening team for the hotels of L.A. LIVE: The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, JW Marriott, and The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Los Angeles. I then served as Hotel Manager for The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles within that multi-branded development. It was very exciting to be in the middle of the re-emergence of downtown L.A., and The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles was the red carpet hotel for events like the Emmys, the ESPYs, the VMAs and American Idol. I returned to Boston Common for my first General Manager position and I’ve been at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner for almost two years.
RCLC: Why do you enjoy working here?
Mr. Khubchandani: I like the cross-functional relationships that one has with peers, direct reports and our corporate team. Our people are extremely bright, incredibly dynamic and very humble and that is a powerful combination. It keeps me grounded and motivated to come to work every day.
RCLC: On that note, Ritz-Carlton is known for its employee retention. Is there a particular aspect of our culture you think drives that?
Mr. Khubchandani: We truly walk our talk. We don’t just have Gold Standards. We live them. There are very few companies, even hotel companies, that empower their employees in the way that we do. Our employees, known as our Ladies and Gentlemen, have a voice in the work that affects them; they have a voice in the future of our business; and they know that their actions can directly impact the success of our business. Knowing that your opinion is valued helps with retention.
RCLC: When you have a new Lady or Gentleman, how do you convey our culture to them?
Mr. Khubchandani: For a hotel General Manager, sharing our culture is the biggest challenge and also the biggest opportunity. It all starts at orientation, and then you must convey culture by rewarding right behaviors. Recognition and positive reinforcement for actions Ladies and Gentlemen take—especially in their first year in the company—has to be a key priority. Behaviors can become habits if you nurture them, encourage them and reinforce them.
RCLC: How do you engage your Ladies and Gentlemen in “less glamorous” positions?
Mr. Khubchandani: “Less glamorous” is a really important way of saying “the most difficult jobs in the hotel.” You have to explain to the heart-of-the-house departments—laundry, stewarding and housekeeping—that have a very large physical component in their day. Then you must help them understand how significant their work and individual action is to not only the overall success of the business, but beyond that to what The Ritz-Carlton experience is. Our Brand Promise gets broken if a housekeeper’s bad day affects 14 guests. You have to get employees to see the value and impact of what they do. If there’s a disconnect, then we haven’t done a good enough job in telling the story, engaging them and giving them the right tools and resources so they can be successful in their jobs.
RCLC: What about engaging leaders, especially those who may be new to your property?
Mr. Khubchandani: We talk about engaging our guests with experiences, and in our own small way, we try to engage our leaders through training, leadership recognition programs, some outings and meetings. For example, in our leadership meetings every two weeks, we have a variety of guest speakers from our corporate office, industry contacts and other properties. Ed Staros, Vice President and Managing Director of The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, talked to us about the history of The Ritz-Carlton, and recently, representatives of Marriott’s Digital eCommerce team spoke to us about how our new brand voice is going to pull through on digital and how we’re going to use social media in the future. We try to create fireside chats and levels of engagement for our leaders that are beyond the day-to-day hotel industry.
RCLC: How do you see customer service evolving?
Mr. Khubchandani: Today’s customer is changing. They’re not looking for predictive experiences; they’re looking for engaging experiences. They want a reason to come back to you besides the TV and the 400-thread count linens. Adaptive service is the way of the future. We talk to our Ladies and Gentlemen about picking up on cues and providing more intuitive service to our guests.
RCLC: Tell us about mentorship in your role.
Mr. Khubchandani: Mentorship is key. It separates good and great organizations. I’ve benefited from mentors that worked with me in a safe environment—allowing me to ask questions and make mistakes and even fail. I currently mentor a half a dozen employees, including a valet who parks cars for our guests. I’m mentoring him because he wants to learn how he can be a head valet, then a conference concierge, and then concierge in the club lounge. I’m helping him elevate his perspective in order for him to achieve those goals. Mentoring—providing opportunities to learn and develop—is key to talent retention and low turnover.
RCLC: What other leadership practices are important to you?
Mr. Khubchandani: Servant leadership is one of the guiding principles that has allowed me to be a General Manager. My primary goal is to serve 400 Ladies and Gentlemen who come to work each and every day at this hotel. So everything that I do, and plan to do, or endeavor to achieve, is driven around how I can add value to those stakeholders. I take that aspect of my job very seriously. I do everything I can to make an impactful difference for the Ladies and Gentlemen who work at this hotel. My job is to enable them. ∞
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.