By Gino Blefari
This week my travels find me in Wailea, Maui, recharging with my family – that is, until I wasn’t.
“Let me know how I can help. Ginger chews? Gatorade? I have some ginger chews already and will send ginger ale. Our Chef is also putting together some assorted teas. Wishing you all the best and let me know how I can assist in any way.”
It was a text from an unlikely source, though not as unlikely as you’d imagine.
Well, I’ll back up a bit and tell the full story.
On Tuesday, I was walking around the beautiful grounds of the Wailea Beach Resort. If you’re ever in Maui, it’s the place to be, with 22 meticulously landscaped acres. (The former golf course superintendent in me appreciates the care taken to preserve the property.) It’s located on a perfect stretch of beach in Wailea and the staff provides impeccable service.
I also had the opportunity this week to meet Samuel Spurrier, director of group sales at the resort, who ate breakfast with my wife and I, and gave us a tour … but more about breakfast later.
Anyway, I’m strolling through the resort when I started having excruciating pain on my left side. Who do I call? Samuel. I asked him where the urgent care and hospital were located and he immediately provided me with the information.
At the hospital, nurses drew blood, doctors conducted tests and it turns out the best of the worst possible scenario had happened: I passed a kidney stone. As I write this post, I feel completely fine.
Anyway, the text above was from Samuel, who had ginger chews for nausea and tea waiting in my room. He also checked up on me during the day – if that’s not convenience, service and value, I’m not sure what is.
During that earlier breakfast with Samuel. Angela Vento, general manager at the resort, stopped in and had a cup of coffee with us. After she left, I told Samuel how impressed I was with her, and he proceeded to share her story with me.
Angela is one of the few female GMs at a major resort in Maui. As a female GM, she was deeply influenced by Queen Kapi’olani, who was one of Hawaii’s last reigning and beloved queens, known for her deep commitment to philanthropy, health and education for the Hawaiian people. In 1890, Queen Kapi’olani founded the Kapi’olani Maternity Home.
Queen Kapi’olani lived by the Hawaiian proverb, Kulia I Ka Nu’u, which was defined in a book Angela read called “Managing with Aloha” by Rosa Say:
Kūlia i ka nu‘u is the value of accomplishment and achievement. The literal translation for Kūlia i ka nu‘u is “strive to reach the summit.” Those who have this value continually pursue improvement and personal excellence. For them, the most satisfying competition is with their previous selves: They consider their life and everything within it to be a work in progress, and they enjoy the effort. ‘Hard work’ is good work when it employs the energies of striving and reaching higher.
This motto and the idea of being a constant work in progress guides Angela’s leadership style and motivates her to seek excellence in all that she does. It is also the foundation of the resort culture, which is about upholding superior service to associates and guests.
As service-oriented leaders, Angela and Samuel live and demonstrate this most important leadership value in every aspect of their roles. I witnessed first-hand the extraordinary service provided by the Wailea Beach Resort team, and it left a lasting impression on my time spent in Maui.
Sometimes, the leadership lessons for these blog posts are found in books, articles or podcasts. Sometimes, the lessons find me. This was one of those times.
So, what’s the message? Leadership lessons can come from anywhere, even a beach resort in Maui where a brief stint in the hospital is followed by the best hospitality you’ve ever seen. Leadership is about service, perpetual improvement and being open to new ideas, and when one arrives for coffee, listening to exactly what she has to say.