Interviewed by a Millennial (Part 1)

March 22, 2015

IMG_1043This week, I’m doing something different. Ayanna Alleyne, our social media maven at Marriott and my blog assistant, wants to ask me some questions. She’s a bonafide Millennial, 60 years younger than me. I’m sure this will be like no other interview. So, here we go:

Ayanna: Mr. Marriott, I’ve been on the job for almost ten months, so I hope this won’t be a career-ending move. Everyone is always talking about Millennials.  Do you think this group is talked about in the media too much?

Me: Well, Ayanna, it sounds like you’re uncomfortable being called a Millennial, but that’s what you are. Welcome to the real world where the media labels almost everybody. I’m called an octogenarian. I’ll trade names and ages any time, any place. I think marketers have popularized the word Millennial. Everyone is vying for your generation’s attention. You’re not easy to reach, by the way.  Perhaps Millennial is overused, but so is “aging Baby Boomers.” If I were you, I’d take the label “Millennial” as a compliment. When a generation is named, it’s usually because society has anointed them as our future. I’m expecting great things from you, Millennials. 

Ayanna:  Well, I hope we can live up to that expectation. So, tell me, how do you stay current with the new technologies? 

Me: I really don’t. I have an iPhone that I actually use just as telephone, and I have Phyllis, who has been with me for almost 30 years.  She saves my life every day.

Ayanna: What influence do your grandchildren have on your knowledge of new trends?

Me: My grandchildren try their best to fill me in. So do our younger associates like you. I ask a lot of questions and try to learn a few new tricks. My grandchildren are a tremendous resource for pop culture.

Ayanna:  Switching gears a little bit.  What is one regret that you’ve made on your journey to Executive Chairman?

Me: I was a workaholic for almost 60 years and it almost cost me my life. I had a heart attack and then another scare before I slowed down and realized what is truly important in life – my Father in Heaven and my family.

Ayanna: You spent a lifetime with the company, how do you manage work/life balance? Do you expect this from your associates?

Me: I may not be the best to ask about work/life balance. My balance is much better since I stepped down as CEO at the age of 80. I love my work and it’s still an adjustment not being invited to meetings. Every day I’m in town, I come to the office.  It energizes me, but family is always first! I’m still working on that balance, but I’m doing better.

Ayanna: What do you think needs to be done to ensure greater diversity in the work place?

Me: We have to actively attract diverse talent right out of college and our recruiters are doing just that. But diversity is about individuals with diverse backgrounds. It’s about respect for the individual and their contribution is a key. It’s not about labeling groups. It shouldn’t be a box you check off as a company, but part of a mindset that everyone has something valuable to contribute.  I’m proud that Marriott is one of the top companies listed by Diversity, Inc.  When a company is viewed as open and inviting, the word gets out that everyone is welcome.

Ayanna: I think you’re right on with that one. How do you as a leader stay connected?

Me: This blog is one way I stay connected.  I also use an incredible communication device called the telephone.  Have you heard of it? I find it much easier to talk than text. You can listen to tone of voice and hear laughter or crying, or hear nothing at all. I make a lot of calls. It doesn’t hurt to have family members working throughout the company as well. I get plenty of input from them during family gatherings and dinners.  We sit around the dinner table and talk business, just like my parents did with me and my brothers many, many years ago.

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Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview next week when Ayanna asks me about my thoughts on online dating, my favorite music, and much more! 

I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.

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