We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen

Josh Babcock, March 8th 2024 | Street Sweeper

I first heard of Horst Schultze and the Ritz-Carlton when he appeared of my favorite podcasts. Then, I read his book Excellence Wins and researched his company's mission, values, and what made it so special. I heard countless stories of staff members going above and beyond to make the guests' stay remarkable, each hotel crafted uniquely to its location, and of course, the phrase "my pleasure." Their company motto is, "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen."

In the words of Albert Einstein, “At some point, you have to stop analyzing and experience life.”

Fast forward 3 years, my wife and I are trying Trustedhousesitter. That is where you watch someone’s pets while they are away. For exchange, you get to stay at their house for free. We are in Reno, NV, and taking a day trip to see the north side of Lake Tahoe. We are driving towards the North Star ski village. About a quarter of a mile before our turn into the entrance, we happen to drive past a sign that says Ritz Carlton. I get all giddy and tell Grace while we are sitting in traffic about Horst, the Ritz culture, and how I have a dream one day for us to stay there. Then Grace says, “Let’s just go now and at least check it out.” That’s what I love about Grace. Grace is all about living in the moment and is always up for an adventure. I whip a U-turn, and we truck through the forest until we finally see these beautiful lights in the trees, and I know we are close.

We park (maybe illegally because I think we are supposed to use valet), then head to the front doors. We were greeted by a doorman and walked in. There is a warm, welcoming presence in the air. It’s a ski lodge vibe. The fireplace is roaring with the comfiest chairs around it. Then we run into Angela; she was pouring and handing out champagne. She asks if we want some, I feel bad because I know we aren’t staying at the hotel, so I say we will split one. We say two, then switched to one. “We’ll just have one.” Angela goes, “I’m pouring you two.” We start to talk to her and find out she is from Spain and graduated with a degree in hospitality.

After our short conversation, we started to walk away, and it hit me that I am firsthand not just hearing about but experiencing greatness. I say to Grace, “I need a picture of this moment.” So I turn back and ask Angela if she can take a picture of us? “It’s our first time here.” Then she says it! “Of course! It’s my pleasure!” We take a quick 3-minute walk around and drink our champagne. Then we head out to leave.

I’m grinning from cheek to cheek that the place is living up to everything I have heard. I will never forget it those ten minutes.

Key Principles from Angela’s Actions:

  • Importance of Culture
  • Know Your Role
  • Do Your Role to the Best of Your Abilities

Importance of Culture

What is culture, and why is it important? The book The Culture Code defines it as “Culture is a set of living relationships working together for a shared goal. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do.” The Ritz- Carlton’s goal is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
They achieve that through their 3-Step Service Plan:

  1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
  2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm goodbye and use the guest’s name.

Culture is tough to build at first, but if it’s built on safety, vulnerability, and purpose. If you do those, it will have a snowball effect. I bring it up here because Angela just recently started. Obviously, it is no coincidence that she was excellent at her position.
I’m sure Angela got:

  • excellent training
  • given freedom and trusted to make decisions
  • knew the motto and service plan of the company
  • how her role directly impacts it

Know Your Role

This is usually overlooked because leaders think roles are given. Each team member should know what their exact role is, what success looks like in the position, and how it directly impacts your company’s mission. In the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the first dysfunction is the Absence of Trust. One of the exercises the author uses to combat this is called, the Team Effectiveness exercise. It’s pretty much what I described above; each team member should be able to answer what is the single most significant contribution they make to the team. I don’t know all of Angela’s role responsibilities and how often it changes. She certainly knew her role, which involved greeting guests warmly and offering champagne.

Do Your Role to the Best of Your Abilities

This is not about accolades or being noticed; it’s just about showing up each day and giving it your all, even if no one sees it. Our interaction was short with Angela, but so are most client-facing jobs and meeting people in general. Angela was present, generous, accommodating, and very friendly. She treated my wife and I like “ladies and gentlemen,” and fulfilled “Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs,” as the motto and steps of service say. This is about consistency here, of being the type of person who consistently puts their best foot forward. Day in and day out.

We never know how much one small interaction will impact somebody’s life. That is the importance of being a Street Sweeper in all your roles in life. One day, I will get back to the Ritz-Carlton and stay for real, but in the meantime, I’m still as giddy as in the picture below when I think back to it…keep sweeping people!