– S. SINEK

Let’s talk about irony.  In 2017, Reading PA was ranked as the most impoverished city in the nation.  The city had the lowest 2016 median income ($25,865) combined with a poverty rate of 36.8% and a childhood poverty rate of 48.9%. That same year, the DoubleTree by Hilton, located in the city’s downtown, was ranked as the #1 DoubleTree in the world from among the 500 in the chain.  The hotel employs over 200 staff, 170 of which live in the city and either walk or use public transportation to get to and from work.  Many would tell you that the hotel’s top world ranking reflects the leadership of Craig Poole, the hotel’s President and COO.  The Hilton organization would agree as evidenced by their selection of Mr. Poole as the recipient of Hilton’s highest honor, “The 2017 CEO Light and Warmth Award”.  Craig Poole would disagree!  He would tell you that the hotel’s ranking reflects his staff’s (or as he calls them, his “family”) belief in a vision of how a hotel can serve its guests and the larger community.  You see, Craig Poole is a servant leader with a vision that is shared with, owned and embraced by his DoubleTree family.

This past Thursday afternoon I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch with Mr. Poole.  Our discussion included a multitude of topics, but we focused on the important role that vision plays in an organization’s success. While we were eating, three members of the DoubleTree’s family, Jennifer, Maritza and Christina, stopped by the table to make sure everything was to our satisfaction.  I asked each, “So what do you do here?  What is your job?”  The first said, “I make sure each of our guests has a memorable experience.”  The next smiled and stated, “I share my smile with every guest I serve.”  And the last one told me, “I do everything I can to make our guests feel at home.”  Not one of them identified their specific job responsibility.  Rather, they each embraced the vision created by Craig Poole, but more importantly shared with and embraced by his DoubleTree family. They understand that what they do is important, not only because it serves the guests who patronize the DoubleTree, but that the hotel serves a broader community called Reading, and their responsibility is also to that city. It reminded me of the story of Kennedy’s 1961 visit to NASA, during which he came upon a janitor cleaning the floor.  He asked the man what he did at NASA.  The janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”  Like that janitor, Mr. Poole’s staff understand the value and power of serving a “why” rather than oneself.

Organizations whose employees are committed to, “Serving a Why” are often referred to as being “Purpose-driven”.  Hayley Leibson considers the value associated with this in her post, “The Power of Purpose-Driven”.  She begins with an important differentiation; passion vs. purpose.  Passion, she says, is about finding yourself.  It is about following your interests and doing what you love to do.  It is self-fulfilling.  Purpose on the other hand is about losing yourself in something bigger than you.  It is about wanting to make a difference and do for others.  You can have one without the other, but the greater reward is discovered when they are brought together.  It is then that we experience “true fulfillment”; doing what you enjoy while also serving a greater mission.  Interestingly, research is clear, being purpose-driven fuels profits!  Purpose-driven organizations are not only more successful but they have:

  1. More motivated and energized employees
  2. More delighted, loyal and satisfied customers
  3. Better business outcomes

Let’s revisit that piece of irony that began this post.  The #1 Hilton DoubleTree in the world is located in the city identified in 2017 as the most impoverished in the United States, and it is primarily staffed by people who live in that same city.  Ironic?  “Yes!”  Inspiring?  Even more so.  Craig Poole and his DoubleTree family are the perfect example of a purpose-driven organization that has embraced the idea of providing all employees with the daily opportunity of finding true fulfillment through their work.  He has done that by looking beyond profits and “Sharing the Why”.  A man making a difference in the lives of his employees, by enabling them to understand that through their work, they are making a difference in their own future and the future of a city.  Now that’s Embracing the Challenge.