In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Stephanie Linnartz, currently President of Marriott International, Inc., the world's largest hospitality company.
Last week, Stephanie Linnartz announced that effective February 24, 2023, she will be leaving Marriott to take on the role of President & CEO of Under Armour.
Under Armour founder and Executive Chairman Kevin Plank said Stephanie Linnartz was selected after a 7-month search partly because of her digital skills and success in transforming Marriott’s online presence.
While this conversation was recorded earlier this year and before this announcement, there are many leadership lessons and insights shared by Stephanie Linnartz, shedding more light on her capabilities as a transformational leader.
In the conversation, Stephanie Linnartz shares the role her upbringing played in her seeking a career at Marriott and how she rose through the ranks in the organization. Stephanie also shares the devastating impact of the pandemic alongside losing the organization's beloved CEO, Arne Sorenson, and how the leadership team was able to stay focused on their values through the most challenging days of the pandemic. Stephanie Linnartz also shared Marriott's commitment to ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) goals and examples of what the organization is doing to follow through on the commitments while growing.
- Stephanie Linnartz's upbringing and passion for taking care of others
- Rising at Marriott International
- How Stephanie Linnartz and Marriott's senior team handled the worst of the crisis
- Losing a beloved CEO in Arne Sorenson and lessons learned
- Stephanie Linnartz on why companies are defined by how they deal with a crisis
- Organizational purpose and how to live it
- Stephanie Linnartz on the future of work and travel
- Marriott and Stephanie's commitment to greater equity and diversity
- Stephanie Linnartz on the need for self-renewal and reinvention
Mentioned in this episode:
- Judy Samuelson, Founder and Executive Director of Aspen Institute Business and Society Program (Listen to Judy’s episode on Partnering Leadership)
- Ranjay Gulati, Professor at Harvard Business School (Listen to Ranjay’s episode on Partnering Leadership)
Connect with Stephanie Linnartz:
Stephanie Linnartz on LinkedIn
Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:
More information and resources are available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:
Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:
[00:00:00] Mahan: Welcome to the partnering leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Stephanie Linnarts. Stephanie is the president of Marriott International, the world's largest hospitality company with nearly 8,000 properties across more than hundred and 30 countries. Stephanie is responsible for developing and executing all aspects of the company's global consumer strategy, which includes brand marketing sales technology, emerging businesses, and loyalty strategies.
I really enjoy this conversation. Learning more about Stephanie's own purpose driven journey, most especially how she and the other senior executives said Marriott led post the Pandemic.
Purpose is not in the statements that leaders make. Purpose is not into letters to shareholders. Purpose is not just in the talk. Purpose is into actions and those actions are hardest when we are put in challenging situations, and the hospitality industry and Marriott, we're put in a very challenging situation post pandemic, the leadership of the organization and Stephanie showed what purpose is all about.
I'm sure you will also enjoy this conversation. I also enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming. https://mahantavakoli.com/ com. There's a microphone icon on partnering leadership.com. Really enjoy getting those voice messages from you. And don't forget to follow the podcast. Tuesday conversations with magnificent change-makers from the greater Washington, DC DMV region.
Many of them with significant global impact like Stephanie and then Thursday conversations with global thought leaders. Primarily leadership book authors, whose insights will help all of us become more purpose-driven leaders. Now here's my conversation with Stephanie Linnarts
Stephanie Linnartz, welcome to partnering leadership. I'm thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.
[00:02:03] Stephanie: I'm so happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
[00:02:06] Mahan: Stephanie, I love so much about your own personal story, your leadership journey and what you've been able to do most, especially over the past few years at Marriott. But before we get to that would love to know about your upbringing right here in Washington, DC .
yes, I am,born and raised in the Washington DC area. Born and raised in McLean, Virginia, but my family owned and operated, a boutique hotel on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and various restaurants over the years. The most famous of all is the Dubliner Irish restaurant and pub on Capitol Hill at Washington DC institution for over 50 years.
[00:02:47] Stephanie: And so I grew up in the business, working in the hotel and in the restaurant with my siblings, I have five younger siblings. So really grew up in the hospitality space right here in Washington, DC.
[00:03:00] Mahan: So Stephanie, you must have been growing up, listening to conversations of a lot of political types in DC.
[00:03:08] Stephanie: Absolutely. All sorts of interesting people came into my family's business over the years the Dubliner especially, but my parents had a fine dining restaurant on the second floor of the hotel, right above the Dubliner called the power skort and lots of congressmen and senators would come in from both sides of the aisle.
My father tells some terrific stories about how people that maybe had very different political views and were maybe than "Enemies" on certain political topics would come together as human beings to have a pint of Guinness or a burger or a meal. And, talk through things as human beings with a great deal of civility.
[00:03:48] Stephanie:And those were great days in Washington. Talks about Supreme court justices, again, on different sides of an issue where the aisle coming in. And he talks about just , the Amtrak train driver from across the street at union station that would come in and have a burger after work and whether they were congressmen, senators, business people, the average person working at the train station or another local restaurants there was really just this confluence of people from all walks of life. And what I really admired so much about my parents is they treated everybody the same. It didn't matter if you were a Senator or you were, coming from a shop around the corner, everyone was welcomed. Everyone treated with dignity and warmth and a lot of Irish hospitality.
[00:04:31] Mahan: We are isolating ourselves into our individual bubbles, just with respect to politics, and not get a chance to interact with each other and connect with each other's humanity. One of the things I love about your leadership is that you've shown a tremendous amount of empathy and we'll get to some aspects of it with respect to post pandemic later on, but I wonder how did that environment of hospitality from early childhood and seeing your parents working in it impact your view and your ability to empathize with different people?
[00:05:05] Stephanie: First and foremost, growing up in the business made me love the business and I'm very much a believer in that you need to really love what you do and have passion for what you do as a first step to being successful. The first thing I gained from growing up in the business was a love for the business and a passion for taking care of people and the dignity and service work, and that's the first lesson that I learned.
The other very important lesson that I learned from my parents and that I brought forward to my many years at Marriott, was this idea that the most important people in your business are the employees or the associates. And at Marriott International, we have goes back to our founding fathers statement that, "Take care of the associate, the associate will take care of the customer and the customer will come back again and again", and I truly saw that in my family's business even before I ever thought about working at Marriott, that it really is a people first business. And I'm sure we'll talk about technology and its role even in travel and service today, but fundamentally, it's a people first business, and you need to put people first as the most fundamental aspect of, I believe any business, but particularly the business that I'm in.
[00:06:20] Mahan: You went to Holy Cross and pursued your degree in political science. Did you want to end up running for office at some point stephanie?
[00:06:27] Stephanie: I've gotta be honest with you. I thought for a very brief moment, politics may be for me. I did an internship for a Senator who shall remain nameless on Capitol hill and after one summer, as intern I decided, I was going back to the hotel restaurant service, hospitality business, but, I did study political science which made a lot of sense, I think maybe given my background and where I grew up.
I decided to, quickly change my mind and get back into what the business and the passion that I have for hospitality.
[00:06:56] Mahan: Getting your MBA at William and Mary, why after that, then go to Marriott.
[00:07:02] Stephanie: I honestly always wanted to work for Marriott International because Marriott International started as a nine stool root beer stand right here in Washington, DC. It is a home grown Washington DC. Company, which is hard to believe because now we're at 8,000 hotels, we're in 139 different countries. We have 30 brands, we're the largest hotel company in the entire world, but we started right here in my hometown.
And Marriott international has always had a reputation for excellence, for again, taking care of people. And when I was in business school, I knew I wanted to work for Marriott. That was my top choice. And,25 years later, I'm still here. And it was, a wonderful, experience, quite challenging the past couple of years, honestly.
[00:07:50] Stephanie: But, when I look back on it all really quite a remarkable, gift to have this
career at Marriott.
[00:07:55] Mahan: Marriott has, had strong value for the people that are associated with organization. Also, interestingly enough, reinventing itself. I remember Stephanie in high school cross country we would run down a different version of downtown Bethesda, which was nothing like it is today. There was the hot shops. Marriott had a lot of different businesses that it went into different periods of time tested and has continually reinvented itself. You have also continually reinvented yourself and grown in the organization. You started out initially in finance and went through so many different roles.
What got you to pursue different parts and different roles within Marriott?
[00:08:42] Stephanie: First and foremost, I think you're absolutely right about Marriott. Marriott has been around for 95 years for a reason because the company is constantly reinventing what it does, how it does it. fundamentally, always in the hotel business, but the approach and actually has gotten into a lot of different businesses over the years that, in most cases compliment the core hotel business and we've done that recently.
But this idea that success is never final and you constantly need to be changing and evolving, is core to the company's mission and the way the company operates. And it's core to the way I think about things as well. I have worked about everywhere you can in Marriott International operations, sales, marketing, brand technology, a global real estate development, global design operations.
I've been really blessed to work all over the company. And the company really allows people who want to do that, the opportunity to do it. To take on a new job to take on a new challenge. When young people at our company asked me, what does it take to get ahead at Marriott or any company for that matter?
I say, number one, passion for what you do, as I mentioned earlier, number two, good old fashioned hard work, that may sound simple. But number three, taking on the most complicated, thorniest, maybe riskiest project, because if you do that, even if you're not successful, you're going to get noticed for trying. And if you are successful, and you pick your challenges wisely, you're going to get noticed and rewarded for that. Those are always my three pieces of advice to people, and I've really been able to do that over the years at Marriott.
[00:10:14] Mahan: Seems like you have a certain level of that healthy paranoia. As president of consumer operations technology and emerging businesses, you also started homes and villas by Marriott, Ritz, Carlton, Yacht tours, dining, so it sounds like you started testing and going into different areas where the Marriott brand and Marriott can bring value to its clients potential consumers and the community at large
[00:10:44] Stephanie: Absolutely. a great example, that is one that highlighted homes and villas by Marriott international. we were keeping a very close eye on the explosion of home rentals and home sharing. People talk a lot about Airbnb, which just exploded over the past decade and that's certainly the headline, but, there's booking.com and BRBO, and HomeAway, really consumers. We had to skate to where the puck was going.
Consumers were really starting to embrace home rentals in an even deeper way. There's always been home rentals, because of it being proliferated on the internet. And so we were talking to our Marriott Bonvoy members, they're our most loyal guests. We have 160 million members in our Marriott Bonvoy program, and they said, not only are we thinking about home rentals and home sharing and all this stuff, we're doing it. For certain stay occasions, a leisure trip, a family reunion, where they need multiple bedrooms and a big kitchen and a living room, we are renting homes.
[00:11:44] Stephanie: We decided to get into that space in a very strategic and selective manner, only premium and luxury homes, multiple bedrooms. The average day is three plus nights. And again, mostly leisure, mostly groups. 40% of our homes are in markets where we don't even have hotels, but we came up with a new offering for our consumers because they wanted it and they demanded it. And as a matter of fact, the best thing about it is you can earn and you can burn your Marriott Bonvoy points. And we said, let's create an offering that compliments our core hotel business. I mentioned we have 30 brands, give us all your hotel business, because we have a product for you at every level in every location. And then for example, take those hard earned Marriott Bonvoy points and turn them in for a Villa in Tuscany for your next family reunion. So trying to provide offerings that are all tied to travel and experiences.
Ritz-Carlton Yacht, another fabulous example. The first ship will sail in May. From Lisbon to Barcelona, it is spectacular. constantly coming up with new consumer offerings to make the Bonvoy program stickier and richer, and really ultimately to support our core hotel business.
[00:12:59] Mahan : And within that core hotel business, part of what has happened over the past few years,has been the growth of the Airbnb type of approach. I was hearing a couple of weeks ago, Brian Chesky talking about Airbnb's growth, both the initial damage of the pandemic and, their growth, since then. And they're also into rewards potentially considering dating and social engagement for people. a broader view of the value they bring to the consumers.
When you look at Marriott's broader view, perspective of value, what is that you bring to consumers?
[00:13:38] Stephanie: I think what we bring to consumers is. Fundamentally all about experiences. It is about bringing a rich deep experience that makes your life better. In particular, if you're talking about leisure travel, I genuinely believe that travel makes us better as human beings. It opens our eyes, whether it's a local trip or a trip to a different country, it really expands your thinking.
It makes you appreciate other cultures and the differences, but it also makes you realize how really we're also very much the same as human beings. We all want clean water and a healthy planet and safety.
So I think that we offer experiences. On the personal side, that can be really life-changing. And at the same time, on the business side, we provide a great service for a spectacular meeting or a product launch or strategy session, or back to the leisure side of things, a spectacular wedding, or a family reunion. I mentioned that before, we're really in the business of delivering experiences.
And doing so with incredible service, again, I'm very people centered. I often think about our business and the way we deliver experiences, being people centered data-driven and tech enabled. And so we bring that all together. And that's really what we bring to consumers, that's our value proposition.
And, the good news is after a very tough years, people are getting back on the road again.
[00:15:06] Mahan: You, have representation. You have hotels and locations and 139 countries and expanding really quickly.
[00:15:14] Stephanie: Absolutely. we'll add a few more countries this year to our roster and we are constantly growing. Around the world. we're the largest hotel company, but it's still a pretty fragmented business. So there's lots of opportunity for us to grow new hotels, to expand our home rental offerings, Ritz-Carlton we have yachts, We have quite a big retail business. The Western heavenly bed, the edition candle, the Ritz Carlton linen, you name it. We also really have a tremendous offering on the retail side. we're really, again, it's all about, it's all connected to travel though. And experiences really. That's the kind of umbrella that wraps our offerings. And again, under the Marriott Bonvoy program, but yeah, in 139 countries. And I think I've been to a little over half, so I've got to, I got to get back out there again.
[00:16:04] Mahan: I think you have me beat by about a dozen countries, Stephanie, but to underline a point that you made, there is a lot to be gained in connecting with the humanity, learning from different cultures. I'm sure every one of the countries you went to, as was the case with the countries I traveled to, the beauty of the people, the beauty of the cultures, the beauty of the food, the places, those are things that can't be replaced. I love the technology that we have so we can access and connect with each other and speak, but it doesn't replace those in-person human connections, those experiences tasting the food, interacting with people face-to-face, there is a lot of value that comes from that travel. And as you were initiating all of these great things, Stephanie, 2019 ended up being the best year ever for Marriott. Then, that same year, Arnie Sorenson, who was the CEO of the organization was diagnosed with cancer. And then a year later we got hit with a pandemic that has impacted everyone globally, but most especially people in the travel and tourism sector.
How did that impact you and the organization, when you started seeing the pandemic spreading across the world.
[00:17:26] Stephanie: I'll be honest with you. The past two years have been the most challenging and difficult and painful in my 25 years at Marriott international. We went from the highs of 2019 as you noted the best year ever, 2020, the worst year ever in the company's history, our business was down 90%. In the spring of 2020, 25% of our hotels were completely shuttered, 80 plus percent of our people were laid off or furloughed globally. It was absolutely devastating. Bill Marriott, our executive chairman has spoken about all the things he'll turn 90, next month. And he talks about all the things he's seen over the years. Pandemics, wars, riots, but nothing like this, and that he said it was by far the worst thing to ever hit the company, the industry, and what was so tough about it is, the impact to our people.
our industry and sector skews, very female, very minority, and very used. And these were the people who were most devastated. By the pandemic. particularly women right, were really devastated by what happened in the pandemic and my company. And my industry is an example of that. In 2020, we were candidly in survival mode, to survive as a company.
And it was really tough. And against that backdrop, Arnie Sorenson, our beloved CEO died of pancreatic cancer. In, early 2021, he was not only a remarkable CEO, he was a remarkable family man gave back to his community. So to have him die in the middle of this and had this big leadership transition while we dug out of the literally worst business environment ever was very difficult.
[00:19:11] Stephanie: But, throughout it all, and Arnie said this when he was alive, he was always hopeful. We will make it through back to what you said a moment ago. Travel is part of the human condition. It will come back. People love travel, nothing can replace, I love India, for example, nothing replace eating food in India, right?
You can't do that virtually or whatever country you love. I love many countries, but you can't replace it. So he, was always transparent and honest and so Tony kept on to the CEO and me and my president role and in my role before always honest and transparent, but always hopeful and sure enough, 2021, we made remarkable progress in terms of the recovery. Our business was only down in the fourth quarter of 2021. It was only down 19% versus. 2019, we always compared to 19 because 20, market off. December 21 versus December 19.
Our business was only down 11%. So again, remember before I said we were down 90 in the spring of 2020, it's just proven that our business, our sector, our company, or people are super, super resilient. And, I have a saying that I love it's, tough times don't last but tough people do. and we really prove that, throughout the pandemic,
[00:20:29] Mahan: To that point, also, Stephanie empathy and compassion are not just the statements that leaders make, in their letter to shareholders or, other announcements.
When I saw Arnie do the message to the Marriott employees. I didn't know him. You knew him well worked with him all the time. I cried when I saw that, because there was so much humanity and empathy in that.
And also something that all of you at Marriott should take a tremendous amount of pride in is in the darkest days of the pandemic, Arnie Tony, you led in trying to support the community and your people.
[00:21:11] Stephanie: We did everything we could to support our associates. And again, we're in 139 countries, so things different around the world, but here in the United States is just one example. We made sure that we were able to, wherever possible, keep people on a minimal schedule to keep their health benefits.
As one example, we also did a lot for our associates and the community, particularly in the depths of when COVID was really bad. We did a program called rooms for responders. And we worked with our credit card partners to give millions of dollars worth of free hotel rooms, to healthcare workers who were moving around the country and in the world to work in hospitals. And maybe in many cases, they, when COVID was really significant and we didn't have vaccines, or it seems like a lifetime ago, but that was only in 2020.
A lot of the hospital staff didn't want to go back to their homes at night, so we gave them free hotel rooms. We used our ballrooms as food banks and we donated food, linen, supplies to hospitals, to employees.
We did a lot of things to say, we're part of the community, that is a key tenant of Marriott's philosophy. Like we're members of the community. And even though times are dark for us, we need to use what we have, our resources to help. We also did some things that were pretty cool around. From crisis comes creativity, that necessity is the mother of invention.
Just one quick story. We have, multiple call centers around the world that take reservations. People still do call sometimes to make a voice reservation versus over the website. But one of our largest call centers is in Omaha, Nebraska.
And during the depths of the pandemic, no one was calling to make hotel reservations. So we trained our agents in Omaha, Nebraska on the software to do unemployment claims for the state of New York. As you'll recall, the state of New York could not keep up with the demand. Their call centers were overflowing.
We jumped in to help. We saved all the jobs in Omaha throughout the pandemics or people didn't lose their jobs. We got the people in the state of New York there much needed unemployment checks quicker, and this is something we'd always talked about. Could we use our call centers for something else besides hotel reservations and in the depths of the pandemic we said, let's get creative. Let's think outside the box. Let's try to help the people in the state of New York who really needed it, and saved jobs for our employees.
So I have countless stories of where we got quite creative throughout the pandemic. And I love this concept that when times are tough, you can come up with some pretty clever solutions to problems.
[00:23:45] Mahan: Stephanie, I was speaking a couple of months back with Judy Samuelson of the Aspen Institute and she says it beautifully. She says values aren't stated they are revealed. And that is an example, there are many of them that you all went through at Marriott, of values being revealed not stated, revealed through actions.
The fact that the employees and associates are important, that you need to care about the community that's important. All of those were revealed in the toughest times of the pandemic. Now, one of the things that some of the listeners might not be. familiar with is that, Marriott doesn't own the properties. I think you probably own 20 of the properties. So you have franchisee owners all across the world. How were you able to engage and bring along these business people who, on their own were also facing unprecedented crisis and didn't know how to handle it.
[00:24:43] Stephanie: You're right. Many people don't realize that we don't own the real estate. We manage and franchise on behalf others. I think we're down to out of 8,000 hotels. I think we're down to less than 20. and they're all for sale if you'd like to buy a hotel. But no, our business model is to work with great partners on the real estate side.
And again, we're in 139 different countries and usually the people who own our hotels, the hotels that fly our flags are the people of that country. American real estate investors in the case of the U S for the most part, China is actually our second largest market.
But across the world, and of course some markets were worse than others, our owners and franchisees were in a terrible spot. They are debt service. Many of them didn't know if they were going to survive. So we worked with them as partners to say, we're in this together. We don't exist without our real estate partners. How can we figure out ways to get through this In the case of the United States, we would help our franchise partners our real estate partners, maybe do the paperwork to get a PPP loan, right? Because that was one example of the ways our owners survived some of the government assistance. So how could we help with that? We realized that we had to loosen up a little bit on some of our brand standards and renovation requirements because they just couldn't afford to do it right now.
How do we navigate that at the same time meeting guest expectations? we worked in partnered with them on that front, but, it was all about partnership and figuring out how can we do things different. We did a big rollout of mobile check-in and mobile checkout and mobile guests services during this time, because people didn't want to go to the front desk, they didn't want to be near another human being. that helped build confidence and got people back into the hotels. And that helped our owners of real estate partners. they are a critical stakeholder for us, associates customers, our owners and franchisees.
And as I mentioned earlier, my family is in this business. So on a very personal note, Their business, my family's business was devastated, during COVID. The Dubliner has been a DC institution, again, for over 50 years, they've never once closed their doors ever. 9/11 bad things happening in DC over the years.
And the first time they ever had to close their doors was ironically St. Patrick's day 2020. and they had to shut down for a few months and it was devastating tothe employees that I'd known my whole life. And, we did all we could to help them. So on both in my personal life, by my family's business, and then at Marriott, I saw the devastation of this thing really across to every group. Tough.
But again, just like Marriott, my family's business is open again and doing well relatively speaking, and we're on the road to recovery and I am super, super hopeful about the future. despite how bad the past two years have been, I'm super bullish on the future of my company, travel, restaurant service, it just can't. be replaced.
[00:27:42] Mahan: It can't. And part of what you've been able to do over the past couple of years Stephanie, I love how Nassim Taleb talks about anti-fragility and you have shown anti-fragility in that you didn't want this breakage. It was a terrible breakage for so many people impacting so many lives. However, you have been using this breakage to Make Marriott better And serving its,clients and customers and also needs of the associates. so when you reflect on how Marriott will be better as a result of this breakage, in what ways did Marriott become better?
[00:28:23] Stephanie: I believe that in times like this, companies are defined on how they deal with the worst crisis, do they hunker down and just try to survive? Or do they lean into it and start preparing for a new tomorrow? even in the depths of 2020, and 2021 We still invested in the business too. We went from 2000 homes and villas up to 50,000. We continued to invest in technology. We continued to know that we were going to come out of this and invest in the business, invest in people, invest in making us stronger, which may seem odd, right? When your business is down that magnitude that you decide that's a good time to invest start getting creative and start innovating, but we did.
And so to me, that defines the company that defines a person on how you manage through the worst crisis and it makes you stronger and it makes you better. So I believe that, my company and all of us who lived through it, which is really the world, I think we can never forget that first and foremost, this was a health crisis and the heroes are the doctors and the nurses but for all of the people who lived through this, and felt it most acutely because some people did feel at worse than others. We're stronger. We're better. we've proven our resilience.
I'm really proud of the team at Marriott. I'm proud of,our competitors too. I'm proud of everyone that made it through this. Even if they're not part of my company.
[00:29:45] Mahan: I truly believe you have a lot to be proud of Stephanie. There are a lot of examples and stories of what you, the executive. And all the team members and associates at Marriott did over the past couple of years. And as you said, it's when the conditions are the hardest that the character of individuals or in this case organizations really exhibits itself.
There are lots of stories to be proud of. Another thing that you can be proud of with respect to Marriott is that, Arne is one of the unusual CEOs and executives that had 50% of his C-suite being women in that it's unfortunate still to this day, that's a rare exception. And the pandemic as you mentioned, you mentioned has impacted women and people of color even more so than was the case pre pandemic.
As a woman who has risen through the ranks to become president of Marriott, what do you think we need to do as organizations, as leaders and as a society to provide more opportunities and more access for women and people of color?
[00:30:55] Stephanie: I think we've made a lot of progress and Marriott's made a lot of progress, but we have a lot more work to do to be candid. Marriott is very committed to diversity, to inclusion, and there's often a lot discussion around building the bench, which is of course important to do, but one way Arnie talked about it and he did this and I try to model it is, the way you can lift up women and people of color and more diversity in your company is spot a talent, and give them a chance, right? course shift them the bench, but don't use the benches and excuse. Arnie Any would often talk about how men, that has 50 or 60% of what it takes to get the job, and they'll be like, oh, give him the job, he can do it. And he would say, we need to do that more for women and people of color, and again, diversity, broadly speaking.
So I think we need to take a chance on people, see something in somebody and give them that shot. And Arnie was excellent at that. He really was. He walked the talk. He didn't just talk about diversity, he did it. And to your point, 50% of his direct reports we're women which is very unusual the fortune 500 fortune 100. So we need to do more. We need to do better. And of course, diversity means different things in different parts of the world.
Of course, I think women, it's a global thing, LGBTQ and making sure there's rights for that community as a global thing. But depending on where you are, China, India, America, South America, diversity can mean different things. It could mean diversity of thought too. One thing I think a lot about is it's easy to put people around your table that think like you, and act like you just the way they approach business. But you need to have people around your table that think very differently, like the frustrating at times, I think it's good for me as a leader. It's good for companies. I think diversity of thought and approach is also important as well as again, diversity, more broadly speaking.
[00:32:48] Mahan: Absolutely, Rishad Tobaccowala says not just the diversity of faces, but diversity of thought and diversity, of voices that inclusion needs to be part of it. you also said, Stepanie on Marriott's board of directors, social impact and inclusion committee. So ESG is really important. What are some initiatives and thoughts and perspectives from your point of view, to make this, a reality, whether it is for Marriott's priorities, or in general, in that one of the frustrations that I hear from a lot of listeners and people talking about organizations in general making statements, whether it was post George Floyd murder, statements about anti-racism, or over the past couple of years with the business round table, talking about stakeholder engagements rather than just shareholder engagement or ESG becoming important. One of the concerns I repeatedly hear is that there are lots of statements. The actions don't necessarily follow because the financial incentives are different.
What are you doing to make sure that ESG is a priority in action? Not just statements.
[00:34:00] Stephanie: We talked a little bit about diversity already, right? Making sure that we have a diverse, employee base, and I should note that we have aggressive goals to get to gender diversity, across the VP and above level by 2025, just a couple of years away. So we have a lot of goals around diversity. I just use that as one example, but another part of ESG of course, is caring about the environment, right? And hotels serve a big, physical footprint and create a lot of waste and they impact the environment. We did sign up for the race to zero, to get to net zero emissions by 2050, if not sooner and I think we all need to push for sooner.
And in the case of hotels, this really means a lot of different things. I'll give a few examples. food waste is a big contributor to greenhouse gases and 50% of the garbage in a hotel is food waste. what can we do to reduce food waste? We're doing a lot with analytics to make sure that we know what sells on buffets and doing a lot with menu planning, composting donating food, or we can, but reducing food waste.
I feel like it's better with some real life examples is, we're moving away from, all the little tiny bottles and amenities that you get in hotels, little shampoos, little conditioners. We put something like 500 million tiny plastic bottles in landfills every year, that's horrible. So we're going to get rid of that and we're going to move to residential size amenities in our hotels and get rid of the tiny plastic bottles and we were going to get rid of them pre pandemic and then as we've been talking about things got tough for a couple of years, but we're back on that pledge, building hotels that used renewable energy, right? Lead certified hotels, whether it's,the renovation of a hotel, whether it's a new build, modular construction.
But you bring up a really good point. It said we're all in business too at the same time. So we need to think about how we do this in a way that's smart and business savvy. And a lot of the things we're doing I think will actually result in more profit and they'll make us more reduce our costs. You think about eventually payback on renewable energy, or on reducing food waste, but equally important, they will resonate with consumers. I have young teenage kids and they want to give their business, and I think a lot of people do, but particularly millennials and gen Z, they want to give their business the companies that care about the environment, they really do vote with their wallets in this regard. I think we'll drive top-line customer loyalty too caring about the environment. I think there's a real business case. Top line, bottom line, for saving our planet besides the fact that just the right thing to do right. When you see about the terrible floods and fires all around the world. I'm passionate about our commitment to the environment. another quick example is in the case of hotels, a lot of human trafficking sadly happens in hotels all around the world, even here in the United States.
We developed a training to see something, say something to stop it. And we didn't just keep that training to ourselves. Trained something like five or 600,000 people on this, around the world. We shared it with the whole industry that they could help stop human trafficking that can take place in hotels.
there's so many examples I could share with you, make it real if you will but,I do believe that this is the way companies need to operate.
[00:37:27] Mahan: I love those examples, Stephanie, because they're not just statements of intentions, they're actual actions that you have taken, including on this human trafficking where the cause is important enough, you are sharing the information and the training with others to impact it. It's not just the statement, it's the actions that you're taking and that's outstanding.
Which is aligned very well with the core values of Marriott. One of the things I keep emphasizing Stephanie is that the values are not what's written on the wall or on card that is laminated and passed around to the associates. It's through the actions, through the behaviors of the leader. Through the priorities of the organization as manifested through those actions, so it's wonderful hearing all of these things.
One of the things Stephanie, I wonder is that, I'm a big believer in the value of human connection. Travel, have enjoyed it a lot, myself, both for business and in person. However, there is an element of business travel that I wonder if it's going to come back or not. I would love to get some of your thoughts and perspectives with respect to the future of business travel and how that will impact the future of Marriott.
Stephanie:I think you're right to, raise this important question. I think it would be naive for any of us to think that the great worldwide experiment with teams and zoom and working from home is not going to impact the way we work and live in the future. It will. and I think it will impact business travel at some level, the consultant who jumps on a plane to Shanghai for a two hour meeting may decide, you know what I can do that more efficiently via a teams call as just one example. That being said, what we're seeing is blossoming up of new business, surprisingly, because when people can work from anywhere and a lot of companies are allowing more flexibility, we're seeing a term that we, I didn't come up with it, although I like it quite a bit called "bleisure" where people are mixing leisure and business in one trip and they might say, particularly if they don't have school-aged kids, I'm going to go live in Austin, Texas, and stay at a hotel for a couple of weeks and do a mix of both business and leisure.
[00:39:46] Stephanie: We are really starting to see that in our data, that trip purposes are getting blurred and people are taking longer trips in some cases and while one part of business may go down, another business opportunity pops up, on the groups and needing side however, I have to say that has come back very strong. Hybrid meetings are great. We did invested a lot in hybrid meetings where half the people would be there live, and half would be using technology to zoom in or teams in, or whatever you chose to use. But, our customers have told us loud and clear that for meetings, it just isn't cutting it. It's just not the same. And the people that are participating remotely can have the same experience. the serendipitous conversation at the coffee break or the team building.
Our group business came back even faster than the individual business traveler, which is coming back more slowly. And the business that we have on the books for meetings and groups this year and into next year, 23 and 24 is quite strong. Again, it just underscores the point we've been talking about that you can't replace human interaction. It doesn't mean technology won't change the way we do things. Of course it will. But fundamentally I'm still very bullish that people will travel for both leisure and for business
[00:41:08] Mahan: Those human connections are really important. My clients are all pulling their hair out and looking more like me, Stephanie, trying to figure out the hybrid and part of what I keep telling them and they're starting to recognize is that hybrid is a lot harder than in-person or all virtual, they're really struggling with that.
There is value in the human connections that,happen as a result of people being together in one place. So we'd love to know your perspectives now with respect to just looking at your role within Marriott, you also lead teams of people at Marriott. How do you see the future of work and that more flexible future of work, whether there's going to be a hybrid elements or virtual, how do you see the future of work at Marriott?
[00:42:00] Stephanie: I think in the case of Marriott, we will continue to think about how we can work differently and be more flexible to attract and retain talent. I think it's worth noting though, just to zoom out for a second, pre pandemic we had in the neighborhood of 750,000 employees globally wearing name badge, 96% of those associates work at a hotel.
So it's worth noting that, you can't work from a hotel from home. There's an element of our workforce that physically has to be there. I'm on the board of directors of home Depot and that's another example, like there is an element of the work that like literally can not be done virtually. we can't forget that.
For regional and corporate and as appropriate hotel, we'll certainly always be figuring out ways to be flexible. in the case of Marriott international corporate headquarters, we always did a lot via teams is what we use because we have teams all around the world.
We do a lot of five and 6:00 AM conference calls or teams calls with Asia even before the pandemic hit. In a global world, I think people were already using a lot of these tools and maybe not to the extent they ended up using them through the pandemic, but, I think we'll just continue to use them. They're great tools. They allow us to do a lot of things very efficiently. There's silver linings on that front that will come out of the pandemic too. I think at Marriott, we will continue to use the tools, but again, I never forget that we are a, Hey, we're a people business and much of our work can't be done
[00:43:26] Mahan: People business that has also shown through your leadership, you are willing to test and see what works and go with what works. There has to be some testing and experimentation rather than making up the mind that this is exactly the direction we're going in. Now, Stephanie, the past couple of years, have been really hard for lots of people.
Some unfortunately lost loved ones and others, but again, from a business perspective, they've been hard. Senior executive of a global organization that has been impacted, had to deal with the emotions and the realities of the day to day basis, whether in, on one level it was with Arnie, and that transition on the other level, the many challenges that were being thrown at the, organization Marriott globally.
How were you able to maintain a certain level of balance and your own going through all of this?
[00:44:23] Stephanie: I think I've relied the tools and the resources that I've had my whole life, but maybe just in a deeper way. first and foremost, in my case, my faith. my family, my husband, my children, my parents, the friendships I have with the people I work with at Marriott after 25 years, I genuinely consider so many people I work with my friends, not just my colleagues, I think, family friendship sees you through tough times. I love to run. running gets the stress out and let you think. I love my Peloton. I like to meditate, I think we all have to figure whatever we all use to manage stress.
I'm sure we all used. 10 times as much during COVID. And I was no different than that, but, fundamental to all of it was like Arnie, and I know Tony, like in my peers, I knew we were gonna make it through. So, hope I'm a big believer you have to be hopeful. And you have to be positive and you need to make sure that doesn't mean you're not going to be honest and transparent and state the facts, even when they're tough But you also at the same time, need to be hopeful about the future. And so I always tried to do that throughout this whole thing and it turns out, we were all right, things are getting better and there was reasons to be hopeful because, we got the vaccine and the terrible pandemic is getting better. there was good reason for hope.
[00:45:48] Mahan: That is outstanding to hear. Now, in addition to that, Stephanie, I heard that you were traveling more than 50% of your time. And at one point in my career, I was doing that and that is a ton of travel. When you are forced to stay at home and not travel, where your husband and kids wondering who the heck is this woman?
[00:46:11] Stephanie: Yeah. I think a lot of people had that experience that traveled a lot for work. I had slept in my own bed and had more meals with my husband and kids the past couple of years. And I haven't. 20 plus years. that was, again, this idea that there's silver linings and even the darkest days and getting more time with my husband and kids was great.
I think I too many sweets, my daughter went on a baking binge for a while and I try to eat very healthy but it's hard when you've got somebody making all these goodies. but I'm back at it now I'm back on the road and traveling, maybe not quite as much as pre pandemic because there's countries that I still can't go to. I've been tripped to Europe coming up soon. I've already been to Europe several times, central America. you name it, it's on the list, to get to this year. if you don't like to travel, you shouldn't be in the global hotel business, so luckily I love to travel.
[00:47:00] Mahan: Even in leadership, Stephanie, we don't know whether the metaverse in 10 years, 20 years will replace that human and person connection or not, at this point, it doesn't. It's important for leaders to be able to interact with their people, see them on the ground, connect with them on a human level.
Stephanie, are there any leadership resources or practices you typically find yourself recommending to others as they want to aspire to be as impactful as you have been in your leadership?
[00:47:31] Stephanie: I shared some of the tools I use to manage through tough times, exercise meditation, prayer time with family and friends. There's a book that I've always recommended to people for many years now called Grit by Angela Duckworth. I love that book and I love her Ted talk and I've always recommended.
Now I really recommend it. After the past couple of years, it's really about grit and not giving up and passion and perseverance, that really helps you be successful even more than your innate IQ. I just love that book because I think the message of it transcends life, not just business, personal situations. That book is one I always recommend.
[00:48:13] Mahan: Stephanie, sometimes people talk hypothetically about the need for grit or about the need to show empathy. One of the things I love about your leadership example is that you have shown grit and you have shown empathy.
That is what leadership is all about. Leadership is example. Thank you so much for joining me in this conversation, Stephanie Linnartz.
[00:48:39] Stephanie: Thank you. Wonderful to be with you.