As we count down the final days and prepare to turn the calendar to a new year, so many of us are tempted to think “good riddance to 2020.” When I read posts and view memes on social media, it seems that most of us cannot wait to put this year behind us. Indeed, it has been a tough one for all, especially those of us who work in the hospitality and tourism industry. Yet when I sit at my desk writing my last training article of this crazy year, thinking of all the ups and downs I have gone through, I find myself being grateful for 2020, because 2020 taught me how to be even more grateful. This year has made me realize that it is gratitude, more than anything, that nurtures the spirit of hospitality within us all.
Being in the business of providing hotel industry training and related services, the pandemic economy hit us at KTN hard too. Like so many other companies, the previously strong economy was propelling us towards what would have been a record year in terms of revenue growth. Instead, between March 13th and 20th, every workshop and conference presentation on our training calendar was postponed and our entire mystery shopping and call scoring assessment clients paused their service.
My first reaction was to want to withdraw from the office, head home, hide in the closet, and to wallow in my self-pity for what was lost, and worrying over how we were going to continue to support two college students and my two elderly in-laws.
Fortunately for me, I have a wife whose default state of mind is happy and whose heart is always filled with gratitude. My wife Cathy Cook, who is also our Executive Director of Training, comes from about six generations of hard-working, self-reliant farmers who live with uncertainty every growing season yet never complain. She was helping with the twice-daily milking chores as a toddler and driving the tractor on the main roads by age 9. Nothing was ever handed to anyone in the Cook family, and Cathy worked her way up from front desk clerk to being a senior executive at Marriott International’s Global Learning division. As one might imagine, self-pity does not go over well in the Kennedy-Cook household.
Instead, Cathy reminded me that if we just stay focused and believed in ourselves, our business, and our clients, we would be able to fight our way back. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Indeed, we did have to pivot to live, virtual training, sales coaching and conference presenting, and we had to redistribute the workload among our scaled-down KTN team, but now at the end of 2020, we have indeed found that disruption has created new opportunities and we feel so blessed to have ended Q4 with revenues that are fast approaching our normal pacing.
Most importantly though, being around Cathy’s attitude of gratitude reminds me to also be grateful. I began a new daily ritual which I shall share here in hopes of inspiring others.
Start every day by being grateful. Before you pick-up your phone and scroll through your social media feeds, scroll through your emails or look over your calendar appointments, before you even get out of bed, just pause and take a few moments to be grateful…
Grateful that you woke up! The older we get the easier it is to simply be grateful that we woke up, as we see more and more of our peers falling by the wayside. With so many lives lost to COVID-19, it’s easier than ever before to simply be grateful to have woken up.
Grateful that you woke up in a warm, dry home with food to eat and hot water for a shower. We no longer have to think about those in remote, far-away countries to remember the less fortunate. Instead, just flip over to your local 6 o’clock newscast and the stories of long lines at food banks and families facing eviction over the holidays will remind you to be grateful for these seemingly small blessings.
Grateful that you work in a “factory” of human experiences we call hospitality and tourism. My dad George Kennedy grew up in Braddock, Pennsylvania, during the 1920s and 1930s, when it was literally the steel capital of the world. Nearly everyone in his childhood answered the call of the factory horns that blasted out several times a day, 24/7, calling in the workers for their shifts. Instead, we work in a factory that produces an intangible “product” called hospitality, which is always about more than delivering a product or service, but instead delivering genuine, authentic emotional connections with the strangers we call guests.
Grateful for our co-workers we think of as our work-family and the strong bonds that form over months, years, and sometimes decades of working through daily challenges as a team. Grateful for that special frontline co-worker who, the moment you see him or her, always makes you smile and warms your heart. (I am SURE you all have a particular face that immediately comes to mind when you read this.)
Grateful for all of our guests, yes, even the most difficult ones. The Universe has put them in exactly the right place and time where they are supposed to be when they stand in front of us presenting as difficult guests, when the reality being that they are tired, stressed-out, humans who badly need their vacation or a lonely business traveler who misses family back home.
Indeed, an attitude of gratitude reminds us to give more than we take. One of my favorite dictionary definitions of hospitality is “Treating others with warmth and generosity.” The more your own heart is filled with gratitude, the easier it is for your heart to power your spirit of hospitality. And the more hospitality you project outward, the more your supply will always be replenished.