EIR Lecture - 2012
Mr. Albert Chew
Faculty, Staff and Students of the University of North Texas’ Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management had high expectations when they gathered at the Gateway on October 17th. Mr. Albert Chew, Chief Operating Officer for Freeman Company’s expo division, and the Department’s 37th Executive In Residence was not about to let us down. His presentation, “Good Choices: Three Keys to Success or Failure,” was to offer his perspective. I noticed that he offered neither his definition of success nor a ‘how to’ set of instructions. Both of these “omissions” made his presentation-and his presence-more meaningful to me-he gave us something to think about. In a job market that demands critical thinkers, this can set someone apart. He didn’t talk at us or tell us what we must do to be like him. In this, Mr. Chew conveyed a subtle, yet powerful, message of respect for his audience. What follows is my own perspective of his Three Keys, Choices and Consequences; Perspective, Perception and Communication; and Challenge. I will tie these Keys to what I found interesting and how they relate to my role as a future leader in the hospitality industry.
First, Mr. Chew briefly outlined his personal background. Growing up next door to the Fort Worth Stockyards was likely more difficult than he described. A blue-collar upbringing guided his work ethic as he rapidly progressed through his bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston and his master’s degree at Texas Christian University. While studying, he worked as a carpet installer and with a civic improvement organization. Self-motivation lined his path from humble beginnings to the CEO’s desk—as he put it, “diverse experiences in various companies.” This is interesting not only as a story of someone pulling himself up by his bootstraps, but also because he made no presuppositions about his audience’s background. He didn’t present the idea that he had an extraordinary experience or give the impression that he expected us to be impressed by him. To me, this is important because he let the audience members find the lines of similarities in their own lives. He views us as future leaders in our industry. As such his Human Resources lesson runs through his Three Keys. “The most important thing about people in an organization is to enable them to do the job—match the talent to the task.”
Mr. Chew summarized his first Key regarding choices and consequences by saying that one should try to make more good choices than bad. That sounds simple enough. By simply having more good things than bad, one expects to come out on the side of good. If a scale were used, surely one would expect it to tip in favor of good outcomes. However, it’s not as simple as that. I am a mid-level leader my military career, often responsible for hundreds of peoples and millions of dollars in equipment and infrastructure. I think leadership is all about choices and decisions. Leaders are expected to make sound decisions, often in less-than-ideal circumstances and with minimal information. It would be easy if all you had to do were follow instructions or run a checklist. In that world, it’s all written in black and white, right or wrong. I used to tell my personnel that I “exist in the gray.” A leader, no matter the industry, has to be able to exist in the gray, make decisions when there isn’t a manual to follow. Whether it’s discounting a room or dealing with staffing issues, most of our choices won’t be clear. Mr. Chew knows this and he didn’t try to to tell us what were good choices and what were bad choices. He respected us as professionals and knew that we’re each guided by our own perspectives and training. These perspectives will be working in organizations with various missions; this will be further...