#74 Derek Flint – Leading the extraordinary ladies and gentleman of the Portman Ritz-Carlton
Derek has lived all over world. Born in Bogota Colombia, he has lived in 9 countries, 4 continents, and moved 34 times in his life. He has moved with his present company, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, twice around the world and Shanghai is his second stint working in China. In this episode, Derek covers respect, getting things done in China, and simple tips to keep work and family in balance.
If you come from a place where you exhibit a high degree of respect to all you encounter, you will be successful.
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How he got to China
Derek has worked for he present company for 17 years and as General Manger of a hotel have progressively been promoted to larger roles at larger hotels. The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai is the culmination of that as this property is the largest rooms property in our company so when the chance for Derek to take the lead in Shanghai, he enthusiastically agreed.
What made the role attractive
Derek shares that being an expat and all the compensation that comes with that were very attractive, but perhaps even more so, he was so inspired by his time in Beijing prior that he was excited about moving back and working with the local people again. Secondly, being able to travel again in the region was also a plus – Derek loved the idea of exposing his 6-year-old daughter to new countries, cultures, languages, and people.
Derek is most definitely a family man and considers family the most important thing in his life. And the way he has set up his schedule…it shows! He’s up at 5.20 AM and helps get his daughter up, dressed and ready for school. At 7 AM, his company driver takes him to work and by 7:15 AM he is checking emails and meeting with keys staff to review the events of the evening and what will go on that day. From the morning til 6 PM he spends his days walking, talking, presenting, and inspiring and he enjoys that in the hotel business, it’s never the same from day to day. At 6 PM, Derek says that he “turns into a pumpkin” and heads home (and he expects his staff to take their family/personal time as well!). He’s home in time for a family dinner, helps his daughter bathe and read a story before bed. He and his wife then get some quality time until about 11 PM when Derek is in bed.
Sounds pretty typical to me and it’s so inspiring to me that a man with such a fantastic role in Shanghai is really able to prioritize his family. Love that!
Derek always tells his staff that they don’t have to earn his respect – they automatically receive it. What they can do, however, is lose it. There was a situation where Derek found out that some subordinates were not entirely telling me the whole truth for fear of “losing face”. It was truly eye opening for Derek to realize that people would lie to their superior to “save face”. He learned to ask ‘why’ five times and in multiple ways just to make sure he’s able to capture the whole story.
We can all agree that China moves quickly! Derek professes himself as not the most patient of guys and being in China is just fantastic for him because decisions are made quickly and efficiently. He was able to implement big changes in the organization very soon after arriving. The change was immediate, effective and 100% embraced by the entire staff. What took a month in Shanghai would have taken 6 months to a year in the US.
How’s your Mandarin?
Beginner level although he takes lessons three times a week and is getting better all the time. Not being fluent doesn’t seem to be a barrier to success, though, because Derek has fantastic interpreters that he trusts who help him understand and be understood. That being said, he feels it’s important to try your hardest to learn some Mandarin to show you respect your local staff and their rich cultural heritage. Luckily in China, it doesn’t take much to elicit very genuine appreciation from your local staff for any effort you put in.
Tips for balancing work and family
“You can always make excuses why you have to stay at work,” Derek says. “I make sure its clear to my ladies and gentlemen that home life is important and that at 6pm I WILL leave for the day and make sure I do.” Now that’s a leader!