7 Lessons from the Field: Amberle Bryant, Area Director of Operations, Sonesta Hotels
Like many of us in the industry, Amberle Bryant did not initially dream of a career in hospitality. It wasn’t until she took a job as a front desk agent at a Residence Inn managed by Biltmore Farms Hotels in 2004 that her hospitality journey began. And since then, she hasn’t looked back. "I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future. Upon meeting my General Manager, Paulette, we just connected. I knew this was someone that could help shape my career. She taught me how to present myself, encouraging respect from others. She encouraged me to pursue my education in Hospitality Management during college and stood by my side until I graduated."
Fast forward to today, Amberle is now an Area Director of Operations for Sonesta Hotels. She shares some of the critical lessons she's learned about life, leadership, creative problem-solving, and addressing labor shortages below:
1. Find a Mentor
"My mentors saw more in me than I saw in myself. They revealed strengths and determination I wasn't even aware I possessed. One mentor, in particular, encouraged me to think outside the box in this industry. I learned that it’s ok to make mistakes. What matters is how creatively we can turn around even the most challenging operations. My mentor also emphasized the importance of having fun. At times, that’s the only way to overcome some of our most difficult obstacles."
2. You don’t always have a point to prove.
"As a direct manager, I learned that my ideas are not always the only way. I recall a memorable interaction with a direct report who was determined to show me that her way was “the way.” We clashed, each of us holding onto what we thought was the right solution. At that moment, I realized the importance of collaboration and finding a middle ground. Both of us had great ideas. I had to take the lead, being her manager. I invited her into my office, apologized for my approach, and admitted I was wrong for not valuing her opinions. From there, we discussed both sides and created a solution together. From that day, I always listen to others and find ways to compromise."
3. Get to know your team.
"Identifying your associates' needs before acting on their engagement is crucial. No team is the same. Some are content with simple gatherings once a month over donuts and coffee. Others need more attention with games, music, and a full spread of food and desserts. Their needs can shift month to month, or even week to week."
4. Think outside the box.
"The days of looking for associates with hotel experience are gone. Now, I look for those eager to join our industry and provide a service to others. I interview everyone. If you answer my call or call me back, you get a chance. The shortages exist, but I believe poor retention and overemphasis on experience cause most of them. I make our industry fun and attractive, using keywords like “technology,” “culture,” and “fun.” Internally, I collaborate with my teams to generate ideas on how we can succeed when struggling to fill positions. I take their suggestions, find solutions, ensuring that the team remains happy and our operation successful."
5. Say thank you.
"The simplest thing anyone can do is to say thank you. It may sound repetitive, but those two words go the furthest. I keep a stack of Thank You cards in my desk drawer. I surprise my housekeepers with a note on their cart, a card for the Front Desk in the cash drawer, or other unsuspecting locations. Random acts of appreciation spread around the hotel with that simple phrase, “Thank You.”
6. Celebrate success wherever you see it.
"Support other women hoteliers and celebrate their success. Even if you are not at the same level, celebrate their achievements. Your time will come too. Just be patient and keep your eye on your end goal. To exemplify, remember to acknowledge milestones, achievements, and even small wins. This creates an atmosphere of positivity and mutual support."
7. Be you.
"Build your own personal brand. Don’t be your own greatest enemy. Be yourself and do not let anyone alter you. Each one of us has a unique place in this great industry. For instance, I've always embraced my own style and personality, which helped me carve my own path in this diverse industry." Amberle's journey offers valuable lessons for anyone aspiring to make a mark in the hospitality industry or looking to enhance their leadership skills. Her story is a testament to the power of mentorship, openness, team understanding, innovation, gratitude, celebration of success, and authenticity.
Anton Safonov and Michelle Jensen Session, co-founders of Aquarius Hospitality Solutions, bring a combined 34 years of experience in the hospitality industry to their new consultancy business. Their mission is to leverage their expertise to help other businesses grow and thrive using proven methods and strategies to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. With Aquarius, customer-centricity isn't just a tactic, it's the heart of our approach. Learn more at www.aquariushs.net.