The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.
We had reached an agreement with one of China's wealthiest real-estate investors. He would build a spectacular, full-service hotel in a major Chinese city, and we would operate it for him. Our people monitored his progress as the property began taking shape. They were not happy.
The owner's contractors were cutting corners. The building materials were second-rate, and the workmanship was slipshod. In a series of sessions involving various levels of our executive team, we delivered the same message: Marriott has high standards, and this particular property was not up to par.
We enlisted Henry Lee, our area vice president, to serve as point man. Henry's superb relationship skills were on display in a time-consuming series of lunches, meetings, and one-on-one conversations. Despite our importuning, though, the owner refused to change his approach.
Through it all, we never wavered. "Build the hotel the right way or we won't accept it," our team told the owner. He courteously responded, "Yes, you will."
A competing hotel had recently opened a substandard property, and our prospective owner thought we would follow suit. We refused. He held out for two years, terminating our contract eight times and rehiring us every time. He somehow managed to withstand the financial pressure to move ahead. Finally, the stalemate was broken when he realized that his contractors were letting ...