Women & Leadership: Lindsey Ueberroth, Preferred Hotels & Resorts

The Mark Hotel in New York City, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.

Lindsey Ueberroth joined her parents’ soft brand hotel company, Preferred Hotel Group, in 2004 before ascending to the role of president in 2010 and then adding CEO to her title in 2014. In 2015, she led the rebrand from Preferred Hotel Group to Preferred Hotels & Resorts and the following year, redesigned the brand’s loyalty program, iPrefer. The moves are credited for the $1.11 billion in reservations revenues that Preferred achieved on behalf of its member properties in 2016, a year during which the iPrefer program  produced a 57-percent increase in enrollments, a 24-percent increase in stays and a 23-percent increase in room revenue. Here, HOTEL MANAGEMENT talks to Ueberroth about her leadership style as well as working with her mother, Preferred’s Vice Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Gail Ueberroth.

Have you learned any best practices from women in other industries who are also members of Young Presidents Organization (YPO)?

It’s easy to focus on your industry when trying to ideate or problem solve. Networking and brainstorming with women across other industries has helped me “get out of my own way” many times. When talking to peers in YPO—whether they are in fashion and retail or IT—the conversations shed light on how other industries are innovating to stay ahead by creating change at a faster pace. In some cases, a YPO peer can help me make a more efficient decision about a technology we may be debating having installed.

The best practices that I have learned through YPO: 

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  • Don’t lose sight of who you are as you focus on your business and its growth trajectory. Keep balance and take care of yourself personally to maintain good performance professionally.
  • Leaning into your fears is the fastest way to combat hurdles without the fear of falling short. I encourage women to get over the fear of failure, as those are the best learning moments and the occasions when we can pivot and achieve success much faster.
  • Choose the people you surround yourself with carefully. Personally and professionally, you can solve almost any problem with the right people around you.

 

 

What advice could you offer other women on being direct without being perceived as aggressive?

There is a big difference between being aggressive and being assertive. One is a defensive response, and the other is a confident, respectful way to get your point across as a means to achieving your desired end goal. After constantly evaluating my communications skills at the onset of my career, I have identified and honed a few behaviors that have helped me establish a strong leadership voice with both internal and external parties.

It’s essential to speak with authority, always respectfully, never judgmentally. To establish a style that is thoughtful and considerate, not aggressive, balance when you state your opinion before the other party and when you allow them to take the lead on a topic. Telling a story to reinforce your opinion from the perspective of experience can be a candid way to relate to others and help them understand the thought process. Asking questions is another effective method I like to use to illustrate my point in a way that can be more convincing than making straight statements. 

You’ve worked with your mother since joining Preferred in 2004. What are some of the generational differences in your management styles and your approaches to leadership?

One of the most fascinating conversations we have about our approach to shaping the future of the company relates to the question of how we can celebrate the heritage of the brand, a focus for my mother, while embracing innovation, a priority for me.

Overall, the major differences come in the areas of our decision-making and communication styles, comfort with the digital landscape and perspective on work-life balance.

First, from a communication and management standpoint, my mother takes a more top-down, authoritative approach to making decisions, whereas I am more collaborative. Likewise, while my mother is less risk-averse and acts based on what she knows as proven methods towards success, I am more apt to follow my gut feeling based on a trend or an idea presented by my executive team as a means to capitalizing on new initiatives that may be risky but have great growth potential. 

Second, my mother sees value in printed media. She likes producing vibrant physical evidence of our brand through print advertising to reach a target demographic and to showcase on future occasions. Personally, I am fascinated by the power of digital and social media for its ability to provide instant, quantitative and qualitative feedback while reaching a wide target audience of existing and prospective customers.

Finally, my mother, a baby boomer, loves to work, specifically in a traditional office setting that allows her to talk to her team in person at a moment’s notice. Given my responsibility to directly manage a global team and my closeness to the workforce’s younger generation, I understand the appeal of communal, open workspaces and the preference for flexibility.  

What’s your take on why there are so few women CEOs in hospitality?

I’m happy to see more women CEOs in hospitality. However, we are still a far cry from where I hope we can be in terms of representation. The biggest challenges for women looking to achieve top leadership roles were the need to travel, relocate and dedicate long hours. In the past, once having children and raising a family came into the equation, many women were forced to make a choice, and those challenges were hard to overcome. Given the innovations in technology and a more open attitude towards flexible working hours and “home offices,” many of these hurdles seem alleviated.

There has also been a dramatic shift in how hospitality companies value the diversity that women executives bring to the table, especially in the CEO role, and particularly in the areas of communication style, collaboration and being champions of change. Men and women leaders alike have strength in these areas, but I think women are less likely to focus on the past or tradition and are more collaborative by nature, preferring to work cross-functionally, which can help overcome barriers or communications challenges.

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