• VisionPassionFaith

Updated: Nov 12

With Paul Patino

My fourth interview of this series is with Paul Patino who is Hotel General Manager at Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs. Hope you enjoy...

Me: So what is your definition of a good leader?

Paul: For me, it is someone who puts others first. They lead by example. Leaders do not just tell others how to do something, but physically show them. The best mentors I have had, perform what they instructed me to do.

My takeaway:

I love Paul's definition, and believe that good leaders lead by example. My definition of a good leader is someone who guides, empowers, and inspires others to live their greatest potential. Paul is one of these individuals who empowers, as well as inspires others.




Me: So did you have some good mentors early on?

Paul: Yes, indeed, and hindsight is 20/20. Every time I moved, the purpose was to expand my growth. Every time I went somewhere, someone with the experience was there to teach me. There is really no way to know the impact one has on someone, whether it is for a small moment, a conversation, etc... We do not know how big our impact is on others. It is important how I treat others, and it is important that I affect others in a positive way. It is the total butterfly effect. A good leader, is a good mentor. They do no get upset or throw negativity on someone they are trying to mentor. Good leaders focus on the strengths needed to have a strong foundation built. Similar to a house. if the individuals within a team build a strong foundation, they can then all expand and build upon this; whether F&B, Rooms, etc... all our departments work together and are intertwined.

My takeaway:

We never know the effect we have on others. Whether a kind word of support, encouragement, some advice given from life experience, etc... we never know the reach we have with our words, and deeds with another. Paul is a real example, of someone who knows on a deep level that the impact someone has one on one with another, is truly significant and meaningful. Paul is someone who is definitely expansive in his energy, and is not only extremely self aware, but also keenly aware of others.



Me: So do you listen to any leadership podcasts? Read any leadership books? Attend leadership seminars?

Paul: I am pretty detached from social media, as I am more focused on one on one interactions with those who get it. This is one of the reasons I was so excited when you told me you were doing this. I am very excited for your platform and what you are doing.

My takeaway:

I am very detached from social media as well. I do not think this is a "bad" thing. Like Paul, I am very focused on one on one interactions, rather than social/group engagements. Many of us love the one on one, and social media is not as important to people like us, as it may be for others. To each his/her own. We are all unique, and value and enjoy things that light us up.



Me: Do you think there are a lot of good leaders out there? Company leaders? Cultural leaders? Organizational Leaders?

Paul: No, not really. Unfortunately, many of those in positions of leadership go through the motions.

My takeaway:

I agree with Paul. Many in "leaderships" positions, are going through the motions, and are not fully embracing what it means to be a leader, and most importantly a good leader. Paul is an example of an excellent leader, and there are some like Paul, who are within the hospitality arena, as well as within other industries and arenas. The good leaders like Paul, are leading, inspiring, and empowering others; so hopefully there are many more good leaders finding their stride, and embracing their impact that they have on those around them. I believe we are all "born" leaders. The more one can be fully present with another – share their gifts, talents, uniqueness, perspectives, life lessons and experiences with others; the more people will be comfortable being fully themselves. Good leaders do indeed help build other leaders.




Me: You show an extremely high degree of empathy. You are one of the few people, who have asked these last six/seven months through this "shut down" – how am I doing? You know I work alone for the most part, and even on our call last week, you asked me again, how am I doing? And I could really feel like you cared, and were indeed interested in how I am doing. Your empathy is quite rare, in an industry that is all about "hospitality;" where it should indeed be the norm. Have you always been such a compassionate person?

Paul: Well, thanks for that. Yes, I believe I always have been. My grandmom used to say "that an angel kissed me on the forehead." So yes, kinda early on, I had this empathy and compassion for others.

My takeaway:

I have mentioned a lot, that our childhoods hold many keys. Who we were as children, are real indicators of who we really are, at our core. Unfortunately, there is much "programming" that happens by parents, teachers, peers, culture – telling others who they need to be, how they need to act, how they need to think, etc... I was very sensitive, kind, compassionate very early on as well, as a little girl. I was mostly criticized for these traits, unfortunately, and now that I am older, I know these are my greatest assets. I love what Paul's grandmom said about Paul, and I agree with her – "an angel has indeed kissed him on the forehead."





Me: So, empathy and compassion are surely the "buzz" words these days... you clearly have a high level of both. I know your team is blessed to have you as their GM. You and I have been speaking since this "shut" down began, six/seven months ago. The words that have come up regularly since then, (but first couple months especially) from those within the hospitality industry, trying to navigate daily with protocols, slim staff, lower than usual occupancies, etc... – "weird;" "bizarre" times. How have you been able to keep your staff engaged, while having to navigate through these times with them? More meetings?

Paul: Well, with a very limited staff, every day we all evolve and learn – in real time. We have learned to work with less, and still do more. I have been fortunate to keep my team engaged, and they know I also care a lot. There is definitely more communication, but less meetings. I am having face to face conversations all day long with all departments. I value all relationships. I oversee 88 employees, and 50 different vendors. We want to keep them employed and how I deal with them all is important. We show each other respect, and whether I speak with someone for five minutes, or longer than that... having heart and compassion is at the forefront. Everyday is an opportunity to build a relationship with someone, or strengthen one. We are understanding that this "new normal"/"unknown" will be for a while now, and we understand we need to be strong and work as a team for this long haul. I have seen all the individuals on my team, step up to the plate, and have a positive demeanor,; and that means the world to me. As a team, we have grown together, and this is unifying us.

My takeaway:

With so many in the hospitality industry struggling on many levels, Paul is a terrific example of how he has been able to guide his team, and use the times we are in to grow, and develop his team. True leaders, and great ones, in my opinion, are able to go through "crisis" and find some silver linings. These times we are in, have made many stronger, especially emotionally and mentally. Also, relationships and teams have indeed grown stronger. All in leadership positions, can learn a lot from Paul.... he walks his talk.





Me: So people that really know me, know I am an artist at my core, and I have "a thing" for artists, and other creatives. I know you like to feature local artists at your hotel, and I was quite intrigued by the works and art of Nobel Truong. What can you tell me about his art, and how you incorporate his art within your hotel? Like those Cacti of his, I found so enchanting......


Paul: Yes, those neon cacti. .. We have those in our renovated rooms, and the material it is made of – lights up with the sunlight. We have his art in our books and menus in the rooms. When we do collaborations, they are specific for the hotel. Before all this shut down, we partnered a lot with artists in CA and NY. Most recently, we have been doing a collaboration with a local tattoo artist. We have a hallway that goes into the cafeteria. It is a brick wall, that kinda looks like a prison. Only the employees see it. But we wanted to make it nicer, so this amazing tattoo artist, Shyanne, is doing a mural on the wall.

My takeaway:

This is so cool! I love artists! I wish there was more appreciation in our society, for those who are artists, and those who have innate creative talents and gifts. The sense of community, culture, and art, Paul has been able to blend, is definitely worth noting. Beauty, creativity, talent are no doubt some of the "invaluables" of life.




Me: So how did this employee hallway come about? I think this is fascinating. I am a big believer in having beauty, nature, etc... within our environments, whether at home or at work. I am so intrigued how you wanted to make beautiful the space where no guests would even see.... just to create some art and beauty, for your employees and for their upliftment, and appreciation.

Paul: Well, I was speaking with one of our pool bartenders, and she said that she knew a great tattoo artist – this is a friend of hers. I then reached out to her.

My takeaway:

Paul is a prime example of a great leader – always looking to add talent to his team, and what he is creating within his work and environment.



Me: So, it is clear to me, you empower, and inspire others. Your example of this is profound to me. As we have chatted about a lot, we never know how we can touch others, affect others, inspire others, etc... You do walk your talk in your clear and deep understanding of the butterfly effect.

Paul: Well thank you. At the end of the day, I believe it is not how high I climb, I want to help others climb higher. Once I reach a mountain top, I want to enjoy the ride with others, and also reach down and help another climb even higher than I can climb.

My takeaway:

Paul = exceptional individual and leader!



I want to thank Paul so much for his time, insights, perspectives, as well as amazing and warm personality. He is a light and an inspiration to many! I know he inspires and empowers me, each time we chat.

  • VisionPassionFaith

Updated: Nov 11

With Ana Maria Viditchi

My third interview of this series is with Ana Maria Viditchi who is Executive Director of Merchandising at MGM Resorts International. Hope you enjoy...

Me: So what is your definition of a good leader?

Ana: Good leaders pull from others' strengths and ally their team to grow. For me, my perspective is that good leaders have the ability to engage their team, and get their team energized. Growing a company is not just about the leader, but also about who the leader surrounds themselves with. They allow people to grow and show their talents.

My takeaway:

Good leadership is never just about the leader. Those who inspire others to grow, and showcase their individual's team talents, is what good leaders like Ana do. We are all strong at something, and good leaders know how to encourage, and focus on strengths, and individual growth. Ultimately, when leaders build up their team, as individuals, this fosters the thriving and flourishing of the team as well



Me: I saw MGM Resorts was named by Forbes, "One of the World's Best Employers" ... Congrats on that – so well deserved! I got to see your team in action, when I reached out to your team on some business we are doing with MGM. Everyone on your team was more than responsive, supportive, and amazing. Is this typical of the types of individuals MGM hires?

Ana: Yes, thanks for that. MGM Resorts does like to promote and hire from within, and we also do hire outside the company as well. For example, for our property in Maryland, MGM National Harbor, we hired many individuals from the local market who were seeking new career opportunities. Whether we are promoting from within the organization, or hiring outside, it is important for all of our employees to understand our company culture and work to develop and grow their teams. Some individuals who have worked with me for many years and are looking for advancement within our company, I focus on their strengths, and also make sure they are acquiring the skills they need to make their tool box complete. Everyone has unique talents and strengths and we work to capitalize on those as much as possible. And while we are working hard, we also want to make sure we are creating an environment that is fun and exciting for everyone as these teams are our second families.

My takeaway:

The fact that Ana understands people's uniqueness, talents, and strengths is an important quality in any great leader, in my opinion. We all have gifts, and we all have strengths. Most in a "leadership" role – whether leading a family, company, organization.... do not take the time to understand individual gifts, and strengths. They instead focus on weaknesses, and things that are not innate within the person. This is "lack of leadership" in my opinion. Showcasing and expanding upon what people are good at, is the mark of a great leader. Also as Ana mentions, she makes sure her individuals are acquiring skills along the way to make their "tool box complete." We all want to learn and grow, and be the best of who we are, not put into a box and stifled into what someone wants to create us to be. Growth and self expression of talents and gifts is expansive, and expands one energy. Putting others in boxes that are not "meant" for them is quite contracting, and contracts one's energy.





Me: So you and I got to know one another in the beginning of this entire "shut" down of our industry, before we were even working together. We connected on a human level. I remember our first conversation like it was yesterday, when I could feel the stress and uncertainty we were all under, and we chatted a bit about – it being ok to not be "ok" and "fine" all the time. The culture we live in today expects everyone to be fine and happy all the time. And this is one of the many reasons, I think so many are struggling on a deep level. We have totally made it not ok, to have any emotions but happiness and being fine. I am very sensitive, and was told that was not a good trait most of my life. Only a few think it is my super power, and I know it is one of my greatest strengths and gifts. During the last six months, people have opened up to me and shared so much, I am quite fascinated at the fact that people respect me, and feel so comfortable with me to share things they are going though in their business lives, and personal lives. We are all individuals, and all unique in many ways, but similar as well in many ways. People want to be understood for who they are, and accepted for how they feel also. I have had the pleasure of interacting with many on your team, and they all seem to also have this level of sensitivity and caring, unlike many other organizations within the hospitality arena. I think this is special and is really noted, since I have been in this industry since 2001, and interact with so many daily. Is this something that is instilled in your company culture? Genuine caring, embracing, and honoring individuals? Also the incredible level of service you all provide?

Ana: Yes, we have an amazing company culture, and I am very aware of what happens within my team. And thank you for saying this, as we do focus and prioritize people and service. Especially during these times, it is important for people to feel supported and know how others are feeling. I regularly ask my team, how they are doing. Do they need to take a day off? Is there anything I can do to take tasks off someone's plate, if they feel overloaded. Is their work load manageable? I ask my team about their families, many have children that are not in school, etc... People are going though a lot more than normal, especially in their personal lives outside of work. I also do make it a point to highlight successes. We all need that.

My takeaway:

Ana is an exceptional individual and leader. She does take the time to ask others how they are doing, and she genuinely cares, and is interested. She is not someone who is in denial as to how many are struggling in some/many areas of their lives, navigating through these times, and she is proactive in her support as well as encouragement. Also her sensitivity and presence is very refreshing. Everyone should be lucky enough to work with someone like Ana – she is special!




Me: I am not sure that many understand the importance, especially during times of crisis – both personally and professionally, how important having a team and a support system helps. You embody true good leadership. You understand this on a deep level. How have you been able to grow as a leader like you have? You have been with MGM for a while. Do you listen to any leadership podcasts? Read leadership books?

Ana: Well, it is impossible to do anything alone. We need one another, and the support of others. Regarding our work culture, this is why we need collaboration, which is very important. We are a big company, and all departments work together. We help one another, and it is imperative to work together. Our guests expect a seamless experience, and we are committed to ensuring this. I have been with MGM Resorts for 19 years, and the company's business model is to collaborate, grow, support one another, and work together. We are efficient, and also sensitive. Many are understandably getting somewhat "tired" through this, and many are just trying to "survive." We help and support one another to not lose our momentum, and we make sure everyone on our team is good. It is hard to plan, so we are finding ways together for balance, and embracing different approaches to what is working. In terms of leadership books, I am reading right now. The Sponsor Effect, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. It is a really good book, as to how one can see themselves as a sponsor/sponsoring people to grow. Our company is also good about leadership meeting and programs; workshops; courses; and guest speakers, whether a sports figure, or a celebrity chef, etc....

My takeaway:

It is indeed impossible to do anything alone. We all need one another and the support of others!




I want to thank Ana so much for her time, and for this interview. She is stellar, and I am very fortunate to know someone like Ana!

  • VisionPassionFaith

With Laura Russell-Nygard

My second interview of this series is with Laura Russell-Nygard who is Spa & Wellness Director at The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana. Hope you enjoy...

Me: So what is your definition of good leadership?

Laura: Well, good leaders treat people like they want to be treated. They don't just say this, but also do it. Also good leaders hold others' accountable. I will back up anyone on my team, but when someone is an "ass" LOL - I will hold them accountable. Good leaders believe in themselves and get through everyday the best they can. If one day, the "shit hits the fan," LOL - tomorrow is a new day. Especially in the times we are now in, good leaders take things day by day, doing what is best for everyone; themselves, their team, and the business. We all just hope we all get through this in the end. Every day I start with the intention that I am going to have a good day, and spread positivity all day long.

My takeaway:

Taking one day at a time, and doing the very best is exactly what great leaders, such as Laura do. Also, knowing that every day will not be "perfect" is something good leaders embrace, as every day is an opportunity to do good and be better.



Me: Do you listen to any podcasts? Read books on leadership?

Laura: I do listen to podcasts, and I do like Ted Talks. I am one of those leaders, who also talks to colleagues and those in the executive team, to bounce ideas around, and share knowledge.




Me: Do you have more meetings with your team now, to help navigate these times?

Laura: Yes, sometimes we all have anxiety attacks together. LOL. We are in times when the world is in an uproar, and we need to hold each other up and give each other kindness, appreciation, etc... We share things, and yes, I am a boss, but my team also knows I am a friend, and we are all part of a work "family." I think it is important that we figure things out together. I like to see what tools I can provide for the individuals on my team to do their jobs better. I like to see how we can help each other, and come together, if this is indeed the "new normal." We do need to come together when the "shit hits the fan," figure it out, and we need to have the tools in place to do our job effectively. We were closed for two months, even though the Resort was open the whole time, so once the Spa opened, and the floodgates opened, we were so busy - it was like we went from zero to one hundred with this "new normal." It was important for us all to get in the groove again, and that takes a team effort.

My takeaway:

The hospitality industry has been hit extremely hard, as have many other industries. The last six/seven months or so, has been very challenging for most. Whether this is the "new normal" or just plain "abnormal" - it is what it is. Good leaders like Laura are figuring things out, pulling their teams closer, and finding tools to successfully navigate these times.




Me: How do you think a good leader navigates crisis?

Laura: Well, it is ok for us to fall apart, during this roller coaster ride for a second. It is really important during this roller coaster ride to give each other appreciation, support, and kindness, while getting in a groove again.



Me: So in my last interview, we touched a bit on the topics of empathy and compassion, which seem to be the "buzz" words now, in any recent discussions on leadership, as well as the issues of narcissism in leadership. Many "esteemed" leaders in families, companies, government, management are narcissist, as they tend to be quite arrogant, demeaning towards others, abusive, controlling, overly demanding, and I do not think these people are "good "leaders." It is my opinion that leaders build up others, and most importantly create more leaders; empowering others to be the best versions of themselves. These other types of "narcissistic leaders" tear people down, and their energy is parasitic in nature. They want to be buffed up, and dim the light of all those around them. I think this is quite abusive, self serving, and potentially dangerous to the spirit of individuals.. Thoughts?

Laura: Well, in the past I may have been a bit of an "arrogant" leader. I had to take the time to learn not to be. We are a small spa, and there are 12 of us here and me. I have to be empathetic. It is quite funny that you asked this question, as I was just talking last week with my team about this. I feel like this year, I have had to be more empathetic. I listen more to others' opinions, and I am a better listener. I believe we can all learn from one another. I also know that I need to be a shoulder to cry on. I am more open to listening to other's ideas, as I don't know everything about everything. I think a good leader acknowledges this, and seeks to grow, learn, and evolve and be better. I am also understanding that sometimes taking a step back in my role for a moment, may be what I need to do, so I can recalibrate.

My takeaway:

The self awareness Laura has is impressive, as I believe that self awareness is one of the main qualities great leaders have. To be self aware takes a tremendous amount of work and effort, and many do not have the level of self awareness, or the consciousness needed to grow, evolve, and inspire. True leaders inspire others to be their best, as they are doing the same.




Me: I talk with people in the hospitality industry daily, as well as other industries. Many people seem so unhappy and unsatisfied in their work. Any thoughts on this?

Laura: Well, no one is tethering another to a job, or chaining another to a job. There also may be things that can stimulate one to like their job more, and it is the leader's responsibility to talk with the individuals within their team, and chat about things such as this. Many times people can be happy where they are, and do find something they can love and embrace within their work. If someone can not be happy at their work, then possibly, they do need to look in the mirror, and also ask themselves what they are passionate about and why. Taking the plunge to embrace new things can also be a positive step forward.

My takeaway:

I agree with Laura that one does need to look in the mirror and ask themselves what they are passionate about, and why. I think this is something we should all do regularly. I do think many are so far away from who they are, their innate talents, gifts, as well as real passions and joys, that they need time to reflect on what did they liked doing as a young child. I think the keys to so much are in one's childhood. We are all born with innate gifts, talents, and joys - things we just love doing. Whether parents, or teachers, or peers, or culture, etc..... most get "programmed" out of who they really are at their core. I believe a true leader wants others to live their gifts, express their talents, and be happy and fulfilled. I agree with Laura, no one is "tethering" another to a job, and the past is the past, so looking within, and also reflecting on childhood dreams, and wonders- does hold many clues for most.




Me: One last question - which you probably already know, I am going to ask you. LOL. The role of humor. So when I built my kids sunglass company, I had lots of celebrity moms and dads, sport my shades on their little ones. Matthew McConaughey was by far one of the most sincere, gracious, grounded, and kind celebrities. I am a big fan of Joe Rogan, and Joe had Matthew on his podcast a few days ago. Matthew spoke about the importance of a sense of humor.


You and I laugh a lot. Humor adds lightness to "heavy type conversations." Do you think there is a place for humor in leadership? thoughts?

Laura: Yes, of course. Laugher makes us feel jovial, and we can breathe. I was doing a laughter yoga class, and in the beginning, it may feel like we are forcing the laughter out. But once we get through the first minute or two, it is actually fun, and it comes naturally. I do remember when you sent me that funny video- The Vic DiBitetto one.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAzRwYVwxXI, Necessity is the Mother of Invention)

When all this shut down first started, and everyone was not sure how to handle anything, there was tons of anxiety and fear. That was too funny a video, and you and I have laughed a lot since then. I think we need laughter in the darkness of this world. Laughter provides a lightness and love, kind of like a child-like presence. There is a love to laughter and it does lighten up the mood. I try and laugh with my team. I also think with all this wearing of masks, we can not see people smile anymore. It used to be, when someone smiled, even if a stranger, a smile makes one feel good, and somehow appreciated. The world is in a "shit place" so to hear each other laugh is a good thing. I also believe that when I can be humorous with others on my team, I can be vulnerable, and also be myself around them; so we do have fun at work, and enjoy each other.

My takeaway:

So well said. I love to laugh, and I agree, laughter is very child-like and we need to laugh more. It not only lightens the mood, but I think it does something to our cells biologically. When we laugh, I think our cells are happy. Laura makes the excellent point, that we are not able to see others' smile anymore, and smiling, similar to laughter is good for the body and soul. Matthew McConaughey also talks not just about sense humor/laughter, etc... he also talks of the importance of recalibrating, raw expression, frequency, journaling, etc.... worth a listen!




#Energy roi



So I want to thank Laura so much for this interview. As you can see, she is a light, a joy, and an exceptional leader. She has a warm heart, tons of love, and is so genuine, anyone who is blessed to know her, whether personally or professionally or both - is fortunate!!!


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