Updated: Aug 20, 2020
With Robert Holeman, GM/ Owner Sedona Real Inn & Suites
My sixth interview in my "Wellness for Real" series, is with one of the top leaders in the Hospitality Industry. During the past few weeks, I have gotten to know Robert, and how he has been navigating these times. He is a great example of a leader who genuinely cares about others, leads with his own heart, and then takes action. Though many in the Hospitality Industry are at home, some are still diligently working harder than ever, and learning more daily about how to navigate the times we are in. They are growing within themselves, and within their teams; and also developing tools and procedures to help make their own Hotel/Resort, the most "welcoming" place for guests to come for those ready for travel. It is wonderful to see a leader such as Robert, working so hard daily, taking steps to do his best for his guests, as well as his employees. Hope you enjoy!
Me: So I usually start off this series, with the question - what is your definition of "wellness?"
Robert: Well, there is indeed a broad aspect to wellness. I believe the first thing we need to look at is our own "mental" health. Without consciousness we can't get to physical health. For me, I am a "pile guy" - I have this pile for "this," and that pile for "that." When I can compartmentalize things, I learn to deal with things to get my own mental health positive. Not everyone thinks positive, so we are always bombarded with "negative interference."
We can't take care of our body, if we do not have the discipline to take care of our mental health. We can't take care of our spiritual health, if we do not have the discipline to take care of our mental health. Of course, there are many different variables, aspects, and levels of health.. One needs to look at and reflect upon where they are, at their own place in life. Looking at where we live, and our lifestyle; and expand on that. We can then create standards to focus on other aspects - i.e. eating well, exercising, etc... Thus, we can then sustain our life in a positive manner. We must create a foundation before we can do this.
Unfortunately, most want to skip the "homework" and go right to the "yoga" and "nutrition" parts and focus only on these. These indeed can be aspects of "wellness;" but dealing with one's own personal life, is key. The personal journey starts at home, and we can then delve and expand from there. Many people look at their own life, and want a better life, but do not want to do the work.
If one can not take responsibility for their own life, no one else will. Many times, people suffer when they think they know more than they do. It is important, especially in our business, to find people who are "successful" even if not in the "hospitality" industry. There are techniques we can learn and take and apply to our own business.
I totally agree with Robert. Most want to have a better life, but do not want to do the "work." I find that those who embrace the journey and find joy in the "home work" and enjoy the "process" - are happier, and healthier in general. They do not "sugar coat" life, and only look a what is positive and the "la la land" parts. They embrace the reality of life, as well as their environments - both immediate and also far (within the context of the whole); and are able to pivot and navigate better when they are faced with "challenging" circumstances.
Very few want to talk about "mental" health - but the mental aspect of wellness holds many of the keys to overall wellness. Also, keys to our wellness as a society in general. People who just want to live in their own "bubble" of reality, and focus only on meditation, yoga, and what they are eating, are "missing the boat" - as to what may really be going on in their own life, in society, and in the world. The media always has us "looking over there" - so very few are really looking at the truth. I think this is how people look at their "own" lives. They are "looking over there" and not really looking at their own truth. This is why I believe it is important for us to share ideas, and perspectives with those who are looking honestly and reflecting deeply within themselves as to how best to navigate life in general. I speak a lot about "seeking wise counsel" - we do not want to seek counsel from those who are not looking for truth, and are not willing to do their own work.
Me: Why do you think most do not want to "do their own homework"?
Robert: In my opinion, most who want a better life do not want to put in the work, and this is most of the mentality here in the US. Everyone here "gets a trophy" and this mentality is part of the problem. We don' t always get a trophy. When people don't face the struggles of life, instead of only one issue to deal with, they end up with fifteen or so, and have to try to correct them all at once. Our society's issues, compound our mental issues.
I agree with Robert! Those who do not face the struggles of life head on, have a harder time when faced with "challenges." These times we are in, are quite interesting, to see how others' are navigating- both personally and professionally.
I have been working in the Hospitality Industry for over 15 years, and from my perspective, the Hotels/ Resorts who are working through this, and learning how best to "navigate" these times, are going to have a "practical head start", when everything opens up. We learn by doing. The school of hard knocks is usually the best school.
Me: So I love your term- "negative interference". We are indeed bombarded by "negative interference" all day long/ every day. If one does not realize this, they are living in a bubble and not really doing things. Anything that involves fully living, working, and dealing with other people, deals with this "negative interference". So, how do you deal with "negative inference"?
Robert: Well, in our society, we are not taught how to deal with it. "Men don't cry", "sheep are sheep", etc.... . in today's society, in my opinion, there is much division. And this has been going on at least twenty years or so. Those who "have" and those who "have not." Now it has become "those who think one way" , and " those who think another way". There is an inability to listen to another's personal opinions, and expressions in general. This is negativity.
Look at the "Covid issue" - every day things are changing . Tomorrow there will be another study. Some say that this virus dies in sunlight at 80 degrees. Many are not talking about that. As we are all receiving information, as time goes on, it also gets "twisted". This is what I call "negative interference". Whether we are talking about business practices, the Bible, Covid, etc.... One needs to learn to take at look at the whole picture, and discern what is best for that individual.
I agree with Robert on all this. "Negative interference" is indeed something we all should be addressing. I have done a lot of things in my life. I have real life experience, and have gone to the school of hard knocks. When I share some of my perspectives from my own experiences, many do not want to listen. They shut it down, since they already know everything about the media, government, religions, business, etc.. This seems to continue on. (I have worked in media for some of the top media outlets, I have bootstrapped businesses from the ground up, I have studied almost every religion, and am well read in many philosophies, I went to law school, and have been in courtrooms with the "finest" attorneys, I have corresponded with top politicians and government agencies- real life experiences ).
This "negative interference" is very sad to me, but I do accept it. Only those who are open to listening to other's perspectives, and are not "threatened" by another's opinions, beliefs, perspectives can learn anything. In my opinion, the one who is truly "well" is the one who can listen to all perspectives, do their own research, listen to others' experiences from real life (not just read self help books and/ or text books)- and then sift all this through their own consciousness, as to what resonates for them.
A true leader like Robert, is learning daily, and doing; they are listening and learning from "wise counsel". Others are merely staying 'stuck" in their own perspectives, and merely talking about things- their life is an accumulation of "talking points." One of the most unfortunate things in our society (as it has been this way for a long long time) - very few independent thinkers. Most live in a "herd" reality. One of the many reasons, that this interview is a treat for me is that Robert is indeed an independent thinker, and a doer, and this is one of the best characteristics of a true leader.
Robert: So, let's take global warming as an example. I personally don't believe in global warming. As a society, we are getting conditioned to live in fear. The more fear that can be instilled, the more people can be controlled. Without my ability to talk with friends, and share my experiences, and put together perspectives i can not get rid of the "negativity".
Things resonate for you or for me . We are poisoning our heath and ourselves, by only looking at "sparkly" and not data.
Agree with Robert on all points. Can't just look at 'sparkly". Our society in general is mesmorized by the "shiny" things.
Me: So you have been GM for 24 years? And you and I have discussed the perspectives of navigating these times. In my opinion, some of the smaller type chains, as well as boutique hotels, such as yours, that have been "open" and navigating these times, may have an advantage over some of the larger chains that have been closed. What have you learned most during this time?
Robert: These times are bringing people closer together or farther apart. When people are in fear, they are not as honest, and don't say what is on their mind. Thus, less ability to talk about what is really going on in their lives.
Many of our guests that are coming are just wanting to get away.. They don't want to sit at home. They are not fearful. And they respect what we are doing... as a team, we are "navigating" this new world.
I wish that we had a bit more leniency. When we change operating systems, and are changing as we go , there are a lot of things that we can't anticipate. We are continuously updating and changing procedures. For example - our pools opened yesterday, and we have sanitizers by the pool. Most believe that sunlight kills germs and chlorine kills germs. We are sanitizing the pool areas, Going through these changes and procedures can be tiresome, and very cumbersome.
In our society. many "operators" are waiting for answers. Others are needing to figure things out, each independent property, one at a time. Also, getting employees back to work, can be an issue for some of the larger chains. Some want to stay at home, since many are making more money. These people
are " living in today", and not looking farther ahead..
This goes back to the original question on "wellness" - to be well, we need to accept change and maneuver through it. If we only live for today, then when we have to change, it is very painful, but when we are open to it, in bits and pieces. It is easier.
Very deep insights! From my perspective, I think that the smaller chains and boutique hotels will have a distinct advantage moving forward. There is something to be said about real life experience, and learning as you go. Those who have been working and navigating daily. and talking with others who are doing the same, are developing not only a better "tool kit" as to how to navigate these times, but are also developing some core strengths in many qualities relating to character. Resilience, determination, inner strength, compassion, understanding, empathy, and problem solving are qualities of any leader, and these qualities are amplified during times such as these. Being flexible, and being able to pivot, while keeping focused on the larger picture and goals, takes much presence as well as consciousness. Robert's ability to be resilient, determined, compassionate, along with his inner strength and fluidity in navigating these times is quite impressive!
Me: How do you think this will affect travel and hospitality in months to come? Do you think there will now be a "new normal"?
Robert: Aside from what I mentioned before regarding the pool area, we have now also incorporated many other procedures. For example, one of these protocols, is that we don't go into rooms for forty eight hours after guests check out. Our housekeeping does not go into the room for forty eight hours, and they are now disinfecting two to three times- door knobs, remotes, handles on the faucets. draw pulls. etc.. and then they do it again - three times. As you also already know, we are building stands for all the hand sanitizers, that we will have in all common areas.
In terms of the future. I am not sure anyone has an idea about the future. This is the reality. I need to stay positive, and keep doing my best, and continue moving forward. This is what positivity is about. To be positive is to live and accept what is, and what we have before us.... not live under a rock. There are many challenges right now in operating a business, and we need to hold on, maneuver, and be positive. If people are "waiting" around for others to "bail" them out, they will be" like toast," and a lot of people are unfortunately, sitting under a rock.
With people wanting to start traveling, it is good to know that there are places to go like Sedona Real Inn & Suites, where the leadership is so strong. Having "new" procedures in place, and working hard daily to ensure the procedures are "current" in these times, is imperative. Robert is a leader who truly cares about people. Aside from all of his new protocols, he has also made it a point to help others through these times, and he is supporting small businesses that are making products here in the USA. As an example- the face masks, as well as hand sanitizers he buys are USA made; while many of the larger brands are still buying products overseas, so they can save a few cents.
I agree with what Robert says about the future. Anyone who says they know for sure, the future of the Hospitality Industry/Travel Industry, I think they are mistaken. The ones who are embracing the unknown, and doing the best they can daily, are the ones who are being "positive" with their days. Acceptance of what is, and what is before us, as Robert says, is key!
Being flexible, open to learn, and pivoting; taking action - these are what leaders are doing, instead of "sitting under a rock."
Me: Obviously, you are very grounded. So do you have any daily practices to help you stay so grounded?
Robert: Meditation is a very important aspect in my life. We all meditate differently. I believe that the purest meditation is Buddhist. For me, exercise and mountain biking- being in the sunlight, sweating, and getting my heart pumping. I ride the same trails, and know the areas for recovery and relaxing. When I get my "epiphany" they are usually while mountain biking, and also in the shower. I am able to get epiphanies, maybe for two/three things that I am thinking about at other times during the day/week.
So, my exercising and being outdoors, having a healthy home life that I have with my wife, and living with a "structure of the day." I can eat the same lunch, and same dinner daily, and I am ok with that. When I am "unstructured," I am not as happy. I start with the mental/structure, then exercise, and as a result can find positive for the day. I like to have little signs that I am producing something with my set of goals; that I am attaining; and continual forward momentum.
So, for example. my goals - in business, I may be excited to have 20 reservations a day for the next couple weeks, and/or more reservations than cancellations. Then, when I get to 25-30 reservations and reduce cancellations to 1 to 4. I adjust my goals daily for positive outcomes. It is important to not sit around and wait for people to do it for you.
My first goal is to keep my ultimate goals in mind, and move forward bit by bit; little bites at a time.
Moving forward, step by step; acceptance; having some structured goals; being able to pivot. Also exercising, having time outdoors, and looking at one's foundation, I believe are all imperative in these times, especially.
I want to thank Robert so much for this interview, as well as being such an example of a true leader. We do not have many "true leaders" who are leading daily as Robert is.
For anyone who is fortunate enough to visit his location in Sedona, they will experience the true hospitality of a lovely boutique hotel.
For more information on Sedona Real Inn & Suites in Sedona, Arizona, 95 Arroyo Pinon Dr, Sedona, AZ 86336; Phone: 928-282-1414
Please visit: https://www.sedonareal.com