Good Leadership, Part Three of Series
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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....
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!