Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Mirage

A Mirage

Where you were 25 years ago today? Most people can’t remember, but I do: I was looking at a mirage.

I spent the 28 months leading up to November 22, 1989 working on opening the Mirage, the Polynesian-themed hotel with the Volcano on the Las Vegas Strip that almost singlehandedly remade this city and the gaming industry.  My job: hiring for attitude (interviewed 55,000 applicants), training for skills (6500 new employees in over 600 job classifications) and building a culture of service excellence (it’s all about the people).  On this day 25 years ago, the Mirage opened to record crowds, rave reviews, worldwide notoriety, and personal accomplishments for those of us lucky enough to be there.

The work was hard (because nobody had done ever done things on such a massive scale before); it was big and mostly unique (in its scope, style and attention to detail).  We all were challenged to stretch beyond our natural limits in lots of directions (we didn’t know we weren’t supposed to be able to do the things we did), and because Steve Wynn believed all of it was possible, so did we.  When so many said it wouldn’t happen or couldn’t succeed, we worked even harder to make sure it did.

It wasn’t a mirage (with a little ‘m’): it was extensive planning and inspired execution; it was hiring for attitude and training for skills; it was making sure everyone was in the know; it was accepting (individually and collectively) our shared responsibilities, it was being committed to excellence with confidence and style, and it was understanding and fostering the linkage between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and profitability. It grew into the Mirage (with a capital “M”) because we adhered to those simple ideas.

Steve kept saying: “it’s not about the building”, and from that grew the culture of “being all about the people”. When the Mirage went from pre-opening dream to post-opening reality on this day in 1989, its success and culture were each built upon the principles and practices of people sharing a common purpose, working collaboratively, communicating openly, listening intently, explaining why, learning continually, recognizing personal performance, helping others to reach their potential, enjoying their work time, living the Golden Rule, and trusting each other to get things done right. The moral of the story: success and culture go together!

As I sit here and reminisce, I recall one of the countless stories from that unbelievable time: Sal Fazio was a Pit Manager who had previously worked for NASA in the group that developed the original lunar landing module: he obviously knew something about big and successful and momentous.  One day in the staff dining room he told me he’d never witnessed anything like the Mirage opening: from planning to people to execution. I’m thinking landing on and driving around the moon was one of the biggest and most incredible things the world’s ever seen; Sal’s thinking the Mirage was bigger: I had to think about that.

Being in the right place at the right time is a big part of life’s story, but I learned that to be successful means combining those with good planning, hard work, and dedication. For those of us on the Mirage team, it was a special Camelot-like time, when the stars aligned with the people, the place, the personalities and the pizzazz: one of those special moments that we'll forever tell our grandchildren about.

So the answer to the question: I know exactly where I was on this day in 1989: watching and living the opening of the Mirage.                                                                                         

My message this week is about doing what it takes to achieve success:

“Act as if it were impossible to fail. Dorothea Brande

Some days nothing seems to go right. You work hard, care a lot, pay attention to details, interact appropriately, and communicate effectively: but still, things sometimes go wrong.  It’s at those times that real professionals shine: they keep their cool, offer ideas and assistance, leverage their experience, and serve as a calming influence.  In other words: they act as if it were impossible to fail.  And when failure does occur, these supportive actions help others get through the challenges and learn from them. That’s what professionals do - failure is not an option of choice for professionals: their DNA makes them want to find solutions, and if they are less than successful then they learn for the next time.  And help others to do the same.  Act professionally today and help those around you be the best they can be. 

Stay well!

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