Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Steve Wynn Reads

Speaking of Steve Wynn (see my blog post of April 13th below), Joel Kurtzman tells a good story about the casino mogul in his new book, Common Purpose [Jossey-Bass].

The culture at Wynn Resorts, Kurtzman explains, rewards heroic efforts by employees to take care of the company's customers, and then to share these experiences with fellow staffers. The company has an internal website for employees to tell their stories of what they did to make guests happy. The objective in sharing their stories is to transfer the experiential learning so that each employee more fully grasps the essence of the Wynn Resorts experience.

Stories like the one of the bellman who helped an elderly guest to her room, upon which the guest realized she left some needed medication back home. Not to worry. Here is what happened next, as Kurtzman recounts:

"The bellman wrote down the woman's address in Los Angeles, and at the end of his shift and on his own initiative, he changed his clothes, went down to the employee parking lot, and got into his car. He filled the tank with gas and proceeded to drive four and one-half hours through the desert to the Los Angeles suburb where the woman lived. He knocked on the door of the house and was let inside by the woman's son, who handed the bellman the bottle of pills.

"The bellman then climbed back into his car and drove another four and a half hours to Las Vegas. When he arrived, he put on his uniform, rode the elevator to the guest's floor, and delivered the pills to the astonished, delighted, and relieved woman.

"When he was finished, he went to the employee lounge and posted his story on the website so other people could learn from his actions on behalf of a guest."

There are hundreds of such stories on the company website. The No. 1 reader of the site is, you guessed it, Steve Wynn. Kurtzman notes: "Bellmen, clerks, waiters, and maintenance people know the company's founder is seeing and thinking about their stories of heroism at work."

I call Wynn an impresario — someone who makes things happen with an extra bit of zing and swagger — in my blog posting below. Kurtzman in his book calls Wynn "a consummate hotelier, showman, casino operator, and real estate operator." I think we both have it right. And we both know, as do most boards of directors, that Corporate America needs more leaders of this kind — CEOs who, as Kurtzman's book is subtitled, "get organizations to achieve the extraordinary."