Ater nearly 50 years at the helm, FourSeasons Hotels and Resorts’ ounder IsadoreSharp stepped down rom the CEO role in2010. And in the wake o this momentousevent, notes Nick Mutton, executive vicepresident o human resources and administra-tion, the hospitality company has been goingthrough “a process o change rom a ounder-based company, where [Sharp] had completecontrol o decision making, to a new structureo shared decision making.”From its beginnings as a humble “motorhotel” in Toronto in 1961, Four Seasons nowoperates 85 hotels in 35 countries, and hasmore than 35,000 employees on its payroll.Gone are the days when an executive suchas Mutton could, on his own, travel theglobe to bring the company’s culture toevery destination.Further, as President and CEO Kathleen Taylortold us, international expansion has broughtnew complexities to the very question o culture. “We came to realize that you couldn’ttake a North American ocus and transplantit elsewhere,” she says. “There are subtletiesaround how services are delivered, how peopleare addressed, how interactions betweenemployees and guests occur. In our business,it’s very important to understand the culturalnuances o all the dierent locales.”Taylor’s solution has been to make sure theright team is at the top—and that memberswork together eectively on the mostimmediate leadership concerns.For Four Seasons’ executive leadership team,it has been critical to ensure that tacticaldecisions don’t get in the way o strategicwork. “We’ve mapped out a strategy that willcentralize the strategic discussion and deci-sion making,” notes Taylor, “but decentralizethe preparatory work, strategic recommenda-tions and tactical decision making.”Five committees, each chaired by a mem-ber o the team, are responsible or makingsure that whatever needs to be decided getsresolved quickly, and or deciding whethercertain issues need to come to the ull execu-tive leadership team. This rees up the teamitsel to take on the long-term issues that arecritical to the company’s uture success.The executive leadership team takes specialcare to ensure that the right people are inthe room to make decisions—meaning thereare networks and concentric circles o deci-sion makers or dierent types o leadershipdecisions. HR chie Mutton explains: “We’renow making decisions in a collaborative wayor several major areas o concern or thecompany. First always is talent development,because our business depends on people torun the businesses around the world.”Other leadership decisions address the per-ormance o each hotel, worldwide develop-ment, investment and innovation. Thus, FourSeasons has been able to develop a clearleadership charter at the top while maintain-ing agility through its networks o leaders.Being oriented toward the uture—the thirdleg o eective global leadership teams—isnot easy in a hospitality company. As EllenDubois du Bellay, vice president o globalinitiatives, puts it, “The business we are inis driven by the guest in ront o you today,by the shareholder who owns your hoteltoday, and by quarterly results that they’reexpecting at the end o this month. We alsolive in an environment [where all theseconsiderations are] always unpredictable.”Dubois du Bellay also points to the dicultyany global company aces in dealing withlong distances and many time zones: “Ourchallenge is to get people on the phone andinvolved in decisions when they should besleeping, or enjoying time with their amilies.”Taking control o the leadership pipeline isa big part o handling this unpredictability.CEO Taylor notes that “we have senior lead-ers rom every part o the world.” Muttonadds that the company has a talent manage-ment system in place that keeps track o “who is ready, willing and able to move tothe 96 projects in 37 countries.”With a ocused, agile team at the top and awell-stocked leadership pipeline, Four Seasonsis preparing itsel to weather the uncertaintythat the uture will inevitably bring.
Changing the guard at Four Seasons