At age 74, you wouldn't think it would be on the top of his “to do” list to start a blog. Yet that is exactly what J.W. (Bill) Marriott, chairman and CEO of Marriott International, did in 2007 when he started “Marriott on the Move.”

“More than anything else, a blog is a way to put a personal face on the company,” he explains. “They're coming to the blog to find out what you think. They want to know about you as a person. That's why I talk about my golden retriever, my grandchildren, movies I've seen, and so many fun things that we do as a family.” In fact, personal anecdotes have helped to make Bill Marriott's blog ( popular with both Marriott employees and hotel guests alike.

A Commitment to People

It's just one example of a lifelong dedication to personal learning and growth that Bill Marriott seeks from — and inspires in — every one of the 150,000-plus associates working at more than 3,100 Marriott properties in nearly 70 countries around the globe.

This is a CEO who understands that companies thrive by giving their associates a chance to grow, and he has fostered that culture at Marriott throughout his career.

“Many of our senior managers and our general managers have all come up through the ranks,” he says with some pride. “Our head of North American lodging operations — who is responsible for more than 2,000 hotels — started as a waiter. The head of all international hotels started as a security guard. I started by working in the kitchen in Salt Lake City for four years.”

Culture of Recognition

There are amazing similarities among his employees around the world, says Marriott. “They want to be recognized, they want to be taken care of, they want to get fair pay, and they want opportunity. We provide a place for people to grow, and we do our best to take care of our people. We also take care of our customers — and they come back. It's very simple, easily translated, and it's really very global.”

One way Marriott takes care of his people is by recognizing and rewarding talent. For example, Marriott's Golden Circle recognition program, administered by Maritz, is targeted at associates in sales, revenue management, and event management around the world. Associates are recognized on a quarterly basis for surpassing their individual goals during the year.

Weathering Tough Times

It's easier to take care of people in good times, but what about in the bad times? How is the current recession impacting the hotel industry?

As Bill Marriott sees it, “Business has become softer and business travel has come down, which is a great concern to our industry. This is a very uncertain economy, an uncertain world.”

But Marriott has weathered tough times in the past — and he will again. For more of my interview, visit

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc.; a frequent presenter to management teams, conferences, and associations; and a best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook. Visit for more information.