Just eight months into her new role, Heather McCrory’s position of CEO, North & Central America, for Accor is already in full bloom. The CEO is focusing her expertise not only on growing Accor, but solidifying gender equality and diversity in the workplace as well.
“My focus is on the incredible growth potential for our luxury and lifestyle brands in North and Central America. At the same time, those new opportunities need exceptional leaders,” she said.
For the past three years, McCrory has served as the region’s Executive Sponsor for Accor’s global RiiSE program, an internal initiative promoting gender equality and diversity, and building upon the competencies of women who have the potential to become general managers and senior leaders. Accor is committed to a goal of a minimum of 35% female GMs by 2020.
For her part, McCrory fell in love with the industry when she began her career more than 30 years ago.
“We always have the opportunity to meet new people, whether it’s our guests or employees who bring some of the most incredible destinations in the world to life,” the CEO said. “Every day is different, and there is always an opportunity to learn and grow.”
McCrory began her hospitality career at the property level, at the Banff Springs Hotel in Canada.
“I was promptly put where I could best contribute—the laundry department,” McCrory recalled. “It was hot and hard work, but it was also a lot of fun.”
Although taxing, McCrory appreciates the principles her first position instilled in her. “It definitely led to an early understanding of productivity and the need for teamwork. This understanding has stayed with me. You simply can’t manage that volume of work without focus and commitment to productivity. And you really can’t do it without a cohesive, engaged team,” she said.
After that role, McCrory worked in F&B, as well as various sales and operations roles.
“I’ve run the gamut of roles within the organization. I also completed my MBA while working full time, which opened up the transition from revenue management/sales to operations,” she added.
McCrory pointed to her time at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto as regional VP/GM as a critical learning experience.
“It was nothing short of a right-angle learning curve, but it was absolutely the best move for me to gain an incredible depth of operational experience. I learned everything I could about those areas of the business that weren’t my strong suit,” she said. “I relied heavily on a phenomenal leadership team at the hotel. I had great support from my boss, who gave me license to ask any question. I kept an open mind, worked hard, knew my blind spots and filled the gaps, as I asked a lot of questions, listened and learned. The bottom line is if you believe you can do it, you can.”
This current journey has just begun for McCrory, but she has already made it a priority to meet and speak with more than 750 of Accor’s leaders to discuss its three-to-five-year vision of Accor North and Central America.
“I share our focus on luxury and lifestyle growth, the role they play and how it impacts them,” she explained. “These meetings are so important to me as they connect our teams in the field with the group’s vision and give them the opportunity to ask any burning questions while allowing us all to get to know each other better.”
McCrory has also made major strides with Accor’s Women on the RiiSE conference in October, hosting employees from across the North and Central America region identified as having a high potential for the GM or senior leadership track.
“Our agenda focused on specific areas that were identified by the participants in the first conference as pertinent to moving into these roles,” she said. “We want our exceptional performers, of any gender, to know that the opportunity to grow to senior leadership is available and encouraged, and we want to help them get there.
“Our research shows that the best-performing hotels, by all key metrics—colleagues, guest, brand and financial—embrace our diversity mission,” McCrory continued. “The purpose of this is not about women, specifically, but more about equality and inclusion. We want the strongest slate of candidates when hiring for leadership roles, but for whatever reasons, women who are equally competent have been underrepresented on that leadership track. We’re working hard as a company to change that.”
One goal of McCrory’s that’s both professional and personal? “I am fully committed to the goal of raising the percentage of women at the GM level or higher in my region to 50%,” she noted, saying she hopes for this to come to fruition by 2022.
She also hopes to build Accor’s brand profile through the new Accor Live Limitless (ALL) program and to ensure pipeline efforts are in motion—from the acquisition and integration of 21c Museum Hotels into the MGallery Hotel Collection earlier this year to openings such as Sofitel Mexico City Reforma, Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles and Raffles Boston Back Bay.
Adding to her personal goals,
McCrory said that being present and open-minded are key. “It’s a basic respect issue. Learn finance and accounting, understand how to read a spreadsheet, but also learn to craft a good story around it. Communication is key today, and it is about your ability to be concise and simplify. Don’t take things personally, absorb what you can to help improve but then let it go, and don’t take things too seriously,” she said.
McCrory relies on a quote from The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer: “In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.”
Paying attention is not always an easy task, but McCrory finds ways to balance and appreciate the present.
“I have an Instagram account dedicated to the flowers I encounter on my travels called 365blossoms, and I enjoy the social experiment of it all,” she said. “It takes me two minutes, it’s creative and it links back to my pre-hotel days when I was determined to have my own floral shop. If you’re wondering, I do have a very strong opinion on the flowers in every hotel lobby.” HB