SMITH BRAIN TRUST — Kimo Kippon earned generous tips as a waiter in Hawaii, so he actually took a step down in pay when he moved into management. "It was a desire to be part of something bigger and to really help people," Kippon says in episode 3 of Beyond Business, a podcast series hosted by professor Gary Cohen at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. The move paid off for Kippon, a Hawaii native who now leads global talent development and workflow initiatives as a senior leader at Hilton Worldwide. "I enjoy the opportunity to be able to influence, lead and see people grow and develop into what they want to be," Kippon says. He shares five keys that have guided his career.
1. Spread the joy. Many business leaders focus first on earning money. Kippon agrees that profit is important, but he has learned to look at the problem from the other end, starting with people. "Happy employees lead to other happy employees, which then leads to happy customers," he says. "Happy customers tell other happy customers about their experiences, and that leads to more customers, and that leads to more growth and ultimately more profitability."
2. Speak up, then listen. Early in his career, Kippon attended a management training workshop in Los Angeles and decided he would like to be the person standing in front of the room. So after the session he approached the facilitator and asked her: "How do I get your job?" She laid out a formula that included finishing college and getting as much practical experience as possible. Kippon took notes and followed through. He started teaching at a community college and leading local training programs at Marriott, where he worked at the time.
3. Live without regret. Opportunities started coming fast for Kippon. He moved to Marriott headquarters in Maryland and started leading professional development programs all over the world. A headhunter approached him during this period and invited him to run training programs in Rome for international managers at Dairy Queen, Orange Julius and Karmelkorn. Kippon asked himself a simple question: Would he have regrets if he turned down the offer? "I would have regrets," he says. "So the answer was I had to go do it."
4. Have your pie. Kippon says people who work hard, stay alert and seize opportunities can continually reinvent themselves and develop, even if they stay in the same organization. "I operate out of a theory of abundance," he says. "Great organizations offer great experiences and great jobs, which lead to great careers." He says it's like working at a candy store or pastry shop. "There's pie for everybody," he says.
5. Pick your lessons. Kippon has worked with many great leaders during his career. But everyone has flaws. Kippon's response is to take the best from each person and ignore the rest. "These leaders — whether or not you think they are good, bad or otherwise — there's always something that you can learn from every leader that you have," Kippon says. "It could be as simple as, 'That's not the right way to do it.'"
Listen to his full conversation with Cohen below (43:12), and check out other Beyond Business episodes.