PROFILE OF DR. JEFFREY O
Dr. Jeffrey O is a globally renowned leadership expert, educator, CEO, author, and motivational coach.
He currently serves as president of the International Hospitality Institute (IHI) where he oversees IHI’s global operations. He is also Chairman of the Board at Telacoach®, a coaching, therapy, and advisor platform.
Dr. Jeffrey O has published several books of fiction and non-fiction, including books on motivation, leadership, and business. His social media posts have garnered over a quarter million followers. His high-energy presentations have inspired and activated audiences from different parts of the world. His mission is to walk with people and companies on a journey of discovery to help them uncover their purpose and find deeper meaning.
He is the creator of the START Model™, a goal-setting, goal-tracking, and problem-solving model developed for business executives and coaches.
An acclaimed business executive and thought leader, Dr. Jeffrey O has held leadership positions such as CEO, COO, and Divisional Vice President, and has managed annual portfolio revenues exceeding $250 million. He has served as a Board Member on Marriott International’s Rooms Advisory Board. He has served and currently serves on several boards and has coached senior executives on public speaking, executive presence, and strategic leadership.
Dr. Jeffrey O earned his PhD in Leadership Studies from Johnson University. Our interview with Dr. O touched on both his professional and personal life.
INTERVIEW WITH DR. JEFFREY O, PRESIDENT & CEO, INTERNATIONAL HOSPITALITY INSTITUTE
Dr. O, thank you for finding the time for this interview.
Thank you for the invitation. It is an honor to speak with Business Connect.
We are curious about your name. You are known worldwide as Dr. Jeffrey O, but no one seems to know your full last name. Dr. Jeffrey O sounds like the name of a mysterious character from a James Bond movie. Would you care to share your full name with us?
As a child, I read several of Ian Fleming’s books. I have caught a couple of the movies based on his books. My last name is Obomeghie. I think people find one syllable easier to manage than 4 syllables, hence Jeffrey O instead of Jeffrey Obomeghie.
Thank you for sharing that with us. Can you share some information about your professional background with our readers?
I will be glad to. I am currently the President and CEO of the International Hospitality Institute, the leading training, advocacy, and standards organization for th e global hospitality industry. I started my career as a front desk agent at a hotel, and then worked my way up to General Manager, Vice President, COO, and CEO.
I have worked in the hospitality industry in various roles. I started in the industry as a front desk agent and worked my way up to General Manager, Vice President, COO, and CEO. I have led several companies as CEO. In addition to the International Hospitality Institute, I am the Chairman of the Board at Telacoach, a coaching, therapy, and advisor platform.
As CEO, I have overseen an asset base valued at over one billion dollars with annual revenues of over 250 million dollars. Along the way, I have also worked as a Leadership Coach helping leaders become better versions of themselves. I have spoken to large and small groups from different parts of the world as a motivational speaker. I am a published writer.
How do you manage to find time to juggle these different projects?
I like to keep busy. I like to live by Benjamin Franklin’s quote: “Leisure is the time for doing something useful.” I must admit that I need to get better at finding time to decompress. I am a work in progress in that regard. We live in a society where it has become a badge of honor for CEOs and business leaders to work 80 hours a week. I have some CEO friends who brag about functioning on only 4 hours of sleep per night. I used to do the same thing. There is something wrong with that picture.
Some of us really need to change our thinking. We need to prioritize our time and spend more time with our families, doing the things that truly enrich our lives. No one is handing out medals at the cemetery. “Work-life balance” should not be dirty words. We need to stop judging people by the number of hours they work, instead we should judge them by the number of lives that they touch.
For many years, I was a part of the problem. Now I want to be part of the solution. I am helping people think about time in terms of fungibility, in terms or real value, in terms of perishability.
I have been a part of the problem. I need to do better for the sake of myself and my family.
Tell us about your educational background
I earned my bachelor’s degree in political science, my master’s degree in human resource training and administration and my PhD in Leadership Studies. My family is trying to dissuade me from doing additional degrees. I can understand their position; my children cannot inherit my degrees! The truth is, I love to read, I love to learn. I love the learning journey. I would undertake the journey even if there were no piece of paper waiting for me at the end.
Can you share the titles of some of your books?
My published books include; The World According to Jeffrey O; Get Rich, Get Happy, Get Love; There are One Million Drunks in New York City; Dead or Alive; The Collector of Butterflies; Abraham Lincoln is Not Dead; and The Woman Who. I have published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Which one of your books is your favorite book?
That is not a fair question! That is like asking a parent to name their favorite child.
Okay, let’s ask the question a bit differently. Which of your books has been your readers’ favorite?
Based on sales, that would be Dead or Alive, a fast-paced thriller that was published years ago. The book has been something of a bestseller for me. You can find all my books on my website at JeffreyO.com. They are all available via Amazon and other booksellers.
What is the biggest mistake that you have made professionally?
Let’s pluralize! I have made many mistakes. There have been points in my career where I displayed a lack of humility. I thought the world revolved around me. I was arrogant. Arrogant people often make mistakes. Instead of being patient, and learning from people around me, I dominated conversations, took charge, and led from the front. I was like a bull in a China shop. Winston Churchill once talked about John Foster Dulles as “the only bull who brings his own china shop with him.” That reminds me of myself.
I made costly mistakes. Thankfully, I had an awakening and did a volte-face. I started to listen more, to be more patient, to be willing to take the back seat, to shut up when I did not need to speak. Those were hard lessons but they proved to be rewarding lessons.
What advice do you have for young professionals in the hospitality industry who aspire to make it to the C-Suite?
Learn as much as you can about your chosen area. Be receptive to new learning. Find a mentor. Network like crazy. Be humble. Learn to be confident, but not arrogant. Learn to listen more than you talk. Be quick to give credit and slow to take credit.
What was your Eureka moment as a CEO?
Coming to terms with my own elitism and arrogance. Realizing that I needed to be more compassionate toward others. Realizing that I needed to listen more, and talk less.
What regrets do you have?
This question came up in a recent interview. I don’t like the word “regret.” I would rephrase the question as: If I had a chance for a do-over, a retake, what would I do differently? My answer? I would have focused less on making it to the C suite and more on doing work that would make a difference to people’s lives; work that is noble.
I have been able to redeem myself somewhat the past several years with my work as a coach, mentor, educator, and my involvement with Telacoach. I find a real sense of fulfilment in being involved in all of those projects. I believe that I am giving back in my own small way. I have a bunch of original inspirational quotes in two of my books, The World According to Jeffrey O, and Get Rich, Get Happy, Get Love. One of my quotes goes: “When you have made it out of the dark, don’t forget to leave the lamp on for the people coming behind you.”
Tell us about the International Hospitality Institute?
The International Hospitality Institute is the leading training, advocacy, and standards organization for the global hospitality industry. Our global community has over 200,000 members from all over the world. We have partners and a presence in various countries. IHI’s mission is to democratize hospitality training and help improve wage and work conditions for hospitality practitioners worldwide.
We offer various certification programs for the hospitality industry. IHI has also created the Hospitality Code of Ethics (known as the HCODE) for the hospitality industry. The HCODE is available to hospitality practitioners all over the world. The HCODE is the first and only hospitality code of conduct for the global hospitality industry.
IHI is also the publisher of the annual Hospitality Power Index™ which recognizes the Top 50 Most Influential Leaders in Hospitality in the USA and the Top 50 Most Influential Leaders in Global Hospitality. IHI is the organizer of the upcoming Global Hospitality Summit, a virtual event scheduled for November 9th and 10th, 2021.
What is the Global Hospitality Summit?
The Global Hospitality Summit is the biggest hospitality event of 2021. The event will bring together 50 of the world’s most respected thought leaders in the world of hospitality. The event will take place on November 9 and 10, 2021 and will be streamed live to thousands of hospitality professionals. IHI will record the event and share the recorded content with over 1 million professionals worldwide.
Do you have a keynote speaker?
I am glad you asked. Our keynote speaker is Horst Schulze, the Co-Founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, a man who is widely viewed as the leading hotelier in the world. Mr. Schulze is a selfless man, a torchbearer who has done great work for the hospitality industry. Our speakers are drawn from various sectors of the hospitality industry, including business, academia, and non-profit.
What is the registration fee to attend the Global Hospitality Summit?
The event is free to all attendees. The International Hospitality Institute is organizing the event as a benefit to the global hospitality industry. Our goal is to work with industry thought leaders to uncover solutions to the topical issues facing the hospitality industry.
You just mentioned topical issues facing the hospitality industry. Can you name some of these issues?
Labor shortage. Training challenges. Technological challenges. Leadership challenges. I must tell you that these issues are not isolated to our industry. Industries worldwide are contending with similar issues. However, the universality of the issues does not mean that we can ignore the issues or treat them with insouciance. Practitioners need to rise to the challenge and take effective action. In order to be able to figure out lasting solutions, we need to first develop an epistemological understanding of the issues.
What are your hobbies?
Reading, writing, traveling, running long-distance.
What is your favorite hotel brand?
There are so many great hotels brands. It is tough to name one.
Okay. So how about some of your favorite hotel stays?
This is an easier question. The Ritz Carlton Kapalua, Hawaii, comes to mind. The Hotel Arts, Barcelona, Spain. The Boca Raton Resort, in Florida. The Royal Plantation Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
What do you do when you are not working?
When I am not traveling for work, I am traveling for leisure. I am reading, writing, and running long distance.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
I wish that I spent more time on volunteer work. I have been incredibly blessed. I need to do more in giving back. I could make the excuse that I am too busy but that would be a lousy excuse.
What would be your advice to your students at IHI and anyone who follows you on social media?
I would challenge them to ask themselves this question at the end of every week. “Have I done something positive for somebody this week, something for which I expect to get absolutely no reward, praise, or recognition?”
What are some of the educational programs at the International Hospitality Institute?
IHI offers many certification programs including the Certified Hospitality Expert (CHEx), Certified Training Expert (CTEx), Certified Hospitality Leadership Coach (CHLC), Certified Hotel General Manager (CHGM), Certified Food and Beverage Manager (CFBM), Certified Rooms Division Manager (CRDM), Certified Hotel Operations Manager (CHOM), Certified Revenue Management Specialist (CRMS), Certified Executive Chef (CCHE), Certified Front Office Manager (CFOM), Certified Hospitality Finance Director (CHFD), Certified Hospitality Housekeeping Manager (CHHM), and many others.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully retired and hanging out in Aruba or Valencia, Spain, two of my favorite places.
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