Editor's Note: Around the Water Cooler is an ongoing series in which U.S. News talks with company executives to get their career advice for employees and managers.
Ask Royal Caribbean International CEO Adam Goldstein for travel recommendations, and he won't stop talking about the scenic coast of Istanbul, friendly people in Sydney or exotic nature of the Galapagos. While he says China is more of an acquired taste, Hong Kong is worth a visit to "experience where the energy of the world is."
"Having said all that, I try to go to Maine as much as possible ... I don't think there's anything like it," he says.
The world (and United States) traveler can rattle off sights to see, but the leader of 35,000 employees and a $7 billion company can also spew decades worth of career advice. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Goldstein joined Royal Caribbean in 1988 and cruised steadily to the top of the company. After holding titles ranging from senior vice president of total guest satisfaction to vice president of marketing, he was named Royal Caribbean president in 2005 and earned the top job as CEO two years later.
As president and CEO, Goldstein, 53, oversees the sales, marketing and operations for Royal Caribbean's fleet of 21, going on 25, ships across the globe. While he resides in Miami with his wife and two kids, on any given day, he may be in Shanghai or Australia, meeting with travel agents, government representatives or his crew of employees.
Despite feeling a little jet lag from a trip to Asia, Goldstein spoke to U.S. News to share his thoughts on how managers should handle crisis situations (think on the scale of cruiseships being stranded at sea) and when it's not a great idea to include "Finnish speaking skills" on a résumé. His responses have been edited.
If you took a foreign language in college, but can't speak it fluently, should you put it on your résumé?
I like it when people distinguish their level of fluency. We look at a lot of résumés that are globally oriented, so it's not unusual to see something like "native tongue German," "business fluent English," "working knowledge Spanish, French." And I appreciate the honesty because if somebody says "working knowledge," I'm not thinking that I'm going to throw them into a business situation where we're expecting them to speak fluent French - just as I know French, but I would not be comfortable to do business exclusively in French. So I wouldn't hide it. I just would be careful to give the proper guidance of your capability. If you know a few words, like I can count to three in Finnish - yksi, kaksi, kolme - and that is the total extent of my knowledge of Finnish, I wouldn't put that on a résumé.
What is the best way for an employee to stand out if he or she works somewhere with hundreds or thousands of employees?
You need to be confident and assertive in how you speak and present yourselves to peers and supervisors. You need to motivate people to want to help you. What I try to tell people in different parts of the company is every single person that you're going to deal with has more to do than they have time with which to do it. Every single person without exception is rationing their time somehow, consciously or subconsciously, and you want to be the person with which they give their time and attention to. You need to build relationships that will pay off in the moments that count. You can't wait until there's a moment that counts to start to build a relationship. It's too late by then.
For employees who are away from their families for a long period of time because of work, do you have any tips for avoiding homesickness?
Obviously with email today, and everybody having a cellphone at all times and with texting, there are a lot more ways to keep in touch than when I was traveling like a mad person in the 1990s. So the ability to interact is at such an advanced level today compared to what we knew in the past. It's really not that hard. I mean, you do have to be careful. Even with a lot of the of modern technology that we have it still gets very expensive, very fast if you're constantly texting or constantly calling. I just finished eight days in Australia, Hong Kong and China, and I was able to keep in touch with my family at some level once or twice a day. It's not like when I used to go to Asia in the early '90s, and I tell ya, there wasn't a lot of interaction.
An employee is out of vacation days, and uses a few sick days instead to, say, go on a cruise. The boss then finds out. What do you think the boss should do?
If the hypothetical involved me, I wouldn't be very pleased. I think what's much more important than any official sanctions is the knowledge that your supervisor is disappointed in you. You can say something like, "You forfeit some days of vacation next year because you didn't use them right this year," or "This is not the purpose of sick days. The purpose of sick days is if you're sick." But if you like your job, and you're ambitious and you believe you're upwardly mobile, the last thing you want to do is take stupid chances of disappointing your superiors in such a way that they don't think of you in those terms anymore.
If a boss invites you to go on vacation with him or her, is it a good idea to go?
No. I am aware that this happens, and different people have very, very different thinking about this. But I really believe that the safest thing to do would be to safeguard your career. Obviously, it's a pleasant thing to have strong relationships that are enjoyable on a day-to-day basis and over the course of time, but I would advocate keeping a fairly clear difference between work and personal. Of course, who am I am to talk because I met my wife here at work. It was a long time ago. There were still dinosaurs at different parts of the world.
I will tell you that I would love to interact on a more personal level with many people here at work than I do. And I don't often because I really want to keep my personal world separate from my professional world. In upper management of a highly visible, somewhat glamorous and very public company, there is no mercy for how we conduct ourselves. None. So whether it's going on vacation with other people or whatever, I would say while it might be interesting to think about, you probably shouldn't do more than think about it.
If an employee has a lot of vacation days that he or she wants to use up by planning a trip, do you have any destination recommendations?
First of all, I should say I'm very much in favor of people taking their allotment of vacation days. I think it's important for their jobs, for their mental health and it's good to get out and see the world a little bit.
In terms of places that I might go to on a regular basis, I'm definitely a Francophile. I love France. I've been all over the country, and I'm always happy to be back in Paris and see new parts. People ask me all the time where's the best place to cruise - there are a lot of them. Alaska was basically made for cruising. I'm not exactly sure what God had in mind, but it's made for that.
In February, Carnival drew national media attention when its ship, Triumph, was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. And Royal Caribbean dealt with a recent fire on Grandeur of the Seas. What advice do you have for CEOs and managers for handling crisis situations?
Although every crisis has unique features, a company will improve its ability to handle virtually any type of event if roles and responsibilities are clear and established in advance, if crisis drills occur on a regular basis and if there is a cultural emphasis on responsiveness and transparency. Also, social media is now a primary driver of perception of how a company is handling a crisis - all companies should proactively take this phenomenon into account in their crisis management approach.
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
Try to stay in one place. (laughs) I'm biased, I admit it. I've been here 25 years so when I see a résumé where somebody is constantly every 12, 18, 24 months at a new place, all the alarm bells are going off. And I realize that not everybody stays at one place for 25 years either. That's not really very realistic in today's day and age, but there are so many advantages if you can have a long and fulfilling career at one place. The relationships that you have with the people are very, very special. Your knowledge of the business, the industry, the different departments, what's going on in the company, the lingo - it's just, I find it very fulfilling.
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