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Westin La Paloma's -Walk a While in My Shoes Day- Builds Morale,
Helps Break Down Walls Between Staffers and Managers

By Phil Villarreal, The Arizona Daily Star, TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 17, 2010 --When Westin La Paloma bigwig Richard Brooks went to work Friday, he left his suit, tie and dress shoes in the closet.

Instead, the resort's director of sales and marketing donned a housekeeping uniform complete with a nametag and pulled his newly purchased sneakers -- he didn't own a pair -- out of their box so he could set to turning down linens and laundering towels.

Such is life for La Paloma executives during the annual Walk a While in My Shoes Day, in which 25 members of the resort's top brass ditch their desks to work the floors.

General manager Bill Petrella fetched towels for guests as a pool attendant. Director of rooms Scott Sack lugged suitcases as a bellhop. Amanda Lindquist, chef at the resort's Azul Restaurant/Lounge, bused tables.

Even the resort's owners, Randy Dix and Mike Hanson, participated, working on the golf course.

Petrella instituted the program when he started working at La Paloma in 2005 and says its more than a gimmick: It builds morale, helps break down walls between staffers and managers and gives bosses a feel for the front lines.

"Managers work with associates, and all have the same uniforms on and are going on lunch breaks with each other," Petrella said. "It's a little like 'Undercover Boss,' that show that's popular now. ... But the intent is not to say "oh gotcha!" or make them work harder, but to appreciate more what they do."

After their six-hour shifts ended, the managers discussed ways to streamline work activities.

"Doing something like this gives you better vision of the way things work," Brooks said, "and you get comments directly from guests."

Petrella said he learns something new from the program every year.

"Managers think they understand what it's like to be in associates' shoes," he said. "But unless you're there for the whole day, you really don't."

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

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Copyright (c) 2010, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

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