My day started with a quick pop to the shower, when all of a sudden, I hear the fire alarm warning with the automated voice instructing everyone to please vacate the room and hotel via the designated exit. Oh my goodness I thought to myself, can this timing be any worse. I quickly grab a towel and attempt to spot dry myself.

I quickly open the hotel door and peek out to see if I can see others vacating their rooms. Nothing but darkness in both directions with the emergency hall doors shut at both directions. I run to the side of the bed and call the front desk to check if this is an exercise or the real deal; there is no answer. My brain quickly shifts realizing what level I am on, and if the real deal, I better get moving swiftly.  I sprint to my suitcase to grab the quickest easiest clothes I can find to toss on, grab my jacket, hotel key and out I go. Walking in the hall, I realize I don’t even know where the nearest stair exit is, (good reminder to always pay attention) but I am reminded to not take the elevator as the alarm continues to sound informing me.

I run into two individuals down the hall post a few sets of emergency doors, pulling their luggage in the hall, and I immediately feel better.  I think to myself, “oh good, I am not in this alone.” I ask them if they know the way to the emergency stair exit, and both exclaim, “No, we don’t know where to go” so I offer them to follow me. Making my way to the exit stairs, the couple say to me, “we just want to go to our hotel room, is this the way to our room” to which I say, “can you hear the alarm, it is for a fire warning, we must exit the building.”

The individuals decide to not join me in the stairs due to their luggage and they seem very confused. I am thoroughly confused by their decision.  The couple then reiterates their desire to find their room and in addition share, “We came up the elevator with the alarm on, and it is ok.”

At this point, I begin to think this must be a drill and confirm with them that they took the elevator up while the alarm was on. They confirmed.  I ask the couple their room number and quickly try and guide them towards it. Passing my room, I check in with the front desk on the phone and am told, “it is only a test, no reason to vacate.”

I try and gather the many emotions and thoughts surfacing to my head, so that I can take command from my busy brain with increased adrenaline.  One thought is stuck in my head, how might the hotel staff have ensured a different guest experience with first-class communication from their leaders to their guests?

For leaders out there, how might increased communication reduce ambiguity, stress, enhance a sense of belonging, influence and impact?

London Marriott Hotel


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