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Phoenix Forward

The secret to success in business? Employee input, according to Royal Caribbean’s Bill Martin

Bill Martin

Executives should always make time to listen to their employees’ work ideas, suggests Bill Martin, vice president and chief information officer at Royal Caribbean® Cruises Ltd.

Those employee ideas — whether from recent graduates or company veterans — may be the innovation executives need to keep companies successful, adds Martin, a University of Phoenix alumnus who holds a BS in Business with a concentration in Administration.

“You can learn a lot from [employees] just by keeping your mouth shut and listening.” Otherwise, he adds, long-time supervisors “can become stagnant and not recognize when it’s time to change or move on to do something else.”

In the latter half of his 28 years at Royal Caribbean, Martin says he learned to avoid this executive trap by listening to new hires so he could hear their ideas and understand their reasoning.

He admits he doesn’t always think employees are right, but he finds that the “power of observation” poises him to have a candid and intellectual debate that can ultimately help him move Royal Caribbean forward.

“My strategy has always been to give any new person or idea the benefit of the doubt,” he says.

You can learn a lot from [employees] just by keeping your mouth shut and listening.

He should know. Although he is well known as a dedicated executive mentor to Royal Caribbean employees, Martin spent years lending his ideas and input to higher-ups as he climbed the company’s corporate ladder.

At age 19, the Ohio native started at Royal Caribbean in a low-level reservations position. He says he never took himself too seriously but always expressed to superiors his willingness “to adapt and move” throughout the company as it grew.

This approach — along with receptive bosses and a couple of “lucky breaks” — led him to constantly reinvent himself, landing him roles in analytics, accounting, revenue management, customer services and, ultimately, his current role. Martin says he also waited patiently to seize upon an opportune moment to share an innovative idea that might help the company — and his career.

His strategy worked well. Martin’s been credited with helping to design the first revenue management system within the cruise industry.

Martin, who now manages the technology across Royal Caribbean’s various brands, also credits his education and the business theories he learned for helping him to convey his ideas. It behooves executives like Martin, he says, to encourage employees to share their ideas, because it is this foundation of knowledge that he believes will help set an executive and, ultimately, a company on the right path. “To me, that’s leadership.”


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