Skip to main content
Blog Article

Daring To Be Great: Leadership Insights With Jeannette Handson

Mar 11, 2022

Leadership Insights with Jeannette Handson, Spa Director at Cape Rey Carlsbad, A Hilton Resort

Describe your professional journey.
I was born and raised in Quito- Ecuador. Ecuador is one of 17  megadiverse countries in the world and has the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any nation. My Parents were very involved with everything nature had to offer in terms of alternate medicine and beauty treatments. I travelled extensively within my country experiencing its diversity and richness in culture and geographical regions. I also travelled to several countries. Later in life I resided in England and Brazil and then moved to the United States where my hospitality career started. I was always interested in the wellness industry; however, in my early twenties I decided to study hotel management and tourism. One the program’s requirements were to complete a full hospitality internship. I did my internship at a local resort that landed me into the spa and wellness industry. While I was doing my internship, I was approached by the general manager of the hotel and asked to assist in overseeing the spa while the director traveled to her native country. The thought of running a department I was not familiar with made me nervous, but I come from a place where we must rise to the opportunities presented to us and do our best to make it work. Upon the return of the director, I decided to enroll myself in various classes related to the wellness and beauty industry. Taking all those classes re-acquainted me with my roots and upbringing. Everything came full circle for me. Eventually, I was offered the position of Spa Director for L’Auberge Del Mar where I served for almost 17 years. In 2012, I was approached by Wave Crest Resorts and offered the position of Spa Director for Ocean Crest Spa where I have served for 10 years. During my tenure at Cape Rey Carlsbad, the hotel went through a management change, and I was hired by Davidson Hotels to continue in my roll of the Spa Director of Ocean Crest Spa. I have enjoyed working for Davidson Hotels as I respect and uphold their vision and commitment to this industry.

What do you love about this industry?
What I love about this industry is that it is a people’s industry with people as clients, people as colleagues, peers, supervisors, managers, etc. It is about greeting everyone with warmth and anticipation. It is about treating people with dignity, respect, and compassion. It is being curious about their life, attentively listening to their stories, building a rapport, and creating lasting relationships. These are all things that make us feel our shared humanity and commonality. Simply put, this industry is about genuinely caring for people and sizing every opportunity to impact people’s lives in a positive way through the personalized creation of memorable experiences.

What do you love about your role?
My passion is the driving force behind the success and growth of Ocean Crest Spa and my staff. I absolutely love what I do! I take my role of Spa Director very seriously. I am grateful for the growing and learning opportunities that each day brings, because no day is the same, no challenge is the same. This role keeps me on my toes. I must balance on the regular basis the needs of the therapist and the guest we serve along with all the competing needs of my role. I enjoy cultivating talent and skills because they are one the pillar of our success. Making a difference in someone else’s career and life brings me a sense of fulfilment. My job is motivating, inspiring, and rewarding. I also like the creative aspect of my role such as product development, menu design, music selection and décor.

What inspires you to be great?
Beside my faith and family, I am driven by the desire to serve others with empathy, compassion, and respect. I hold myself accountable for the actions I take with my team, my customer my management team. One our leaders in the industry Geoff Balloti put it this way: “Our core value statement is three words, ‘Count On Me,’ which is all about accountability. It is about people being able to be counted on at any time, for any issue, any question, any decision, and any support that our owners, franchisees, and associates need. It is built on the principal of integrity in terms of taking personal responsibility for your actions.” Accountability is important because it results in an extremely efficient and productive team. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, accountability in the workplace is linked to higher performance and increases in commitment to work and employee morale”

Throughout my career I have learned from others in the industry through their example, vision vulnerability and self-awareness. They have helped me shape the leader I am today. One of my former coaches advise me to surround myself with people that knew more than I did and learn from them. “Great leaders are those who surround themselves with great people…who are brighter, and smarter, and more diverse in thought than they are. And who are able to build a team that knows how to support and trust each other.”

Professional aspiration
I would like to grow within the Davidson Group and eventually assist with the opening of other spas.

Advice for someone that is coming up in the career.
Everything starts with the passion for what you do. Your passion will be the fuel for your personal and professional growth. Be very well informed of what is entailed in the spa manager role and expectations. This job requires hard work and long hours, if you are not able or do not want to put long hours you will need to rethink your career selection. I highly encourage ongoing education. Staying current with the latest trend is important to help you keep your spa relevant. You need to have a strong grasp of organization, multi-tasking and priorities, financial comprehension, operating budgets, personnel recruitment, training, and performance management. You’ll need a solid background in retail sales and customer service, as well as skill in conflict resolution, communication, and team motivation. Finally, lead your team by example. You always want to set an example and never want to expect anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself.