< PrevNext > Gail Grimmett Outgoing Travel Leaders Luxury Brands president Share Grimmett began her career as a senior regulatory economist with the U.S. Department of Labor. For almost 20 years, she worked in leadership roles for Delta, including oversight of the financial turnaround of Delta’s New York operations and the redevelopment of Delta’s JFK terminal. Grimmett stepped in to head Travel Leaders Luxury Brands two years ago and will move on in May. She spoke with BTN editor Julie Sickel.Have you had any mentors?My mom’s guidance to me growing up was: “Feedback is a gift. You can choose to unwrap it graciously, or you can return it to the store.” Delta’s current CEO, Ed Bastian. Former Delta board member Paula Reynolds. And Delta had a 360 program—you are assessed by your leader and a couple of people above them, by your colleagues and by the people who work for you—for their officers and we had coaches after you got done so you can develop yourself. I still have the same coach that I had eight years ago. I don’t know if she’s followed me or I just pulled her along with me. Those three have been long-term mentors of mine. That’s your safety zone. You don’t have to be afraid to ask questions; you don’t need to be afraid to disclose what you may or may not feel comfortable with because that’s what they’re supposed to do.Have you mentored others?It’s a big part of our responsibility as leaders to provide mentoring and coaching because feedback’s the best. Some of my former colleagues continue to reach out to me for advice, and I have people [at Travel Leaders Group that I mentor, as well]. There’s such a big role that we all can play if we pause for a moment and help shape those that are up and coming. You want to invest in people so that they stay within the company. When you have people that are taking an active interest in you and are partners with you on your career growth, that makes all the difference in the world.How do you manage through the rapid changes in technology?Technology can work fine when everything is working fine, and people obviously have adapted. What happens when something isn’t working fine? You want to hear empathy, you want to hear urgency, you want to hear caring. You can’t get that from a text message. There are times that human interaction is really important, from an emotional level and from an actual get-things-done level.[Travel Leaders Group has] TL Connect. It’s a text-based system. Some customers really don’t want to see anybody or talk to anybody. They just want to be able to text, “Missing my flight.” Immediately, we’re able to have an agent pull up their records and say, “OK, we’re moving you to this flight, we’re changing your hotel and we’re changing your car,” and that’s all done via text. Other people, actually, really want to hear the empathy and have the conversation with the agent. A lot of people say technology is going to take over the role of a travel agent. I don’t ever see that happening. Ever. Technology is imperative as we move forward. The agents are laser focused on giving their clients the service that they want and they need. Our job is to provide the tools that they need to be able to do so, whether that’s product, whether that’s technology.Do you have key approaches to work?Self-awareness is a really big thing. I know I have to wake up every day and say, “Have I given everything that I could give?” Most of us have [had] to address people who aren’t performing. I’ve always thought to myself, “Have I done everything I possibly could to help them perform and they’re choosing not to take that, or have I not done what I need to do?” Staying humble is a really big piece of being able to get ahead.Do you see movement for equal roles for women in the workplace?For a long time, I was a contrarian on all of the women’s panels and saying, “If you’re not getting what you need, speak up, and then if you still don’t get what you need, you have a choice.” So, for the longest time I didn’t feel a difference, and then I thought, I’m running a $5 billion company [and] I get asked on so many women’s leadership panels to talk about women leaders and I haven’t been asked to sit at one leadership panel to talk about what makes a good leader.