At this year’s Welcome Conference, Guidara encouraged hospitality professionals to hone their non-verbal communication skills. 

By Oset Babür
Updated June 11, 2019
Credit: Evan Sung

In between compelling conversations about personal identity, team-building in the hospitality industry, professional success, and coming to terms with failure at this year’s Welcome Conference, Will Guidara (co-owner of Eleven Madison Park) took the stage to reflect on the three most important lessons his mother shared with him before she died of brain cancer.

1. Positive thinking works.

“Lesson one: You can talk things into existence. That’s a quote from Jay-Z’s book, but I feel like my mom was the female Jay-Z from back in the day,” he said, while describing how doctors told their family that it was unlikely she would live past Guidara’s twelfth birthday. “She loved me recklessly. She said to my dad so frequently, ‘I’m going to see him graduate from college’, and my dad would kind of go along with it.”

As Guidara’s twelfth birthday came and went, his mother stayed alive, and, sure enough, made it all the way through his college graduation from Cornell. “She couldn’t come,” he said, “But she was alive. If you care so much about something, if it’s so unbelievably important to you, you can.”

2. Non-verbal communication matters.

Guidara’s second lesson was about the power of non-verbal communication. His mother’s illness eventually led her to become quadriplegic, which meant she was unable to express herself with words. “When I go to a table, I want the people I’m serving to feel loved,” Guidara said. “We often rest upon the laurels of our words to communicate, and my mom communicated that love through the brightness of her eyes. If we are trying to make other people feel loved, the times when we don't use words can be much more powerful than when we do.”

3. Perspective is everything.

Lastly, Guidara talked about how his mother taught him about integrity in the face of adversity. “Life’s not always awesome,” he said, encouraging the audience to have some perspective. “There are ups and downs, and times when things don’t go my way. We’re all emotional people in our business and we can feel bad for ourselves, but there are a lot of people who have it much worse.”