office door has no nameplate.Neither does his
"It feels self-serving," Coonley
said of a nameplate for himself."It's more the department heads who should get the kudos."
Even in school, Coonley
avoided sitting all the way in the front or back of the classroom.
"I always just wanted to blend in," he
Coonley's desire for relative anonymity seems to clash with his
position as general manager of the biggest hotel
along the Century Boulevard Corridor.Yet this desire also appears to fit his
style.Sitting behind his well-organized desk, the hotel's general manager explained his management style -- an approach that emphasizes the business rather than the leader.
"I feel the loyalty from the employees should be either to the property or to the brand," he
said."It shouldn't be to an individual."Coonley, 45, has served as general manager of the Hilton for the past two years.
took over, a survey of his
hotel employees' opinion of their jobs gave a 57 percent positive rating.This year, the hotel's 580 employees produced a score of nearly 80 percent.
"(Using) that as a measuring tool, I think they're happy," Coonley
said."Hopefully, that happiness will translate to better service.And I think it has."Coonley also serves as president of Gateway to LA, a business association that promotes businesses along the Century Boulevard corridor.
...Coonley received a bachelor's degree in managerial sciences from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1982.His
studies emphasized psychology.
"That's probably the No. 1 thing I got out of my education, all the psychology classes I took," Coonley
said."If I can understand people, I can better know what they need."
After college, Coonley
sold industrial fasteners for about three years.It involved mostly working the telephone to make a sale.
"What I learned is you've ... got to be selling yourself every day," he
said of his
pointed to a framed sign on his
office wall that reads: "Selling is like shaving.If you don't do it every day, you're a bum."Coonley
broke into the hotel industry in 1985 as a front desk clerk at the Harrah's
Reno Hotel.He eventually was promoted to bell captain, a position that put him in charge of all the casino's bellmen.
took a job as front desk manager at the Peppermill Hotel Casino
wanted to get out of the gaming industry to try traditional hotels.So he
applied at the 2,000-room Hilton
in San Francisco, and was hired as assistant director of the front office in 1988.He
was then sent to the Hilton
Los Angeles Airport Hotel as director of the front office.He returned to the San Francisco Hilton as director of the front desk before becoming director of the rooms division there.He
took over as general manager at his
current LAX hotel in August 2002.Coonley names Holger Gantz, the San Francisco Hilton's general manager, as a professional role model.
Gantz would give his department heads enough space to do their jobs and take risks, but held them accountable, Coonley
thrives under that freedom.
Coonley lives at the hotel with his
wife, Jan, a human resources executive for US Bank
.Their two-bedroom apartment overlooking the pool is made from five guest rooms joined together.
"If something serious did happen, I'm just a phone call away," Coonley
But that has is drawbacks.It's hard to completely get away from work.He's
constantly coming across his
employees as he
comes and goes from the apartment.
"You find yourself on stage more to be positive, asking them how they're doing," he
said."So, you don't really get much of a break."
About three times a week, Coonley
hits the driving range to take his
stress out on a bucket of golf balls.He
also likes to take his
13-pound white fufu dog for walks along The Strand in Manhattan Beach.Coonley
sometimes drives a 1996 Harley-Davidson
even has the requisite outfit including chaps, leather jacket and half-shell helmet.
About two months ago, the Coonleys purchased a weekend home in La Quinta in the Inland Empire.The house in on a street without street lights, allowing Coonley
to see the stars at night.
"As soon as I get past Ontario, I don't think about work, and everything just decompresses," he