Access4Success| Pechanga GM | Brian Decorah

Brian Decorah is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and the first Native person to be appointed as the GM of Pechanga Resort Casino (the west coast’s largest casino resort). He’s been in the gaming industry for nearly 25 years and with this comes a wealth of experience. So, I thought you would enjoy some of his personal and professional golden nuggets from my interview with him.

Each time I interact with Brian his personal brand is always consistent and on point. If I had to describe him in three words they would be:

♦️ Approachable ♦️ Centered ♦️ Smart

How do you influence and impact your teams to be on the same page?

To me it’s about inclusion. From a leadership perspective, there are two things that I always rely on. One, is a person who feels valued will always do more than what’s expected of them. And how do you do that? That’s the second piece of it. It’s just taking a genuine interest in them as people and what they’re doing. Making sure they have what they need to be successful in their job and setting them up for success. And to me, that’s the way to get people,  enrolled into what you’re doing, and they buy in because they are part of it. And nothing feels better than when you’re part of something, especially when it’s exciting!

We’re living in an industry of technological disruption. Do you feel it’s important to disrupt? 

It’s important to be disciplined in how you approach those disruptive technologies, because not all pay off. And when you are investing in something, whether it’s investing money, or your team’s time, or at the opportunity cost of trying something different, it can be very costly if you choose the wrong thing. To me, it makes more sense when it comes to disruptive technologies to take more of a “wait and see approach.” Let others invest in that risk. Because once something is proven in our industry, one thing we know is that it’s readily available if you want it. And once you do, you’ve got references you trust.

What are some typical mistakes that you’ve seen emerging leaders make – that if they got right, maybe they’d move up a little bit faster?

You don’t earn dividends with by being the smartest person in the room. You’d at least become successful by being the most inclusive. Two minds are better than one, 10 are better than two. Just bring smart people to the table, and everyone comes together in a collaborative way. That’s what makes us all successful. You know, especially with casino teams. The front line is far more important than I am. It’s the people on the front line that make it happen. So when we need to find solutions to everyday problems, we have to ask them. They’re the ones who are talking with the guests – the ones who experience the things we’re trying to create solutions for. So it’s by being that inclusive leader, that you get perspectives from all levels of the organization. In my opinion, it’s where I got it wrong when I first started in executive management. I thought you could get through with just smarts in, doing research and the hard work. But you can get only so far, you need your team and you need them to be with you when you’re going through things. And in my mind, that’s the most important piece of advice for an emerging leader is “be inclusive.”

Would you recommend to a leader that to go upwards? Do they need to go sideways? e.g. get to learn more about operations or how to read data analytics?

No question about it. The data analytics in the gaming industry is paramount to everything we do especially with the marketing database as a starting point. Even when you’re assessing your benefits package and where you can save the company and the plan money, but still provide the benefits of the plan to the team members, is very important.

But it’s not always about moving from side to side. You can also volunteer for new projects. They are always subcommittees or planning groups. And that’s where you can build up your strength in other areas where, whether you’re on the hotel yield team, or you’re on a research group. If somebody says,” is anybody willing to…,” put your hand up. If you don’t know how to do it, figure it out, because that learning will serve you for the rest of your career.

You always come across so calm and for me one of your greatest characteristics is you’re very in the NOW. And I really believe that that is one of the things that makes for a powerful presence.

Wow! Thank you. That means a lot. I’ll tell you, I learned that I had ADHD probably about 10 years ago. When I was tested, they said I was on the lower end of the spectrum.

Knowing what you have as advantages and disadvantages serves you well in life.Whether you like them or not, you have them. From my perspective, ADHD is something that’s served me very well. Many people who have ADHD don’t have the discipline. They don’t do well in life because they’re not able to make those interpersonal connections and be in the moment as you said, but half the people who do have it – they rule the world because their minds never stop and they don’t sleep and they’re always chasing and pursuing.

If you had to choose a famous icon leader (dead or alive), who would you want to have lunch with? And why?

That’s an easy one – Abraham Lincoln. He did so many things for civil liberties and we all know the great things he did on a massive scale. In the Dale Carnegie series, they give you three top C priorities. Don’t Condemn, Complain or Criticize. And they give the example of Abraham Lincoln in the trenches with his soldiers when they’re in the Civil War. His side was bad mouthing the enemy saying all these horrible things. And Abraham Lincoln said, “Wait a second… If you and I grew up in that same environment with the same parenting with the same influences around us, would you or I be any different? We wouldn’t. They’re still people over there. They’re still husbands. They’re still fathers. They’re still boys and they’re a reflection of the environment that they grew up in. And that’s what we’re fighting against is. That’s what we want to change is that environment. So it’s not the person. It’s the environment.”

I think that mindset is one that’s spoken to me and I’ve resonated with over the years.

Why did you choose to study a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Relations? 

So actually, my bachelor’s degree is in business administration. My minor is in communication with an emphasis in public relations. When I was growing up, I was very shy. And I wasn’t very communicative, especially in large groups. And what do you do when you find a weakness? You try and turn it into a strength. So I thought that would be a great way to do it in college – learning how to speak publicly. If you’re going to lead a business, you’re going to lead people. And if you need to lead people, you need to be confident when you’re speaking. So I turned one of my weaknesses into hopefully what I consider a strength.

What leadership quote or saying do you live by? 

A person who feels valued will always do more than what’s expected of them. Always.

So in essence your job is to make people feel valued?

That’s right. That’s my job!

And what a great job Brian’s done serving Tribal Gaming for 25 years! believe the “Best is Yet To Come” for this great leader!