Spa Talk With Lisa Grande of Waldorf Astoria Spa at Waldorf Astoria Orlando (FL)

Meet Lisa Grande, director of spa operations at Waldorf Astoria Spa at Waldorf Astoria Orlando (FL).

Photo credit: Lisa Grande

What was the path that led you into the spa industry?  

My very first job in high school was at a restaurant, and ever since this first role, the guest service path just always felt right to me. I grew up in Rhode Island and wanted to grow my career after graduating from Johnson & Wales University with a bachelor’s in hospitality management. I have family in Las Vegas, so I decided to make a move out there. I thought to myself, ‘Where will you gain more hospitality experience than Las Vegas?’ I randomly applied for a spa receptionist position thinking it would be “fun and relaxing” and the rest is history.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being in the spa industry?

Over the years, the most challenging part has been learning to bend and flex to the needs of different team members. The spa is usually a sensitive, creative family unit, and it takes a special kind of understanding to successfully manage that dynamic. The most rewarding part is being able to learn about new products, techniques, and services that are hitting the market, which can then be passed on to our guests.

What is your proudest accomplishment?  

Being promoted to spa director last summer has been my proudest accomplishment. Prior to my transition, I worked as assistant spa director at this property for six and a half years. I shadowed under my previous director, mentor, and friend in this role, and without her passion for teaching and her desire to see me grow, the road would have been even more challenging than it was. Every bump and bruise along the way has shaped me for this role.

What has surprised you most about working in the spa industry?   

Like any other business, it’s a juggling act. I always find it funny when people say that working in the spa must be so relaxing. It’s not in reality, but if that’s what they see, then we are doing our jobs well.

Where do you think the industry is heading? 

Post-COVID-19, we have seen a massive shift in the diversity of guests visiting for treatments. Everyone requires self-care and I think more and more people have made it part of their routine. I love that age, size, or background no longer seem to be a barrier for people getting comfortable in the spa environment. 

What’s your favorite skincare ingredient?  

I love products with pumpkin. Not only do they smell incredible, but the natural enzymes can help gently exfoliate and brighten the skin.

What positions have you worked in that you feel have been most influential to your career?  

Every role has given me important qualities to take away, though one that stands out are the social skills I gained as a food server. I was shy when I was younger, but dealing with the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, along with walking up to tables and leading conversations, has taught me how to acclimate and pivot to meet guests’ needs.

Was there a time you had to make a decision in your career that ended up changing your destiny?

I remember a spa supervisor position becoming available when I was still a young receptionist. I was afraid to go for it because I would be up against a friend. I wrestled with the decision, but something internally urged me to move forward. I’m so glad I did because it would ultimately put me on my permanent career path. Luckily, my friend was supportive, and she ended up getting the next supervisor position that became available.

If you could work in any other profession in the world, what would it be?   

I am a huge dog lover. If I could do anything else, I would want to train service dogs for law enforcement or those with special needs.

How would you sum up your personal philosophy?   

Honesty is the best policy. Even when it’s difficult or embarrassing, I pride myself on telling the truth. Years ago, my spa director told me she would help me fix any mistakes I had made, just to always be forthcoming. I still live by that today.

How do you like to spend your time away from work?  

Visiting with family, quiet time recharging at home, and snuggling with my two pups, Tessie and Riley.

What are your three greatest priorities in life?  

My family and friends, maintaining a peaceful lifestyle, and my dogs.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Jade Simmons was a keynote speaker at ISPA in 2022 and she said something I found truly profound. She said that the major difference between men and women at work is generally men will hear of an opportunity and jump at it whether they feel ready or not. If they get it, they will mold themselves into it. Women, however, prep and plan and schedule their advancement opportunities. Something may come available, but we haven’t finished a particular step, so we don’t go for it. By the time we truly feel ready, the opportunity is gone. She said it much more eloquently, but it resonated with me. I’ve lived my whole life planning my steps but sometimes you just have to jump in and trust the process.