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Lessons from the Field
A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, July 30, 2008

Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager
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Part four:  Communicating with Clarity and Candor


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By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS
July 30, 2008

“Begin with the end in mind.” 
Stephen Covey

In his #1 bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presented a framework for personal effectiveness. Habit 2, “Begin with the End in Mind”, is part of the paradigm of DEPENDENCE, which is relying upon others to take care of us.

In the hospitality business, we as managers rely on others to support the agreed upon plans and to take care of our guests and fellow associates in our daily operations.  For managers and supervisors, that means using the tool called COMMUNICATIONS effectively. 

Over the past 15 years or so, I have personally seen the impact of two major initiatives that have made a dramatic impact on the industry

  1. the commitment of many individual hotels and brands to significant Quality Assurance programs and
  2. a focus on meaningful diversity and inclusion as a major employment tool
Progressive managers have become more inclined to include their staffs in these and other initiatives in the information circle because they have seen the value in their contributions.  Effective communication has become the foundation of participative management (discussed in part three of this series).

Part four:  Communicating with clarity and candor

The following principles are offered as skills to be developed, fine tuned and used.

1. Recognize that you as a hotel manager or supervisor are viewed as both the messenger and the source of communication.

Depending on your role or title in your hotel, you are the one that must be trusted as the link to the every day business messages within your hotel.

Associates feel they should know as soon as possible what affects their positions and their futures.  They want to know what changes in the organization are coming and how it might affect them individually.  

For example, it is common knowledge that occupancies and revenues are down in much of the US and Canada in 2008 compared to the past 12-18 months.  This may or may not have a specific effect on your hotel, but your staff needs to hear from a credible source – you – if their hotel is going to be experiencing changes. If they are worried that the numbers are likely to affect them because of what happened at another hotel or company, their productivity or performance could be dramatically impacted.

This means the effective hotel manager will use a variety of regular communication vehicles to keep associates motivated and “in the know”.  Sharing information and asking staff for their continued input and suggestions will demonstrate a critical commitment to them – the fact that you care for them as individuals and an essential part of the organization.

2. Position yourself as the credible “voice of authority”  

This series has 5 segments that all support each other, but the ability to communicate is an integral part of all five.  

In communication, that means being able to successfully communicate in one-on-one sessions, in writing and in groups.
The fear of public speaking is called glossophobia (or, informally, "stage fright"). It is believed to be the single most common phobia — affecting as much as 75% of the population. Fear of oration is ranked even above that of death. As Jerry Seinfeld observes, "The average person at a funeral would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy."  
If this is an area that concerns you, seek help from organizations, such as Dale Carnegie Training http://www.dalecarnegiesd.com/services/classes/dale_carnegie_course.html or Toastmasters International http://www.toastmasters.org to reduce the fear to manageable.

3. Link your team with guests 

 The reason any business exists is to serve its’ guests.  Revenues may rise and fall, which ultimately affects the bottom line.   The reason that many hotels have been successful in QA efforts is that senior management makes certain that EVERYONE in EVERY department knows the value of the guest and how they contribute to it.

I recall a specific example I personally viewed a few years back.  Jack Vaughn, the legendary hotelier who assembled a phenomenal team at Nashville’s 3000 room Opryland Hotel, was escorting an association site inspection team.  Jack stopped in the lobby at a point where someone in housekeeping was dusting plants.  He introduced the housekeeper to the association executive, saying “Mary, this is Mr. X of the XYZ association that is planning to use our hotel for their annual meeting two years from now.  Mr. X, this is Mary, who will be helping to make sure your attendees are well cared for.”   

Think about that 30 second exchange and the impact it must have had on both individuals.  Each of them had their own part in the hosting, but I wager that housekeeper felt personally involved and connected with the guest and the overall success of the hotel.

4. Share and Communicate your hotel written policies

The goals of formal policies are to establish standards and protocols.  They address things ranging from uniforms, holidays, sick time, meals, insurance, staff entrances, and codes of conduct.

They should not be set to reject creativity, but to make certain that everyone does know what they may or may not do on the job.
 
These policies should address what is important at your hotel and be addressed to new staff at the time of being hired and during orientation.  Many hotels are beginning to have detailed associate manuals or handbooks – check www.hospitalitylawyer.com for ideas and format. 

Policy changes should be published and discussed with associates at the time of change.

5. Openly explain policies on the monitoring of technology  

Today, systems can monitor to the second the time on each reservation call center inquiry and customer care complaint.  Company provided equipment can be analyzed for a wide range of items, from phone calls to web sites visited and when to orders processed.

When cash registers were first introduced, there was most likely a sense of resentment from some staff.  The real reason for cash registers was to easily keep sales records, to secure against outside theft and to protect honest associates.  The same application applies to automated liquor dispensers, when bartenders lost the ability to showboat their pouring skills.  While those pouring skills might have helped tips, they reduced control and profitability.  These and other monitoring practices had their place, and when the reasoning was explained, resistance disappeared.

Monitoring for non-business phone calls, review use of company materials for personal use, evaluating or checking paid time away from the job and other forms of checking are meant to address forms of potential theft.

Today’s hospitality staff is much more sophisticated than previous generations, partially because of their diversity, differences in generational background, and the amazing contribution from technology.  

Any policy is cause for clear communication.  The more open about what you are about to do and why will make your associates much more open about the plan and the goals.

6. Make Meetings More Productive

Regardless of the size of our organization, we have all been at meetings and thought to ourselves  “why are we here?”  This has been followed by a sense of wondering what the outcome was.  

Meetings are not the optimum time to distribute forms or to make routine announcements, which can be communicated by emails, newsletters, memos or informal discussions.  

I highlighted ways to keep focused on matters that need interaction in a column I published in 2007   and more details are available there.

  • Prepare and circulate an agenda.   
  • Use “Meeting Time” for the purposes of meaningful discussion and decision making only.  
  • Share the responsibility for facilitating or chairing the meeting.    
  • Establish a time keeper and keep to the schedule.      
  • Stay the course    
  • Electronic grazing is NOT part of productive meetings.   .  
  • Push for concrete outcomes.    
  • Avoid unnecessary debate
  • Don’t deliberate what is not known
  • Consider the occasional stand-up meeting, with few or no refreshments.  
  • Follow –up.     
  • Document follow up concisely
  • Publish and distribute the concise meeting outcomes and minutes immediately (or no later than 24 hours after the meetings     
7. Learn the purpose and value of the MEMO

The best counsel I ever read on Memos was from a 1970 book titled “Up the Organization.”   In the chapter titled, “Memorandum, the Last”, author Bob Townsend offered the following advice on the topic:

  • Use them for dissemination of non-controversial information
  • Write them to yourself to organize your thoughts
He opined that they are one way streets that have the potential to start territorial wars and position internal fighting.

I strongly urge you to find and read a copy of this book – it remains a classic that one can read in less than an hour and get a great deal out of it.  FYI, Townsend was a very successful entrepreneur in big organizations, including American Express, Dun and Bradstreet and most notably, Avis Rent-a-Car at the time they catapulted from an also ran to the clear #2 position in that industry


Feel free to share an idea at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements.  Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE  www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan.   This column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.

John Hogan’s professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He holds a number of industry certifications and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20 year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world’s largest hotel chain. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,100 workshops and seminars in his career.  He served as senior vice president for a client in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He has published more than 350 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from a range of industry sources and AMAZON.com.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing his 2nd book based on his dissertation –     The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

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Contact:

Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
johnjhogan@yahoo.com

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Also See: Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part three: Using your management style effectively / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part Two: Motivating the Team / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager Part One: Understanding the Organization / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008 
Updating Hotel Marketing and Sales Strategies Mid Year NOW Is Essential / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Don’t Underestimate the Impact of the Hotel Sales Office / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Factors for Successful Interviewing Potential Hotel Sales Candidates / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
The Importance of Meaningful Sales Team Job Descriptions / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
For Hotels with Limited Service, Fewer than 100 Rooms - How Do You Determine if You Need a Person Dedicated to Selling / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Extending Your Sales Team or Make Travel Agents A Regular Part of Your Sales Programs / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Finding Business Leads Can Be Easier Than You Think / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Understanding the Differences Between Marketing and Sales / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
Identifying Your Customers / Lessons from the Field A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
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