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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 25, 2008

Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager
Part three:  Using your management style effectively


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By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS
July 25, 2008

“As a manager the important thing is not what happens when you
are there, but what happens when you are not there. 
~ Ken Blanchard, Author, Consultant, Educator

In 1960, Douglas McGregor (1906-1964), a Management professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management authored a book on management titled: The Human Side of Enterprise.  This offered an approach of creating business environments within which employees are motivated via authoritative, direction and control or integration and self-control, which he called theory X and theory Y, respectively.    
Theory X Assumptions maintained that the average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can.  It argues that because of their dislike for work, most people must be controlled and threatened before they will work hard enough.  It maintained the average human prefers to be directed, dislikes responsibility and desires security above everything. 

Theory Y Assumptions differed in concept, maintaining that the expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is natural control and punishment were not the only ways to make people work. Theory Y offered that if a job is satisfying, then people will be committed to the organization’s goals and that people, under the right conditions, not only accept but seek responsibility. 

In part one - Understanding the Organization – we outlined some of the differences between leaders and managers and the need for both.  While leaders often may seem inspirational, they often do not have the interest or stamina to  be involved in the every day necessity of managing the process of delivering results through other people.

In Part two: Motivating the Team – we delineated key issues that affect the people reporting to us and how they are so unique to each person.  

Part three:  Using your management style effectively

As hotel managers responsible for many of the every practical processes in business, we must recognize and use our personal strengths.   We have learned much in business and psychology since McGregor’s work was first published.  While Theory X and Theory Y have been both argued and embraced by a generation of managers in the last half of the 20th Century, we do not conduct business in the global market the same way as our parents and grandparents did.

In the hospitality and travel industry, this is especially true with the tremendous diversity of people who own, manage and operate hotels in a global market.

The following are offered as standards or principles to address your management style:

1. Recognize that you as a hotel manager or supervisor are “part” of your group and not the entire group.

Whether you are laundry manager with 15 associates, a chef with 40 on your team, a front office manager with 18 or a manager of a smaller hotel with only 6 staff, you and the group are clearly linked to each other.

Successful managers get work completed well through others and that means recognizing your personal management style and approach.  There are several styles,  including:

  • Directive management, which is absolute control over everyone on every assignment and day
  • Participative management is interactive ion approach by involving the others ion the group to contribute to the decision making process and assignments.
  • Permissive management is similar to absentee by definition – let the staff decide what, when, and how.
Today’s hospitality staff are much more sophisticated than previous generations, partially because of their diversity, differences in generational background, and the amazing contribution from technology.  Directive management can work for very low-skilled tasks, bit it tends to build resentment and contributes to high turnover.

In most hotels today, permissive management is not used because the market can literally change daily.  Look at the highly specialized revenue management tactics used by front office managers and you will realize the impact of effective forecasting on the entire profitability of the hotel.  There are some sales teams that are self directed, but they too must be effective communication with the rest of the staff.

Today’s effective hotel managers do not relinquish control and do make the final decisions. , but they encourage and insist on associate contributions on those decisions.  Team building and management by objectives are key to participative management. 

2. Consider and use team directed projects

Not everyone has the same skill sets, interests or commitment to every project.  Creating temporary teams of as few as two or three people to work on special projects has great potential and value.  When chosen correctly, these people have the opportunity to do something outside of the routine and have the chance to shine.

Assign a team leader, identify to all why they were chosen and exactly what the assignment’s goal is.  For example, if there is a need to establish a new preventive maintenance system for the entire hotel, a team of someone from engineering, housekeeping, the front office and accounting can all contribute to finding the best and most cost effective way to establish this much needed process.  Make certain the team has time to work on this and do not make it seem like “more” work – this is counter-productive if introduced in that fashion.

Set accountability and share their success with the rest of the hotel staff.  This can become contagious and team building when done correctly. 

3. Define and Communicate the goals and expected results to all staff regularly

Within participative management, there is a need to clearly communicate with all of the staff in whatever ways work best for you.

A number of management companies and major brands have monthly or bi-weekly short meetings to review “big picture”, long term projects.   Many companies and hotels have short, 5-10 minute stand up meetings before the change of shift.

For example, explaining in an all staff meeting about the new preventive maintenance system and the long term value to guests and the staff is critical.  This could be the avenue to credit the team that fine tuned the plan and to explain the financial side of it.  The daily short meetings would be the time to explain to the appropriate department their role or responsibility that day or week and how it all ties together.

A word of caution – be careful on how teams are assembled and do not make them permanent.  Rotate the leadership of these projects and include as many people as possible over the year to encourage participation from as many people as possible.

4. Embrace Change  

It’s not like we have a choice. 

Look at what has happened in the last ten years to property management systems.  Restaurant servers order from the dining room, guests can access high speed internet access, our reservations come globally within seconds from a myriad of sources, and the telephone department no longer generates revenues or profits from the resale of long distance calls.

Blogs and travel sites assist or limit our market position from posted comments and we can create budget documents within minutes, contrasted with what seemed like days only 15 years ago.

Change is here and must be welcomed.  The industry’s profitability was much higher in 2005 - 2007 than in previous years, even with all the changes.

We must also remember that we are in what Kemmons Wilson and Holiday Inns used to call “the people pleasing” business and that realization is why literally every major brand globally has customer care or service improvement as a current initiative.  Attention to service is not new – Cesar Ritz and Ellsworth Statler both used service as the basis for their success.  If you cannot find a copy of the Statler Service Code, let me know and I will share it with you.

All of this means we must work to keep the “high touch” in our every day world as we embrace the high tech advances.  That realization is likely a major reason why the boutique hotels are booming – they recognize the need to keep both.
 
5. Set your parameters on managerial control 

As in #1 on management style, there are levels of control.

  • Absolute Control means advising the staff what to do, how to do it and standing over their shoulder until the assignment or job is finished. 
  • Systematic Control is assigning the project or responsibility, advising the objectives or goals, the expected outcome and standards and some regular follow up.
  • Minimal Control reflects some of the Permissive Management attributes. The assignment is given in some fashion and the only time anyone hears from the manager again is if there is a problem.
Absolute control is often insulting to people. Minimal control can also be annoying because it offers little reinforcement, support or acknowledgement.

Systematic involves setting goals together and gets buy-in.  Completion dates and progress reports are identified and the expectations are known.   Using this, the staff has the freedom to work on the project as they feel it should be done, or they can ask for assistance if they hit an obstacle.
 
As stated in #1 above, successful managers get work completed well through others.

6. Set performance standards

If specific standards are not in place and communicated effectively, how can we expect to achieve other than consistent low end performances?  

Setting standards begins with the hiring and selection process. 

Question:
When was the last time you specifically evaluated and updated job descriptions for every position at your hotel? Remember them? .............those documents used to advise potential staff of what will be expected.......... have they been updated to include the focus on service or technology or other initiatives?  (See # 4 -Embrace Change above)

Performance should be based on specific measurements that have been created from benchmarks that everyone understands.   

In Part two of this series” Motivating the Team”, Principle # 5 was to Create and use individual scorecards for individual accountability.  Specific examples can be found there. 

7. Passionately abide by Timely Performance Reviews 

We all have memories about reviews – positive or negative.  In effective hotels, there is a structured way and timing of meeting this principle.  They might be at anniversary dates of the individual or at one time for all staff with appropriate calculations included to be equitable.  While either system works for what might be the annual financial consideration of a raise, reviews must be considered essential to success.   

” Motivating the Team”  #7 listed an option to annual reviews  – titled  Consider Merit Increases rather than those based on seniority only.   I have personally seen this work, but it must become a long term commitment as part of the hotel culture.

Ways to build a strong culture of Reviews that are meaningful include:

  • Go to a quarterly update of performance for EVERY associate.  This may sound formidable, but I started doing this in hotels in the early 1980s after reading Tom Peter’s IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE.  Peters and co-author Robert Waterman made the point that public companies provide investors with quarterly reports of how the company was doing.  Your associates and you have a great deal invested in time and money. Regular interactions provide the formal potential for positive reinforcement or the corrective steps in resolving potential problems. Scheduled discussion four times a year has amazing results with the associates you want on your team.
  • Having the associate complete the scorecard on themselves and using that as a base for discussion.  The manager needs to complete the final annual report that might be the basis for a merit increase or promotion, but associates know their performance, strengths and what they need to develop better than most managers.  Share the power! 
8. Delegate, but don’t abdicate 

I realize I am repeating myself, but successful hotel managers get work completed well through others.

Managers can often complete a task, such as forecasting, budgeting or even a physical act faster than many on their staff.  While this may be a “feel-good”, it limits the manager and does not let the team grow in their competence.

As noted in the earlier sections on management style and control, managers need to find the best way for them to interact effectively with their team.

Delegation means trust and support and this should be a two way street with your team.  Create whatever systems needed, but don’t relinquish your managerial responsibility.  As a people business, we need managers and supervisors to perform their jobs as well as improve their staff potential.

9. Develop Your Successor 

Howard Feiertag, my friend and co-author of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, shared an interesting perspective with me several years ago.

He said he made it a personal goal for himself to find his successor as quickly as possible after accepting a new assignment.  He felt that by focusing on both working the position and training a successor, he was able to advance his career at a quick pace.   Howard has been honored by HSMAI, MPI, AH&LA and many others over the years for his contributions to the industry.  

His approach worked, because he believed in himself and recognized he would be able to advance his own career when there was someone else to fill the role that he had outgrown.

Consider how you feel and if you intend to spend the rest of your career in the same position as you hold today.

10. Dare to Fail 

Thomas Edison, the American inventor, held a world record of 1093 patents for inventions such as the light bulb and phonograph.      Research will show that it was not all easy, as noted by his quote on the lightbulb.....”I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work”  

Edison was a unique person, but so are the rest of us.  We are in a rapidly changing industry that remains committed to service and the art of hosting.

We all have had at times ideas on streamlining a process, finding a new way to speed check-out, a better way to schedule cleaning of guest rooms or to find a new market niche that might require some capital improvements to meet the needs of that niche. If we examine the potential and not the down side, would your idea work?

Two of the best words in the language might very well be “what if”?

What are your “what if” ideas and what are you doing about it?



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 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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