Hotel Online  Special Report

What It Takes to be a Hotel Professional: 
The Things You Can Control


by Chris Longstreet, CHA, Society for Hospitality Management
May 2004

Several years ago, I sat out in the grass of a minor league ball game.  There, while eating hot dogs with my kids, I watched the opposing team conduct their warm up drills.  One player caught my eye.  He seemed to do more, give more, and work a little harder than the rest.  I was impressed with his effort and his apparent desire to be the best and achieve his dream of making it to the big leagues.  I wondered then: what made him different?

Today, Matt Kata has made it to the highest level and as a professional baseball player.  Matt is on the active roster of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In a May 2003 article in Bill Mitchell’s Minor League Ramblings, Matt Kata outlines his baseball philosophy with three rather simple success factors.  “Attitude, concentration, and effort,” states Kata, “those are the easy things to control.  I know that the numbers will be a reflection of that.”   Attitude, concentration, and effort - these things are key to being a professional.

“The way I approach the game (is to) play hard and hustle,” said Kata, about the intangibles he brings to the field.  “Doing the little things, being in the right place at the right time, always hustling, knowing where to throw the ball, moving the runner over … that’s the strong part of my game.” 

It’s the intangibles that have made Matt Kata a professional.

Attitude is Everything

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "People don't seem to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character."  In other words, if we think this is a miserable world to live in, then we live in a miserable world...and probably make it miserable for others to live in too.

Our attitudes are reflected in everything we do, including relationships with our customers and guests.  If we see guests as a necessary evil and that they are there just “bothering” us, their responses to us will be entirely different than if we see them as investors in our company and people who will ultimately create the success of our organization.  We can never be truly professional unless we develop a sincere respect for -- and healthy attitude toward – our customers and guests.

Recently, I got caught in a discussion about the price of gasoline.  I was complaining how the price of gas in the United States changes so much with very little consistency.  I put effort into trying to beat the system and get the lowest price.   FOR WHAT?   People in England and Germany pay double or triple what we pay!   What perspective did I have?   What attitude was driving my perspective?  The people I was with shared how one couple drives over 10 miles to get the cheapest gallon of gas in the area.   20 miles round trip for a 2-cent gallon savings?   Was it worth it?  What is our perspective on gas?  Better yet, what is our perspective on our guests, employees, and our business?

Keith Harrell, in his book Attitude Is Everything, makes it clear that with our attitude, we have a choice.  “The critical difference between those who believe that they will succeed and those who have no belief in themselves is their understanding of attitude.  There are those who know they can control their attitudes and those who allow their attitudes to control them.  The people who do best in life are those who realize they have the power to choose their attitudes, just as they have the power to choose their clothing, their cars, or their dinner companions.”

Concentration and Knowledge

I was recently on a tour of an Outback Restaurant with a class I teach at Grand Valley State University.   Jim Dunleavy, the managing partner of the restaurant said, “Multi-tasking isn’t for me.  If I have to do three things at one time, which one is getting my full attention and which one am I doing well?”   What a great insight!

Concentration means knowing what to do at the right time.  To achieve a high level of concentration, a professional has to be knowledgeable in what they do.   Whether it’s teaching a class, running a restaurant, operating a hotel, planning and coordinating an event, a professional needs to know what it takes to get the job done. 

Concentration takes practice.  Our minds are designed to carry out several tasks at once, if needed, and it is common for our attention to be going many directions all at the same time.  Learning to take control of our attention is a critical skill in developing the self-control needed to be a professional.

Effort and Passion

“Play hard and hustle!”   What words define effort better?  “Doing the little things, being in the right place at the right time, always hustling!” 

Effort and passion go hand in hand.  Richard Chang in his book, The Passion Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing and Living Your Passion, defines passion as “personal intensity, or the underlying force that fuels our strongest emotions.”

“When you experience passion,” claims Chang, “you lose track of time and become absorbed in the task at hand.  It uplifts you and inspires you.  It heightens your performance and enables you to achieve things you may never had dreamed possible.”   To be a professional, we must love playing hard and hustling.

Developing as a Professional

Professionalism is a state of mind.  Professionalism is how you conduct yourself and act on a daily basis.  It is not what you do - it is how you do it. 

Pride is the sense of satisfaction you have from knowing that you are important, worthwhile, in control of your destiny, and aware of and acting on your potential.  Taking pride in yourself and what you do is the foundation from which professionalism grows. 

To develop as a professional, consider the following activities:

1.  Learn as much as you can about your job.  To be a professional requires knowledge of your job and knowing when to use that information.  Take a college course, attend seminars, or read books on the industry.   You don’t need college credit to gain knowledge about the hospitality industry.

2.  Watch biographical videos on past giants of the industry.   A&E’s Biography has highlighted the lives of Conrad Hilton, Dave Thomas, Ray Kroc, and J.W. Marriott.   Learn for the successes and failures of these industry icons.

3.  Join an association that encourages professional development in your area of the industry.  There are many associations – find the one that fits you and helps you grow both personally and professionally.  Research these organizations on-line and see which one fits your needs and career ambitions best.

4.  Find a mentor in this industry and learn from them.   Mentoring is an informal relationship that allows one to learn more about the industry and what it takes to succeed.


Chris Longstreet, CHA
President & CEO
Society for Hospitality Management
7520 Main Street, Suite 9
Jenison, MI   49428
(616) 457-3646

Also See: Quality and Value – The Trademark of the Society for Hospitality Management / February 2004

To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.Online Search

Home | Welcome! | Hospitality News | Classifieds | Catalogs & Pricing | Viewpoint Forum | Ideas/Trends
Please contact Hotel.Online with your comments and suggestions.