Hotel Online  Special Report

Bringing Out the Best in People; Principles to Apply
to the Team You Lead - the Front Desk, 
the Housekeeping, Servers, the Kitchen


by Chris Longstreet, CHA, President & CEO, Society for Hospitality Management, October 2004

Also see: Bringing Out the Best in People (Part 1)

Look back over your career.  Who motivated you?  Who brought out the best in you?  Which managers, which leaders, seemed to bring out the best in the people they served?

In his book, Dr. McGinnis outlines twelve rules for bringing out the best in people.   These principles can be applied to any team you lead:  the front desk, the sales department, housekeeping, servers, the kitchen, or even the management team of your hotel or restaurant.  These skills are valuable in creating a motivational environment where your employees want to work and feel they can contribute to the success of your organization.

In part two of this three-part article, we look at the next four rules and how we can apply them to the environments in which we work.


Scudder N. Parker once said, “People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be – not what you nag them to be.”   Our employees have a need to have someone encourage them and spur them on to higher performance levels.

One of my students once said that while working at an amusement park, he was regularly belittled by his superior.  He was always yelling at him and telling him what to do and that he never measured up in the performance of his duties.   In my discussions with him, he wished his supervisor had been more encouraging in management style.   Nothing was ever good enough.   A few words of encouragement would have made this student a much better employee.

Are their ways you can encourage your employees?   At the front desk, instead of pointing out all the negatives, can you encourage upselling by pointing out the opportunities missed?  Or encouraging servers to sell other items by showing them how to do it instead of just saying “do it this way!”

In addition, do you have employees that show promise and interest in the hospitality profession?  This is your opportunity to encourage them to explore the opportunities of making hospitality management a career.  Allow them to dream about the future and the possibilities it holds for them.  

“The best leaders,” says Dr. McGinnis, “are more than optimists (though almost every good motivator is a strong positive thinker).  They are also futurists.  That is, they love to live in the future, dream about the future, talk about the future – and they are always urging people around them to do the same.”   Do you have that perspective?


Coaches sometimes use the tactic of talking about the success of former students and players to motivate their players.  “Win one for the Gipper” is one of many examples of such motivation.  Success breeds success and using the examples from the past can help motivate today’s employees to move forward and upward.

In my hospitality management classes, I use A&E Biography programs that portray the lives of Conrad Hilton and Dave Thomas.   Each of these industry icons is a model for success.  Hilton showed his business savvy by making it through the Great Depression and his drive for success.  He had fun in his business endeavors and was able to learn from his mistakes.  “Success seems to be connected with action,” states Conrad Hilton.  “Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit.”

Dave Thomas was committed to his customers, his employees, and providing the best product possible.  He gave back to the community through the Dave Thomas Foundation.   “A great leader,” said Dave Thomas, “is someone who practices what they preach.  They lead by example, create a sense of loyalty and teamwork, and are active in the community, sharing their success with those in need.”   He viewed his business as a team effort.   “Share your success and help others succeed.  Give everyone a chance to have a piece of the pie.  If the pie’s not big enough, make a bigger pie.”

At the unit level, we can employ models of success by telling our own success stories.  Jim Dunleavy, managing partner of an Outback Steakhouse in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is proud of how many people have left his employment and now operate or own their own Outbacks.   He uses these “stories” to show people the opportunities within the company and models the success of others for future employees.   

Do you have employees that have grown within the company and can be used to show others how to succeed?   Are your employees successful in other endeavors that can be used to model success?   Can you use these people to promote models of success for others?

“What we are after,” says Dr. McGinnis, “is an atmosphere of enthusiasm and hope, and that can be communicated best with stories of people. David Kolb, professor of management at Case Western Reserve University, summarizes it this way:  If I see people around me succeeding, it will stimulate my desire to succeed.”


Praise and positive reinforcement is an essential art for a manager or supervisor.  The focus of our efforts needs to be on recognizing and reinforcing specific behavior.  As Dr. McGinnis states, it is the difference between saying “I’m expecting great things from you” and saying “you’ve done a terrific job running the housekeeping department” or “you did a great job handling that lunch hour rush in the kitchen this afternoon.”

Our employees want to feel like they are winners.  Nothing succeeds like success.  A restaurant is successful if its servers and cooks are successful.  If employees are doing well in their jobs, they will be highly motivated.  The systems we have in place should not only be designed to produce winners and recognize them on a periodic basis, the systems should be in place to recognize achievement at the moment it occurs.   Our formal recognition program, such as employee of the month, need to be complimented by other forms of recognition that are more spontaneous.

“There are right ways and wrong ways of expressing appreciation and reinforcing positive behavior,” says Dr. McGinnis.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Hand out commendations in public – praise in front of others and acknowledge success
  2. Use every success as an excuse for celebration – success breeds success, so why not celebrate as often as possible (sales goals, up-selling goals, occupancy goals, daily, and weekly goals)
  3. Employ some gesture to give weight to your commendation – A trophy, an award, a prize, and not always the same gesture
  4. Put your compliment in writing – make it a part of their file so you can review it during performance reviews and copy the letter to those who need to know
  5. Be very specific in your praise – tell a server “I like the way you sold that additional bottle of wine” or to the room attendant, “Thanks for cleaning two extra rooms today.”

Every day of our lives, we do things because we are motivated by fear.  We fear losing our jobs and that can spur us on to high performance levels.  Thus, we avoid certain kinds of behavior in our work environments because we fear the repercussions of doing otherwise.  It is foolish to work in an environment where we do not use discipline or reprimand employees.  Yes we ought to use the carrot more than the stick, but the stick has its uses.

We must follow undesired behavior with immediate corrective action.   If your busperson is late one day, we need to ask why.  If the tardiness becomes regular, progressive disciplinary procedures should be used to correct the behavior.  As soon as the correction is made, the negative reinforcement should stop.  Offer a plan for improvement which shows your busperson you care about them, and how their actions impact the operation.

“The proper way to use negative tools for motivation,” states Dr. McGinnis, “is not an easy question for any of us dealing with people.  What is the proper balance between negative and positive reinforcement?  For now, let us agree that praising should far outweigh scolding, and that in the long run what we are aiming for in our use of fear and guilt is an allegiance to high values rather than fear of our displeasure.”

Conclusion and Review

Do you:

  1. Expect the best from your employees and those you lead?
  2. Understand the needs of your employees and use this information to create an environment that builds their motivation?
  3. Establish standards of excellence that are attainable for your employees and those you lead?
  4. Create an environment where failure isn’t fatal?
  5. Encourage your employees or do you nag them?
  6. Provide models of success for your employees to follow?
  7. Regularly recognize and applaud the efforts of individuals and groups of employees?
  8. Use a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement?
Evaluate your own performance in these areas.  Next week, we finish the rules for bringing out the best in people.

Chris Longstreet, CHA, is President & CEO of the Society for Hospitality Management.  Chris is also a Visiting Instructor in the Hospitality & Tourism Management Program at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.

Bringing Out the Best In People:  How to Enjoy Helping Others Excel was written by Dr. Alan Loy McGinnis (1985) and is published by Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Chris Longstreet, CHA
President & CEO
133 Port Sheldon Road
Grandville, MI  49418
(616) 457-3646

Also See: Bringing Out the Best in People; Principles to Apply to the Team You Lead - the Front Desk, the Housekeeping, Servers, the Kitchen (part 1) / Chris Longstreet / September 2004
Managing Human Resources in the Hospitality Industry: Putting Values Into Practice / David Wheelhouse and Chris Longstreet / July 2004
What It Takes to be a Hotel Professional: The Things You Can Control / Chris Longstreet / May 2004
Quality and Value – The Trademark of the Society for Hospitality Management / February 2004

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