By David Lund
Creating a financially engaged leadership team takes time, commitment, respect for fair play, resources and a sense of adventure.
When creating something new, for me there was always an element of the unknown. In writing my book, it occurred to me that if I had a book like this 25 years ago, some of the guesswork would not have existed.
The adventure however always remained and that was the great part about embarking on a mission that had a team working together in an attempt to score big. But, I was cognizant that when working with people, I was the example that got watched, yes, everything I did was watched. It was clearer and clearer with every interaction; even if I did not think it was seen or heard, it was.
People have a keen sense of fair play and wanted to see behavior displayed that supported the written and spoken message. It was very important to make the right moves and put the right pieces in place, but it was equally as critical to avoid certain things.
The first thing to skip was a sense of having a project all sewn up. Arrogance and ambivalence toward an end that was impossible to control was dangerous. There were always surprises and imperfections in the financial system. The attitude that any hotel financial process is perfect must be avoided. Adopting a perfectionist outlook on the financial piece would bite back.
In Winifred Gallagher’s book, Rapt, he created a great distinction, which is very applicable to creating a financially engaged leadership team. His distinction was “Maximizer” or “Satisfier.” The distinction pointed out not to get hung up on making and finding the absolute best decision on a path forward, but rather that most decisions are almost always good enough as long as they meet basic needs. In this case, that means the financial ball moves down the field, even if it is just one yard.
Creating a financially engaged team was a game of inches
A master solution or idea or process did not exist. A willingness and attitude that welcomed any and all ideas and participation at all levels was my secret sauce.
The “satisfier” was a much more powerful path to take as it meant the quantity of combined creativity was delivered to a project, rather than waiting hopelessly for the gold measure idea and process. Being agile and welcoming all efforts was the key to creating a team willing to push the envelope of “What if.” This was where ideas and innovation were born. If a team thought the project was heavy and laden with the potholes of needing perfection, a retreat into playing it safe resulted. This sent the message to a team to back away from the financial effort. It was a game that was not winnable so why play along?
Another roadblock on the path to achieving hotel financial leadership effectiveness was any sense of supremacy or entitlement.
With money went power, with power went abuse, abuse created distrust, and with distrust, hearts and minds did not engage. Instead skepticism and ultimately ambivalence were built.
In some hotels there was a sense of royalty around the GM, the owner and even the executive team. Because of that, special treatment for family members, relatives and friends was avoided at all times. Nothing built distrust and cynicism with leaders and colleagues more than activities that squandered resources, especially when the perks took legitimate revenue opportunities away from the hotel.
This did not mean stop all social activities that supported a strong community and customer activity, but rather we were cognizant that the team was looking and watching what was said versus what was done. If the two were not in alignment, then a productive team would not step up and participate in the financial leadership. The cost was substantial and ended up creating and enforcing a have vs. have notsociety inside the hotel. When this happened, the underground was created and many opportunities to “help themselves” developed and got out of control.
It was simple, yet critical, that actions matched words and were monitored closely for any display of lack of respect for the resources and ultimately the profitability in the hotel.