By David Lund
The chapter below is an excerpt from my new book. It’s fiction but some of the characters and story lines are based on people I have worked with and events that have taken place in the hotels I have worked in. The book is a fable about a hotel manager who has some very bad habits. He must change in order to survive and the book takes him and you through the lessons needed to be a great hospitality financial leader. I’m writing ahead each month so I’m not sure how the book will end. I hope you enjoy it and if you missed any earlier chapters you can find them on my website blog tab.
The next morning, I arrived at the hotel a bit earlier than the previous two days. I walked the lobby, the back spaces and stopped by the cafeteria, aptly named The Odin. I grabbed a coffee and took a seat at a table by myself. After a short while, two room attendants asked if they could join me. I remembered their faces from the reception, and they told me their names and we made small talk. Something was different about these ladies. They seemed so happy and genuinely interested in me. It’s odd, I think.
My next stop was the morning meeting. I purposely stayed away but today I made a surprise appearance. Much like the Stow, the department managers assembled and spoke of the day’s activities, business, groups, VIPs, the usual stick. One thing I noticed, however, was the relatively easy and good mood everyone was in. I remembered that my directions were to listen, only adding a thank you or an I see comment here and there.
The meeting seemed to be about everything that needed to take place that day and not about me. It was funny how they seemed to find me almost invisible. I was used to the leaders in my hotel’s reaction to my presence. It was one of intense focus – like a dog that’s not sure what it’s master will do.
I returned to the office shortly before my 9:30 appointment with Mr. D. Julie was there in the outer office, busy with some guest correspondence and said a quick good morning. I entered my office to find my mail and some “printed daily reports” on my desk.
“Julie,” I bellowed, “Do not fill my in-box with this crap!”
Two seconds later she was in my office.
“Mr. Pavia, what is wrong?”
“Julie, I do not need or want this pound of these useless paper reports. File them and should I ever need them I will ask you for them then!” I was thinking to myself, This woman is not very bright!
I asked her what she thought I was here for? She looked at me with an odd expression on her face, like I just asked her if she would like to take a walk to the flower store with me.
She attempted to apologize, and I cut her off, “Remember, I’m the General Manager and If I need something, I will ask you. It is not your job to think.”
“Yes, Mr. Pavia,” she said as she managed a humble retreat with the reports in hand.
As she turned to leave a figure crossed the threshold into my office. He said good morning in a large and bright voice. Julie slipped by him and he paused to take note of her rattled demeanor.
“Oliver, is this a bad time?” he asked.
“No, it’s not. We were discussing the daily mail,” and I asked him to please come in. He removed his overcoat and hat and sat down in front of my desk.
He looked at me and smiled a little and then he asked, “Why Julie was upset?”
“I don’t think she was upset,” I replied, “I told her that the useless paper had no place on my desk and to file it until I might need it.”
“Oh,” Mr. D. replied, “it looked and sounded to me like you were ‘having your way with her’.” He looked at me and said very calmly, “Everyone deserves to be treated with the same respect as…” And then he stopped.
“Oliver, remember the one condition Cedrick asked you to accept? To not take any disciplinary action with any staff during your time with me?”
“Yes,” I said, “but hardly a few words to my secretary about some filing is discipline.”
“As we were…” he said, “Oliver, Cedrick asked me to spend the next two months with you to teach you my secrets. He also asked me to evaluate your progress and to let you know that at any time we can end the training based on my recommendation or yours. How do you feel about the idea of me teaching you my system and evaluating you?”
I took a moment and chose my words wisely.
“Mr. Dontremont, with all respect, you seem like a nice man, but I must tell you I do not need to learn ‘service leadership.’ My job is to keep the staff and the managers in line. To make sure they do their jobs properly. The whole idea that I am here in any way to serve them is preposterous.”
I smiled a little inside to myself now that this was out on the table so to speak. Mr. D asked me if it was okay to tell me a little story. I was thinking to myself that this was going to be a long morning.
“Sure,” I said.
“Oliver, the hotel has had many masters. By my count you’re the 19th manager. What do you want to be your legacy here at the Norton?” he asked me.
“I haven’t given this any thought.”
He then asked me, “How long were you at the Stow?”
“So, Oliver, let me ask you what is your legacy there?”
The thoughts of the reception for my departure and my dream quickly filled my conscience. I was silent and, somehow, I knew he knew what I was thinking. I did not need to say anything.
“Oliver, to effectively lead people you must first serve them or your time is wasted.”
“Serve?” I asked.
“Yes, Oliver, to serve creates the highest form of influence anyone can have with another. I can see by your expression, Oliver, that you are confused by service and leadership. Let me tell you my story.”