By David Lund

If Serving is Beneath You, then Leadership is Beyond You

While creating hospitality financial leadership workshops, I learned three very valuable lessons. The third lesson was by far the most powerful and transformating for me and my way of seeing the role I was playing as a financial leader.

First lesson: Students like learning, subject matter and material

They all responded very positively to the workshops and subject matter. From this revelation I realized that students could now see that this “financial piece” everyone touts as the hard and confusing part of hospitality, was indeed not so difficult. It is very accessible and with the proper instruction, tools and some attention the hospitality financial piece can be taught to anyone. Once a leader sees the opportunity to learn and advance their personal prosperity they are literally all over it. They realize that the financial piece is the missing link in their careers and without these skills they will not make the cut. This in and of itself is powerful, but there is more.

Second valuable lesson: Importance of immediate and measurable return on investment

Everyone attending my workshops see this happen through financial leadership training. As a financial professional—in my career when I was presented with purchase orders and requests for funding for leadership training in my hotel—I would always ask, “When am I getting my money back?” I would always receive the same deer in the headlights look and the typical answer, “Well, you know, training is good and the leaders will all benefit.”

I know training is almost always good and worthwhile, but you should be able to put your finger on some results—to justify the cost. That is just common sense but inevitably that never happened in those old training sessions. Following financial leadership training, you should ask your managers to tell you what they are doing differently. What new ideas have they brought to their department? What savings have they uncovered? After the old training they would just say: Well, because this is different training.

But I know of hotels that ask each leader each month to tell them where they found savings not included in the previous forecast. When people have the tools and the understanding—like they receive through my workshops—they are more than happy to show you what they have accomplished. I have a separate blog on how to turn $250 into $1 million in asset value. Check it out for the ROI details:

Third and by far the biggest impact: Realization that education is the highest form of service

Allow me to explain.

Before I embarked on this path of creating and delivering workshops to teach our leaders about the financial business of hotels, I was just another controller trying to get a clean month end, a good forecast and a monthly commentary that made some sense. Getting the other non-financial leaders to participate in these endeavors was like pulling teeth.

I was diligent in sending out the monthly schedule, the reminders, the update at the weekly department head meeting, a sermon or two at the executive committee meeting and countless one-on-one chats with other managers. But alas, none of this worked.

What changed the game completely was the workshop. By educating and helping other leaders understand the financial piece, they were more than willing to reciprocate and do their part. Not only did the quality and quantity of their work go way up, their attitudes and willingness to get involved went sky high. So, what happened? What changed in the hearts and minds of the leaders in my hotel?

Service is what changed. Prior to the workshop era I was just another mouthpiece, another whining voice that wanted something. That was a relatively easy thing for most people to ignore, even if I was the controller. They all knew they did not report to me. There was little in the way of retribution for missing my deadlines. You know the drill. Another way to look at what was happening with what I wanted was I had an expectation. People do not respond well to your expectations. Think about it, when was the last time someone expected something from you and you got all warm and excited with that prospect—never. It is always the direct opposite. All my schedules, whining, sermons and reminders boiled down to one thing, I had an expectation. Dead on arrival. It never worked.

The workshop changed all of that for me and my non-performing non-financial leaders. In the world of the mind there is a fundamental law: The law of reciprocation—or, as some call it, the law of reciprocity.

Social psychologists call it The Law of Reciprocity – and it basically says that when someone does something nice for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return. As a matter of fact, you may even reciprocate with a gesture far more generous than their original good deed. – Google

By taking the time and effort to put together the workshop, my non-financial managers were en masse more than happy to reciprocate. It is just what human beings love to do. What this meant was their contribution to my forecasts, month end and commentaries went way up—as a direct result of me educating them.

But do not let the workshop or the education piece fool you like it did me in the beginning. What was really going on here was I was serving them and, due to the law, they were more than willing to return the love.

Think back in your career and remember the people who helped you. The manager that took you under her or his wing and helped you. You would do just about anything for them. There’s the law again. If serving is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you. It is that simple. Help people first and they are going to respond—especially when you help them with something as seemingly large and scary as hotel finance. They see what you are trying to do. They see you helping them with lifelong skills that make a huge difference in their individual personal prosperity.

Service equals an opportunity to provide your leadership with what they are longing for. Provide your managers with the gift of a no strings attached education on the business of hotels and I guarantee you they will love you for it and respond.

Let’s face it. Who else is going to do it?