by Mihaela Lica Butler

Yehuda Shinar published one of the most brilliant self-help books you will ever need. It's called "Think Like a Winner" but it will not suffice for you to type this keyword phrase into Amazon's search field to find it. It doesn't stand alone. There is a 1991 book titled "Think Like a Winner" by Dr. Walter Doyle Staples that precedes Shinar's endeavor and it's a great read. It touches so many common points with Shinar's belief. That average people can "become exceptional in one or more key areas of their lives, regardless of their upbringing, education, or previous level of accomplishment," for example, in the words of Dr. Staples. Shinar stretches it: "you can easily be one of life's winners – irrespective of natural talent, intelligence, and skill."

I am partial to Shinar's book because it is straightforward without annoying scholastic pretenses that make the reader feel unworthy. The whole book delivers like a "how to" dissertation but goes beyond theory to offer actual tools that can help you not only "think like a winner" but become one. I recently interviewed Shinar to define the winning hotelier and I can confirm that his principles can apply to people from every walk of life. Identifying the right mindset to become a "winning Hotelier" is an exercise worth doing.

According to Shinar, Winning Hoteliers are those who create smiling guests against all the odds. They manage to transform guest frustration into guest satisfaction through learned leadership and communication skills. Shinar’s winning behavior model is a pyramid that has the “noble warrior” at its base, followed by the “correct thinker” and the “skill refiner” at the top.

  • The Noble Warrior: winners are fighters, not in the physically aggressive sense, but because they are not afraid to face whatever obstacles in their way to achieving their goals. They are also able to fight internal battles like self-doubt and negative thoughts. Moreover, the warrior spirit will not give up.
  • The Correct Thinker: winners have a pragmatic way of thinking defined by Shinar as T-CUP – Thinking Correctly Under Pressure. This means that winners can make the correct decisions despite doubt and other negatives that discourage other people – for example, some people freeze under pressure, while others react instinctively. A winner will deliver positive results regardless of the situation. T-CUP has a set of 12 rules that can be learned and applied in any circumstances.
  • The Skill Refiner: winners are always seeking to improve their best. They practice and refine their skills continuously.

At each stage of the winning behavior model pyramid, winners are monitoring their performance through a process of debriefing. Instead of looking only at “what went wrong” like most people, winners investigate their successes too and learn what can be improved or what tactics to keep.

It would take some time to describe in detail the 12 rules of T-CUP, but a summary is essential to give the reader an overview of how winners think and act. This model, as I mentioned, can be adopted by hoteliers, but also by pupils who want to achieve better results in school, by CEOs, by athletes, and so on.

Here are the 12 rules of T-CUP:

  1. Create the opportunity: spend time creating the conditions and opportunities necessary to increase the likelihood of success.
  2. Seize the opportunity: do not take shortcuts and overcome obstacles and temptations that can prevent you from seizing the opportunity.
  3. Maintain the momentum: prepare to maximize success, minimize failure, and continue to improve so that winning becomes an ongoing lifestyle.
  4. Strive for the best possible result: do not settle for anything less than your best. Success requires patience and thoroughness. To do so, you must achieve a balance between perfectionism and practicality. As Shinar puts it: winners are practical perfectionists.
  5. Avoid unnecessary corners: winners make mistakes, but they don’t repeat them.
  6. Stick to what works: just as Bert Lance said once, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
  7. Give up what doesn’t work: if at first you do not succeed, refine the method. In other words, debrief, see what didn’t work, and try a different approach.
  8. Get back to basics: when things don’t go according to plan, learn how to get back on track.
  9. Improve your self-control: create your luck by controlling variables like stress and anxiety. Focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t.
  10. Make the correct decisions: evaluate what works and make the right decisions at the right time.
  11. Learn to thrive under pressure: do not freeze under pressure. Instead, try to use the principles of T-CUP to fulfill your true potential.
  12. Maximise your use of time: do not panic under pressure. You always have more time than you feel you have. Take a moment to think clearly rather than panicking.

This is just a short introduction to give you a general idea of how thinking like a winner can change the way you perform in any field you choose. Shinar’s Winning Method, which is endorsed by Israel's Innovation Authority and adopted by the Israeli Air Force, has propelled successful strategies at numerous organizations, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Nat West, London Stock Exchange, and Leonardo Hotels Chain in Europe among many others.

This takes us back to the Winning Hoteliers and the traits that define them. I asked Shinar how do Winning Hoteliers deal with unpleasant or dissatisfied guests?

“Unpleasant guests can easily arouse feelings of frustration, anger or hurt in the hotelier, who might take it very personally,” Shinar explained. “The immediate temptation is to respond emotionally to gratify the momentary desire for self-respect in a charged situation.

Winners are driven by a desire to succeed – and in this case, to succeed in handling a situation in a manner that serves the overall "Top Goal" they have set themselves: turning problematic/ unpleasant/dissatisfied guests into guests who are thankful they did not choose to go to a rival hotel. What differentiates Winning Hoteliers from the others is that they do not let themselves be managed by their emotions. They are the ones who take charge of those emotions! For winners the challenge is always to be able to make rational decisions, and to act rationally in an emotional situation, especially in the hotel business. For this, winning hoteliers must harness their “warrior spirit,” putting themselves aside and reminding themselves that they are not the issue! The issue is to meet the Top Goal: to end up with a happy and loyal guest. From here on, it is merely a question of making the optimal decisions that best serve the Top Goal.”

The ability to make a rational decision in emotional situations can be a challenge for any hotelier and most people working in hospitality, from the housekeeping staff, to the reception clerks and up to management. Ideally, hoteliers must invest in creating winning teams. Most high-end, luxury hotels and chains, hire staff trained by institutions such as the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Les Roches International School of Hotel Management, Hotelschool The Hague, and so on. These schools teach their alumni and alumnae the basic rules of guest relations. However, dealing with guests is just part of the bigger picture. A winning team goes beyond basics.

“Hoteliers are trained to see that their goal is to have satisfied guests,” Shinar explains. “A winning hotelier won’t make do with that kind of Top Goal definition. It’s a bit like saying somebody is a nice guy. Who wants to be known as a nice guy? Competitor hoteliers also know how to create satisfied guests. So, the Top Goals should be no less than creating a happy guest, a guest who really feels at home, and a loyal guest.

To conclude, Yehuda Shinar's Winning Model can adapt to any situation in life and hoteliers who are just starting out can follow it proactively from the get-go to achieve the success of established professionals faster and, in many cases, with surprisingly better results.