Chocolate Pillow | Effective Leadership in the Hospitality (or any) Industry
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Effective Leadership in the Hospitality (or any) Industry

10 Oct Effective Leadership in the Hospitality (or any) Industry

Hotels are hard work – long hours, lots of demands and often trying to juggle one hundred different things at once. On top of this you have to co-ordinate many departments, with differing tasks and performance measures and most importantly, you have to deal with people – lots and lots of people! Each with differing demands, expectations, needs and requirements, be it your team or your guests.

It’s a lot to manage and a lot to cope with! Some people excel, and some fail dismally, but what separates them? It sounds like I am blowing smoke up my own backside, but as a hotel manager, I cannot recall the last time I had to work more than 45 hours in a week (actually, I do remember that time, and they will just be referred to as ‘The Blackpool Years’, which I will come back to later). The point here is that many people think hotel management is long hours, late nights and early mornings all the time and that constant yearning for a break – quite the opposite can be true.

When I referred to ‘The Blackpool Years’ I hark back to my first foray in to hotel management. It was long hours, early starts followed by late finishes, overnight stays ‘on call’ and very rarely seeing anyone outside of my work colleagues. It was a time when I simply emulated what I saw others doing and thought that the key to being an effective and valued manager was always being around. How wrong I was!  In essence I was the typical ‘busy fool’ – always wanting to please others and spending so much time doing stuff that others should have been doing.

Many years later, I have personal commitments as a carer for my husband; this means that I simply cannot do 16 hour shifts any more, or do 7 days a week non stop. My life gave me a commitment that I could not compromise on and this forced me to evaluate my working environment. It’s not that I don’t love my job, I truly do; it’s just that I love my husband more and he is my priority. So work had to play second fiddle to home and this forced me to become so much more effective at my role. So, here are some of my top tips to help you become more effective in management and actually get some of your work-life balance back:

  • Work is work, home is home. The two should not be mixed. Invariably they will from time to time and there will always be that odd occasion where you get interrupted at home for something or another. But make a separation between the two. Out of Office your emails – tell everyone that you are off for ‘x’ days. Avoid emails on your phone from work (this is harder than you think and I do sometimes fail with this, however if I am on holiday, I actually turn off the email app’s access to the internet!). Generally, if someone has emailed you, it can wait!  As a golden rule – switch the hell off when you are at home – turn off the work phone unless you always have to be contactable (and don’t make excuses for always having it switched on)!
  • Change the culture. This responsibility is with YOU. If you are constantly in contact with your team when you are not in work, then they will always determine it acceptable to contact you when you are not in the office. Establish a boundary of reciprocal behaviour that says ‘I won’t do it to you, so don’t do it to me’. It sounds harsh, but make contacting you outside of your working hours an emergency only thing. If you respect other peoples ‘personal time’ then they will also (generally) respect yours. If one team member always rings you outside of work, just have a conversation with them and explain you value your home time – usually their need to call comes from a lack of experience or confidence which you can train or coach them on.
  • Establish ownership. I recently changed positions to a higher role within the company and have struggled with getting people to defer their queries to my new counterpart responsible for the team. Quite simply I defer people to the person taking over my old role, sometimes to their surprise. This is repetitive and a tad frustrating at times however if I continue dealing with those queries, it will become a ‘rod for my own back’ and I will overload myself with the work of two people. Quite simply I am accepting responsibility for that for which I am accountable; anything else will be directed to the relevant person to handle (i.e. the line manager) – if you don’t need to be dealing with something, then why are you? Get the query to the right person and you will find your life becomes a lot easier.
  • Just do it. Yes it is stealing a well know slogan in a sense, but its true. If you are one of these people who spends ages thinking about what to do, STOP!!! NOW!!! Yes, I did literally scream this at you! My point here is that if you have time to think about doing something and plan it in etc, than you probably had time to just get it done! How many of your tasks take less than ten minutes to complete? Probably more than you believe (one day just write down everything you do on a scrap piece of paper and how long it took – look back at it the following day and realise how much you did or didn’t do and how much time you spent dealing with other people’s crap – how much of your work should actually be done by someone else?). My manager is often amazed at how quickly stuff gets done – its quite simply because I have learnt to just get it done there and then, or get someone to do it if it is not something you necessarily need to do, or that will cause a drain on your time. An example is banking corrections – errors happen on a reception team with cashiering reports and balancing accounts. When it comes to correcting those accounts, I will approve the correction and authorise any refunds etc as required, but the receptionist who made the error will be the one to correct it. This has two effects – firstly it is not a drain on my time of opening cashiering accounts, processing payments and corrections etc and then balancing my accounts again, and secondly it means the person who made the error knows how to correct it in future. Yes it may take a while to explain the correction, but it saves me time in the future as next time, they should be able to fix it themselves. Which leads me to my next point.
  • Invest time in saving time. Yeah, its a contradiction – take time to save time? But as I have just said, if you take time to train someone on fixing a problem, you won’t always need to be involved in fixing that problem in future – taking 30 minutes now has saved you hours in future. If you can save time in future by taking a few more minutes now, then do so! Training others is key as if you always do something, then people will always expect you to do it and you will become a work horse for no end result. Simply put, if you can train someone else to do it and they are capable of doing it, why aren’t they doing it? Ask whether you should be spending your time doing this or whether it’s something that someone else should be doing.
  • Concentrate on results. If you focus on a task completion, rather than spending ages deliberating on the ways to reach that goal, you won’t end up wasting time. This takes practice and experience as you have to apply it every scenario – its about how you use a system, how you deal with people, how you work, how you evaluate things. For example, getting someone else to hoover a floor has the same end result as doing it yourself, however if everyone else is busy, then do it yourself – its about finding what is the most efficient way to achieve the same end result in the least amount of time. If you have to do it because someone else hasn’t after being asked, then the act of you doing it will usually be more than enough for someone to feel shit about themselves for not getting it done. This is about balancing many needs at once – what the company wants, what you want, what others want. It can be weird but this is about working out what you want to do and what you need to do. Wanting to do something is not taking action, that is something that can wait. If you need to do it, it should be done now.
  • Question the norm. Never accept ‘just because’ or ‘it can’t be done’ – For example, I have spent a lot of time recently cleaning bath tubs which had become stained. For many years I had been told that nothing could be done, and as soon as I got in to the housekeeping team, I went and tried myself. It took a lot of elbow grease and work but they are much better now and (almost) stain free (but I shall not be beaten!). Why am I doing this myself? Simply because I want to find what is the most efficient way of doing it and keeping on top of it – I am trying different cleaning methods, different sponges and finding what does and doesn’t work to prevent it happening again. Yes its taken several hours to do it but long term, this saves time. If I can find a sponge/cleaner combo that takes 30 minutes instead of an hour, I am saving 30 minutes per room of scrubbing; that is DAYS worth of work over a year! Also as a new manager to that department, the team can see that I am not afraid to get in and get involved. Another thing we had was another team that left housekeeping to do their orders; this stopped immediately. I am not in the position I am in, to do other people’s jobs for them. It sounds harsh but there is a line between between nice guy and arsehole that you sometimes have to tread carefully. Usually the question ‘Why am I doing this?’ posed to the other person will give you a legitimate reason, or an excuse. If its’ a legitimate reason, then decide a course of action, if its an excuse or ‘always been that way’ then the task needs assigning to the person who should be responsible and appropriate training given.

There is an overall theme to the above which is a touch ‘be selfish’ but this is trap that many fall in to with leadership – it is easy to become a fix-all; don’t spend life dealing with others problems. The old mantra ‘give a man a fish and he will feed himself for a day, teach him to fish and he will feed himself and others for life’ is ever true within any management role – you only will develop yourself by developing others. When I was promoted, my replacement was already there to take up the reins of the team and to take over my responsibilities; and this is the point. Train those around you, set clear boundaries and work for results – its not hard and cold, its actually just efficient.

So ask yourself, how efficient have I been today – what have I achieved, what have others achieved?

And remember – it is not illegal to switch off from work!

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Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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