Culture Never Takes a Holiday

By Marcus Nicolls Senior Vice President and Business Unit President, Partners in Leadership (PIL) | January 25, 2015

Co-authored by Mattson Newell, Area VP & Leadership Consultant, Partners In Leadership

Any discussion of culture and strategy begins with a healthy understanding of what they are. Metaphorically, strategy is the orchestra—a collection of instruments and the music that will be played. It follows that culture then, is how that music is performed—from the way the maestro brandishes the baton and how the violins harmonize, to when and how the music ebbs and flows—louder-softer, faster or slower. Alone, each might be just noise or even silence. Together, they create beautiful music. More specifically,

  • Strategy involves assembling the right instruments and the best musicians, and focusing them on playing a single, perfectly composed piece of music.
  • Culture is the way the musicians think and act as they perform the music. That thinking and acting obviously affects the overall performance. And more than just a collection of “skills,” the right culture provides an environment that encourages inspired performance. With good strategic alignment and great culture leadership, musicians begin to play as one to produce music that connects with the audience and conveys the intended message—the desired result.

Roger Connors and Tom Smith, experts on organizational culture and co-authors of Change the Culture, Change the Game: The Breakthrough Strategy for Energizing Your Organization and Creating Accountability for Results, have said, “The results you currently get as an organization are produced by your current culture.”

Culture Produces Results

What results is your culture producing? Is your workplace a group of expert musicians with quality instruments playing a symphony, or some syncopated cacophony? Is yours a results machine or a mess like the following example?

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Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.