The Essentials of Successful Leadership for Today's Hospitality Executive

By Richard Takach, Jr. President & CEO, Vesta Hospitality | June 19, 2016

All of us involved in the hospitality industry are well aware that we have experienced a historic run of consecutive quarterly gains in RevPAR over the past several years, with steady growth in both occupancy rates and ADR over most of this period. Our sector generates substantial economic activity across a broad spectrum – from guest expenditures to financing, maintenance and supplies, construction and capital investment, and wages and compensation paid to team members.

As a result we are making significant contributions to a healthy American economy, including having added more than 2 million new jobs since 2004 by one account. It is further comforting to know that a number of hospitality organizations regularly make Fortune's annual list of 100 "Best Companies to Work For."

Clearly, this good news reflects well on our industry's hard-working, creative and visionary leaders.

In this article, we will consider some of the values, attitudes and skills it takes to be an effective leader in the hospitality sector, striving to form a lasting culture of service, teamwork and excellence.

Furthermore, such a discussion will help illuminate what hospitality leaders might look for or consider as they nurture a next generation of leaders for their industry. In this way, we turn the mirror upon ourselves, prompting us to rethink our own capabilities, principles and sense of purpose as leaders.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.