Hospitality Is a Contact Sport
By Eileen McDargh Chief Energy Officer, The Resiliency Group | March 10, 2013
The impetus for this article comes from the thousands of miles I have traveled and the many places I have stayed in my work as a leadership consultant. Depending upon the city and the client, the range goes from residential inns to five star resorts, from boutique hotels to bed-and-breakfast retreats, from international chains to franchise operations.
From a leadership perspective, what becomes clear is that while creature comforts can vary (and are always critically important), my ultimate experience is determined by the interactions I experience and observe with staff.
As hotel executives, there is much you have to consider in running an enterprise that responds to customer needs and trends. Buffet breakfasts for the busy traveler are great but the impact is lessened when a server slams down coffee. The trend toward small plates in dining is fine but it won't matter if served by small hearts. Service recovery is critical but not when the front desk has to search for someone in authority to tell them how to handle a sediment-filled iron stain that ruined a suit. IPad check-in is swift but disconcerting when a guest's "good afternoon" greeting is met with disdain.
Don't get me wrong. I have observed some of the most obnoxious behavior from business travelers whose ego and arrogance are only a wee bit smaller than their lack of courtesy. To be in this industry is, in fact, an act of courage. Unlike the worlds of finance and technology, consumer products or construction, hospitality puts humans into the most intimate of settings. As author Joan Chittister, OSB, writes: "Hospitality is the act of a recklessly generous heart."
Here is where the contact sport begins: with you the executive. Think of leadership as an inside-out skill. Much like a rock in a pond, what you put out becomes the energy that moves from an inner circle to the furthest reaches of the enterprise. Your demeanor, your actions, your words carry an impact to your leadership team, to the front desk, to the bell desk, to housekeeping. Staff, for the most part, mirror how they are treated by those in leadership.
Consider this article like a booster shot. Just as a booster shot spikes the antibodies, this article is intended to spike what you know and are already doing. It will reinforce practices and hopefully, add some new tools in your leadership kit.