Hospitality leaders have a role like any other manager. Their operation is always running every minute of every day, with people coming and going the entire time. In contrast to a traditional office job, where managers and supervisors are typically aware of the daily happenings of their employees, leaders in the hospitality industry don’t have it as easy.
Every day is different — with each week bringing new challenges, from important conferences to VIP guest celebrations to a fully-booked house with constant amenity requests. Their staff is likely always on the go, seamlessly serving guests and ensuring their experience is memorable and satisfactory. In this setting, there’s no time for error, and it can be extremely easy for staff members to become stressed and overwhelmed. It is the leaders’ responsibility to ensure they’re performing at their highest possible potential to best serve their employees and their property.
In order for hospitality leaders to succeed in managing an impressive, cohesive team, there are several skills they must possess. The following five qualities are the foundation of an effective, respected, and high-performing leader.
The most common problem with management in the hospitality industry is communication. There’s nothing worse than reporting to a boss who simply doesn’t get it. How can you claim to be a great leader if you’re so painfully out of touch with your employees? The best managers are on the floor right next to them, talking with them every day, always engaging in conversation and helping them get to know you. Listen to them. Remember their stories and their strengths. If your employees don’t know you, they are much less inclined to confide in you, trust you, and ultimately, take direction from you.
The easiest way to gain the respect of your staff is to prove to them that you’re willing to jump in and lend a hand each day and spend time engaging on their level. This will not only bring you closer to each individual reporting to you, but will also improve your understanding of the inner workings of your operation. So many hospitality leaders sit in their office all day, hiding behind emails and memos, expecting their staff to feel empowered and appreciated.
Favoring paperwork over people won’t get you very far in the eyes of your staff. To put it simply: if you’re not out on the floor with them, you don’t know what’s going on, therefore you’re less equipped to offer helpful direction and feedback for your employees. Maintaining a constant, open line of conversation is one of the most valuable skills a hospitality leader can possess.
Exude Confidence and Competence
Story time. You’re Director of Rooms at a luxury resort, and you witness one of your front desk agents make an unacceptable comment to a guest. Later, when you and this employee are both in the back office, you decide to approach him about his mistake. If you begin the conversation with your head held low, your hands behind your back, and an “umm, hey… so, next time, maybe you should…,” he isn’t going to take you seriously. By framing feedback as a suggestion and/or question, you’re portraying a shy, passive persona. In order for a leader to be viewed as such, and to then have their qualities emulated by their staff, they must carry themselves the way they’d want their staff to. How are you going to teach your employees to be confident if you’re unsure of yourself? In order to be exceptional at their respective jobs, your employees need to be confident in their interactions and competent in their responsibilities. Teach it, exude it, convey it. Leaders, of course, must lead by example.
Snarky, passive aggressive comments between supervisors. Gossiping in the hallways. Undermining people. Criticizing the ideas of others. Staff and leaders always at odds with one another, both parties feeling as though they aren’t getting enough recognition. These are the problems that arise when company culture is not rooted in mutual trust. In order for both staff and supervisors alike to feel seen and supported, there needs to be grace given on either end. Staff should be made to feel as though their leader has their back — always. Especially in public situations, whether at a department meeting or in front of a guest, leaders should support their staff, even though they may not agree with their course of action in the moment. As a leader, it is your job to prove that you’re coaching a team, where everyone is valued and respected. If necessary, evaluate that employee’s choices privately, after the fact, where you can allocate appropriate time to listening carefully, understanding their thought processes, and educating them on the best way to proceed in the future. This will prove to your staff that you trust them, and that you’re on their side.
Understanding your own emotions and the emotions of others is arguably the most important asset a leader can possess. Once you’re able to assess whether you’re reacting out of frustration, or fear, or insecurity, you are better equipped to handle difficult situations. The same goes for your employees. Maybe that front desk agent is going through something in his personal life, and that’s why he overreacted to that comment the guest made. The leaders who cultivate the most positive relationships with their employees are the leaders who genuinely care. They care about whether or not their employees are comfortable confiding in them. They care about the daily happenings of their employees’ lives. And most importantly, they care about the success of their employees both as individuals and as a team. Leading with empathy should be every manager’s first priority.
Every single day working in hospitality is different. Its a fast-paced, ever-changing environment where so much can happen in the blink of an eye. With employees and guests interacting all over the property in so many different capacities, it can be difficult to evaluate each situation with the scrutiny it deserves during the day. In order to be a successful leader, it is vital to take a step back after every shift and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. You’ll need to think about the big picture of your operation: maybe there should be one more server added to the fine dining restaurant’s schedule on Friday nights. There will definitely need to be another farm-to-table dinner in the Fall, because this one was extremely successful. And you’ll need to think about your employees: maybe so-and-so needed clarity on how to best execute that interaction. It's possible that there wasn’t enough direction given to the pool attendants about the wedding party’s private happy hour. And you’ll need to think about your own actions: I should have told her that I wanted her to organize it that way. I could have been more clear about when the report needed to be done. By completing these simple exercises daily, you will be in a better position to serve your property and your employees the next day, and avoid making the same mistakes twice.
Hospitality leaders don’t have it easy. Their operation has a lot of moving parts, and they need to wear many hats. Each day brings a new challenge, and ‘office hours’ are never over. To become the most skilled and successful leader you can be, you’ll need to ensure that the line of communication between you and your staff is always open. Your employees should always be able to count on you to jump in when they need a hand, and they should be able to trust that you’ll support them no matter what. In giving feedback, you’ll need to be stern enough that you come across as confident, but understanding enough that you don’t intimidate and offend your employees. After every shift, evaluate your actions and the actions of your employees, and go into each new day with fresh eyes, ready to roll up your sleeves with the rest of the team.