Leadership: The hotel General Manager

(GA 2011)

Workshop with Future Hotel General Managers

Leaders are made and not born.  Leaders are distinguished by what they do, and what they inspire other people to do, and not by their genes, their looks, their credentials, or their beliefs.
A successful leader must first set his / her own priorities in life in order to lead.
There is no one right way to lead.  There are many effective business leaders with many styles of leading.  Some are take-charge people; others are good delegates.  Some are energetic and outgoing; others are quieter.  Some rely more on the carrot, others the stick.  Some are exceptionally good in crisis situations; others seems better suited to the long haul.  However, all of these leaders share certain attributes.

What separate Leaders from Managers :

A – The Leader innovates whereas the Manager administers
This means that the leader is the one who comes up with new ideas and moves the rest of the organization into a forward-thinking mode. The leader has to constantly keep his eyes on the horizon and develop new strategy and actions. He must know the latest trends within the industry and respond accordingly.

B – The Leader inspires trust whereas the Manager relies on control
A leader is someone who inspires other people to do their best and knows how to appropriately set the face for the organization. “Leadership” is not what you do but it’s what others do in response to you”.

Following are the 10 attributes of effective business leaders, the 10 keys to creating an environment in which people can and do make a difference. As individual points, they may seem obvious.  Collectively and cumulatively, however, they help create the environment for exceptional organizational performance.

First,Be committed to success
Leadership starts here, with a commitment to success.  We all see people whom we know will succeed, and most of them pour enormous energy into projects or assignments.  They also have the perseverance to stay with an issue or a problem until it gets resolved.  That combination of energy and perseverance is central to the commitment to success.  And that commitment is contagious.  It galvanizes an organization, big or small.  And obviously, people like to be on a winning team.  Similarly, people quickly spot a lack of commitment.  That too is contagious, and it drags down performance.
 All leaders must maintain a continuous self improvement process.
Second, Set proper business priorities
 No one disagrees with the critical importance of setting proper priorities, but time after time, some organizations / hotels struggle because their leaders didn’t or couldn’t do it.
 They typically get into trouble for three reasons.  First, it takes hard work and hard thinking to identify a limited number of actions and communicate them in a clear, logical sequence – to keep things simple.
 Second, leaders may pursue the wrong priorities, but they’re just as likely – maybe more likely – to be unsure of what the right priorities should be, especially in a fast-changing world.  They don’t take the time and do the work to get their priorities right.
 Third, leaders often experience difficulty in managing the trade-offs among conflicting objectives, such as profit and growth.  They don’t know which to attack, in which order, and how moving in one direction affects progress in another (i.e. rates or volume? or REVPAR?…..)
 The need to set the right priorities is one reason companies invest time in planning and replanning.  The planning process and cycle give us repeated opportunities to examine and question our assumptions and identify what’s important.  Planning also gives us the discipline to keep asking questions and to keep resetting priorities when circumstances change.
 An important aspect of setting priorities is to communicate them to people who must understand them and follow through (one team – one way).  If only a few people understand what the priorities are, the organization will struggle.  But getting most people lined up behind the priorities, you can “shoot for the moon”.  No one should be wandering around wondering what is expected of them.  People have to know and have to buy into it.
Third,Set and demand high standards
 A leader must have high standards for integrity, excellence and performance.  If a leader does not set high standards and observe them personally, the organization won’t meet them.  Compromises can be de-motivating (walk the talk).
 Good leaders maintain a health level of productive tension.  This does not mean that leaders impose a threatening atmosphere where people fear for their jobs.  Instead, they promote the kind of tension resulting from people wanting to rise to extraordinary challenges and wanting to be held accountable.
 True leaders challenge their people, constantly, to do better.  They ask basic questions and don’t accept answers that haven’t been thought through.  Effective leaders also visibly live up to their own standards.  As a result, their people don’t want to let them down.
Fourth,Be tough but fair in dealing with people
 If possible, it is highly recommended that you surround yourself with people better than you, they make you look good.
 People want to be measured, they want to improve, and achieve their personal and  career goals.  Helping them requires the ability to be tough but fair and must have the quality of being strong or firm.  “Being tough” does not imply being heartless or irresponsible.  Rather, it is “what it takes to make a company / hotel run effectively, to make a capital productive, jobs steady and well compensated, and to produce quality products at low cost for the benefit of all.
 Leaders must be tough – strong, firm – in demanding performance and accountability, just as owners / shareholders are.  This is an area where people will quickly detect compromises and modify their behaviors accordingly.  This doesn’t mean that leaders can be arbitrary or act too quickly in making changes.
 That’s where being fair comes in.  We don’t trust managers who shoot from the hip, especially on personnel matters.  You have to give people enough time to find out whether they can deliver.  They must have room to fail and learn from failure.  If problems persist, then it’s time for a change, but don’t punish them at the first mistake they make (nobody is perfect).
 Managing this way is not always fun.  But we firmly believe that people want to be measured, and when they come up short, they want help to improve their performance.  The problem is that even though most managers can assess performance, few have the ability to help others improve themselves.  Identifying and guiding those who can help others is vital to the organization.
 Among the most important decisions made by business leaders are promotions, and we don’t always take the time to do that job well: “Well, so-and-so has been loyal for many years and deserves a chance.”  That’s human nature, but it’s also a mistake. 
You’ve got to be tough enough to fight that tendency.  It sounds harsh, but we hurt people more by putting them in jobs where they will fail than by passing them over.  It’s critical for leaders to choose / recommend the right people as their direct reports so that they maximize their time and capabilities.
 It’s also critical to give these people room to do their jobs well and guide them.  A leader’s success is the result of what other people do.
Fifth,Concentrate on positives and possibilities
 In setting priorities, don’t waste time and effort on issues that can’t be influenced or problems that can’t be fixed.  Attach the issues where you can make a difference.
 Leaders invest their time and energy in reaching challenging but attainable goals.  They don’t waste their time and energy in trying to meet challenges that cannot be met or trying to undo situations that can’t be undone.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone, but a great deal can be accomplished by focused efforts to achieve the possible, even if it takes a long time and do things well.
Sixth,Develop and maintain a strong sense of urgency
 Real problems don’t go away because we ignore them.  It will be there tomorrow, and it’s going to get worse until it is resolved.  It is particularly important to put priorities and address operating and people problems quickly, because they will cause the most trouble in the short term. Good Leaders drives actions.  They recognize that it’s better to do
 something than nothing.  If they don’t get it quite right, they’ll keep trying until they do.  Support the best decision, and after the decision is made, act urgently to implement it.
Seventh,Pay attention to detail
 We all make mistakes, and many – perhaps most – of them result from not having all the facts.  Getting as much information as possible is critical to making good decisions.  That takes hard work and there are no shortcuts.
 There’s no substitute for getting the facts.  In addition to getting as much information as you can before making a key decision, it’s important to recognize when you don’t know what you don’t know.
 After a few mistakes and learning experiences, we’ve developed a keen sense about matters we should explore further.  When we’re not comfortable with an analysis or a decision even if we can’t explain why, we’ve learned to insist on doing more work.
Eighth,Provide for the possibility of failure
 Things rarely go exactly accordingly to plan, and this is one reason we plan every year.  We all want to limit and control losses, but an occasional failure is the inevitable price of innovation and learning.
 An organization must find ways to motivate people to think boldly and creatively.  To do this, should encourage programs and initiatives that are experimental and somewhat risky – if they are well thought out.
Ninth,Be personally involved
 Leaders have a much greater chance of doing well if they are engaged in the important issues.  It’s impossible to be aloof and inspirational at the same time.  Yet personal involvement is a scarce resource: no one can give whole-hearted attention to a great many issues.  Set priorities.Carefully identify what’s important and align that with skills.  Leaders focus tightly on some issues while delegating responsibility and following loosely on others.  This individual autonomy is another characteristic of high-performing organizations.
 A GM should focus on where he could have the greatest impact on performance.  By spending more than half time in planning and on challenging division leaders to think through their plans and choose their best options.  Also, met their reports and communicated priorities to them.
 GM should also handle personally the pay and benefits packages of key people in the organization and on the overall welfare of the workforces.  Surveys of all employees are to be done on regular basis.  Invest time in organization planning and in making management appointments, because it is the high quality of the people that accounts for results.
 A final benefit of staying involved: it defeats politics in an organization.  When the leader works hard and tenaciously on the most important issues, it sends a clear message to everyone.  And that leaves no time for politics.
Tenth,Have fun
 If you’re not having fun, you’re in the wrong business or the wrong career.  If you don’t enjoy it, it isn’t likely that the people you lead and work with will enjoy it either.
 Fundamentally, fun comes from collaborating with people who want to do well and from winning.  There is a good feeling of excitement that arises when you work with smart engaged people whose goals and commitment are the same as yours.