Thursday, 8 December 2016

Rule # 1 to be an Outstanding Professional!

We live in the times of Life coaches and Professional evangelists who spin yarn after yarn of traditional wisdom into new fabric to use as a mental veil or forehead blinkers for their followers. 

Yes, most of what they say or write goes to develop more of a herd mentality than serve to open up our minds.

In the same vein the business model that started with the likes of Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale, with the Commercial industry of Self help books, has only made these Help Gurus richer. The fad is so pervasive and continuing that there has to be at least one ‘How To’ book on our night stands even today.

Either these self-styled Business Messiahs repackage the wise old into a fancy new or create garbled up mumbo-jumbo that aims to hook our senses into passive submission. We lap it up because it brings relief into our monotonous train of thoughts and adds a little novelty to an otherwise prosaic prose that tends to surround us.

Yet, amidst this entire new age clutter and information overload, there actually exists Rule #1 that, if adhered to, can become hugely transformational. It is something that our ancestors and past masters have told us. 

A rule that our parents and teachers have urged us to abide by. A tenet that the best organizations in the world, seek out in their star employees!

And that simple, yet difficult to consistently attain, rule is – Be Nice!

When you decide to go out to work and make a career for yourself, the first speed bump that you hit against is people who are not so nice – the Boss is seldom nice (especially when viewed from a skewed angle), the Management is not nice (with their large axe to grind), the HR is particularly vicious (always the management’s watchdog) and the immediate Supervisor is almost the Villain (with the sole aim to show you in bad light). 

The organization-specific emotions are often woven around this theme and rarely do we find a consummately happy, content and satisfied team player.  

The biggest problem, however, lies with you. When you are not so nice yourself – to the Boss (yes, you heard that right), to the peers, to people who report to you, even to the guests, to the blue collared workforce that actually makes the foundation for the Organization to have a certain positive rhythm - the energy gets reflected back at you in a much higher degree of scorch and burn.

When you are not nice then you indulge in the following vices – 

1. Bring in negative energy with you into work. An energy that is as threateningly infectious as the good energy is refreshingly so.

2. You take affront at the slightest of slight and then plan to counter it with revengeful acts.

3. You give an ear and mouth to information that is not your business in the first place, the sort of business that often festers menacingly in the water cooler corners or the cafeteria. Gossip mongering comes easy to you.

4. You get into convoluted loops of name-calling emails that swell up with unpleasant character assassination; when they are actually meant to convey sane, sensible, value-adding, professional thoughts and ideas.

5. Your strategies are centered on stealing credit, back-stabbing, being slothful yet demanding recognition and reward, dressing up the mediocre as something magical and passing the buck.

6. You hate everything that the Boss, management, team asks for.

7. You refuse to share information with your team and those who report to you, making their lives difficult and their deliverables out of reach.

8. You trounce upon people mercilessly; but whine and whimper uncontrollably at the faintest payback in the same vein.

9. You cut corners in your work, don’t think twice before snapping ties that bring no benefit to you and cruelly rend the rope that others sweat out to climb up to the next level with effort.

10. You have the mean machine going on all its engines, in all its deviousness with the focus on hamming, harming; shamming, shaming; gaming, grandiosing; vindicating, vilifying.

But if you are nice then you are naturally kind, compassionate, understanding, team-playing and positively productive with your nous blend well with your niceness.

Being nice brings in fewer furrows on your forehead; less worries, more enchanting wonderment; it makes you less jealous and more zealous; less abrasive and acerbic and more affable and intrinsically a positive-people aggregator! 

If you are nice then the Universe is your ally, the world your oyster, the Boss your mentor, colleagues your cheerleaders, work a place of good fun and mirth and life a magnificent roller coaster ride in a Fair full of surprises – some that you rejoice in, others that you learn from.

What’s more! If you are nice and ask for things nicely of ANYONE, you usually get them!

Don’t take my word for it. Try it.

Picture Courtesy - Google Images

Friday, 11 November 2016

Five Basic Steps to stay ahead of Competition in 2017 and beyond!

Hospitality is a dynamic business that runs double speed just to stay firmly in place. It is, forever, under the influence of forces that urge it to embrace change more frequently than most other industries. 

First of all, it is the customer base that demands change or updation continually; then the other hotels in the region or elsewhere that push you to look within and finally the times that tend to get dated faster than you can plan and implement.

Bottom line is almost always the plank from which business strategies spring up and from where Company Vision gets its focus. 

And to keep a healthy bottom line, hotel companies must always endeavour to retain their leading position (if they are market leaders; otherwise aspire to be one), increase their market share and always stay ahead of their Competition.

With 2017 close on our heels, a lot of the industry mavens and trend forecasters are working overtime to predict what will be the new developments, what will last and what will be thrown into the relics of history. Yet, it is a given that the virtues that have stood the test of time continue to guide brand growth and brand relevance.

Below follow five basic and essential steps to keep you ahead of your game, regardless of your geopolitical, cultural, time-driven coercions – 

1. TQC - Total Quality Control

This is what separates the grain from the chaff. Your quality consciousness is one singularly important facet that puts you on top of the heap, regardless of your size, location, features or specialty.

I am completely swept off by hotels that do not drop the ball in the faultless crustiness and chewiness of breads in the morning baskets, in the perfect grainy texture of their mustard, the freshness of ALL fruits and cheese and cold cuts on the vast buffets, the crispness of their fresh smelling, spotless linen, the perfect point on which their temperature control rests, the poise and the pleasant disposition of the immaculately trained staff, the little thoughtful gestures exhibited at welcome and turndown. 

I appreciate these much more than the design, the period or modern furniture, the art deco objets d’art, the number of awards showed off in their press gallery.

I am of the strong contention that if hotels and the big guns that run them can ensure quality control in the tiniest of facets then they have definitely got the big picture right. Those who aim for the surface sheen, the outwardly, the meatier in-your-eye things and skim over the finer aspects are quite missing the point.

2. Competition Check

Those of us in Public Relations and Sales & Marketing have the privilege of enjoying a great perk at least on the up side; until it comes down to hard work and serious study that is tagged to it. Great because it entails wining and dining at competition hotels! 

The somewhat down side because it involves checking out the menu, the ambience, the rest of the accoutrements that form part of fine dining (this does take away the gay abandon with which we’d rather like to wine and dine), a kind of studious approach that the exercise lends to an evening we would wish to be carefree and the serious report that we must fill in and submit the next morning. 

Like us, our brethren from the Food & Beverage and Kitchens brigade are also extended ample opportunity within the month to dine several times at the fabulous places housed in other hotels in the city.

Then there is the new hotel FAM that we go for to familiarize ourselves with the latest in town that will fight tooth and nail with us for the share of business our geographical location attracts.

I remember on a sabbatical to the United States while working with a hotel chain, that was a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, I was encouraged by my boss to approach the other member hotels in the cities I was visiting across the east and west coast and seek a stay in order to check out their brand and product.

Like with most other products – durable, FMCG, experiential, ethereal – it will always be imperative to know what and how well the Competition is doing. 

3. Brand Benchmarking

In these tough times of economic recession, lack of guest loyalty, availability of too many options, advent of newer chains that come attached with the strings of their unique features and discerning facets, it makes a whole lot of sense to continually benchmark internally and raise the bar amidst the other players in the industry.

Guests will stay with you for the overall goodness of your product and will return only when they see a different value for themselves from the rest of the pack that hounds and courts them and solicits their business.

4. Eye for Innovation

There is always an opportunity to better your best; to present an idea in a more superior way than the next good guy in town. 

And that is where your inclination for innovation comes in. Faster Wi-Fi, more well-stocked mini bar, a much more improved in-house laundry, greater hassle-free check-in and check-out, far more efficient in-room and butler services, more refined ease of conducting business affairs while still in the Limo, a stellar guest history software that remembers every tiny detail about the guest – the penchant to reinvent yourselves and keep your R&D skills razor sharp will always stand you in good stead.

5. Trending in Technology

While with a lot of other things we can set our own rank (think permutations in infrastructure, preferences in design, choice of services’ routine and template), with technology we can only follow what has been devised by the denizens of the Silicon Valley and madly copied and distributed in tech labs and IT firms.

From Apple founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne down to Zuckerberg’s Facebook, the A to Z of tech wizards are stumbling over each other to present the next big and better craze.

While many other things are in our hands, technology is in the hands of those who dive deep into the sea of innovation and swim back with one magnificent creation after another. 

With technology making the world smaller and hospitality always endeavouring to bring the world closer, it makes sense to keep up with the latest offering in personal and business technology, especially when the competition has just reworked and jazzed up their tech menu and offerings for the guests. 

The five above will always guarantee to keep your Brand alive and kicking, your think tank busy, your creative teams satiated, your employee base motivated and above all, your guests happy.

When caught in the jargon of business theories and the loop spun by the new age witchdoctors; do reflect on these basic tenets and see how your business continues to thrive and outperform.

Have a successful and satisfying 2017!

Picture Courtesy - Google Images

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Five things that will always stay in style in Hoteliering!

Marketers shape our demands by enticing us with their company’s R&D and innovation. There is always the latest trend, fad or gizmo vying for our wallet.

But the marketers know that regardless of the novelty, the snazziness, the glitz and the glamour; all their products will have to go through the tried and tested touchstone of purpose, use, relevance and effectiveness. 

Perhaps that may be the number one reason, why companies bring back on demand the bygones as the newest fad in an almost cyclic fashion.

Hotels, as products, are no different. We attempt to present the old pie in a new packaging. We enclose ourselves in focus groups and mega think tank meetings to develop exciting, new ideas, services and systems that we feel our guests will cherish and look out for. 

We rise up to the challenges of changing times to reinvent ourselves. We ensure that, as hospitality companies, we keep abreast of latest in product development, concepts, technology and guest expectation.

Still, regardless of the period in time that we inhabit, the following FIVE will always stay in top reckoning as far as the business of hotels is concerned –

1.     Guest Focus

From the first time a rugged faced alpha male rode on his high horse up to a two-room ram shackled inn and bellowed in his rich baritone “Anybody in?”; hoteliering has been and will always be about guests.

Whether they were cowboys in the Midwest, sheikhs on camel backs, travelling salesmen or in today’s world the smooth politicians, the current day white collared Mafiosi or the designer-wear flashing businessmen right down to simple folk like you and me, hotels will always be about guests.

So, even before you get the concept, the creatives, the infrastructure, the hardware right, you must streamline your software to be guest focused; your people to be guest-loving and your company mantra to put the guest right on top of your mission statement.

2.     Food for thought and Business

From the time our great grandmothers, their mothers and then ours slaved over slow stoves to cook, grill, bake their labour of love to be rejoiced in by friends, family and sometimes the neighbourhood, food has been held synonymously with hospitality. 

In a lot of Asian, Central American and European homes, not letting guests leave without a lavish spread of food has been considered de rigueur.

Perhaps it has been this ancient cultural etiquette enmeshed with the need and demand of the guest, that hotels have always placed a premium on food & beverage; besides it making a whole lot of business sense notwithstanding.

From the tautness of the hard rolls at breakfast, the tastefulness of the home-made pasta, the vitality of fresh produce checked zealously first by the Materials Manager and then passed through the hawk-eyes of the Executive Chef, the entrapments of molecular gastronomy, the novelty and excitement of new menus, new concepts and new presentations, hotels are always buzzing around and chirping about their food and beverage activity.

No wonder then, that a lot of hotels, besides being great places to stay in, have become landmarks resting on the laurels of their culinary wizardry. It is also no surprise that a lot of hotels house talented men in vibrant restaurants making them culinary destinations of repute.

3.     Value for money

If you think that the rich & famous and the guests with deep pockets do not mind squandering their stashes of greenbacks just like that, then you are sadly mistaken. Your guests, no matter how wealthy they are, want their money to bring back value – the more the better.

Don’t quite agree with me! Then sample this - Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, does not mind driving a second-hand Volvo and always flies coach. 

Warren Buffett, ranked the world's wealthiest person in 2008 and as the third wealthiest person in 2016, still lives in the house he bought in 1958 for $31,500, doesn’t eat fancy food and drives himself to work every day. So think about how they would want their money to stretch when they pay pretty pennies at hotels.

Even those celeb big spenders who are known to run mile long bills wish to get a bang on their buck. It must be seen as money well spent, whatever their definition of wellness may be at that point of time.

Speak to your colleagues in Front Office and Reservations and find out how even the big, mega-spending Corporate accounts want to get the most out of their expenditure at your hotel and like to not only see sound features added to the room business contract but also study how they can get more value out of the dollars they commit to your bottom line via the confirmed stays of their personnel at your establishment. Enough said!

 4.     Employee Orientation

Companies that ignore their internal customer or ride roughshod over their employees prepare to bleed internally and scar for life.

The secret of being a happy work place, for nurturing a healthy organizational climate and for ensuring loyal guests who love to not just come back to you but also recommend you in all the right places and among all the right people is essentially keeping your employees happy and engaged.

If there are 4 Ps of marketing, viz. price, product, promotion, and place; the same four hold a lot of weight in people management too. The 4 Ps in ‘your’ people relations could translate into deserving salaries, a great brand to be associated with, opportunities for growth and promotion and respect for their place in the organizational matrix and value for their unique skill set.

Tomes have been written on how happy, satisfied, valued employees are behind soaring, successful companies that deliver on target and in turn keep their customers happy and committed.

With hotels being so people-centric, this fact holds a far greater significance. Walk through the doors of a hotel and nine times out of ten the faces, demeanour, gestures, body language of and your first interactions with the Doorman, Valet, Bellboy will define how the rest of your stay is going to be.

5.     Experience Extraordinaire

When I was doing research at the University, there was this tiny, hole-in-the-wall tea shop we would love to visit, every single day. Sort of on the way from the hostel to the Library and School, only a bit of a detour - the longish one, yet we had to visit this place once a day. We soon realized it was not just for the perfectly blend and brewed cup of hot tea that the wise, old man stirred up. The entire experience was a package deal – the setting in a quiet corner of a dirt road, the seating on rocks of the Aravalli Range - the oldest fold mountains in India, clear views of the auburn sky and the setting sun, vegetation typical of the region that bore a sense of intrigue, the conviviality of the tea vendor, the aroma of fresh ginger and basil wafting over the steaming pot, the thick, luscious taste of the beverage and the happy price in pittance that the glass of tea came for.

This, then, was the magical experience dished out by a small tea vendor on the sidelines of life in the University. Imagine what the hotels, of any genre in any location, are capable of doling out with all those schemes and strategies, know-how and knowledge, branding and big budgets, attention to detail and acumen, creative energy and charm-infused chutzpah behind them.

After all, in hospitality more than much else, it is a business of experience to be partaken of in its entirety and savoured by all the senses!

So, don’t stop paying heed to what the wise old men of hospitality have been upholding and telling you. They are making a lot of sense!

The Five aspects above will, indeed, never go out of business sense and style of hoteliering, regardless of where you are located and how distinctly you may have defined your Brand.

Picture Courtesy - Google Images

Thursday, 8 September 2016

24 Fundamental Principles to help you Stay Ahead!

Perhaps the strongest trait that I have carried with me throughout my professional journey is having a ‘Fresh pair of eyes.’ 

When I sought to move from an Embassy job to the hotel industry, Hyatt International took a chance with me, bringing a rank outsider into a team of experienced hoteliers. What helped was my deep sense of curiosity about everything around me, which translated into an eagerness to learn the ropes of a new trade, and to acquire the skills needed for me to ‘give my best shot’  in terms of the defined KRAs.

What is fascinating about a hospitality job - particularly roles in Sales, PR, Banqueting, F&B - is that it turns you into a first-rate multi-tasker. In a PR person’s day for instance, one might be doing multiple things: addressing a press briefing in the morning; working on a newsletter or advertising campaign; helping to organise a food festival; thrashing out the details of a marketing strategy with colleagues from Sales; hosting a Lifestyle Editor for lunch; organising a couple of press one-on-ones in the late afternoon; catching a quick drink with a hotel guest in the evening; and then getting ready to present a hotel event in the late hours. 

It is a chequered palate, and you must be able to handle all of these elements dexterously and with aplomb. A tall order indeed – but one that keeps you involved and highly satisfied at the end of the day.

Having enjoyed every moment of a breathtaking, 22-year-long roller-coaster ride thus far, I have picked up certain insights along the way on what it takes to keep things going, no matter what you do or where you work.

These rules have stood me in good stead at Indian and MNC companies alike, and have been further refined while interacting with a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multinational workforce.

Here, then, are 24 Fundamental Principles to help you stay ahead of the game, in no order of priority -

  1. Be virtuous and sincere: High levels of honesty, integrity and transparency go a long way – a very long way – in your career. Uphold these virtues, no matter what. 
  1. Be accessible: With technology in your palm and at your fingertips, there is really no excuse. Be there when people seek information. 
  1. Be reliable: You owe this not only to others, but also to the identity you have carved for yourself, and to the brand you represent. 
  1. Be source of rich information/ generate new ideas: Nurture the media, the industry and the young minds. Be nurtured by their exposure to a wide range of issues, and develop a winsome two-way information and knowledge-sharing street. 
  1. Be proactive: Give complete information, both to internal and external publics. Walk that extra mile to tailor-make it, and go beyond the brief. 
  1. Be respectful: After all, today's cub reporter will be tomorrow's editor, and today’s management trainee tomorrow’s CEO. 
  1. Be Punctual: Adhere to timelines, however acute they may be. This may be the single most important reason that keeps you ahead, and your competition behind. 
  1. Be genuinely friendly and not falsely flattering: Believe me when I say that people can see through the sham. 
  1. Be professional: Would you like to be any other way? 
  1. Be keenly interested:  In people, in issues, in the news, in your job. The six inquisitive men are your best friends for life. 
  1. Think Out of the box: Bring a sense of uniqueness to your role, put forth new ideas, look at things and issues from a new angle, develop new approaches – all, mind you, while staying within the overall company profile and the defined set of principles and practices. 
  1. Be the Brand you represent: In all aspects that define you – your physical personality, your ideation, your work ethic and professionalism, your communication skills – be the best brand ambassador of your company that you can be. 
  1. Idolise: Develop mentors along the way – your immediate boss, a person you have a dotted line to, the company CEO, an industry champion, and an international whiz kid in your chosen field – and keep on injecting doses of inspiration in the course of your work day. 
  1. Be a Mentor: Be a mentor to the people you manage or who are junior to you in experience. Be a friend, guide and philosopher to others. Set fine examples and get emulated. You will be remembered for years, and in the most positive fashion. 
  1. Be tech-savvy: Today, we live as much in the virtual world as in the real. Every day some other new technology or gadget is added to an already long list. Learn new software, befriend a new gadget; get on top of the game. 
  1. Befriend Web 2.0: Make this your strongest ally. Be seen, be heard, be read 24/7 and what’s more, be able to control what is seen, heard or read about you. Tailor-make, monitor, regulate and police what appears about your Company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, YouTube, and all else that is out there. 
  1. Develop a penchant for the written word: Learn to write well - whether press releases, annual reports, speeches, backgrounders, letters to customers, PPTs, talking points, newsletters – the list is endless. 
  1. Get in sync with the spoken word: Hone your oratorical skills, blossom out behind the mike; make yourself and your company proud by shining out there. 
  1. Be a perpetual learner: Keep adding to your skill set. 
  1. Become part of a larger pie: A colleague or another department needs a helping hand on something? Be their go-to person. Be the resource your media contacts discuss story ideas with. Be well-conversant with and develop a reputation for discussing Company Mission, Vision and progressive game plan.  
  1. Tune in to the Trainer in you: Train and nurture the talent within and across your organization. 
  1. Crave for Knowledge: Know your industry well, and deep dive into the functioning of the other departments as well. 
  1. Network: Take part in industry seminars, forums, panel discussions. Network with relevant trade bodies, alumni or ex-employee associations. 
  1. Be Superman-ly: Learn to multi-task – that’s the nature of your role, after all. Wear different hats, learn to beat the stress without allowing it to impact your efficacy, deliver under pressure, and be a positive team-player and leader.

Work driven by these ethical standards and a persona modelled on these simple yet mindful cornerstones ensure a steady scaling up the ladder of personal and professional success in the most satisfying and permanent way possible.

Try it!

Picture Courtesy - Google Images

Monday, 5 September 2016

Why do Professionals GOSSIP!

Gossip, almost always, has a negative connotation. Yet, we continue to engage in it, both personally and professionally. While ‘small talk’ or ‘blether-blather’ on a personal level is detrimental too; on a professional level it begins to assume disastrous proportions.

Still, there continue to be hushed conversations at the Water cooler, free-wheeling un-bonafide exchanges in the Locker, unabashed and unsubstantiated chinwags in cubicles and perilous Chinese whispers that educate and inform little, entertain some and damage a whole lot more.

The most common definition of Gossip is that it is ‘idle chatter’ or ‘dirty linen’ and it is called so for a reason. We all know whose workshop an idle mind is and Chatter does not even have the respectability of conversation. So why do we still plunge into it?

Wikipedia gives the following formal definition of gossip, "Gossip consists of casual or idle talk between friends. While ostensibly value neutral, the term often specifically refers to talk of scandal, slander, or schadenfreude relating to known associates of the participants, and discussed in an underhand or clandestine manner." 

Nonetheless, all of us, regardless of our stature and station in life, dip into the dirt-pool of baseless dialogues; bringing our personal value down and putting a blemish on our professional face. 

“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people,” said Socrates.

So why do we, at the risk of either facing the uncalled harm of gossip or ourselves fabricating the vicious web of grapevine, participate in it? 

A study of human behavior and an honest introspection into our own psyche would help us attribute the following reasons, for not just general folk but even seasoned professionals, to get into gossip - 

1. Misplaced priorities

Given the times we live and work in, we always have more on our plate than the time and tools to accomplish it. We subscribe to online lessons, enlist ourselves in management workshops, make diligent to-do-lists and pool in all our zest and zeal to prioritize a zillion tasks that must be completed.

Still, at the faintest hint of inducement, we give in easily to lending an ear or adding our voice to the titter-tatter that may be going around. 

We must not forget that professionals who are truly busy and result-oriented will never dither away precious opportunities by letting virtual or real-time chitchat come in the way. They would, rather, involve themselves in more useful and productive work.

“When of a gossiping circle it was asked, what are they doing? The answer was, Swapping lies,” Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

2. Misuse of time

We all lament about how little time we have to complete our important assignments, work on our essential chores and to create a healthy work-life balance. We chirp in about 24 hours in a day being too little and marvel at those who continue to climb mountains and run marathons while still holding important positions in their professions.

And yet, in the next second, we will stop the work at hand to add our two cents to an ongoing mindless debate on our social media platforms or hang around designated corners in office to network through the unofficial and ungainly channels of scuttlebutt.  

Professionals who are time-conscious and excel in time management will never allow this precious, constantly depleting resource to slip through their deft hold.

“The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business,” George Bernard Shaw.

3. Insecurity 

The overly used ‘FOMO’ – fear of missing out - at the center of our insecurities has, often, pushed us in the direction of gossip.

Are we the target of the over-the-cubicle exchange? What are we not aware of and should know; just to get on an even platform? Should we not be getting on this bandwagon to just stay in the loop, keep in the reckoning and perhaps be relevant?

Such thoughts dog us incessantly and feed into our insecurity. But this chain of thought is only for those who are not skilled, self-sure and steady on their own feet.

A true professional jumps over the back-fence talk, dives into the significant stuff and is steadfast in the face of any swaying sensationalism that may be at play.

“I maintain that, if everyone knew what others said about him, there would not be four friends in the world,” Blaise Pascal.

4. Sense of Power

Gossip-mongering provides us an affected sense of importance and power as we seem to be the holder of some information, however incorrect it may be. It gives you a false sense of a skewed social standing. “Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?” asked Sean Covey.

Weak workers often resort to this tactic to bring one-upmanship to themselves, to make feeble attempts to get closer to the Top Dog and to pull the competition at workplaces down by attempting to soil reputations.

“Gossips are worse than thieves because they steal another person's dignity, honor, reputation and credibility, which are impossible to restore. So remember this: When your feet slips, you can always recover your balance but when your tongue slips you cannot recover your words,” Anonymous 

5. An inherent sense of curiosity 

People who employ themselves in gossip elevate it to the level of a social / interpersonal skill. “I have this story / information to share (and most often IT IS a rumoured story). So what's yours?” 

“So and so is getting promoted out of turn, really?” 

“Is she being sent to Geneva for the Conference? No surprise there. She has been brown-nosing the boss.”

“Is he really being offered all those extra perks with his package?”

“Is the GM being sent on a punishment posting because he sparred with the owner?”

And on and on we go – every day, at every given opportunity, with or without any stake in the matter.

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas,” Marie Curie.

6. Predisposing factors 

We may have, very well, seen our parents / teachers / family members gleefully take part in it and that may have conditioned us in developing a mindset that there is nothing wrong for us to enter the groove of gossip. A lot of our behavior is learned from our personal circle of influencers and it starts early from the time our cognitive abilities begin to take shape.

Given the rampancy with which we indulge in it, it appears that the less ethical, less strong and less professional among us are in a way wired genetically to behave so abominably.

But professionals who are self-contained, self-proud and actualized would seldom partake of such pitiable prattle. They would, instead, endeavour to create a cohesive workforce that delivers to make their organization the finest place to work in.

“Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks,” Shannon L. Alder.

7. Entertainment value 

The habitual babblers, heck even most of us, see a high level of entertainment value in gossip. A lot of us find it more amusing than a good film or a good read or a good piece of music. After all, it is easily accessible, provides cheap humour, piques our interest and is absolutely free.

It does take willpower, practice and sanity to stay away from such spicy, slanderous slush and maintain decorum at no cost or compromise.

“Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it: it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker,” George Eliot.

8. Habit 

We all know that old habits die hard. If gossiping becomes a habit for whatever reason, it is difficult to unlearn it. We, voluntarily, feed on it and allow the unprincipled habit to prey on our professionalism.

It takes time and tenacity to break or build any habit. Gossiping is no different. But it is in our own big interest to change if we have already succumbed to this ugly habit or steel up and steer away if we have not yet been sucked in.

“Gossip is the opiate of the oppressed,” Erica Jong.

9. Peer pressure

We see people in our subset of contacts at work and socially, enjoy a good piece of gossip and keep the ball rolling and we feel compelled to belong. 

Peer pressure has been a nemesis from the time we were young; pushing and pulling us into directions good and bad.

Regardless of our age and experience, the third rung on Maslow’s Pyramid continues to dictate the choices we make and the decisions we take.

To recognize such pressures, to identify the right set of people to align with, to lead with one’s ethical best practices and not follow as part of a herd is what professionalism is all about.

“And all who told it added something new, and all who heard it, made enlargements too,” Alexander Pope.

10. Negative trait / Devilish streak

Perhaps there is that, so far loosely defined, gene of negativity in all of us that urges us to hurt, harm and be hellish even when we have no concrete reason or motive to bitch and babble.

But the main purpose of an advancing person and professional, and the natural progression of any human being are to evolve, grow and realize one’s full potential. 

This is only possible when we bring in all our consciousness and channelize our skills and attributes into an upwardly developing value system; thereby creating and reinforcing a positive work environment for ourselves and others to thrive in.

“They come together like the Coroner's Inquest, to sit upon the murdered reputations of the week,” William Congreve.

As stated above, gossip is a negative energy that corrodes the very core of a good organization and shafts through healthy relationships among colleagues.

Bad organizations and fragile professionals temporarily thrive in gossip before being annihilated by its negative forces. Good organizations and strong professionals shun away from such malpractice and abolish it before it begins to bud.

“It is just as cowardly to judge an absent person as it is wicked to strike a defenseless one. Only the ignorant and narrow-minded gossip, for they speak of persons instead of things,” Lawrence G. Lovasik.

Why do you think we, as professionals, dabble in gossip? Do share your thoughts.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Ultimate Luxury Hoteliering 101! Part 2

What is it that the luxury traveller really seeks from his hotel experience? When money is not the consideration, what do premium places of stay bring out on the silver platter to this discerning set of guests for whom luxury is a way of life?

How do you define luxury in hospitality? Is it the history or reputation, location or view, brand value or affiliation, star employees or infrastructure and furnishings, the period furniture you sleep and rest on, the crystal ware, silverware, precious metal flatware you eat and drink from, the finest fittings and fixtures that assist you as you relax or conduct your usual business. In reality, the luxury world of hoteliering is all this and more.

While all of the above aspects make the luxury brand stand apart from competition also within their genre, the bottom line for top-of-the-line luxury rests on the time-tested virtues that truly are very basic in the business of hospitality – cleanliness, efficiency, very well-trained and knowledgeable staff such as the battery of personal Jeeves who delight the guest with their immaculate butler service, latest technology, 24-hour services – yes, all those things that we thought were common but are hard to come by if the hotels do not have their brand operating standards and value-cum-service systems worked out right.

Here follow the remaining parameters that underline the ultimate in luxury hoteliering –

1.     Exemplary Service Standards

Utah's Deer Valley ski resort - Stein Eriksen Lodge has ski valets who escort guests to and from the slopes. The resort also boasts of heated sidewalks and walkways to keep the guests warm and cosily comfortable. 

The Oberoi Group ferries its VIP guests in a private jet to its lovely Vilases in the magnificent golden triangle destination circuit. The luxury hotels are more than eager to serve up their aces to the preferred guests in such creative ways that are a touchstone for the brilliance of their brands.

Unique to their properties, some hotels develop a signature style of service which becomes a major draw for the luxury traveller. The pillow menu has been done to death by a handful of luxury hotels where the guest can choose from a list of differently stuffed pillows that serve to soothe you gently to sleep or rid you off that stiff neck or even induce the most pleasant of dreams. 

The Imperial in Delhi went a step further to develop a statement fragrance for the hotel and for its suites. Boston Harbor Hotel gently nudges its guests into NiniLand with linen mists and sleep balms. To prevent the guests from getting into a headache-inducing traffic jam Boston Harbor Hotel organizes water taxis for the guests to cruise hassle free to the airport. 

2.     Privacy and Security

Even in normal, run-of-the-mill hotels guests hate to get buzzed incessantly by housekeeping or the valet or Front desk. The constant interruptions, all in the name of good service, are more of a nuisance; impinging on guest privacy and taking away majorly from the work or R&R that the guest has checked into the premises for. But in the case of luxury hotels, the guests pay the top dollar actually for privacy and a sense of space and solitude.

Two of the top most things that high-profile jet-setters desire most, indeed, are - exclusive treatment and the highest level of privacy. In the case of celebrity guests, privacy is of paramount significance.
One of the thumb rules of privacy and exclusivity is that the Hotel signs on a self-established rule of secrecy – something that the VIP guest cherishes to the utmost. From the doorman to guest relations, Sales coordinator to the PR person – nobody utters a word about the stay or leaks a hint to the Press – an aspect that the Celebrity guest appreciates hugely and rewards the hotel with his / her repeat visits. 

Plus, imagine the word of mouth that the guest spreads amongst his famous friends about this beautiful place that has truly become his home-away-from-home.

Along with privacy, security is a terribly important factor in the scheme of things existing in the world today.
Jenny Knight, a well-known London based journalist, nails the topic rather well when she states, “As gadgets and gyms become more common, qualities like space, peace and privacy are being seen as true luxury.”

3.     Attributes that exceed Guest Expectation

The expected, tried and now seemingly ordinary set of luxury amenities such as Porthault bathrobes, handmade soaps, Cesame and Kohler fixtures, Posturepedic spring mattresses, Bose speakers or the clock and radio, Bang & Olufsen Television, 50 channels in various international languages, complimentary leading newspapers from around the world have actually become quite de rigueur for these havens of luxury.

They, now, seem to be in a race to get steps ahead of their competition in presenting the new definition of luxury ranging from beguilingly bizarre to mind-blowingly breathtaking. 

Sample this – Rosewood Hotels in their North American and Saudi Arabian properties present a dedicated Fragrance Butler to their guests who serves up a fragrance menu tailored for lady guests (Chanel No. 5, Bvlgari Black, Daisy Marc Jacobs and Chanel CoCo Mademoiselle) and for the gents (Tom Ford for Men, Bvlgari Pour Homme and Hermes Terre d’Hermes).

A thoughtfully appointed Tea Sommelier at The Lanesborough in London proffers an award-winning afternoon tea service to the guests. The Soap Concierge at The Viceroy Riviera Maya in Mexico presents a selection of artisanal, organic soaps made by hand by the Mayan communities in the vicinity. A 24 hrs on call in-room Mixologist at The Surrey Hotel in New York City arrives to do his bidding aided with a fully stocked cocktail cart.

Ritz Carlton in New Orleans pampers you into the normal state after a hard night of partying with its Recovery Concierge who helps resuscitate your jaded senses with the selection of curative cocktails, sparkling water and savoury snacks. 

The Surf Butlers at St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, California are really manna from heaven for the surfing enthusiasts as they go about their work of helping guests catch the perfect wave, fitting them with perfectly measured wetsuits, offering personalized service to new surfers and sharing tips on local wave conditions and secret breaks in the areas with the experienced ones. 

The Sleep Concierge at The Benjamin, New York City comes well-armed to combat any situation that the modern, hectic, stress-ridden world throws up with its remarkable array of antidotal measures - dozen-pillow menu (water-filled version, NASA-designed Swedish Memory Foam version, a five-foot body cushion or an iPod-ready lullaby pillow), aromatherapy bath products, comforting treats like warm milk, cookies and calming teas, sleep mask, lavender linen oil, coconut water and a wake-up call.

Luxury hospitality destinations are also about uniquely superlative touches. At the Lodge at Sea Island, Georgia you can savour dinner at the Steakhouse while a bagpiper plays just outside at sunset every day. 

At Rajvilas, an Oberoi Vilas hotel, the hotel priest conducts a religious ceremony (puja) twice a day in the ancient 280 year old Lord Shiva temple on the hotel grounds in which the hotel guests can also participate; elsewhere in another suite a majestic peacock saunters inside for a close dekko.

Some top-of-the-line, ultra glam, super luxury hotels thrive on making the stay consummately and delightfully luxurious for their guests from the time the guests disembark to the time they bid adieu. 

Wynn Las Vegas lays out its ‘privileges red carpet’ inside the airport even before the guests are picked up in the hotel’s fleet of Phantom Rolls Royce.  The installation of flat-screen TVs in the poolside cabanas ensures that the guests are not deprived of their personal entertainment even when they are outside by the pool.

Taking it a few notches up are the Tanning Butlers at Ritz Carlton South Beach who are fully trained and trademarked SPF specialists qualified to offer you a range of sun-protection products and pleased to apply the products on hard-to-reach spots, clean your sunglasses and come up with local dining expert advice. 

Then, there are the Tartan Butlers, at The Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland, who help the guests to trace their Scottish ancestral roots, get them fitted in bespoke kilts made from their clan’s traditional tartan by the local craftsmen and arrange a tour of their native region. In a similar vein, the Lodge at Doonbeg, County Clare, Ireland employs on-site Genealogists who are members of the Clare Roots Society and the Council of Irish Genealogical Organizations. These experts help the guests research and discover their Irish roots and visit their ancestral villages.

And in the realm of somewhat bizarre, magically oddball and phantasmagorically private are the following four – in line with the spirit of its location, I would say, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas presents its guests with a room-service menu of lingerie and unmentionables from its in-house boutique Love Jones. 

The Pierre in NYC offers the perfectly quiet and secluded place to guests who wish to recover and recuperate after plastic surgery. As a very thoughtful and well-strategized offer, ‘the post plastic surgery convalescence’ package includes car service to and from the procedure, in-room spa treatments and a specialty menu designed to encourage healing. 

The Andaz 5th Avenue, a Hyatt hotel in Manhattan, New York boasts an artists-in-residence program whereby it commissions street artists, graffiti gurus and tattoo artists to work on extraordinary ideas and create wonderful art. 

Finally, the one right up my alley – Hotel Monaco in Portland, Oregon offers the services of an on-its-rolls pet psychic. During a complimentary wine hour, the psychic hashes out any behavioural issues of the pet and the pet parent and shares suggestions for improving the pet-parent relationship. 

In the name of wonderful, never-felt-before experiences, hotels stretch themselves from fantastically awe-inspiring to quaintly funny. 

The novel experience can range from the very much intentional and well-planned to completely unintentional and purely incidental – lounging around in a South African wildlife resort amongst a pride of lions or a tower of giraffes can be labeled under the former and enjoying a lazy Sunday Brunch in the soothing winter sun at a colonial Delhi hotel with the resident eagle swooping down to share a piece of your pie definitely falls under the latter.

4.     Promising Return on monetary and physical investment

It is an established fact that the more money people have, more judicious they get about spending it. The filthy rich, be it the late Leona Helmsley, Buffet or Gates, detest squandering their millions and like to see their dollar deliver to the last cent. 

They know what they should be paying mega bucks on – presidential suites, logo-embossed luggage, the larger experience; but hate to see it wasted on vacuous spend such as inflated mini bar items, unnecessary taxation, frills that are frivolous. 

Luxury travellers hate to be taken advantage of and like to be served to the optimum for the top bills they pay.

Increasingly, time is being seen as the premium commodity of luxury – be it reduced time taken to travel, communicate or do work. Every new innovation seems to be geared up to bring us an X satisfaction in Y time and sooner the better.

Life at luxury hotels is the same. The standard of service is measured by the timeliness of its delivery unless or until the guest himself wants to languidly laze over a brunch or a spa treatment. Tardiness shown by staff is seen as a strong contra indicator and defeats the basic principle of luxury espoused by such establishments.

5.     Defining Story

Iconic places have uniquely interesting stories, legends, innovations woven around their existence - King Cole Bar at St. Regis in New York, which houses a famous 1906 Art Nouveau oil mural, is considered the birthplace of the Bloody Mary just as the Long Bar in Raffles Singapore is of the Singapore Sling. 

The Imperial in Delhi has an alleged Kipling Corner in the 1911 Bar, Raffles Singapore has its Writers Bar and Personality Suites where Somerset Maugham and other literary greats of the time enjoyed their tipple and stayed, The Ritz in Paris was virtually the second home of Coco Chanel for years; yes the same hotel that also houses Bar Hemingway as a tribute to its other famous guest – Ernest Hemingway and where Diana, Princess of Wales had her ‘last supper’ with Dodi Fayed before that tragically fatal crash.
It does boil down to one single most important or set of important discerning traits that a luxury hotel is identified with. This somehow seems to be the key in defining the personality of a luxury brand. 

Peninsula Hong Kong, Raffles Hotel, Singapore and The Imperial in New Delhi are known to be historic institutions and have played a strong part in the history of their destinations. They continue to offer colonial-era decadence to their guests. 

Ritz Carltons urge their guests to “Let us stay with you” with their memory-laden collection of stay-stories, tips, recipes and moments. Therefore, personal, inimitable experience is what these hotels set out to market to their elite guests.

Special hotel properties such as a Palace in Royal Rajasthan or a European Castle turned into a hotel are great attractions. Their main selling plank – the guests are treated royally and can relive, in part, the life which was led by the kings and queens of yore.

6.     The ‘X’ Factor

There are hotels with the poshest address stamped on their gilded envelopes. There are hotels that have been touched up admirably to infuse fresh life into their reputed pasts. There are also modern marvels with the finest of mortar and marble carted in from all over the world to create their personality.

There are hotels atop famous mountain cliffs or carved out of black lava (Four Seasons, West Hawaii) or ancient caves (Cappadocia Cave Resort and Spa, Turkey). 

There are luxury places that robe themselves in bespoke linen and dress their staff in famous designer threads. There are lodgings that reek of history from every nook and cranny and then there are futuristic abodes that seem to be out of a sci-fi setting. 

In the name of luxury, there are hotels that will have you dine underwater with sharks swimming overhead or present you with a gold leaf covered dessert on a silver platter or fly in a known opera singer to croon for you on your anniversary or have you take the conjugal vows while securely fastened together to the bungee rope for a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Special places of stay have that ‘X’ factor that makes them first among equals.

Location is a definite winner when it comes to picking a luxury resort. Is the hotel on the banks of the holy Ganges or overlooking the Victoria Harbour; is it within a hop & skip distance of the Colosseum or in close vicinity of the Pyramids! 

The Oberoi’s luxury resort Amarvilas in Agra has earned its bragging rights from the impressive fact that the hotel offers a view of the Taj Mahal no matter where you may look out from. 

Additionally, one of the most unparalleled and unbeatable views anywhere in the world is from one of Amarvilas’ king-sized bathrooms – looking up from your leisurely, relaxing bath out of the giant glass wall you are blown away by the beauty of the Taj in all its resplendence anytime of the day or night. 

A luxury hotel experience comes replete with all the trimmings and trappings of ultimate pampering – whether it is organizing a local historian or writer as your personal guide to unravel some of the fabulous secrets that the destination has to offer, calling on duty a personal shopper who gets you the best buys and bargains, fixing a star city masseuse to perform their special hand magic to soothe your frayed nerves, getting you seats for an A-list, queued up show or a table at a much-awarded restaurant that seems to be perpetually booked all the time while you relax in the plushest beds, rejuvenate in the best Spas, tingle your taste buds with matchless food cooked by prize-winning hands, sip on the widest and best selections of wine, shop in an exclusive arcade, awaken your senses to the finest fragrances and freshest flowers, accomplish your business stree-free with advanced technology playing your best personal caddy.

No demand is too much and no service too less for the privilege of hosting you as a preferred guest!


Picture Courtesy - Google Images