Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Leadership Lessons from Legends!



Leadership is not usually a legacy that we are bestowed upon with. It is a role we aspire to, work towards and attain through experience, intelligence, astuteness and by proving our usefulness for the bigger responsibilities such a stature brings.

Just like in any other industry, in the world of hospitality too, there are several opportunities for us to exhibit leadership at both micro and magnum levels – as department heads, Team leaders, General Managers, Regional Heads, Brand Chiefs, COOs and CEOs.

Therefore, Leaders must always remain answerable, accountable, effective and exemplary. My Maslowian Leadership Pyramid, below, outlines the progression a professional leader must make to self-actualize himself or herself -



Here are ten professional traits that define a true-blue leader –

1. Knowledge  

Leaders aim to be virtuosos. They train themselves to be an expert in their field; be it keeping a guest room spotlessly spic and span or managing a large hotel chain, ensuring that it stays highest ranked in any rating or recognition.

The bank of knowledge keeps them ahead of the game. In their constant striving for excellence, they endeavour to break the glass ceiling. A leader sets commendable standards with his working style, his know-how and eagerness to present his best, always.

Leaders are clued onto the smallest to the biggest things that happen in their business world. PRS Oberoi, the formidable owner of India’s much acclaimed and awarded hotel chain named after his family, is known to let his keen eye miss absolutely nothing when on a hotel visit – from a crookedly placed rosebud in a vase to the temperature at which the finest bottle of champagne is served; from the misplaced crease on the Doorman’s epaulette to the worry line on the forehead of another team member.

2. Perpetual Learning 

Leaders know that the place they have reached has not come easy. They are also aware that the road ahead is going to be tough, arduous and competitive. Leaders refuse to rest on past laurels. They are mindful of the fact that their skills and the business must evolve in step with the dynamics of the world and the changing times.

Besides; their drive and zeal nudges them to push the envelope of learning, mental growth and physical limits of performance.

One of the finest examples of this is the life lesson left behind by Conrad Hilton. He began his hotel business with Mobley Hotel in Texas – a 40-room property that he bought in 1919. His first high-rise hotel was the Dallas Hilton that he opened in 1925 before expanding into New Mexico. However, as luck would have it, Hilton was gravely hit by the Great Depression and was forced to sell off some of his hotels so as to keep away from bankruptcy. But his exceptional hoteliering skills came in handy and he was retained as the Manager of the hotels; which he promptly bought back once the national economic state bettered and he began fairing well.

Hilton went on to build hotels, grow his business admirably; such that Hilton Hotels became the first international hotel chain; no mean feat even today.

3. Being Competitive

Not only with others but with themselves too; in fact, leaders are more with themselves. They must meet their own high expectations and come up to the level they visualize themselves at. Leaders blossom in good, honest competition. There lies an inherent eagerness to outclass and the passion to chart new courses. The excitement of better, brighter goals keeps them motivated and stimulated.

Leaders admire other skilled workers & specialists and must compete with them to get to greater heights of brilliance. This sense of competitiveness gets going the ball of learning, improving, growing into the state of work awesomeness; to the satisfaction of both the doer and the recipients.

Steve Wynn, despite the hardships he steered his family out of, had the steely will and foresight to create a hotel empire that has brought him worldwide recognition and commercial success. Wynn is credited with resurrecting the internationally famous Las Vegas Strip by injecting renewed interest in the area and by creating such iconic properties as The Mirage and The Bellagio, truly among the biggest and the brightest hotels globally.
   
4. Bottom-line Friendly 

Leaders endeavour to perform such that the outcome of their actions is always profitable. They despise anything that brings loss; in terms of bad service, inability to close the service delivery loop, losing a client, profit deficit, business failure. They are conscious of the fact that for them and others to grow and flourish, the business must remain successful.

What's more, they acknowledge the fact that it is often bad actions, bad planning and bad decisions that lead to bad business. And they wish to be associated with none of these.

Barry Sternlicht often called the ‘King of hotels,’ put his fervent business acumen, background in real estate, fine judgement for prized properties and deep understanding for creating brands to found and grow Starwood Hotels and Resorts into one of the widest, biggest and financially successful hotel groups.

5. Always Respond and Resolve

This is one of the most common grounds on which somebody is called a leader. Leaders bring together their learning, experience and attitude to give sensible, effective and optimum resolution to your issues. Because they have the expertise, they need not skirt the issue and hide behind files and faux reasons to escape the matter.

More importantly, they hold in high esteem the tag they have earned on merit and they are not willing to lose that by being seen as laid back, inefficient, careless and non-committed. Hence, leaders always respond – to situations at hand, to people matters and to larger business issues.

One of the nicer aspects of dealing with such people is that even if it is to decline or regret; leaders leave such a great aftertaste that you wish to do business with them again.

Kemmons Wilson’s personal disappointment with the kind of roadside accommodation that was available for his holiday led him to envision and create the Holiday Inn model of hotels.

Stemming from his own experience, Wilson’s clear-cut brief for his Chain was that the properties should be standardized, clean, predictable, family-friendly and readily accessible to road travellers. From 50 hotels in 1958, 100 in 1959, 500 by 1964 and 100th Holiday Inn in 1968; today the Company has grown to be one of the world’s largest hotel chains with 435,299 bedrooms in 3,463 hotels globally hosting over 100 million guest nights each year.

6. Be S.M.A.R.T

Leaders espouse the principles of S.M.A.R.T working, both in their approach and the results they show. Their performance is, indeed, specific (leaders are focused), measurable (result-orientation is a key factor for them), attainable (leaders are practical and seldom have their heads in the clouds), relevant (their efforts must bear fruits of business, satisfaction, customer retention, problem-solving for themselves, the Company they represent and the guests) and time-bound (leaders apprehend the importance of time and are aware of the ills of non-deliverability or deliverability in an untimely fashion, which may be as good as task not done).

One of the best-known hotel trivia revolves around the genesis of the word “ritzy.” It is an established fact that the usage of the term stemmed from the name of Cesar Ritz and his namesake legendary hotels he founded in Paris and London.

The celebrated hotelier’s life is noteworthy on so many levels. It is said that he started small and then scaled up to skyscraping heights of success with grit, determination, and ingenuity that made him stand apart. Cesar Ritz began his career as a Maître d'hôtel in a restaurant before stepping up the ladder to manage hotels in Lucerne and Monaco. He built a reputation for his impeccable taste and instant rapport with wealthy guests thereby developing a profound understanding of the guests’ needs and desires and pioneering the foundation of luxury as we know today – two tenets that he lent to his hotel brand.

7. Take Charge

Have you noticed how there is that one Server who will outperform and over-deliver should things go wrong with your order at a restaurant? He will assume command over the situation, apologize sincerely, rectify the order, make certain that you are not made to wait any longer and cap it off with a comp side or dessert. He is a professional who knows his work, is in control, values you, is adept at saving the reputation of his Company and ensuring that the business stays with them and does not walk over to the Competition.

In a crisis condition, have you taken note of the Security guy or Guest Relations executive who will go beyond expectation to take stock of the situation, swiftly, and then strategize to provide safety while soothing your frayed nerves with a personal touch. He or she need not be a certified Fire Fighter; it is enough that they are the best in their role, are quick to assume the responsibility for their actions and do not ever mind pulling the weight of others when they fail to match up.

Such professionals have a strong leadership quality even in their everyday work situations. And in times of crises, they are stars that shine out with their rock-solid resolve and stellar skills.

Given this attribute, leaders impart lessons by setting an example, by being there and being available. The irresistible celebrity CEO and Visionary and now the Founder-Owner of Virgin Hotels – Sir Richard Branson has committed to be present at the opening of every Virgin hotel; much like the other great hotelier – Ritz Carlton’s Herve Humler who, allegedly, never misses a hotel opening anywhere in the world, and Ritz-Carlton has so far opened about 90 hotels in 29 countries.  

8. Gain Experience

Several years of hard work – first study, then practice - have gone into shaping the leader into what he is today. The professionals who lead, dip into their rich pool of experience to outshine and often go beyond the brief.

J. Willard Marriott, as the founder of the eponymous chain, has always been considered a doyen of the international hospitality industry. But it is his son, Bill Marriott Jr., who has grown the brand into what it has become today with his insight, inclination towards a franchise model business, innovative spirit, his attention to detail and ideal work ethics.

Having led the Chain for more than 50 years, from a family restaurant business to a Monolith with 3100 + properties spread across 67 countries, Bill’s imprint on the Chain and the industry is so indelible that Marriott gets ranked as the “best place to work in” year after year.

9. Be a Visionary

Leaders are on a journey – their destination is ‘being the best in their field and roles;’ higher after higher scales of excellence are the milestones. To be such work wizards they strategize to develop new tactics, perfect their old good practices and draw a roadmap that is onward bound, both in terms of productivity and passion.

Conrad Hilton, one of the finest hoteliers the world has ever seen, was far-sighted and inclusive in his business approach even when his Company had not grown to the mammoth size it is now. In 1944, he established The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation with a mission to alleviate human suffering worldwide. Hilton Hotels International Company followed in his footsteps and furthered his goals by instituting the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1996 and The Conrad N. Hilton Chair in Business Ethics and The Hilton Distinguished Entrepreneur Award in subsequent years.

Leaders are far-sighted and that is why they always manage to rise above the small issues and petty people with their sights aimed at bigger, more far-reaching goals.

10. Keeping the Big Picture in mind

Leaders usually do not sweat over the small stuff.

Their sights are set high; hence little everyday battles are simply stepping stones in their way; as it is the war of wisdom, wonderment and world class achievement that they must win.

Born into the extremely wealthy and influential Astor family, John Jacob Astor IV used his rich background and enviable educational and life experience to establish new standards of luxury in the world of hoteliering.

Even today, when an analogy has to be drawn for the finest standards in luxury, it is John Jacob Astor IV’s two best-known creations - Waldorf Astoria and St. Regis - that are cited as benchmarks. It is also known that the legendary hotelier, who the world lost in the tragic sinking of the Titanic, was multifaceted. Astor is the author of a science fiction novel ‘A Journey in Other Worlds’ (1894) about life in the year 2000 on the planets Saturn and Jupiter. With a penchant for scientific innovation, Astor is known to have patented several inventions, including a bicycle brake in 1898, a "vibratory disintegrator" and a pneumatic road-improver. He also helped in the development of turbine engine.


It follows from the lives of these hotel legends that leadership stems from innate passion. It is shaped by the goals one sets for oneself. And it is polished through consistent, diligent and honest practice.

There resides the potential to be a leader in all of us. The honed-over-time zeal, determination, conscientiousness and foresightedness arm us well in our aspiration to become an outstanding leader in our chosen field.


                                                                         *********

Picture courtesy - Google Images




Wednesday, 13 September 2017

5 Time-tested strategies to be indispensable at Work!



The organizations we work in are populated with a mix of employees, with their own personal traits, focuses (or foci, if you prefer), energies and acumen.

In any Company, there will be plain workers and then there will be the Queen Bees, the simple doers and the strategists, the satellites and the stars, the hammer-hitters and the performers, the team components and the Brand Ambassadors.

The A-listers, the optimal Achievers, the Stellar performers are always considered imperative and vital for the success of the Company by the bosses and the management.

We all, regardless of our areas of specialization and line of work, would like to be treated with such privilege and prestige. And it is in our hands to be the employee that no Company wishes to lose.

Here follow Five time-tested strategies to always stay indispensable, no matter which company or country you work in -

Know the Fundamentals and the Basics 

You must rear this boundless zeal in you to learn all that there is to learn about your product and Company.

How many times, I cannot recall, have I seen a Concierge, Housekeeper, Server embarrassingly fumble and fail to blurt out the correct response! There have been so many occasions when a Sales Manager has given out wrong facts and figures at an important site inspection. There have been a large number of PR people callously putting down incorrect information in their press releases. I have seen Sales Directors and General Managers look towards the nearest saving assistant as they fudge data or spin a yarn to quickly fill in the gaps in the gaping holes of their sell story.

It’s not just us hoteliers. A similar pattern follows with people from different industries – from toothbrush to travel and food to forensics.

But there is no excuse; no escaping the embarrassment we bring upon ourselves when we turn up in our green-horned, half baked avatars.

It is our duty, well almost a moral binding, to know our product and our company like the back of our hands – every factoid, every star performer who is such an astral brand up-sell, every interesting gem of a story that went into making what we are and yes, most importantly all the warts that we must be on a war path to remove permanently.

Know your guests

Knowing your guests is akin to knowing your job. Whatever you do in your different departments – creating recipes or collateral, devising sales strategies, reinforcing security plans, developing innovative standards of service, introducing new concepts and products, changing draperies or dresses – you do it for your guests. In fact, they are the only reason for your existence and for ensuring that your business sails or tanks.

Hotels that make sure that all their staff cross map the guests and get to know them well, not only come out on top at most reader surveys and awards but also have a healthy bottom-line, regardless of the seasonal factors.

Most of the illustrious General Managers I have worked with urged me to work the lobby in order to greet and meet guests and put aside a decent amount of time to spend with the guests. That is one of the sanest times invested in one’s job as you learn so much about what the guests really want and take their feedback and suggestions to the relevant forums. You get to share right information about your hotel with the right audience in the most focused and targeted manner at the right time. This also allows for a two-way feel-good exchange that promises to have a long-standing reach and penetration far more than any advertising or marketing thrust would aspire to have.

Know your Colleagues

Hotels are one of the most people-centric industries. Most organizations have the luxury of a weekend but hotels work round the clock, with the end of the week days getting busier. What’s more, a hotel never goes to sleep. This nature of business ensures that you are in contact with your colleagues all the time and that there are too many of those colleagues around. It then becomes essential to know your colleagues well, more in this work milieu.

Knowing your team mates across departments and cadres is an extremely profitable proposition. Of course you need to know different people to different levels of familiarity – from pleasant exchanges in the corridor (please do get away from the cursory nods and build upon this little window of opportunity) with some and getting together with a sense of bonhomie in the staff cafeteria with few others to building lasting bonds (some of which can grow to include the families) with those that you frequently work closely with. Decide on the level you want to get to, judiciously, professionally and with reason.

Harbouring a sincere and friendly disposition, being approachable, being a congenial personality and a caring person and having a helpful, down to earth nature considerably increases your likeability quotient. This helps widen your circle from top to bottom and creates a good vibe around you.

Knowing your colleagues eases the atmosphere, makes the work environment conducive, dissolves crisis situations, makes things less strenuous and actually injects the element of cheerfulness and fun into toughest of work conditions. Some prominent hotel chains around the world have penciled out an exemplary blueprint for their “know your employee” policy so much that your performance on this attribute can wing its way into your appraisal!

Know the other Product / Company better

This is a two-edged sword in our armoury. By knowing our competition better, we know clearly what we are doing right. More significantly, competition knowledge helps us realize and rectify what we may be doing wrong. And that is a big step forward.


FAMs of new properties and restaurants in town or other cities are such a great learning exercise. First-hand exposure is, indeed, an indelible imprint on one’s mind that promises to stay with you for a long time.

When I was going off on my overseas Scholarship, my boss at the time suggested I get in touch with sister hotels, part of the Leading Hotels of the World association that we were a member of, for possible stays so that I could have an up, close and personal look at some of the world’s best-run establishments. An invaluable tip that has left behind some priceless lessons on the best practices adopted by significant others in business!

No amount of marketing literature, PR collateral, website interface and 360-degree views can take place of what you experience in flesh and blood.

Finally, make yourself indispensable as far as possible

None of us are really that prime and pivotal in any of the personal or professional roles we play, that we or our roles cannot be done away with. That is a sordid fact of life. Yet, we must endeavour to be as difficult to replace as possible if we wish to make a success of our chosen paths.

And that involves shaking up our old, jaded practices; taking ourselves away from the comfort of inertia into the realm of the yet undiscovered. It incorporates restructuring our strategies and allowing ourselves to grow upwards learning new things along the way and challenging ourselves each and every day.

In my last role, I wrote manuals and advertising copy – something that an agency would have traditionally done, wrote out business pitches for hotel chain tie-ups, learned enough about art to conduct an intelligent art tour for an audience ranging from royalty (the Princess of Thailand) to Young Business Leaders and an American Think tank, amongst a host of other luminaries.

 I have seen a Sales Colleague get passionate about making Financial Review presentations and writing Due Diligence proposals. It came as no surprise, then, when he joined a major global company in a senior role in international development and strategic planning.

I have witnessed the blossoming of a shy General Manager who fought and overcame his innate inhibition to transform himself into a fine public speaker.

I have watched the growth trajectory of an F&B colleague who initially performed below par in his own department perhaps because he kept up a lackadaisical attitude; but take on the mantle of officiating General Management with such gusto, zeal and enthusiasm that he won plaudits not just from his fellow colleagues but also the GM, the owners and the guests at large. Today he manages an award-winning resort for one of the top ten hotel companies.

I have noticed with admiration the Executive Housekeeper come out of the shell of her traditional role and expectation and branch out in the area of Revenue Management and the larger Rooms Division responsibility. She pushed herself out of her self-limiting boundaries of satisfaction and contentment and untiringly worked at making herself more valuable and significant.


Go ahead and strategize yourself and your unique offerings such that you become hard to be replaced with.

Your professional destiny is really in the cup of your palms, the lines notwithstanding; and in the set of choices you make!


                                                                         ************

Picture courtesy - Google Images

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Is your Communication crystal clear? Or does it derail you?


Corporate Communications is all about building and cementing relationships with your clientele and strategizing to deliver your Company message to them in the best possible ways that ensure easy relatability.

Communications is the single most important key to your Brand positioning, Brand awareness, Brand recognition and Brand association. What’s more! in the dire times you need a good mouthpiece to reclaim your positioning and hold on to your territory.

Above the line, below the line, subliminal, suggestive, word of mouth, through the drumbeats over a dense jungle - whatever be your mode of communication, your message must reach the intended lot. And it must be conveyed in the most creative manner with utmost clarity.

As a CEO, you must ensure that your Company operates in an open atmosphere that encourages - along with prospects of growth, milieu of respect, trust and belongingness - a culture of information sharing. This must be followed as a top to down approach so that every employee works in an inclusive environment and feels a sense of responsibility to do the same with his or her team. Not only does this working style build and equip all other brand ambassadors with enough information bases to represent the Brand with; this approach also provides an extremely fertile and fruitful foundation for a Communications person to operate from.

As a Team Player, it becomes imperative to communicate – verbally or via the written word – in the most lucid, clear and cognizant manner possible.

When in doubt about how to devise the most effective communication capsules, always remember to adhere to the 7 Cs of Communication – Be Clear, Concise, Concrete, Correct, Coherent, Complete and Courteous. With this simple formula you can never go wrong in ensuring maximum reach, frequency and penetration of your messages to the target audience.

Corporate Communications is an integral senior management, strategy-level function. It must be kept in the know-how of all important things the Company is involved in for the following essential reasons –

1. Build its ability to communicate the Company’s messages in the most effective way and for the right customer segment.

2. To devise the optimal strategy to cover a wide audience base, in a direct outreach, and with cutting down of any loss of resource and effort.

3. To be razor-sharp with requisite knowledge of the issues or turn of events so as to handle the crisis situations better, in order to ensure no or minimum damage to the Brand value.

4. To keep up the morale of the internal publics by thoughtful communications strategy encouraging employee engagement and sense of identification with the Brand.

With changing times and innovation of new technologies, the rules of the game have changed. If you wish to remain a dynamic and pertinent player then you must adapt, learn and evolve in the face of new challenges, opportunities and practices. Premium amongst the current need is to internalize Web 2.0, internet-driven PR and Communication strategies and become adept at getting the Social Media to work for you as an able ally.

With new Communication channels being gaping open doors, easily searchable, playing round the clock and with the propensity for information to be dug out of the archives with just a mere click, it becomes imperative that the Communications professional and all the other Company spokespeople are cautious, clear, honest, conscientious and with a global outlook in the way they communicate, not only professionally but also personally.  

If Communication has the power to build a brand and keep it on top of the mind recall level, it also has the proclivity to break the brand and create reverse value in the minds of the publics.

Here follow basic and simple rules to help you ensure that your Communications Strategy is effective and above par –

1. Communication capsules must hold value for the target audience.

2. Communication must be purposeful – strengthening the bond with the audience. Generating feel good sentiment and respect for the brand are great purposes to bear in mind.

3. Messages may not always be about business. They can also be corporate socially responsible. You must positively reckon that genuine CSR activities create lasting value for the Brand.

4. Communication must be bottom-line focussed. At the end of the day you must endeavour to run a successful business and all your initiatives must dovetail into that plank.

5. Communication must be meaningful – Untrained, unprepared Brand representatives speaking mindlessly at external platforms just for the sake of occupying space or bandwidth on some media without conveying messages of value – both for the Company and the end user, cut an extremely sorry figure, bringing a bad rep to themselves and their Brand.

6. Communication must generate respect and strong identification in the Brand even from internal customers.

7. All brand ambassadors (read the entire employee base essentially, because one way or another each employee is an ambassador capable of propagating your brand value) must be trained to understand the Company ethos and convey it to the world at large, through their words, actions, demeanour and Brand association.

The right communication tools and the most appropriate PR strategies assist you in building a brand and reinforcing its image consistently in the minds of the relevant publics.

The best Communications Strategy for any Company would involve the following essential aspects – it bears value for the Brand and its products, carries promise of service delivery, is coherent and customer-engaging, reliable and realistic and is delivered in a timely fashion.


********



Picture courtesy - Google Images

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Do you make the SOCIAL MEDIA work for you?



We start each morning with an honourable intention to draw out and follow a sacrosanct to-do list and make it the most meaningful and productive day. We all seem to understand, only too well, the importance of setting priorities, maintaining discipline, being focussed, consistently perseverant and goal oriented.

Yet, the moment the morning starts progressing into the day, our will begins to wither, the determination gets embattled by the urge to click elsewhere and the spirit starts slackening.

The charm of social networking beckons and ensnares us in its fold, tempting us to relegate what's important to another time. And once we are onto this social, virtual juggernaut, it is extremely difficult to wean ourselves out as it begins to suck us into the deep recesses of its womb. Sooner than later, we get into this jocular, other-worldly mood living a vicarious existence in the lives of our friends, far removed from the real and important goals of OUR life!

With the advent of Social Media, there are a zillion inducements, such as checking out friends' statuses and pictures on Facebook, keeping abreast of the latest tweets of our tweeple, watching that interesting video on YouTube or simply getting down to a nonsensical virtual game that is so utterly unproductive but helps us hide behind the sham that we are occupied, albeit ungainfully.

There are legion cases of employees hiding behind a screen whiling away office time playing Solitaire, Candy Crush, Farmville or whatever the flavour of the season is. There are an equal number of us liking friends’ Facebook posts or commenting on LinkedIn updates or retweeting a wisecrack, while still at work.

When you are on the net you tend to make that big mistake and be disillusioned with a make-believe situation that you can actually multitask to the extent that you can work and play at the same time. 

So, you get into this monstrous maze that sets you clicking from one tab to another in the most futile manner delivering zilch on the productivity front.

There are enough studies being conducted to show how people are becoming more prolific, creative and successful in meeting their goals by taking up the challenge of leaving the social media trap for one year (or whatever block of time they may have chosen); or uninstalling Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook  applications from their smart phones; or limiting their access to such pitiably bottomless attractions (indeed the newsfeed of some of these social media platforms is bottomless and unceasing) to just one or two hours in the day.

Having said that, Social media comes with huge advantages and gains – as tools of publicity and promotion, brand building and image reinforcement, news sharing and opinion-making, creating trends, shaping consumer behaviour, furthering causes. The pluses are endless and gigantic; big enough for you not to take these platforms lightly. The essential need-of-the-hour is to be wise, intelligent and judicious in harnessing these channels for effective use (as also requisite doses of fun); as against getting sucked into the whirlpool of the unreal / semi-real world they propagate in a manner from which you cannot be easily rescued.

Soren Gordhamer, Organizer of the Wisdom 2.0 Conference, which brought together staff from Google, Facebook, and Twitter with others to explore living wisely in our modern age, says “There have never been more things that call out for our attention: We have tweets to read, Facebook statuses to check, put up pictures and posts on Pinterest and Instagram — not to mention text messages, e-mails, and cell phone calls. And the amount of data is growing each day. Recent reports estimate that the average American consumes 34 GB worth of content a day, including 100,000 words of information. While this access to information has numerous benefits; learning to live and work skillfully amidst an active social media lifestyle is an art in itself — one that will be increasingly challenging in the years ahead.”

With the number of social media platforms increasing rapidly and with new features being added each day on the existing ones, it is becoming imperative, more and more, to try and not only keep one’s head above water but to stay relevant and industrious, accomplishing one’s key goals.

Here follow five simple tricks and tactics to manage the Social media and make it work for you. 

These lessons will help you stay sane and focused amidst an active social media lifestyle.

  1. Internal needs vs. External stimuli
Back in 1943, Abraham Maslow put forth his theory of the ‘Hierarchy of needs’ in which he rightly put pleasure and trivia below esteem and actualization.

Ask yourself each morning (or several times in a day) what is it that you actually wish to achieve at the end of the day or the week. Having determined the actual point of focus, go after it with all that you have; allowing yourself only minor, short-lived digressions.

To channelize the internal impetus back on track look towards a short walk, or a spot of reading, or listening to your favourite music to get back, with renewed vigour, to what needs your undivided attention.  

“The biggest (and hardest) lesson I’ve learned in life is that the external world is just a reflection of the world within,” says Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

Finally, know the raison d'être for your life. Listen to that big drummer up there who beats uniquely for you, hear out the silent little beats that make music only for you and follow your impassioned heart and rational mind into getting on the path that only YOU are meant to tread upon.

Go on, beat the brash blitz of the unimportant or the less important, conquer the bastions and charge ahead on your mission and goals in life by wearing the blinkers of high resistance to fruitless pleasures of social media.

  1. Downside of Multi-tasking
New research is beginning to point out that humans cannot multi-task on more than two things at a time. A recent study at Stanford found that the more people multi-task, the worse they become at it.

So, turn a deaf ear to this latest scientific revelation at your own peril.

If you wish to accomplish a lot more, then do one thing at a time – satisfactorily, having given it your 100%. Then get on to the next and from there on eat that mountain bite by bite.

“When people try to perform two or more related tasks either at the same time or alternating rapidly between them, errors go way up, and it takes far longer — often double the time or more — to get the jobs done than if they were done sequentially,” states David E. Meyer, director of the Brain, Cognition, and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan.


  1. Do not be too hard on yourself
From time to time, cut yourself some slack. The temptations of the Social media are so large and incessant that the more you try to push them away, the more you will be drawn towards it. So, instead of creating a mental prison, give in to the ‘pull’ and you will be able to pull away with far more ease and conviction.

Create a healthy, happy balance between Social media time and the no-go zone. Also, learn to maintain a healthy, constructive equilibrium between Social Media for work (after all, Social Media is an integral part of your business strategy; true for any business that you may be in today) and Social media for fun (that is essential too – to keep you in touch, to bust your stress, to keep you in step with breaking news and latest trends).

  1. Prioritize. No indulging first thing in the morning
A lot of us wake up to the alarm set on our smart phones. And with this proximity with the device comes the easy opportunity to quickly check out the posts on the Social media. Similarly, we fall into the trap at the Breakfast table or when we are booting the computer at work. We tell ourselves it will take only a few minutes but it never does as we get so immersed in one post after another, losing the track of time.

Time Management Gurus have been telling us for years to fight the urge to check and respond to our emails first thing at the start of our day. Now the onslaught is from several directions and the risk of losing precious time so much more.

Make a rule of finishing at least one major or two moderate tasks before you get on the Social media platforms for work. The feeling of having accomplished good work will be substantially high and you will end up achieving more by the end of the day.

As for Social media for fun, use it as a reward or a stress buster to a long, hard day. Treat it special, like entering a Country Club to catch a drink with friends on Facebook or engaging in a cerebral dialogue over coffee with connections on LinkedIn or allowing yourself interesting time-out on Twitter with shoes kicked off, satchel laid aside and that tie loosened up.

  1. Pay your undivided Attention
Oftentimes, we flit from one Social Media platform to another with a zombie like stance, mindlessly rolling down on one and then sprinting to another; with no time given to comprehend, digest, enjoy or introspect on what we are soaking in, giving our valuable time to it.

“In the age of social media, our attention can get bounced around like a ping pong ball, from this call, to that text message, to that tweet, such that by the end of the day we are exhausted. Mindfulness, or attention to the present moment, is lost. We spend our day “chasing,” letting others determine our focus, not choosing for ourselves where to put our attention and attending to the tasks most important to us,” warns Soren Gordhamer.

Be cognizant of whatever information you are taking in. This way you will register the information more and will also feel satiated with the consumption of the information overload. Being present on the platforms but still not being really there creates a sense of vacuum that mechanical surfing fails to fill, instead creating a sense for more craving.

“When players practice what is known as mindfulness — paying attention to what’s actually happening — not only do they play better and win more, they also become more attuned to each other,” advises Phil Jackson, who has won a record 10 NBA Championships as a coach.

The lure of Social Media will only increase with time. With their significance and power as a potent media form, we will not be able to switch ourselves off or log ourselves completely out of it. What is going to be of utmost importance will be to come to a state of balance between how much and how little, how often and how infrequently and which one to lean more on than the others. Similarly, like in work-life balance, we will have to learn to carve a middle path between a simply ‘wired’ life to one that we must live in the real terms.

“The challenge of our time is to live connected and use all the great social media available to us, while at the same time harness and direct our attention where it is most needed at any given time,” adds Gordhamer.

Learning to manage and reap the Social media with the above strategies will bring in the distinction between being fatigued and focussed, shifty and attentive, engaged and effective, busy and productive, reckless and result-driven and overwhelmed or empowered.



********

Picture courtesy - Google Images

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

5 Ways to never be out of a Job!


A Big Gun’s head has rolled in the international hospitality playfield. It is one of the bigger exits by way of the profile of the Company and the stature of the person.

The man has held a strong reputation in the industry. He has a proven track record and is well-respected. He has often, in the past, proven his meritocracy via his experience and expertise and added magic figures to the bottom line. Still, the door is being shown to him.

Must all of us be prone to getting the pink slip, at some stage in our careers? Must the ‘sword of sack’ always hang perilously over our heads?

There must be something surely, that we can keep up at, so as to be able to leave just when we want to, on a positive note, with a warm handshake and a promise to meet again at another crossroad. Could the following be some of the important things we can do to keep our jobs?

Stay relevant

The dynamics of businesses are in a constant state of change. Innovations and the latest R&D ensure that we must continually upgrade our product. Further, wide exposure, varied experiences, cross-cultural influences and personal demands bring about frequent changes in the needs and desires of the guests. They are demands that products and facilities, endorsed by the guests, must meet and satisfy.

Furthermore, the profile of our customers keeps changing – we not only keep adding new segments to our guest pie but even the existing customers bring in their bagful of new wishes and expectations.

Suffice it to say that our business is in a consistent cycle of evolution. Therefore we, as significant cogs in the wheel, must stay relevant and ready to address these changes that spell growth.

Ask yourself! When the great wheels of motion, brought about by the intense winds of positioning and the cyclonic pressures of competition, churn with momentum, are you prepared to realign yourself both tactically and strategically? Only those of us who are; will continue to remain useful to the organizations we work for?

If yes, then you are there for good!

Keep your contact database updated

Regardless of the changes in the way we communicate and stay in touch in these digitally-heightened times, a rolodex or the cards-holder as a time-tested contraption to help us stay connected will never go out of fashion; as long as we continue to display our professional identities through our ‘calling cards.’

In hotels, a lot of people do each other’s jobs which were heretofore considered traditional territories. Think Sales, Public Relations, Guest Services. Now, reflect on how many times a

Front Office clerk or a Housekeeping executive has initiated a deal! With this sort of multi-functionality at play, a professional is most dynamic when he keeps his rolodex ship-shape, weeded out and up to speed with any fluctuation in his contact database.

And who is the smartest sales person? It is the one who cross intersects the contact base from various departments, collects gems of information and reaps benefit by mining it wisely.

I have outsmarted myself on two distinct scores at different places of work. As a Media Relations Officer at the Australian Diplomatic Mission in India, I set about creating a magnum opus of a media list. Apart from the regular suspects, the list also had residence address and number, spouse name, birth date and anniversary date. Of course, it was a time consuming exercise and done without the help of an assistant (the High Comm. had a no secretary policy).

I, often, insisted on speaking with the targeted journalist / editor to get the information. At the end of it, I had invested enough time to get to know the person better. ‘The’ list, indeed, paved the way for fostering a great relationship. To this day, well 20 years after, I still count a lot of people on that list as good friends or business associates as the case may be.

Another time, I made an ambitious plan to make a giant database of guest contacts, pooling information from my own office, the General Manager’s, Sales, Front Office, F&B and the Guest Relations departments.  I set about putting all relevant information – from likes and dislikes to allergies and tiniest of preferences. Of course information on important dates in the guest’s life was de rigueur.

And to make it one mean list, I also put all the relevant data around the guest’s virtual avatar. A list, such as this, kept in its most healthy and up-to-date condition is an extremely potent arsenal for conducting the business of hoteliering.

Network

The database is only as good as the use it is put to. A good list of contacts that is allowed to sit out for long and gather dust is a career-killer.

In most businesses, but primarily in industries such as hospitality, Networking is simply butter to our bread, with the propensity to elevate a simple interaction to a business proposition.

There is a plethora of people to network with – colleagues from other departments, team mates from sister hotels in the chain, most definitely guests – all kinds viz. room, restaurant, Spa or those visiting any other facility offered by your hotel, the media, members of the fraternity, community folk, people from allied industries – travel agents, government bodies, tour operators, tourism boards and international travel associations.  

I find networking to be one of the best real-time teachers, imparting valuable lessons that you imbibe both consciously and subliminally. Besides, networking keeps you in the circuit, ensures top of the mind recall for you and your brand and provides a ready track for two-way information sharing.

Finally, in the present times of one-touch, instant communication, there is no excuse for not staying networked with the right audience. The only downside of this, perhaps, maybe that you must watch for the overkill!

Keep your ears, eyes and mind open

The above should, in any case, be a mantra for your life in general. It, undoubtedly, pays richly to keep your senses sharp, soaking in important information, new knowledge and experiences as you go up and along.

While at work in a people-rich environment, you must be aware of the concentric and intersecting circles the human equations work in. You must learn to accept peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, be receptive of behavioural differences, take the high road more often than not and be a great team player in the dynamics of the disparate smorgasbord of attitudes and aspirations.

Keeping your ears and eyes open also helps you be in touch with the grapevine – certainly an inevitable, irresistible and often the main source of information regarding important goings-on and changes in the offing.

But the most important thing is to keep your mind open and be amenable to changes, novel additions to your work life, new colleagues, new way of doing things and of the evolutionary aspect of business as it gets ready to fight new competition and meet its vision headlong.

Learn new techniques, tricks and tactics

Yes, it is a fact of life. Change is, truly, the only constant. As time goes, we stay in a continuous state of churning. Everyone and everything – our vision, our projection, the way we do our business, demands on us, guest expectation, technology, creative influences, benchmarks, our aspirations from the brand value and the bottom line – yes, we all are in a state of upward progression.

That is why we must be perpetual learners, adding new skills to our repertoire. As a PR Specialist, I know that I must become adept at the social media, website management, SEO, photo editors, publishing tools, webinars, video conferencing, virtual meets et. al.

A Sales resource must be as proficient in the traditional sales strategies as in Digital marketing, TripAdvisor, Reputation and Social media management, prompt addressing of comments left behind on the Company website or elsewhere.

It pays for a Concierge or Guest Relations executive to be multi-lingual. This holds true for a lot of other team members too. At hotels, not only do we work in a multinational / multicultural environment, our guests too fly in from all corners of the globe. It is a given that speaking in someone’s native tongue is an instant connector breaking down most other barriers.

The General Manager has to be a jack of all trades, mastering new facets from all departments so as to be efficient enough to captain his ship.

One of the finest practices an erstwhile boss had adopted was to share a lot of information covering all departments with his team. We were a part of his change agent team working at re-launching a brand and he made sure that each of us kept up our eagerness to learn what was happening around us in the other areas.

I remember being reprimanded by the French boss when I came for the morning meeting through the lobby failing to notice the spectacular flower show-stopper that had been put together by the newly hired Floral Artists. The GM kept up with his incessant reminders for us to branch out and develop a keen interest in all the other functions of the hotel, prohibiting us from becoming the proverbial ostriches.

Today, when I write informative articles about General Hotel Management and find my pieces used as case studies by hotel schools, I have a lot to thank the GM and his ways for.

Do reflect on these tips to bridge the gap between your efforts and expected rewards. And try them out as a professional strategy for not only keeping yourself firmly ensconced in your business chair but to put yourself in the reckoning for greater returns.



                                                                       ********

Note - Picture courtesy - Google Images

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

11 Business Mantras that make you a Market Leader!


Brand Mission Statements and Brand Philosophy are often common sense rules that help us look above the clutter. They streamline our functioning into significant result orientation enmeshed with the Company or industry Best Practices.

Companies that succeed as market leaders are those that fine tune the smallest aspects and fit them well and cohesively into their Big Picture. It could be such a small thing as flowers placed straight in a vase on a guest table, or maintaining the right temperature of the hot/cold towels in the Hotel limousine or making sure that the steward is well-trained in serving at just the right angle, without letting his livery brush against the guest or the dish he is serving from.

Strung together, these small things shape up to become service standards, aspects of Brand excellence and discerning factors that separate a great Brand from the run-of-the-mill ones!

Market Leaders know that they need to be flag bearers of their Brand essence and must never drop the ball, while continually raising the bar with their unmatched standards, both in service and their trained team of stellar performers.

Here follow a list of some of the basic Business Mantras that set a leader apart from the pack –

1.     Attention to detail     

In the trade of Hoteliering, there is no space or scope for tardiness and lack of attention to the tiniest detail at all the multitudinous levels we function in. At least here, we must sweat the small stuff in order to present our best selves forward to the guests.

2.     From start to finish  

A memorable stay or dining indulgence starts at the entrance of the hotel/restaurant and ends at the exit. Well! let me take it a bit further and state that it begins from the very first interaction, yes, the time the booking was made – by whatever mode – and ends with the hotel/restaurant acknowledging the feedback the guest leaves on a comment card or on TripAdvisor, with a personal response sent to the guest.

That is the ‘full cycle’ of the guest-brand interface we must bear in mind and ensure immaculate experiential and service delivery to.  

3.     Superlative Service

For a Market Leader, there is just no other way. Service has to be outstanding, with delivery standards benchmarked to the best there exist globally, and delivery processes fine tuned to faultless levels of precision and delightedness.

Astral or botched up service and winning or erring attitudes can decide what part of the memory – good or bad - the experience rests in. Sadly, bad memories tend to linger on and resurface easily!


4.     Staff that understands and embodies Brand Ethos and Brand Value

The staff which is not trained to be brand proud and customer-oriented, Staff that lacks passion and commitment and is there to do just a job but fails even to do that, completely destroys the brand value and ruins the reputation of the Company for good.

5.     Get the Core Factor right

Every business has its core area and in some cases, ancillary interests. The company’s Vision and Mission, the blueprint for future growth, existing R&D, all training initiatives and service delivery standards are brought into a fine, strategic interplay of cohesive and conducive thrust to ensure that the core of the Company is always geared towards performing optimally for the end user.

For instance, much before experience, ambience, aspirational value and lifestyle statements, restaurants are about food. To present the finest of its core essence, restaurants go the long stretch to hire speciality chefs and specialized supplementary team members such as the distinguished sommelier or a Barista. They make huge investments in F&B training, menu creation, planning and execution.

Sourcing of exotic and exceptional ingredients, importing of fabulous flatware, appointing of renowned entertainers who are believed to stimulate the appetite and stir up the spirit by their pulsating music – all this is brought into a grand performance to present the main act, the act that defines the raison d’être of restaurateuring.

The same goes with rooms, spas and the kind of hotel business you are in – business or leisure or MICE or resort or destination or wellness and so on.

The core of existence for the Brand and its sub-products must, therefore, be strongly moored and kept in focus while carrying out business, both in a day-to-day setting and while working on long-term goals.

6.     It’s all about Guests  

The central gravitational force for the business of hotels is, unarguably, the guests. It is the chief reason why mega monies were paid to renowned architects and builders to create those magnificent edifices. Bundles of bucks are put into defining and plattering out the perfect branding. Pretty pennies are paid to hire the right mix of staff. All kinds of material are brought in – from Italian marble to mood lighting, expensive crystal to aromatherapy candles, special ingredients to spa treatments – and many man hours put into presenting eclectic experiences under the single parent fold.

In today’s times, when the guests are spoiled for choice with the hotel/restaurant business having bloomed so much as to bring in the best to even one’s door step, it is professional hara-
kiri for staff and establishments to assess guests from the front desks or make small talk about diners at different tables and generally be offensive in their attitude towards the guests.

It is the guests that are at the heart of hoteliering. It is the guests we put out our services to, who come and spend their income with us, ensuring that we keep our bottom-line healthy and stay afloat in the marketplace.

7.     Lose that put on Attitude

Five Star hotels, all over, have such a chip on their shoulder. I have seen hotel staff size up guests on the basis of clothes or jewellery they wear, the cars they alight from, the kind of luggage they carry, the choice of food and beverage they order and so on.

A lot of people working in starred hotels, up the hierarchy, thrive on such affectations. But at the bottom of the day, it is actually a training thing and a decision made by the mandarins early enough on what the ethos of their brand philosophy should be and how should it be breathed out by one and all. 

Underlining what I state above, there are these two distinct anecdotes I love to share as tall examples of both kinds of attitudes – guest attentive and respecting on one end and not even self-respecting on the other!

In the first example, I was, on one trip. alighting at The Pierre in New York from a ram shackled public transport with unbranded luggage yet the Doorman - in cahoots with the Concierge - helped me disembark, greeted me enthusiastically and ushered me with great showmanship into the gilded precincts of the iconic hotel.

In the second case, I had a very senior Food Critic cry hoarse about the despicable behaviour of the majestically attired Doorman, at one of New Delhi / India’s finest hotels, who refused to allow her auto rickshaw to enter the hotel gate.

Rules being rules, the Doorman should have been taught how to handle such cases with respect and sensitivity, without letting the guest feel cheap and disgusted which this hotel employee ended up doing. Several man hours were wasted in salvaging the situation with me as their Director of PR and the General Manager getting into the crisis-handling mode to win the guest back.

A lot of heartache and bad blood could have been avoided had the hotel concentrated on training the Doorman well and teaching him how to employ good reason, rational thinking and deft delicateness in handling different kinds of guests.

8.     New Rules in the Social Media Generation

With the surge of the Social Media, every guest is a potential hotel or food critic, with the power to put out a good vibe on the web or destroy a brand with an acerbic comment that has the propensity to snowball into a major issue.

While, earlier, making a complaint in print would have required a huge amount of time and energy investment with major follow-ups; today you can create news or a buzz right there with just a few touches on the screen.

And what’s scary is that; that little piece of news or complaint put compactly in as little as 140 characters can reach all corners of the world at the same time. Moreover, since bad news travels

faster, a juicy piece of negative publicity of an established brand can easily go viral and keep returning with every comment and share to bite the Brand.

But, if you do your job well and present the finest facet of your Brand to maximum guest satisfaction, you stand to gain from the same principles of Social Media, garnering all that free publicity and goodwill for your Brand and its myriad points of sale.

9.     Do not push the envelope

Up-sell by all means but first and foremost understand what the guest really wants and then move around that parameter; scooping in and pulling out with finesse, élan and refinement.

And drop the hard sell like the proverbial hot potato; it is known to dispel guests far, far away.

The business of hotels and restaurateuring has to be about grace and decorum, subtle hints and subliminal suggestions; leaving the guest as the main orchestrator of the experience that you double up to deliver on a silver platter of fine food and finer service.

10.                         Go back to the basics of hoteliering with Guest Focus

In the present times when the written word has the power to travel all over the globe with just a click of a button and the guest feedback can garner quite a momentum in the virtual world with strong repercussions in real life, guest focus and guest orientation are paramount like never before!

But more importantly, you must learn to be earnest in your service to guests for your Company’s good and for your own sake!

The true touchstone of a great place is how it treats and behaves with only five guests who do not run up a big bill.

Great places do not put their sparkle on only for that big table ordering the most expensive items on the menu or the costliest bottle of Champagne. They treat the low spenders in the same way they would the high spending ones; with sincerity in service, respect for their own brand and pronounced guest attention being supreme in their scheme of things.

This is not only the correct Brand Philosophy but also a win-win scenario, both for the Brand and the guests.

Next time those five guests want to recommend a great place to their contacts or wish to spend mega bucks on a special evening, guess who will they recommend and where will they make their reservation!

11.                        The Golden Rule of Hospitality

Regardless of the Draconian sword of the social media / traditional media, the service industry has a moral obligation to serve the guests with honesty, respect and enthusiasm. Otherwise, they are definitely in the wrong game.


I remember ordering only Spaghetti sans any wine or a side dish at a rather fine restaurant run by an immigrant Italian in the heart of Engelberg, the tiny sleepy town in Switzerland. We were accorded as much respect and attention as they would have given to someone ordering a six-course meal, with the Owner stopping by to ask after us. Now that is what is called impeccable attitude and perfect training.

The ambience, the attitude, the food, the concentration on guests was such that we returned the next evening and the next to try out their menu. They had made quite an impression on us with their complete package of good food and hospitality standards of the highest order.

The best part is; they were really not trying hard to impress. All they were doing was carrying on with their job and presenting their brand in the best way possible, and with integrity, passion and guest orientation.

In most cases, that is all that you are required to do!



***********

Picture courtesy - Google Images