Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grooming Policies (How many piercings is too many?)

Hotels are the last bastion for conservative grooming policies although I have seen many traditionally conservative Hotel companies become more flexible over time.
I have to admit that although most people, (okay, probably everyone I know), would describe me as fairly conservative as well, I too have become more “open” to relaxing some of the grooming policies that I once held sacred.
I’ve always had a policy of meeting every single applicant during the interview process. Not that I didn’t trust my department managers, but rather that I liked to meet everyone that was potentially going to work at the Hotel.
I felt that it was important that every team member know the General Manager, and hopefully, got a sense of me during our conversation, as much as I hoped to get a sense of them.
I also liked to be that last opportunity to judge their service ethic, see whether they exuded that sense of service that you look for in every employee.
On one occasion, I found myself travelling quite a bit and we were in need of a house person. The need was quite immediate and I got a call from a relatively new Director of Human Resources asking if we could bend the rule on this occasion to help out the Housekeeping team.
She advised me that in my absence, the Director of Operations had met the candidate, as had the others you would expect, and references were excellent, etc...
We agreed to move ahead and also agreed that I would meet this candidate, to fulfill the other part of my personal mandate, upon my return.
I returned a week or so later, inquired if the young man was on duty, and once confirmed that he was, I asked what section he could be found so I could go and add my welcome.
Imagine my surprise when I approached the young man, who upon hearing me, turned his head to expose his pony tail dangling from the back of his head like a shampoo model.
I contained my shock and then went to find the Director of Human Resources and asked her what the @#%$ she thought she was doing hiring someone with a pony tail?
The answer?
Apparently, at her last Hotel, with another Hotel company, pony tails were acceptable, and she had “assumed” that our grooming policy was as liberal and understanding.
And that, is how pony tails became acceptable in that Hotel company. Precedent was now set and the clock could not be turned back. With one flick of his pony tail our company grooming policy was changed.
That said, I have to say that he was a very tidy, polite, well-mannered, well groomed young man and he quickly established himself as one of our best employees.
And I came to realize that the world had not come to an end, although an era certainly had.
What about you? What’s your tolerance for longer hair, piercings, tattoos, and the like on hospitality employees? Where do you draw the line with what’s acceptable?
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

In Search of Service – The Rule of 10 & 5

People are always trying to overcomplicate service, and the end result is often that staff are so confused about the 10 or more “minimum standards” that they are supposed to be using at every guest interaction that their service seems rehearsed.
For example, I used to love it when an employee responded to a guest inquiry with an “it’s my pleasure.” And I could be wrong, but I believe that Ritz Carlton were the first to use it as a standard response for their team members.
Now, everyone is saying it, at most every Hotel company, so you have to ask yourself, is it really their pleasure? Of course not, and as a result of its over-use, it no longer has much of an impact on me at all, except when I can tell it is voiced by someone who truly embodies the service culture that we all strive to create.
I would like to see more companies focus on the basics, first, and do them well, CONSISTENTLY.
Take the 10 and 5 rule, remember that one?
When a guest comes within ten (10) feet of a team member(s), the team member(s) should cease their conversation to acknowledge the approaching guest by making eye contact. At approximately five (5) feet team members should acknowledge the guest(s) with a warm greeting, whenever appropriate.
When is the last time a Hotel company spent any time on this during their new team members’ orientation?
I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, I still want to feel welcome when I stay at a Hotel, and valued as a customer, not looked down upon by staff members who appear disgruntled by the fact that you have interrupted their discussion of what they did on their days off, to ask for their assistance or directions.
A Hotel is supposed to be a home away from home, an oasis, in the middle of the concrete jungle.
In my home, I make people feel welcome, I acknowledge them when they enter a room, I approach them, rather than waiting to be approached, I use their name, and I let them know that I appreciate them coming to visit.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Isn’t that what makes people want to come back, again and again?
Nobody sits around their dining room table talking about how much they want to go back and visit their surly Uncle Frank.
It’s all about the basics, do those well, and then you can dazzle me with all of your other special attributes designed to make me want to stay at your Hotel, but if I don’t feel welcome, I won’t be back. 
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don’t Burn Those Bridges – Not Even By Accident

How many of you can remember, early on in your life, or certainly in your career, where someone cautioned you by telling you; “be careful not to burn your bridges.”
And I’ll go you one further, which is to say, and that I have written about before, is that I believe that at least in our business, “it’s all about relationships.”
And yet, how many of you recognize this situation?
You need something, from a client, a supplier, a peer, someone in your company, it doesn’t really matter who. What matters is that you need a response, you need some information, and you need it from them.
You have emailed, now more than once, and you have had no response. You have called, now also more than once, but in both cases you did not reach the person, so you left them a voice mail, and still you have had no response.
Days have passed, maybe even a week or more, and you still have had no response, nor any indication that they are away, and in fact you may know very well that they are not away.
So what conclusion are we to draw from this scenario?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I draw several possible conclusions or opinions in from this situation.
1) They think that their time is more important than mine, or, their challenges are of a higher priority than mine, in spite of the fact that they may not even fully know what I need/want from them.
2) This is how they run their business, or their division, etc., as may be the case. And this is a particularly dangerous one as it can cost you business. I can tell you, in some instances, it has cost them my business.
Regardless, it does not paint a positive picture, it does not demonstrate a value for our relationship, and it certainly does not demonstrate that you value my business.
Bottom line, whether you intended it or not, that bridge of ours has just gone up in flames, so don’t be surprised when a business relationship sours after you have treated someone this way. They may be standing at the other side of that burnt bridge, and they may not be willing to join you in the re-building process.
Make timely communication a priority for yourself, then lead by example, and set minimum standards in your company for communication responses. Mine, have always been 24 hours. EVERY phone call, email, letter gets a response within 24 hours of being received, without exception.  
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Great Leaders - Common Traits

I consider myself a “student of leadership,” which is my way of recognizing that leadership is a journey and that we must always be expanding our ongoing education in leadership.
Being a better leader and having a richer life is an ongoing search, for the rest of our lives.
That’s why I love reading as much as I can on the subject. I’m fascinated by the stories provided by some of history’s greatest leaders.
There is so much that we can learn from the great leaders that have preceded us, and, from the experiences that shape us as we move forward in pursuit of becoming great leaders, and leaving our mark on the world. We must never stop learning.
There is a common trait that I have found among many of these great people.
Leaders see the world through the eyes of others, they recognize that it isn’t about them, and that the more you take self-interest out of the picture and instead do for others, the more you end up benefiting your own interests, in both the short and long term.
Great leaders inspire others with their passionate commitment to what they believe in. They love what they’re doing, and they’re doing what they love.
A good leadership story has the power to engage hearts and minds. It has these elements:
- Draws on your own past and lessons learned along the way.
- Engages the audience through emotional connection because of its relevance to them.
- Inspires others because it is fuelled by your passion.
- Displays the struggle between your goals and the obstacles you faced in achieving your goals.
- Illustrates with vivid examples.
- Teaches an important lesson.
Our actions, as leaders, can, and indeed must, serve a larger purpose – a societal good that moves us all forward. 
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Succession Planning - Are You Ready for Change?

I recently read an interesting article in the Globe & Mail, that got me thinking about succession planning, and more specifically, how few companies really have a clear succession plan in place. Do you?

It is surprising to me, after all these years, to still run into people in our industry who tell horror stories of how challenged they are by a recent departure at the Executive or Department Head level.

The crux of the story is usually centred around the fact that some man or woman has given their notice, or perhaps been terminated, and as a result, people have suddenly realized that not only do they not have a successor in mind to quickly fill the void, they don’t know half of what this person was actually doing on a day-to-day basis.

Then, in a state of panic, with a dash of denial tossed in, they ask the departing Manager to show some underling about his or her job before they leave, in the hope that if this person shows someone else what he or she does on a day-to-day basis, it may not be necessary for the Division Head to have to roll up his or her sleeves and pick up the slack.

This process never ends well, as ultimately, the assigned underling ends up covering the departing Manager’s job for anywhere from days to months, during which time the job is posted within the company, and for some inexplicable reason, HR and/or the GM are surprised when the underling applies to permanently fill the vacancy.

What did you expect? He/she has been doing the job, or so they think, for the last several months, and usually not having heard anything to the contrary, they believe they are doing an excellent job. They don’t know if there are other duties that would normally be covered by the Manager, that they may not be doing, or, any other particulars about the job, specifically.

Why? Because no one has told them. They were just happy that the main job duties were being covered, and no one else more senior had to pick up the slack.

What can you do to avoid this problem?

Ensure that you have a detailed succession plan in place, that covers all of your Managers and Executive level positions, and then, don’t write it and put it on a shelf never to be looked at again, until that fateful day.

Review it, as a Leadership Team, not less than quarterly, and, make it a priority with all of the Managers, tied to their annual performance review, which is presumably tied to their annual goals.

Have one specific goal that requires EVERY Manager to be actively identifying and then training their successor.

This will ensure that it is a priority.

I would also suggest that there is value in identifying core training that you want ALL of these potential successors to receive PRIOR to any advancement. I have seen far too many Managers either over-promoted, or, put into positions without the proper foundation to ensure their success.

This is your business, don’t you want to know that it is always being managed in a consistent manner to ensure that you do not suffer the consequences of an unexpected departure. Be prepared.

Remember, people don't plan to fail, but they do fail to plan.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Leadership in the 21st Century - A Blueprint

In the wake of recent corporate scandals, the status of business is low, and citizens are demanding greater corporate accountability and ethical action. New public policies oblige business executives to find firmer morale ground and to avoid the temptations of greed.
The best companies to work for are those in which employees are seen as working hard while having fun with people they view as their friends. Yet, loyalty to any single organization is gone.
Businesses are competing in the “war for talent,” and the increasingly diverse pool of employees require new approaches to motivating people.
New media requires that we, as leaders of our lives, choose where, when, and how to get things done, to manage the boundaries between the different parts of life.
This sets us apart, as leaders, from all prior generations. It takes leadership to drive change and make it so. You’ve got to choose to lead.
As we continue to work towards being better leaders, it is important that we define what is important to us. Doing so requires that we do some introspection about important events in our life, our heroes, our desired future, and our core values.
In order to deepen our awareness of who we are and who we want to be, it is necessary to look back in our past to determine the four or five events in our life that have shaped us – made us who we are, defined as the story of our life, to date, as well as who we define as our heroes, or who we look up to, and why.
After having written out the story of your life, write out your leadership vision, a compelling image of an achievable future, or, where you see yourself when you look forward ten to fifteen years from now.
In conjunction with both the story of our life, and, your vision for the future, you need to establish your personal core values – what you hold most dear and are willing to strive or even fight for.
Your values determine your actions as a leader and how you view the world around you. Your distinctive values are an important part of what will make your own particular brand of leader.
Now, you have a blueprint for becoming the leader that you want to be, a vision for what that looks like 10 – 15 years in the future, and, the core values that you will live by while continuing your growth to becoming a better leader.
Leadership is a journey, and while we may enjoy rewarding stops along the way, it is important that we never stop moving forward. 
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brand Partnerships – Do Your Homework First

As companies compete more and more for the ever-elusive consumer, many companies have chosen to form brand partnerships in the hope of differentiating themselves from their competitors, and, appearing to provide additional benefits, or added value, to the consumer.

This arrangement can be very successful, IF you find the right partner who can provide as much benefit to you, as they believe you can to them.

There are some great examples out there of partnerships that work, and I have to assume that they passed the partnership brand test, which is comprised of 4 key attributes:

1) A Complimentary Partner – Consumer must be able to see how this partnership makes sense, they need to see the connection and view it to some degree as obvious. If you need to explain it, you’ve already lost them.

2) A Shared Goal – Consumers want to understand the full value being created by your brand partnership. They want to know that your organization believes in what it’s supporting, and who you are aligning yourself with.

3) A Solid DNA Match – Your partner must share similar core values and see the world as you do, and be committed to the same causes as you do. Consumers will test the match in their own way, and it will be obvious, and potentially catastrophic, if it is determined that the partners are not working effectively as one unit to deliver the partnership brand promise.

4) It Has to Work Both Ways – It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating nonetheless that any partnership must have a win/win perspective, from the beginning and continuing throughout. If one partner is not as committed as the other, the relationship is doomed to fail.

Remember, at the end of the day, you are your brand, and your brand is a mirror reflection of you and your business.

This is your reputation that you are messing with, and you have probably worked hard to create a reputation for your business that you can be proud of, and, that has brought you success.

In short – this is like a marriage, so be careful and be thorough before you walk down the aisle.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I found myself reminiscing today about a guest that used to stay with us at about this time every year.
I have lost touch with her over the years, and given her age when I last saw her, it would not surprise me to find out that she has since passed away, as she was already quite old then.
The reason she was on my mind was two-fold; first because it was her birthday, and I used to do something special for her whenever she stayed with us, and second, because it was also about this time of year that I would find myself arguing with the staff about this same guest.
Picture if you will, an older woman, probably about 70 then, and she had been staying at this luxury property, every year, for about 14 days at a time, for about 20 years in a row.
Why the argument with the staff?
This woman was, to say the least, eccentric. She was quite a character. She had devised ways to avoid paying for local calls, she would walk around her room naked at times, and leave her door open to the hallway – not a pretty picture. And she always had a smelly little dog.
And what seemed to upset the staff the most, was that I would let her stay in a premium view room for a fraction of the rate that everyone else was paying. She was VERY particular about staying in the same room that she had always stayed in, for 20 years.
My reason for “giving in to her” as some staff described it?
Loyalty, plain and simple.
I used to remind the staff that this woman came, and paid what was a high rate, BEFORE the Hotel was renovated, before we commanded the rates that we now did, and at times when other people were not travelling, there she was, in the good times AND the bad. She was the epitome of a “loyal guest” and as far as I was concerned, those 20 years were worth something.
Sure, she was a hand full, she used to come down to my office at all times and demand to see me immediately, and I would happily always make time for her, help her with her travel plans and such, and use the opportunity to remind her to keep her clothes on.
And no matter how many times I would tell her not to bother, she would bring me gifts, for helping her. There was quite a collection over the years. Many of them were clearly used items and samples from businesses. One year I received a used green and yellow wallet – it didn’t get much use.
Regardless, she had spent her life savings over the years to stay with us, and that has to be worth something.