Monday, May 30, 2011

Air Canada Discount Subsidiary – Does Anyone Really Believe it Will Ever Take Flight?

Earlier this year Air Canada announced their intent to launch yet another discount carrier, under an as yet to be determined name.  Apparently, they have not learned their lesson from their past failed attempts to launch and run a discount carrier.

After I initially rolled my eyes in disbelief, and stopped laughing, at the fact that Air Canada seems bent on their own self-destruction, (I mean really, how many times can the Canadian Government bail them out), I read the rest of the announcement and noticed what I consider the clincher, as it relates to why this venture will never take flight.  

Air Canada announced that the launch of their discount carrier would be contingent on the Air Canada Pilots Union agreeing to certain concessions and a two-tier arrangement, as it relates to the pilots of Air Canada and the pilots of the discount carrier.

As soon as I read that, I knew the deal was dead.  There is no way that the Air Canada pilots union will agree to anything out of the ordinary.  They have a long-standing history of drawing a line in the sand and then standing on “their” side of that line and daring you to cross it, at your peril.

Arguably, the Air Canada pilots union has not been the only Air Canada union body that has come close to forcing the airline out of business, on more than one occasion.  Flight attendants and customer service representatives’ unions have contributed equally to the near failure of this airline, but it has always been the pilots union that has been the most steadfast and obstinate in past negotiations aimed at keeping the airline aloft.

And then, just the other day, there was a story in the Globe & Mail (Labour dispute threatens to delay Air Canada discount airline), in which they stated; “Air Canada’s plans to launch a discount leisure airline next winter is at risk of being delayed after pilots rejected a tentative labour pact.”  “The rejection of the tentative deal casts uncertainty over the carrier’s proposals for starting a low-cost carrier and introducing pension reforms.”

Gee, what a surprise.

It’s a shame, because as a consumer I would love to see another discount carrier, to increase competition and maybe, just maybe, give us some addition cost-effective options when we’re planning that next trip.  And as a business person, I would love to see an opportunity to potentially make Air Canada’s business model more successful, and competitive as a carrier, not to mention creating hundreds if not thousands of jobs in an economy that could dearly use them.

But don’t hold your breath.  I’m laying odds that this discount carrier will never take flight.  Air Canada’s pilots union will make sure that this subsidiary stays grounded for the foreseeable future. 

It’s a perfect example of everything that is wrong with unions.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Are You So Quick to Judge a Book by its Cover That You Are Missing Out on Some Great People?

I am a VERY judgmental person.  I know that I am.  I often wish it was not the case, but it’s a reflex that I simply have no control over.

If I walk into a meeting, or a function, my eyes move around the room with android-like precision, judging and assessing everyone in the room.   Who is wearing what kind of suit, how do their clothes fit them, what kind of shoes are they wearing, and what condition are they in, what kind of watch are they wearing?  Are they over-weight, thin, tall, short, appropriately dressed for the occasion?  Do they look “put together” or like they just rolled out of bed? 

Over the years I have come to recognize that I do this, but fortunately, what I have also learned over the years is to keep my opinions to myself, which I would have to admit, was not always the case.

There was a time where if I was attending that same function with a friend or colleague, I would have been sharing my assessments in great and vivid detail with that person throughout the evening.  “Can you believe that guys pants, they must be four inches off the ground.”  “Do you think he can feel the draft on his ankles when he goes outside?”  “Doesn’t he own a mirror?”

You get the picture.

Unfortunately, as much as I realize that I do this, I still do it, but as I said, it is not a conscious decision that I make, it really is like a reflex, and it is not a trait that I am proud of, in any way.  I wish I could actively turn it off.

Case in point . . .

I was attending one of the first meetings of the leadership group that I have mentioned before.  It has people from all walks of life, different age groups, etc., and at that time, I had not met all of the members.

When I first entered the room that evening, I happen to notice a woman, quite a bit older, over-weight, and with a distinct food stain on the upper portion of her blouse, and of course, I had an immediate opinion about that – enough said.

She ended up seated next to me and there came a point in the evening when we needed to share something specific with the person next to us, and solicit their feedback on that point, and when this was first announced, my immediate reaction was one of disappointment that my partner for this exercise was my food stained friend from earlier in the evening.  What was she going to be able to contribute to me?

I know, what an arrogant thing to think.

It gets worse.

She invited me to go first, and as instructed, I shared my situation with her.  She listened intently to me until I was finished, and then to my great surprise, she gave me some of the most insightful and beneficial feedback that I have ever received from another individual.

Needless to say, I felt like a colossal ass, and that could be the end of that, but what it really made me realize in that moment was the fact that by drawing the initial judgments that I do of people, from time to time, based solely on my first visual impression of them, I was missing out on the opportunity for others to contribute to me.

That may sound like a selfish conclusion, but I don’t mean it that way.  Obviously, there are greater things at stake here – missed friendships, relationships, etc..  Things that I could in turn contribute to that person.  All true, but my point is that I did not initially think that they had anything to contribute to me, and by drawing that conclusion, I was the person who was missing out.

It was an embarrassing reminder of the importance and value of people, all people.  And that one chance encounter changed my outlook forever.

It’s really quite amazing what can happen when you openly share yourself with others, and in so doing, allow them to contribute to you.  The possibilities are endless.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Are Spas the New Starbucks?

I live in an urban centre and I had arranged to meet someone a few blocks from where I live, at a nearby Starbucks, just the other day.

As you can probably imagine, almost no matter where you may live, it wasn’t hard for me to find a “nearby” Starbucks, because there is one every two or three blocks, everywhere, not that I’m complaining.

However, what I noticed for the first time that day, as I was walking to my appointment, was just how many spas I passed along the way.  And then, in the last few days as I have been in various parts of my city, I found myself noticing just how many spas I passed in what seems like every district of my city, and I know that this is not unique to where I live.

Spas are not new to me, nor did they pop up overnight, but I realized that I have become immune to what seems like the weekly occurrence of yet another spa opening and they have grown to the point of saturating the city to such a point that it occurred to me that there may now be as many spas in any given city as there are Starbucks.

I can remember when we first started to introduce spas into hotels and there were some people who questioned whether or not we were chasing a fad or temporary trend that would be over before it really got started.

I did the research in one of my hotels to demonstrate the significant impact that adding a spa would have on revenue for that property, and even though the argument was compelling on a number of levels, the project was turned down.  I left a couple of years later after having pitched the idea a couple more times over those years, only to have it turned down repeatedly.

About three years later, they used that same proposal of mine to justify the addition of a spa to the property, after several other hotels in that market had introduced spas and were puling market share as a result.

Now, just about every hotel of any significance has a spa within its walls, unless for some reason it just isn’t feasible, due to physical building limitations, or, something of that nature, and certainly any hotel spa that I have been in is leaps and bounds ahead of the multitude of day spas that have popped up on virtually every street corner, but there is no denying that the demand is there, not just for hotel guests and/or the travelling public, but for the residents in these various neighbourhoods.

Spas, as we all know, are here to stay.  As we find ourselves downsized, working harder, smarter, longer, we will continue to look for ways to escape, to pamper ourselves, if only for an hour or two at a time.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

But how often do you make a point, find a reason, to acknowledge your employees for their contribution to your success?

I can remember some years ago when I was a Front Office Manager at a major hotel, being asked by another manager why I was thanking my employees for having done such a great job that day with what had been a very heavy check out, further complicated by a lot of early check-ins due to an incoming convention.

When I told him that they had done a great job managing the demands of the shift, while at the same time delivering consistently exceptional guest service, and, had kept things on line for the afternoon shift as well, he said; “that’s their job.”

It’s ironic that I remember that conversation to this day, perhaps it’s because I simply couldn’t understand his response then, or now.

I have always made a point of thanking my team, as a group when appropriate, and, as individuals for their individual contribution when appropriate, in whatever way made sense at the time.

Granted, encouragement, or recognition, or whatever you call it, must be honest and genuine or it will simply be seen as creative manipulation with an underlying objection to achieve something – increased guest service numbers, increased revenue, whatever.  Regardless, if that is your objective, your employees will see through it, and you.  If you have an objective, any objective, in recognizing your team, then your recognition or encouragement is not genuine.

I think sometimes people lose sight of where they came from, the struggles that they endured to reach their positions, and, those special moments where someone inspired them from a little encouraging statement.

The other thing that you need to remember is that there is something that you can find to acknowledge every single person that you know.  Everyone is good at something, or has made a difference or a contribution, but in order to see it you have to be committed to seeing everyone as individuals and not try to fit them into your perspective of what they should be like, and then acknowledge them for their contribution.  A little encouragement goes a long way.

Kids are a great example.  If you ever want to see how big an impact you can have by providing a little encouragement, think about when you have told a child that they have done something well.  Their face lights up.  You can immediately see how proud they are, and then they immediately set out to do more of what you just recognized them for.

We may learn (unfortunately) how to suppress that outward appearance of delight and pride, but the impact is the same – I promise you.  People want to do a good job and they want to know that what they do matters, that someone cares, is noticing the effort that they are making.

Do that, without an alternative agenda or objective, and I promise you your revenues will increase and so will your guest service statistics and your levels of employee engagement.

A little encouragement really does go a long way, so be generous with your praise.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

It All Starts with Integrity, or, Happy Birthday Hospitality Re-Defined !!

Hospitality Re-Defined is celebrating its 1st birthday and in light of that, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to best mark this milestone.

In the process, I have been reviewing some of the blog posts that I have published over the last year, and I found myself all the way back to post #1, which was simply entitled; Integrity - The Foundation of Strong Leaders.

It occurred to me as I was reviewing that first-ever post of mine that unless you had, for some inexplicable reason, reviewed every post that I have ever written, it was doubtful that you had ever read this post, as I had virtually no subscribers when I first wrote this post.  And although I have written a lot on the subject of "Integrity" over the last year, it all started with this post, so in the spirit of celebrating the 1st birthday of Hospitality Re-Defined, and, recognizing that much like this blog did, everything starts with Integrity, I present you with the re-print of post #1, unedited, as it originally appeared.

I hope you enjoy it. . . .

Integrity - The Foundation of Strong Leaders (May 2010)

When I sat down and thought about what I wanted my first blog entry to be about, I didn’t have to think long, in fact, it became obvious to me at the same time as I decided that I would create and write a blog. A blog about what I am truly passionate about, the Hospitality Industry.

And while there are many, many things that I could have written about, I wanted to lead off with a simple entry about integrity. I wanted to write about integrity because at the heart of my beliefs, as it relates to the components that contribute to a successful business, I have always held the belief that your business must be built on a sound foundation, and what better word to describe the strength and importance of a sound foundation, than integrity.

In preparing for this entry, I looked up the word integrity in the dictionary, and I found a couple of interesting entries:

1) the quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity, and,

2) The definition of integrity according to Webster's Dictionary is, "a rigid adherence to a code of behaviour."

There are though many ways to look at a persons’ integrity. A person with integrity possesses many qualities. Three of these qualities are honesty, the ability to follow a moral code, and loyalty to yourself and your beliefs.

Integrity shows up in many places and has many faces. The faces of truth, moral code, and loyalty are all parts of integrity and show up everyday in many ways. To have a true sense of integrity one must posses all three. You have to be honest to yourself and to others, follow your personal beliefs and stick to what you think is right, and you have to be loyal to yourself. Integrity is to be truly honest, and fair, and to uphold the beliefs important to you.

I recently came upon a definition, through my participation in a life changing course, that I have adopted as my personal definition of integrity, the statements that define my integrity, and they are:

- Being true to your ideals and standards.
- Keeping your promises.
- Being your word.
- Being true to yourself. (Shakespeare said it best when he said; “to thine own self be true”).

Now ask yourself, do you live by these standards? Do those around you? And especially, do those around you that you would define as “leaders” within your organization live by these standards? Are they truly leading by example?

I hope so, because a true leader of people recognizes that he is defined by his or her actions, not by words and that the example that he sets needs to consistently be of the highest standard if he is to be worthy of being called a leader.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is the fear of "no" stopping you in your tracks?

Really, is it?

Think about it.  Can you think of an instance or instances where your fear of hearing “no” has kept you from making the request in the first place?

It will take being really honest with yourself to see if this has been the case, and I would argue that everyone has been at the affect of this unrealistic phobia at one time or another in their lives.

I heard a great example the other day that I’ll share with you as an access to giving you an example to look for yourself.

Peter, a successful business man, has just left work and is headed for home.  He has about a 45 minute commute to get home.  He is married to a great woman, Mary, who is successful in her field as well.  They bought a new house a few years ago and they have been very focused on paying down their mortgage, as a priority above everything else.  Peter sees the importance of this, but it has been Mary that has been the driving force on this issue.

Over the last couple of years, there have been a couple of opportunities to deviate from their mission for a little self-indulgence, but after having discussed the matter each time, they have always decided to stick to their original priority – pay down the mortgage.

Just before leaving work today Peter received a great opportunity for him and Mary to take a quick trip to Mexico, deeply discounted, but he is sure that she will say “no” because that is money that could be put toward the mortgage.

So sure is he that she will say no that he spends the next 45 minutes on his way home having a fictitious argument with her, imagining what he would say, followed by her responses and on and on, with the obvious conclusion that after having argued back and forth, they will not be going to Mexico.

Peter arrives home after his commute, and now he is frustrated and angry, having lost his imaginary argument with Mary on the way home. 

The irony of course is that he is frustrated and angry with Mary, and she has no idea why?

Sound familiar?  If you said no, you are kidding yourself.  We’ve all done it.  Been so sure of an outcome of a conversation that we haven’t even bothered to initiate it in the first place, and then we blame the other person.

It’s what we make “no” mean that gets in our way, as well as our firm belief that we know that person so well that we can in fact predict their response.  We can foretell the future.  Wow. 

Sounds kind of ridiculous when you really look at it doesn’t it?

No means no, and that’s it.  It means no now, to that request, singularly, and it is not necessarily a predictor of future behavior, so the next time you are stopped by no, before you have even started, try letting go of all of your attachments to what it will mean if they say no, and just go for it, imagine they will say yes instead and you may be surprised to find that you approach the conversation in a completely different way, (because you haven’t already given up), and you may, in the process, create an environment where yes is possible where it wasn’t before.

Think about it.  If no one has been able to successfully predict the future up ‘til now, what makes you think that you can? 

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