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The 'NEW' Hotel General Manager.
By Paul Sarlas
Wednesday, 19th April 2017
 

The position of general manager has never been a static one: When you're checking the financials one minute and tasting new dishes in your restaurant the next, you cannot afford to be a specialist, you need to be generalist, hence the title.

With an enigmatic sounding title and a capricious job description, General Managers, as a rule of thumb, are generally quick to adapt. 

That being said, there has been a visible and real shift across the industry in the last ten years. A rare combination of circumstances; including, but not limited to, the financial crisis that have conspired to making today's General Manager very different in character from their predecessors.

Whereas, in years gone by, the role was primarily guest-facing, most of the General Managers responsibilities are now performed behind the scenes

In truth, the vision of a General Manager as a lobby-swanning super-host has been out of date for a while. This somewhat romanticised image stems from an era of simpler corporate structures and rather fewer reels of red tape. Nowadays, the General Manager needs to juggle a wider range of tasks and, as big brands come to dominate the market, words such as 'governance' and 'legislation' are rarely far from their minds.

If you can balance several tasks while keeping a smile on your face, you may have the chops to work as a hotel General Manager. General Managers oversee every function related to a hotel, from valet parking to the quality of restaurant service. Their job is to keep their property running smoothly, all while handling challenges with a patient and pleasant attitude to keep guests satisfied and employees motivated.

So what does it take to be a ‘NEW’ General Manager

Most distinctly, one of the most important task a General Manager sets is the company’s goals. The best General Managers establish goals that drive the team to stretch to achieve them. This does not mean capricious, unworkable goals that are bound to be missed and do not motivate anyone, but rather goals that will not allow anyone to forget how tough the competition is.

High standards come from more than demanding goals, of course. Similarly, to the best sports coaches, university professors, or symphony conductors, top General Managers set a personal example in terms of the hours they work, their obvious commitment to success, and the consistent quality of their efforts. Furthermore, they set and reinforce high standards in small ways that quickly develop to success.

They reject long-winded, poorly prepared plans and “bagged” profit targets instead of complaining but accepting them anyway. Their department heads must know the intricate details of their business or function, not just the big picture. Marginal performers do not stay long in pivotal jobs.

The best General Managers set the bar high and create deadlines which are enforced. Above all, they are impossible to satisfy. As soon as the sales or production or R&D department reaches one standard, they raise expectations a notch and go on from there.

Key points to be that “NEW’ General Manager

1. Hotel general managers wear many hats, so they must be multitaskers. They oversee the quality of food, guest relations, the front desk, finances, housekeeping, maintenance and team training and development. A General Manager may segue from an employee evaluation to checking on the F&B setup for a meeting in the hotel’s conference center. They must be able to organize and keep track of projects, schedules and people. Organizational talents are especially important in larger hotels, which have more complex operations.

2. Hotel General Managers are professional trouble-shooters. They must be able to think of creative and practical solutions to problems in a fast-paced environment. They need the capacity to reason by applying common sense to complete their duties. Hotel managers must know math to interpret financial information. They also need the ability to make decisions based on a combination of company reports and their own professional experiences and ideas.

3. Don’t be embarrassed to admit that you don’t know everything. Knowledge comes from the years of experience. More and more answers come your way with time. When someone from your team asks you something and you don’t know the answer to, just say that you don’t know the answer and that you’ll get back to them once you know.

4. Of course, you still must maintain a certain level of “distance” between you and your hotel team, but you also have to make sure that you are interested to get to know them personally. Research has shown that businesses who treat their team members as family have a higher productivity rate and have a far better workplace morale.

5. No hotel manager can survive without being decisive. They can never let over-thinking or dithering get in the way of a clear, cool-headed decision. Sometimes it’s a question of taking a risk. But the manager has ultimate responsibility for averting or mopping up a disaster – and they must own the consequences if they don’t hit the mark.

6. The hospitality industry is evolving every day. In your hotel, this might be a change in policies, staff attrition or a new technology. Don’t be frightened of change. Times are changing and you must embrace it. If your employees see that you are adopting to change rather than resisting it, they would follow suit. Especially when it comes to technology. We find our younger team members look forward to the technological changes and will assist the hotel in moving with the times.

7. The elite managers who have a strong vision, always seek a better way to do tasks or apply a more appealing approach. They are enthusiastic for change, curios about what is going on in the hospitality world, and the ability to keep abreast of breaking industry news. You should be aware of new trends and industry news that might affect your hotel. We know you are busy, however it is important to set aside even just 15 to 30 minutes a day to read about industry news and trends. These days it is much easier to do this with all the mobile apps available.

8. Teaching is part of your job as a hotel general manager. Sharing what you know to your team will not only foster a sense of empowerment in your hotel. It would actually make your role as a General Manager much easier due to the fact that you are equipping them with knowledge and skills they can use to perform their job without constant assistance from you.

9. Coaching is fundamental as a General Manager—the basic skills and plays that make a team a consistent winner. Great General Managers do the same thing. They know that sustained superior performance can not be built on one-shot improvements like restructurings, massive cost reductions, or reorganizations. Sure, they’ll take such sweeping actions if they are in a situation where that is necessary or desirable. But their priority is avoiding that kind of situation. And they do that by focusing on the six key tasks that constitute the foundations of every general manager’s job: shaping the work environment, setting strategy, allocating resources, developing managers, building the organization, and overseeing operations.

What Top General Managers Should Do?

First and foremost, putting someone in a General Manager role who does not already know the business or the people involved, simply because they are a successful “professional manager,” is risky. Unless the business is easy to learn, it will be very difficult for the new General Manager to learn enough, fast enough, to develop a good agenda. And unless the situation involves only a few people, it will be difficult to build a strong network fast enough to implement the agenda.

Especially for large and complex businesses, this condition suggests that “growing” one’s own executives should be a high priority. Many companies today say that developing their own executives is important, but in light of the booming executive search business, one has to conclude that either they are not trying hard or their efforts simply are not succeeding.

Second, management training courses, offered both in universities and in corporations, probably overemphasize formal tools, unambiguous problems, and situations that deal simplistically with human relationships.

Some of the time-management programs currently in vogue are a good example of the problem. Based on simplistic conceptions about the nature of managerial work, these programs instruct managers to stop letting people and problems “interrupt” their daily work. They often tell potential executives that short and disjointed conversations are ineffective. They advise managers to discipline themselves not to let “irrelevant” people and topics into their schedules. Similarly, training programs that emphasize formal quantitative tools operate on the assumption that such tools are central to effective performance. All evidence suggests that while these tools are sometimes relevant, they are hardly central.

Third, people who are new in general management positions can probably be gotten up to speed more effectively than is the norm today. Initially, a new General Manager usually needs to spend a considerable amount of time collecting information, establishing relationships, selecting a basic direction for his or her area of responsibilities, and developing a supporting organization. During the first three to six months on the job, demands from superiors to accomplish specific tasks or to work on pet projects—anything that significantly diverts attention away from agenda setting and network building—can be counterproductive.

Finally, the formal planning systems within which many General Managers must operate probably hinder effective performance. A good planning system should help a general manager create an intelligent agenda and a strong network. It should encourage the General Manager to think about the strategy and how to implement it, to consider both the short and long term plans and, regardless of the time frame, to consider financial, product, market, and organizational issues. Furthermore, it should be a flexible tool so that, depending on what kind of environment among subordinates is desired, he or she can use the planning system to help achieve the goals.

To sum up, outstanding General Managers affect their companies in six important ways. They develop a distinctive work environment; spearhead innovative strategic thinking; manage company resources productively; direct the people development and deployment process; build a dynamic organization; and oversee day-to-day operations. Individually, none of these things is totally new or unique.

But successful General Managers are better at seeing the interrelationships among these six areas, setting priorities, and making the right things happen. As a result, their activities in these areas make a coherent and consistent pattern that moves the business forward.

These six responsibilities don’t tell the whole story, of course. Leadership skills and the General Managers personal style and experience are important pieces of the whole. But focusing effort in these six areas will help any General Manager become more effective. And that should mean making the right things happen faster and more often—which is what all of us want to achieve as general managers.

Paul Sarlas was born in Sydney, Australia and was exposed to the hospitality industry from a young age, growing up in a family that owned and operated cafes and restaurants. Paul began his career in the family business, working in all aspects of the restaurant industry, whilst studying commercial cookery to become a qualified chef. His passion for front of house, strong marketing techniques and ability to interact well with customers led him to perusing a career in the front of house. Paul continued his studies in management and took a post in a boutique hotel in Sydney.

Paul’s passion in F&B moved him from hotels to free standing restaurants working his way up to management positions at a very young age. Paul opened his first café in the Sydney Suburb of Brookvale. With the success of this café, he soon expanded to the second café in North Sydney. Paul created successful well-known business to build a reputation and make a mark in the Sydney dining scene.

With the continuing growth and international expansion, consulting in the UK, Bangkok, Hong Kong and China. Paul has continued to work globally firstly Singapore as Director Asia Pacific for Hilton Worldwide managing almost 300 F&B outlets in 17 countries. He then moved to Moscow as Director for Stepan Mikhalkov as Director for Verchisky, Vanil and a number of other restaurants and cafes within the group.

With an international focus Paul has been appointed as CEO with restaurant groups in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and London. Now Paul continues his consulting company, Savvy IQ and developments concepts in London and internationally, with 4 restaurants concepts opening in 2017/18.

www.savvyiq.com 

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