Principles for Success as a Manager ~ Part 2: Motivating the Team.
By Dr. John Hogan, CHE CHA MHS
Tuesday, 22nd July 2008
In our careers as hoteliers managing a wide range of people, we have all been exposed to people who enjoy being part of the "team" and others who are viewed as or seem to regularly act contrarian. 

While most of us as managers and supervisors would rather avoid conflict and confrontation, reality has shown us repeatedly that we need the "team" in a business that is open to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

"People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong - Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?" Thich Nhat Hanh  {Vietnamese Buddhist Monk}.

In part one - Understanding the Organization – we outlined some of the differences between leaders and managers and the need for both.  While leaders often may seem inspirational, they often do not have the interest or stamina to  be involved in the every day necessity of managing the process of delivering results through other people.

Managers are the ones often responsible for handling, directing, organizing, monitoring and yes, motivating the team .  Each of the above global leaders in hospitality had a group of managers who assisted them in immense ways to launch the vision and thereby change the industry.

Part two: Motivating the Team

1. Understand what motivating really means          
A key responsibility for today's hotel supervisor and manager is to get the team as a unit and as individuals to regularly excel at what they do – every day!   

This means recognizing that people are generally self-motivated to earn something they want or to preserve something they already have.  Focusing on the positive in any economic cycle is less stressful for all parties – threats are basically bullying tactics.

People work in hotels for different reasons, including:

  • "Love" of the business – the art of hospitality
  • The chance to work with friends or families
  • The flexibility of shifts or hours
  • The potential of promotion and career success
There are many other potential reasons, but there are usually tangible goals. Abraham Maslow, the well-known behavioral analyst, identified two generations ago a foundation of human needs that remain relevant today.

1. the need for physical things
2. the need for safety
3. the need to belong and loved
4. the need for esteem
5. the need for self actualization

#1 – physical things are the basics – food, shelter, and clothing. #5 - self actualization – is more complex because it recognizes the maturing of the individual and what they are seeking from life.  We all move up and down the hierarchy at different points in our lives and managers who understand that "one size does not fit all" in their strategies to motivate their team will evolve into consistent winners.

2. Recognize that money is not the answer to everything
Statistics within the hospitality industry from the Cornell University Hotel School web site  and other industry sources place turnover at a range of incredibly high percentages.

We have often thought the reason for this turnover was less than desirable pay, benefits, job security and working conditions.  While the hotel industry is not always the highest paying, it seldom ranks at the bottom of the rung any more. Dr. Frederick Herzberg  identified that people work their best when their work is interesting and when they are recognized for their contributions.

The more that managers and supervisors can provide their team with the latitude to do their job without the negative of constant supervision, the more that staff is likely to respond positively and with results.

3. Provide meaningful work, not errands
Even in the most sophisticated of hotels and restaurants, people accept the reality that the manager or supervisor has the right and responsibility to provide direction and overall supervision.   Focused companies like Gaylord and Marriott that provide the training to ensure their teams are prepared have proven track records of both lower turnover and measurable successes.  Yes, we all have to complete "grunt work" at times, but reflect on allowing your team to fine tune the details of the menial tasks rather than giving them minute details of how to accomplish it.

4. Set and communicate team goals
We all use road maps in unfamiliar territory to get us from one point to our destination.  Goals make the every day business more interesting and they provide a target to shoot for.

To be effective:
  • Goals must be challenging.  To set a goal of reaching a ReVPAR of $100 this month when last month's results were $145 is not likely to be motivating. (Unless of course it is a different season for demand)
  • Goals must be achievable.   If the hotel has never exceeded $125 ReVPAR and there is no special event to make it happen, setting a goal of $145 is going to be very disheartening to the team.
  • Goals must be measurable.  We have all heard that "what gets measured gets done."  Setting daily or weekly sub-goals gives the team a target that can be identified and understood clearly.
  • Goals must have rewards and penalties.  Meeting the goal should be acknowledged in as many ways as possible, with compliments and incentives when possible.  The penalty need not be a negative action, but simply the lack of compliments and incentives.  Our team members are adults- they will understand.
5. Create and use individual scorecards for individual accountability
For more than 12 years, I maintained a consulting/training practice.  I was responsible for literally everything.  If I paid attention to the appropriate details, my success rate was much higher than if I did not.  As a sole practitioner, I was the team except when I added subcontractors or unless I worked as part of a consulting team for another group.

Very few of our hotels use single workers – we are all part of a team, yet we still want to be recognized for our individual contributions.

There are many good resources available online that can offer templates and "how-to" approaches to creating meaningful scorecards. These can be done for every department and individual.

They must be:
  • Measurable, such as number of rooms cleaned, amount of revenue booked, reservation contribution per shift, number of appetizers sold, etc.
  • Qualitative whenever possible.
  • Financially understood, as that is part of everyone's role
  • Tied somehow to the team goals as outlined in #4.
6. Practice Public Praise and Private Criticism
For some managers, giving praise can be quite challenging, but it is essential for motivation.     
Disconnect combining the praise with the criticism whenever possible.  The "but" that comes after the praise comes is often diluted when it is followed by criticism.

Both are needed in hospitality and every business.  If they must be combined, offer the positive feedback after the harsh material has been addressed.
7. Consider Merit Increases rather than those based on seniority only 
How much am I really worth?  This is a legitimate question facing us all, as managers or a member of the team.
A challenge facing the hospitality industry is the feeling of entitlement to an automatic raise, regardless of contribution, the health of the hotel asset or the business environment.

An option is to provide EVERY team member the opportunity of earning a merit increase because they participated in hotel sponsored or approved training that has the potential of improving the success of both the hotel and the individual.  Taking the training alone is not enough – there needs to be a measurable skill or gained competency.

If a front desk agent learns how to forecast, then the person now doing the forecasts might be able to advance to another task.  If a breakfast cook learns how to work the banquet prep line, everyone has the potential for advancement.

Seriously think about this one…………it works!

8. Coach your team as a strong way to help them reach beyond where they are

Coaching is a way to develop and fine tune skills.  This means we as managers need to consider some guidelines for effective coaching, including:
  • Determine the need.  If a restaurant hostess is just not effectively seating guests in a logical way to insure quality service, something needs to be corrected.  This may be as simple as a discussion on the goal of balanced seating for the service standard as well as being fair to the service team.
  • Ask; don't tell the individual about how s/he feels things are going.  If the individual does not comprehend the problem, the coaching element can then be to ask them if they have noticed the problem. The solution can then be shared and discussed.
  • Coaching has steps: tell, show, have them try, reteach if necessary and then let them try again. Repetition the right way does work.  Look at any successful athlete in any sport – they identify what is not working and work to correct the shortcoming with repeated practice – the RIGHT way.
  • Follow up later to make certain the coaching stuck. This is not micromanagement, but rather is a caring team leader who wants their team to be successful.
  • Compliment the team member on their success.  Recognition of a job well done is an incredibly strong motivator.
9. Counseling can be both a verb and a noun – learn to share both!

Counseling can be the opposite side to coaching.  Rather than addressing a skill set that needs development or refinement, counseling often aims at the manifestation of poor attitudes that are displayed in the application of skills.

You notice the housekeeping supervisor, who has been quite competent at her/his job,  over a few weeks has begun to stop paying attention to timely reordering of supplies necessary to meet quality standards. In addition, this same person has become abrupt with other team members.

You may not know what has happened, but you cannot allow it to continue. Counseling actions steps might include:
  • Asking what is going on. Share that you have noticed a changes and ask why this is occurring.
  • Listen without interrupting. Allow them to offer their explanation.
  • Don't be judgmental.  Many times, changes can be related to personal situations that they are facing.
  • While it is natural for us to be generally attuned to our staff's situation, don't ask beyond what is the right to know for a supervisor or manager.
  • While you may empathize with the situation, such as an illness or trouble on the home front, offering free advice on topics outside the workplace is not appropriate and may very well come back to haunt you.
Keep what you have found out to be confidential and advise the staff member that you will do so.  If you have an Employee Assistance Plan through your hotel, offer it as an option.  Tell them you will be as understanding as possible.

This approach will not solve their problem, but it will show them you care about them as an individual.   Counseling can be used both in correcting problems and in developing and maintaining positive attitudes.

10. Commit to a goal of 100% quality – every day!
Many of the major brands today are reducing the number of corporate staff conducting pure, on site "inspections" . This does not mean they are lowering standards, but are using the benefits of technology.  Services from AAA assessments,  guest feedback at TRIP ADVISOR and other sites combined with email guest surveys are providing everyone with likely giest experience at a hotel.

Today's successful hotel managers train and then trust their staff to self monitor their own area, especially with the team goals and individual scorecards goals  to keep  their staff focused on what is important.  Commitment to quality has to be part of everyone's responsibility.

This is a five part series that will tackle areas of concern and interest for today's manager. The next three segments will address:

  • Using your management style effectively
  • Communicating with clarity and candor
  • Maintaining relationships throughout the organization
Feel free to share an idea at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements.  Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE  and other industry sources.

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication  

John Hogan is a corporate educator and a frequent guest speaker at management company and franchise industry events.  He writes and advises on industry 'best practices' and conducts reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including mystery shopping and repositioning of hotels.

Hogan's professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.
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