Maintaining Relationships Throughout the Organization.
By Dr. John Hogan, CHE CHA MHS
Monday, 25th August 2008
"Relationships of trust depend on our willingness to look not only to our own interests, but also the interests of others" -Peter Farquharson, philosopher.

This series opened with the perspective that we have all learned in our careers as hoteliers that there are understandable differences between "leaders" and "managers."  

The need exists for both.  As individuals and organizations, we need people who are inspirational with a vision and other people who put into practice that vision through focus, effort and dedication.  The second group, usually titled "Managers", embraces the genuineness of that vision and primes it to be the success that it can become.  They are the ones often responsible for handling, directing, organizing, monitoring and delivering results through other people. 

This five part series addressed areas of concern and interest for today's hotel manager.

1. Part one - Understanding the Organization – 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 concentration or stamina to  be involved in the every day necessity of running the process of delivering results through other people.

2. Part two - Motivating the Team – delineated key issues that affect the people reporting to us and how they are so unique to each person. 

3. Part three - Using your management style effectively – covered 10 standards to concentrate on your personal management style, with a focus on the tremendous diversity of people who own, manage and operate hotels in a global market.

4. Part four - Communicating with clarity and candor – provided skills to be developed, fine tuned and used.

Part Five - Maintaining relationships throughout the organization

In the hospitality and travel industry of today, we do not and cannot conduct business in the same way as our parents and grandparents did with the incredible diversity of people who own, manage and operate hotels in this global market.

As hotel managers accountable for the practical, every-day business practices that provide a range of potential results, we have learned we must use our personal strengths.   We have come to realize that in an industry that is open 24 hours per day, 365 days a year that we must effectively make use of the skills and resources of our associates, fellow managers, professional colleagues, suppliers, ownership group and organizational leadership.

Relationships in hotels have a great deal to do with our personal success.  Talent, knowledge and long hours may be part of the equation in reaching that success, but how we interact with the groups mentioned above is a challenge that must be met.

The following are offered as components of those interactions:

1. Recognizing that you as a hotel manager or supervisor are dealing with an incredible multi generational workforce.
Many hotels today have four generations working in the same establishment. A major  challenge for today's hotel management is that these groups are not all motivated by the same things.   One program I have personally used successfully is titled Showdown At The Generation Gap. 

This program includes DVD training and has support materials available.  The program addresses how we all see the world differently, with our own perspectives, habits, bias and points of reference. Generational conflict happens when Boomers and X'ers begin to make assumptions about each other and fail to recognize the other person's frame of reference. The program strives to cover how different generations view the workplace, common complaints and misconceptions about each other and how the generations can adapt their communication styles to build alliances with each other.

Here are two potential resources for your consideration



2. Defining and Communicating the line between friendship and cordiality
We all learn the need to balance relationships with people that we work closely with.  This applies up and down and sideways in the organization.

Traditional wisdom suggests finding close friends away from the hotel, but the long hours and positive experiences do make friendships possible in this industry.

Keep in mind potential danger zones which include:

  • those with direct reporting scenarios and the need to remain fair in annual reviews and performance appraisals
  • consumption of alcoholic beverages on property (in restaurants or lounges), which has often been a challenge in the industry
3. Handling Objections
This industry has many high touch components in it and there are often many ways to address challenges.  Most disagreements and "objections" to proposed methods of handling issues come from misunderstanding. 

Parts 2, 3 and 4 of this series addressed this critical area in a number of ways, but much if it boils down to improved listening, clear communication on the what and why of projects and the aptitude to convince people that there are options.  Avoiding the appearance of "right" and "wrong" in responding to potential resistance is essential to keeping your best staff on the team.

4. Managing Your Boss
A Google search of this topic yields several dozen hits with the exact title, and hundreds more of related material.  One of the best responses I found was from Marin Haworth  titled Managing Your Boss - Taking the Initiative .  The article reinforces to all of the significance of building relationships - when we have a boss, we need to remember to get the best from our boss and he maintains the burden is on us.

He proposes that, while we are limited in how much control we have in the employed world because so much is passed down, we can take some proactive steps to address the frustration   we feel at times.

He offers the following as potential ways to seize some control with a better relationship with your boss:

1. Make the Effort to Communicate - By having an easy dialogue with your boss, you will make it easier all round, when tough talking needs to happen.

2. Appreciate Them - It can be lonely at the top, regardless of the size of the organization. Take the lead in sharing the positives you've gotten from your boss; how they have helped you in your work, makes THEM feel good. He says when it's you making them feel good, they will appreciate you - which strengthens the relationship more.

3. Share Successes -  If you are able to acknowledge their involvement and support, they will be able to be a stronger part of the team, want to do more for the greater good and learn to give praise back!

4. Encourage Team Building - Being a good team player helps a boss with a critical part of their role. Good bosses are only good because of the quality of the team they develop.

5. Becoming a Solution Providing, Problem-Free Zone - Your boss is besieged with problems. Having ideas on how to solve problems and sharing those with them, rather than being a constant whiner, will buck the trend and be an example to others.

The full article can be found online at www.leadershiparticles.net/profile/Martin-Haworth/61 and I encourage you to consider its message.

5. How to Say "no"
For those of us with children, we have all learned a wide variety of ways to say "no".
Our staffs are not children and we need to remember they deserve to be treated with respect.

Situations range from simple day off requests to large capital budget plans.

There are times when "no" is the required response.  Consider this simple approach:

  • When saying "yes", give the approval first and then briefly explain why this was the case
  • When saying "no", give the explanation first and then the refusal.
This is an approach of Good News first, and Bad News second.  While it does not make the rejection easier in some cases, the fact that you always explain demonstrates that you care about your staff.   Showing you care when explaining can make a huge difference and help keep your strong people on your team.

6. "Listening"
We are all deluged with information overload these days. That fact does not mean we can ignore the people who are on our team that need our support, as much as we need their resourcefulness and commitments.

Many persons studying foreign languages are frustrated by their inability to understand what proficient speakers say. Though EFL learners can often understand materials in standard dialects, limited vocabulary, and slow speeds, non-standard dialects, idiomatic phrases, or rapid speech represent a challenge to many foreign language learners.

What are the best ways to develop ones listening skills? The following article abstract from author and English Teacher Tim Newfields offers eight simple listening tips, classified in terms of pre-listening, in-listening, and post-listening skills. 

Tips for better listening

Pre-Listening Tips

  • Define Your Purpose If you start by listening with a goal in mind, the listening task may be easier. Before listening to something, ask yourself, "What do I need to learn? The general gist or some specific information?"
  • Acquire Some Background Information  Getting a basic knowledge about topics before they are discussed generally makes listening easier. 
  • Predict, Then Monitor   Often it's good to imagine what those you'll listen to will say before you hear them. If you predict the key points of a speech segment before it happens, you'll have less new information to listen for. Most conversations and speeches follow a fairly predictable pattern. When listening, try to monitor what's being said and see how closely it matches your predictions.  .
Tips While Listening

  • Which Words Are Emphasized?  When listening, pay attention to the loudest and slowest words. These stressed words usually contain valuable information. Less important words are usually spoken quickly and softly. 
  • Listen for Non-Verbal Cues  A speaker's body language can offer clues about what's being said. Even if you don't understand any verbal cues, you can read much from his/her body language. What are a speaker's gestures saying? Boredom? Tension? Interest? Learn to "listen with your eyes" as well as your ears.
  • Confirm Your Understanding  While listening in a conversation, give brief periodic responses to let the speaker(s) know you're actively listening. Short phrases such as "Indeed", "I see", or "Is that so?" will assure speaker(s) you are following the conversation.  Conversely, if you don't understand what's going on, repeat the unknown word(s) with a rising tone – or stop the conversation to request clarification.
Post-Listening Tips

  • Rephrase Key Sections  Too many English learners say, "OK" or "I see" at the end of a talk without specifying what they think is OK or what they have seen. To confirm whether or not what you've heard is correct, summarize it using patterns such as, "So what [you] said was . . . .?".
  • Critically Evaluate Key Points  A final post-listening activity is to think critically about what was said and relate it to your own experience. Real listening should not be a one-way activity: it should be a two- (or multi-) way communication process. It is good to switch roles and make the speaker(s) listen to you. To be a good listener, you also have to believe in your voice as a speaker.
7. Recognizing the difference between "problems" and "opportunities"

We have many of both in this industry. Occupancy is off or we do not have housekeepers today.  Cash flow is strained or we need to figure a better way to increase REVPAR.

Managers are paid to solve problems.  They should also be accountable in being able to identify the differences between real problems and short term glitches.

Identifying a long term solution to a staffing shortage through creative brainstorming has been accomplished by many hotels in the US and Canada, yet many other hotels are not yet addressing the need.  Repositioning market segments can address cash flow or REVPAR, but they each require thinking, discussion, listening and planning for action.

8. Developing Your Support system

One of the best teams I was ever privileged to be associated with was at a pleasant, but somewhat dated downtown hotel.  The hotel was clean, it met the brand standards and the staff was friendly. During my five years tenure though, we experienced a very tough economic cycle in our market and monies for marketing and advertising were almost non existent.

This hotel ended up being recognized by the international brand it was associated with for five awards of excellence in different areas and it captured the highest occupancy in its market 3 of those 5 years.  I sincerely believe the successes that were enjoyed were due to the incredible team effort of seven people who, regardless of title, brainstormed and made their case on why a certain tactic should be taken. They supported each other and me, and I fortunately did not hamper them by hogging all the credit or insisting "my" way was the only option.  I remain friends with five of those people today – 20+ years later.

9. Preparing for the coming crisis

"Houston, we have a problem" was a famous quote from the US Apollo 13 space program. Originally a genuine report of a life-threatening fault, it is now used humorously to report any kind of problem.

Being prepared in our industry for a crisis is very real.  Earlier in my career, I served as a resident manager at a 400 room convention hotel.  The hotel had a fire detection system but codes did not require sprinklers at that time.   We practiced fire drills monthly to the point where the staff was getting annoyed – after all, we'd never have a fire and the fire department was close by anyway.  You know what's coming next – a fire that spread with incredible speed, destroying much of the hotel through smoke and water damage.

 The hotel was full, with several hundred other guests in banquets and the outlets.  One of the bell staff was honored by AH&LA the following year for his heroic action of knocking on dozens of doors evacuating guests. The practice sessions and awareness made the difference.

Fires are a frightening thing.  While the hotel received a multi million dollar renovation, we were closed for just under a year, with hundreds of people losing at least some income. The good news was that we were not even sued by anyone, and this was attributed to our preparation and because those regular drills likely saved many lives. 

Today, we have the danger of fire, robbery, assault, equipment malfunction, flood, hurricanes, drug dealings, and even terrorism.  We cannot live in fear but we also cannot assume someone else will prepare for it.   

For answers and ideas on how to prepare, consider these and other sources:

• the Educational Institute of the AH&LA www.ei-ahla.org  
• the International Hotel & Restaurant Association - IH&RA, www.ih-ra.com  
• The Hotel Association of Canada, www.hotelassociation.ca   
• the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education http://chrie.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3281  
• the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation  www.nraef.org  
•  www.hospitalitylawyer.com/solutions.asp  

10.   Continuous Learning is the ultimate preparation
I personally find quotes  to be a reason for me to pause and reflect.  I trust that they will be of interest to you as this series is completed.

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young." -Henry Ford

"I've watched a lot of mid-career people, and Yogi Berra says you can observe a lot just by watching. I've concluded that most people enjoy learning and growing. And many are dearly troubled by the self-assessments of mid-career.

 Such self-assessments are no great problem at your age. You're young and moving up. The drama of your own rise is enough. But when you reach middle age, when your energies aren't what they used to be, then you'll begin to wonder what it all added up to; you'll begin to look for the figure in the carpet of your life.

I have some simple advice for you when you begin that process. Don't be too hard on yourself. Look ahead. Someone said that "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser." And above all don't imagine that the story is over. Life has a lot of chapters. "

-John W. Gardner, "Personal Renewal", Delivered to McKinsey & Company, Phoenix, AZ, November 10, 1990

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."  -Colin Powell

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  www.roomschronicle.com  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, hospitality association 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.  He holds a number of industry certifications (CHA, CHE, MHS, ACI) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.
John's background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20 year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors' bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world's largest hotel chain. 
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