A Different Appraisal Of Our Biggest Challenges In 2009.
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
Friday, 3rd April 2009
The current economic dilemma facing many hotels globally is attributable to many factors; the lack of credit availability, uncertainty on employment and general caution by consumers and companies alike are eroding occupancies and revenues in many lodging establishments.

This fiscal crisis is hardly new to the hospitality and tourism industries.  In my business career, I can identify at least six major economic downturns that have included energy shortages, high rates of inflation, insolvent financial institutions that lent too much with no or little equity, and negative general global cycles.

Without a doubt, the concern about credit, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the business roller coaster rides in the global stock markets are very real.  By that same analysis, hotel owners and managers cannot immediately affect those stock variations or political decisions but they can make the difference in strengthening the core of their individual businesses.

For many hotels, that means a change in operational practice – it means embracing the spirit and results of empowerment.  What does that word really mean?

Empowerment – if one looks in a typical thesaurus, the word does not show any similarities or results.   Does this mean that empowerment is going to provide more work or more results?

The online Encarta Dictionary shows some verbs alluding to "giving authority to somebody" or to give somebody power or authority.  This definition indicates it is often a passive action.

A second definition is "to make more confident or assertive" or to give somebody a greater sense of confidence or self-esteem.     By contrast, this second definition appears to be more action oriented but the reality is that is still means extending that sense of trust and belief in others.

"Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader. Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers."
John Tschoh, founder and president of Service Quality Institute

Empowerment in the world of hospitality means that staff members at the front line (and hopefully everywhere) have been trained to more clearly understand the reality of the business, and the value of each customer. 

With that training, the staff then can accept and want more authority, which helps everyone to help achieve the hotel's goals.  Owners and senior managers now share those goals with more than the executive team. Everyone can be enthusiastic about the hotel's reputation, profitability and the staff is more motivated to take the initiative to deliver that one extra step.

Both personally and as an educator, I have come to recognize we all learn in different ways.  With that in mind, I am recommending two short books as suggested reading for managers who are looking to expand the quality and service delivery of their hotels.

The first is a sequel by Ken Blanchard, John Carlos, and Alan Randolph.  

Blanchard (of the One Minute Manager series fame) excels at focused, short scenarios that are easy to follow with detailed, hands-on answers to real-world questions about how to can navigate the journey to empowerment.

The book promotional verbiage explains n how the process requires ongoing effort, awareness, and commitment to transforming the hierarchy.

This is written in a Q&A format and expands on the previous book "Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute"

The second book is an amusing one that is easy to read quickly but it does require some thought and reflection. 

Written in the fable type scenario of "Who Moved My Cheese?", it focuses on illustrating rather than telling how managers can develop their leadership skills in a matter of hours, rather than months.

I borrowed this book from my library, but then went to Amazon.com for additional insights and ordering info.  There I found an excellent review of the book by John Chancellor of New Orleans www.teachthesoul.com that I feel is worth sharing:

"Squawk gives you three simple and easy to implement steps to becoming a more effective manager. The book presents these steps in a very engaging story form. 

But first let's review some of the reasons you need to take Squawk seriously.
  • Thirty-two percent of employees spend at lest twenty hours per month complaining about their bosses. (Probably a lot of those twenty hours are on company time).
  • More than 66% of employees are actively considering leaving their current job.
  • Employers suffer in excess of $360 billion in annual losses due to employee dissatisfaction.
  • Most managers believe their focus should be in bringing in the numbers ... but most get fired  because of poor people skills.
Travis Bradberry uses the seagull as a symbol for today's manager. All too often today's manager swoops in, fails to get complete details of what is happening, squawks up a storm, deposits/dumps on the workers and leaves a mess for others to clean up.  The seagull manager is showing up more and more in today's workplace.

Bradberry gives three simple but effective techniques to shift the way you manage.

1. Set full-fledged expectations - make sure the employee's efforts are spent doing the right things the right way. Let them know what is expected and how they will be evaluated in the future. Be sure to get agreement and commitment to work toward established goals.
2. Communication that clicks - too often managers do not communicate enough and only communicate when things go wrong. Observe what employees say, do, and speak openly with them about their work. Communication clicks when it is frequent and in a language everyone understands.
3. Paws on Performance - pay attention to each employee's performance - offer praise as often as constructive feedback. Keep your paws on performance."

This article is titled A different appraisal of our biggest challenges in 2009.
  • Are your challenges mainly in the global markets or has the delivery of service become tedious and dull to your guests and staff?
  • When was the last time you sat down and assessed the level of training and empowerment given to your front line?
  • How satisfied are your guests and staff?
Please share an idea for a column or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime. 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 & 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, a career hotelier and educator, is a frequent speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment leading organizations at multiple levels.  His professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development, consulting, management, including service as Senior VP of Operations.

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