Hotel managers give top 7 tips on how to be a good leader in hospitality
As guests sleep, then rise and shine, the inner workings of the hotel they occupy are running on a tight schedule, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Ensuring a smooth operation day in and day out is a tall order. We’ve talked with three general managers who are leading the way in their field, and they share their advice on how to have a long, successful, and rewarding career in hotel management.
Laurens Zieren, General Manager at Hilton New York (the largest hotel in Manhattan), Carol Watson, General Manager at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar in Philadelphia, and Dennis Doherty, Resident Manager at the Marriott Marquis Houston, give their insights and tips into what it takes to manage a hotel in some of the largest, most competitive markets in the world.
1. Find a mentor. “Everyone should have someone who is either more experienced or that you would like to be like. Walk up to this person and ask if he or she will mentor or coach you. I always have had and still have this one person, whom I look up to. I call him when I have an issue or when I don’t know what I want to do.” – Laurens Zieren
2. Practice work/life integration. “I believe work-life balance is a mistake. I failed miserably on that. I have a busy job, a family and I kept missing out on things. Now, instead of thinking on a 9 a.m.-6 p.m. schedule, I know what I want to achieve in a 24/7 period and start fitting it in. If I want to see my daughter for lunch on Thursday, or go to the gym between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., I don’t hide behind it. My assistant will tell you where I am. But if I have an evening gala from 8 p.m. until midnight, that is work as well. It’s been a huge eye opener.” – Laurens Zieren.
3. Get your financials right. “The hotel business is service and hospitality but it’s a business like any other. When you’re got to analyze a 100 financial document in front of you, there are fundamentals you will need to have spent some time on to make a profit. Too many general managers don’t understand the financial portion of this business. You need to get it out of the way.” – Laurens Zieren.
4. Be a leader, not a boss. “To excel in a leadership role, I tap in to the needs of the business, as well as employees. I sit back, listen and observe. It’s about collaboration. Knowing when to make the tough decisions, giving buy-in and support and invoking an environment that inspires creativity and everyone contributing to an overall goal.” – Carol Watson.
5. Don’t close yourself off. “Be open to opportunities and ideas that could lead you to a path you didn’t know existed. Be flexible, raise your hand, try new things and be part of the team. You may learn a new skill, meet people in different circles. It’s about connection. Putting yourself out there to set yourself up for success in the long run.” – Carol Watson.
6. Have a solid work ethic. “I’m lucky to learn from some great business leaders. That started at home as a child, where I learned the value of work ethic and responsibility from my father. He was a Controller for a large construction company. He taught me that to be successful you have to go out and earn it and this starts with being there. I can’t think of him missing a day of work. If you have the flu, stay home, but a good work ethic and responsibility to your role are a must for success and you should know this and value it from the start.” – Dennis Doherty
7. Be present, and don’t look to far ahead. “When starting your career, it’s easy to focus on how long you need to be in your current role, before you can move on to the next one. This is a mistake and it prevents you from focusing on the substance of your current role. The best approach to career growth is understanding what you are expected to accomplish in your current role and being the absolute best at it. This takes time, dedication and a constant focus on results. If you do this, people notice and the promotions and growth come to you instead of you having to go find them.” – Dennis Doherty
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