Douglas Glen has been in the hospitality business for over 30 years, holding senior leadership positions during his extensive career predominantly across the global luxury sector. Douglas has successfully managed high-profile, five-star international chain hotels in the United Kingdom and Southeast Asia, including management positions with The Landmark Lancaster Hotel Group, where he spent over two decades.
A St. Julian's Scholar, Douglas was awarded a scholarship at the prestigious Cornell University. In 2008, he was awarded an honorary degree from Glion Institute of Higher Education and proudly served as an honorary member of the 16th Chapter of Eta Sigma Delta, awarded by Les Roches Marbella. Now, he's the General Manager at the Carlton City Hotel Singapore.
1. What's the Most Challenging Aspect of Running a Hotel?
As a business is multi-faceted, so are the problems that are faced. Some of the bigger issues I've had to tackle include managing complacency, owner relations, motivating the team and having to adapt to the environment through situational leadership.
Complacency is a silent killer of many work environments because it is difficult to see, but very easy to feel. It leads to both a dearth of new ideas and a lack of willingness to improve, which thus makes it taxing on the one who pursues change. Automation and technological advancements provides challenges, particularly so as we constantly strive to train staff to higher levels of consistency.
What is probably the most challenging aspect is continually attracting and recruiting the right staff to train, develop and retain in an ever competitive environment. If we manage to get this inner circle of our staffing correct, then this will help champion our delivery of consistent service to the outer circle of our guests, because at any one point we all have a choice to better our reactions by putting ourselves in the position of the guests.
2. Competition is Fierce in Singapore, How do you Stay Competitive?
We stay competitive through continuous transformation and by remembering to always place people in the heart of everything we do. When we remember why it is that we came into the hotel business and who we do it for, we strive to always do things better each time.
This is largely achieved by creating an environment for positive innovation -- where staff are constantly empowered and encouraged, and hence are able to focus on giving increasing levels of service delivery every day. This, in turn, ensures that memorable moments are always created for our guests: both those visiting and experiencing, and the ones who work here.
I believe that the staff within the hotel are also guests and deserve to be treated with just as much respect. We must continually transform to keep the 'wow's, keep changing the wow factor and continuously create these memorable moments.
3. What are the Challenges you've Faced when it comes to Managing People?
I mentioned situational leadership earlier on, and I think this is very important leadership style when it comes to managing a company. Situational leadership refers to when the leader or manager of an organization adjusts his or her style to fit the development of the staff and not the other way around. This concept, whilst not relatively new, is more commonly accepted than that of leaders following a top-down approach and their word being the law.
I try not to inculcate such a mindset here as I'd like everyone to feel unafraid of contributing and knowing that they can have a say in how this hotel blossoms too. My experience from London, Bangkok, and now Singapore has always shown that in you must be people oriented in our industry so as to create a branding of integrity. Be in sync through engaging and sharing of views, be a positive influencer and create a win -win in the management approach. That is why it is ultimately important to me that my staff feel comfortable and know that I am always ready to listen to their opinions when they are ready and invited to share.
Adapting methods of motivation can also be a challenge: I try my best through showing humility, greeting all staff by their name to forge a closer connection, and establishing with everyone, including the hotel owners so that we can ink a strategy with very positive alignments. It requires a lot of keen observation and daily interaction to know just how to drive and excite the staff, a very huge and important component of my job.
4. You have been in Asia for Such a Long Time - What's your Advice for Western Hotel Investors and Western Hotel Brands Entering Asia for the First Time?
I have to put a strong emphasis on two words: 'Cultural Respect'.
It is imperative to be alert to the cultural differences across different countries and to have a conscious mental respect that you are in someone else's home. Their own country's rules come first, and we should not simply assume that we know better. Be extremely sensitive to culture, respect that and you have a foundation to grow from.