Over the course of my career I have had the good fortune and privilege to open and manage hotels in city, resort and spa locations. While they are so different in terms of operation, they are all very similar in terms of their greatest asset, the team of staff under you. Of special importance are your cadre of executives that are so crucial to your and the hotels’ success.
Starting a new position as General Manager is a daunting task but one that can determine the future relationships with both your management team and the staff working so hard on the front lines and in the back of house. However, this does depend a great deal on how you act and behave during your initial period as GM.
So here are some tips that I have found invaluable when assuming a new GM position in the hotels I have managed:
- Do not, at least initially, bring in staff that has been loyal to you in your past position without reviewing your management team and taking the time to get to know each of them. You may find the best team ever! Bringing in an outsider without reviewing the staff in current positions will engender distrust.
- While you have to lead the crew from the first day, try to be ‘silent’ for at least one month, keeping your eyes and ears open but your mouth shut. Walk around, get a feeling for both the hotel and the different departments, how they operate and get to know some of the staff that work in them.
- Take the time to eat in the staff dining room, invite staff randomly to eat with you and chat with them. You will learn a great deal about the atmosphere of the hotel.
- Review the financials of the hotel and departments over the past year(s). Note down items to be discussed with each department head, whether good or disappointing.
- Schedule meetings with each of your department heads to get to know them. Allow for at least half a day each to learn about them, what makes them tick, their beliefs, what they think about the strengths and weaknesses of the hotel. Discuss the points you noted in your financial review and discuss these. You may be surprised by the volume of data you learn and their drive to lead. You will learn what may be holding them back from a great performance! Perhaps the last GM stifled their freedom? Perhaps he gave them too much leeway? You will learn also how to lead your executives by getting to know each of them. We are all different but we ALL need direction. These meetings should be held in a relaxed atmosphere, and if possible in the executive lounge if there is one, or a ‘lounge’ atmosphere if possible.
- Encourage different points of view in head of department meetings. It is important not only to let each member present his point of view, but for you to hear the ideas and advice before making a decision. Sometimes, as I have found, they may differ radically from your own, and you may decide to go with consensus given their arguments. It is no shame to admit that their way may be better, and a good leader will gain respect by this demonstration of trust in the team.
- Take the time to learn what the hotel policies are towards the staff. How are they celebrated on birthdays, weddings? What are the bonus systems in place? Are long term staff appreciated and promoted first if suitable? Is staff encouraged to take courses that may be subsidized by the hotel and self better themselves? Are the different cultures represented in food served in the staff dining room, and what about the vegetarians and vegans? What is done to bond the executive team on a monthly/yearly basis? Once you have gathered this vital information you can then ask your HR Manager to express his/her opinion and plot a policy that will encompass all your staff.
- Do not forget that each and every one of your staff is an integral part of your success as their GM and leader, and each one should command the same respect. In many ways they will define you as GM and may even decide your future. Treating your staff correctly is one sure way to get on the road to success.
Taking the time as you ease into your new position and not acting impulsively is not a sign of weakness. If you get to know your management team, get to know the staff, get to know the weaknesses and strengths of the financials, it will allow you to be on solid ground when you become more actively involved. You will have a wealth of knowledge about your hotel on which to base wise decisions.
More importantly, you will have a team backing you that are not afraid to give their honest advice!