Archive for June, 2019

The Essence of Leadership: Building Strong Relationships

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Maggie was a retired schoolteacher starting a second career.  She applied for a sales associate position with a well-known hotel and conference center.  While she had no sales experience, her maturity, calm demeanor, and articulate style impressed the Director of Sales.

The position of sales associate is challenging.  In addition to selling the facility and its services to the local community and industry, it is important to have a good working relationship with the hotel’s operating departments.  Ultimately, they are the ones who must execute the promises of the sales staff.

In short order, Maggie proved adept at winning new business for the hotel.  She had a knack for meeting new people and establishing a sense of trust.  Much of it came from her genuine, down-to-earth nature.  She was short on hype and easy promises, but long on establishing meaningful relationships built upon commitment, confidence, and trust.  Her clients knew that she was true to her word.

But as strong as she was in finding new business, she was even stronger at building those key relationships with hotel department heads and line employees enabling her to ensure that promises were kept and expectations met.  Inevitably things would fall through the cracks and some meeting room was not set up properly for one of her clients.  Maggie, because she always double-checked arrangements, would find the problem and seek help to correct it.  Because she had taken the time to develop good working relations with the housekeeping, maintenance, and banquet staffs, she never had problems finding someone willing to help.  As one porter said of her, “She always asks so nicely, there is no way to say no.”

Maggie was an outstanding success as a sales associate.  In two years she increased her hotel bookings by 18.3%, and more importantly, trend lines promised even more future business from her many satisfied clients.  Not surprisingly, when the Director of Sales was transferred to another property out of state, Maggie was asked by her General Manager to take over the position.

Your success in balancing the needs of those you serve lies in ensuring that you build strong relationships with individuals.  How do you do this?  Begin by:

  • Treating everyone you meet with courtesy, respect, and good cheer.
  • Focusing on each person you deal with as if he or she were the most important person in the world.
  • Taking the time to get to know people; sharing your time and attention with them.
  • Learning about other people’s jobs and the challenges and difficulties they face.
  • Keeping promises and following through on commitments.
  • Being principled, showing fairness, and demonstrating integrity.
  • Recognizing the ultimate value of people in all you do.

Relationships depend upon how you view yourself in relation to others.  If you see yourself as separate and apart from your constituencies, if you view others as the means to your end, if your vision and goals lack a broader purpose than your own needs and ambitions, establishing meaningful relationships will be impossible.  On the other hand, when you see yourself as part of a team with a shared mission, then a sense of service will be an intrinsic part of your service team relationships.

The difference is your attitude, your motives, and your approach to dealing with others.  Since all of these things are within your power to change, establishing a service-based approach to leadership by building strong relationships is totally up to you.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2006

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking managers throughout the country and around the world.

The Soft Stuff

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Roger Enrico, former chairman at Pepsico, famously said, “The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.”  As one who has worked in hospitality leadership roles for over thirty-five years, I would say that truer words were never spoken.  In the detail and people rich environment of the hospitality business, it is the absence of well-developed “soft” skills at all levels of organizations that create our greatest challenges.

So what are we really talking about when we speak of the soft stuff?  In short, it’s the people skills – those aptitudes and abilities used to get the most out of our human assets.  It encompasses all of those things we talk about when discussing leadership – the highly nuanced interactions with a diverse workforce that result in motivation, morale, enthusiasm, focus, commitment, initiative, productivity, teamwork, organizational cohesiveness, and group success.

What makes it all so hard is the complexity of human psychology.  People are complex and struggle with the unique and sometimes overwhelming challenges of their lives.  Put together in a group dynamic with any number of other people coping with their own daily difficulties, both real and imagined, and it’s a mind-boggling challenge for any leader.

So what are some very real things that you can do to improve the soft stuff at your club?  Here are three basics:

Leadership training for all managers to ensure they understand the absolute importance of leadership in all they do.  My own experience points to a service-based style of leadership and the importance of building a unified and consistent approach to leadership on the part of all managers and supervisors within an organization.  The ongoing example and performance of your leadership team is THE most important driver of your club’s success.

Well-defined organizational values and constantly reinforced culture of service are an absolute must.  Don’t expect that all your managers and employees will understand your vision, values, or even how to go about providing service to your members.  Without clearly articulated values and club culture, your efforts to provide high levels of service to your membership will certainly fail.

Training, training, and more training is a bedrock requirement in the hospitality industry.  There’s just too much that needs to be done right every day by everyone on your staff to leave the details to chance.  Without training for managers and line staff, it’s a hit or miss proposition and you spend all your time responding to complaints from members, dealing with staff issues, and struggling with high levels of employee turnover.  Given the cost and effort of thorough, ongoing training, you must commit to the development and discipline of “on the go” training for all areas of your operation so you can take advantage of the spare moments during every shift.

The “hard stuff” – the buildings, golf course, and other amenities are certainly important to a successful club experience.  But without the soft stuff they are just expensive shells and monuments, lacking in the reassuring warmth and human touch that is the heart of hospitality and service.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking managers throughout the country and around the world.