Leadership in Hospitality – It’s Not Just Customer Service

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By Dr Sri Kumar Sivakumaran
President ASIA Hospitality Human Resource Association

The overarching goal for everyone in hospitality leadership is meeting and exceeding the needs of guests. Business leaders emphasize the value of exceptional customer service in achieving guest satisfaction, repeat business, and excellent word-of-mouth advertising through social media and review sites like TripAdvisor.

What are the qualities that make a successful leader in the hospitality industry? Whether your current business focus is front-end management, human resources, or food and beverage service, certain best practices are effective in all types of hospitality leadership. Striving for top-level service is a given, but let’s take a deeper look at what leadership really means within the industry.

Effective managers focus on putting systems in place to achieve consistent results; their goal is to create a cohesive team that operates in a predictable way. But a leader is able to look beyond existing processes, understanding the dynamics of relationships in the chain of command and making the best use of talent at all levels.
To be successful in building and overseeing a team, you must understand the big picture. Don’t just assess individuals for their skills during the hiring and training process, but always be analysing the strengths and weaknesses of your team.
Look for ways to improve individual and team performance and encourage employee growth. This approach benefits your customers, of course, but it also leads to happier and more fulfilled employees.
Employees like to be challenged and want to feel like they are a vital part of the team. Some managers persist in micro-managing team members, but leader know how to get out of the way and let people do their job

Professionalism
Train your teams to act as professionally as possible with respect to guests and always go above and beyond to achieve superior customer service. Give them leeway to make independent decisions that add to the comfort of guests.
Also keep in mind that co-workers’ needs are as important as customer’s needs. Foster an environment of professionalism where all staff members are treated equally well regardless of rank.
An atmosphere where some employees feel like they are not as valued as upper level team members is toxic and leads to resentment and lower morale. Great leaders regard everyone with respect.

A “Just Do It” Attitude
Hospitality employees typically work long nights and endless weeks. A hotel is a 24/7 business and it may seem like you never get a break. But despite the workload, one needs to be ready to take control of situations and be accountable for solving any problems that arise. Be punctual, organized, and in control. Leaders act in the moment, taking actions as required and inspiring others to do the same.By building a team you trust and then holding them accountable, you’ll increase the scope of the projects you are able to take on and help your employees grow and improve in their jobs.

Take Action
Hospitality is mostly about face-to-face interaction. By setting the example that you are always willing to do what it takes to ensure a great guest experience, you’ll inspire your team to do the same when meeting the challenges they face. Create an expectation that team members will always go above and beyond to serve your guests.

Willingness to Adapt
Creativity and innovation are important leadership traits in the hospitality industry. Making a difference and producing results means taking chances and making changes. Always be looking for ways that you can improve your organization in all areas.
You also want to be open to other people’s input. By being willing to share the leadership spotlight, you’ll increase your chances of finding great ideas. For example, front desk employees probably have many good suggestions for improving the check in process because they deal with guests every day and are aware of areas that can be improved.

Innovative Leadership
Innovative leaders are always learning. Whether by listening to others, reading books, or seeking mentors, you want to always be analysing your strengths and weaknesses and looking for ways to improve. Work on your leadership, time management, and people skills constantly and push yourself to grow and expand your possibilities.
In the competitive environment of the hospitality industry, your business needs an advantage to stand out and attract more customers. Developing leadership skills takes time and practice, but if you are willing to be flexible, build a great team, and look for ways to innovate you’ll start to see improvements and your guests will notice as well.