Innovation – yes, but remember the basics

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Innovation: out bosses look for it and encourage it; our customers want it. It can consume a great deal of our energy and resources. Yet, what people really want is a good service or product that works.

Windows phones have not grown market share the way it was hoped. Why? The software does not work or deliver against i-phone and android.

The telcos have suffered for years, despite all the great technology and products, they have been lambasted because of hidden costs in contracts and lousy response to customer problems whether technical or service related. (They are on the improve).

We go to fancy restaurants that look great and have innovative menus etc – but they do not sustain themselves – why? Because the service is not there.

So whilst innovation is important and we should always challenge ourselves to do something new, particularly if what we are doing currently is not working, we should not forget the basics. If we go back to the fundamentals and invest the time and energy in getting that right, then there is a far greater chance of success.

Maybe that will be the new innovation – service and products that work!

What do you think?

The contradiction: intitiative vs. script and control

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A great blog from Seth Godin.
The closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand

For me I really read in it one of the contradictions often faced in hospitality and the way we run our businesses.

We want out people to serve guests and take initiative, but we put controls in place that limit their ability to do this. In the worse cases when initiative is taken outside of the “rules” there can be negative consequences and all future initiative is dead in the water.

Once more it is about trust and if we can create a more trusting environment with engaged employees we just need to get out of their way while they deliver great service. It is not easy, and of course there are some basic rules that have to apply, but as Godin points out if it is controlled too tightly in an effort to avoid mistakes, it is self defeating and we restrict the ability of our people, who are our brand, to serve the guests.

So what is the answer? Godin says “Hire better people. Trust them more. And be prepared to make it right when they don’t.” He certainly gives us something to think about.



Roaming check-in with a tablet

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Discussing hotel technology and guest service with a friend, he referred me to a device which provides another dimension to guest check in and helps remove that physical barrier, the reception desk, from the equation.

The link below is a case study of i-pad use in Hyatt Hotels, what I find most exciting is the i-pad case that allows a roaming receptionist to swipe the guest credit card and code the room key anywhere in the hotel.

Remote check in.

The future of television in the guest room

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Guest Room TVs Beyond Video  by Adam Leposa

A good article that gives an overview of how televisions are moving to be more of an interface between guest content and hotel services with much of the content and services accessible via apps.



Why we should never be too old to learn new tricks

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Getting out of the routine, seeking new knowledge and experiences to open our mind and refresh our thinking is a worthwhile investment and essential to keeping us at the top of our game.

I was talking with a young hotel manager the other day who had just spent a lot of his hard earned money on a very expensive degustation dinner. It was great to hear him speak about the experience and learn what he had taken from it.  At an operational level I can see new and exciting ideas being implemented as a result of the investment being made in himself. He is certainly growing and adding value.

This reminded me of a study comparing capabilities of young doctors against older doctors that I read about. The results showed that the younger doctors produced better outcomes because having just completed their studies, they sought and were more open to taking on new ideas and applying them in their practice. The older doctors, on the other hand, were more set in their ways and less open to new techniques and practices which dimished their effectiveness.

So where are you in this? A young “doctor” seeking to learn and apply the most upto date practises or are you an older practitioner slowly but surely falling behind and becoming less effective?

When last did you open yourself to new learning?

When last did you encourage those around you to get out and see different things?

It is a reminder that we have to continually challenge application of skills and knowledge to ensure retention of capabilities and growth as opposed to encouraging entropy and loss of capacity.


Developing leadership at all levels

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Problems with finding and keeping staff with the right level of skill occur throughout the industry, and particularly in regional areas. Could changing the way you approach learning and development set your business apart as an employer of choice, while also building a leadership culture in your business?

Like me, you’ve probably seen standout line people get promoted on the basis of their performance, only to discover that although they’re good workers, they struggle as managers. When faced with problems they tend to work harder and for longer hours, before ultimately burning out and going hunting for a job that’s less demanding and stressful. Meanwhile, the staff under them are poorly managed and not given proper development opportunities, and there’s an increased chance that they too will leave. And yet this whole vicious cycle started with the intention of giving a promising person an opportunity to take their skills and contribution to the business up to a new level.

This scenario is all too common, and highlights a learning and development void that, when filled, can result in more motivated people, happier teams, better customer service and improved bottom lines.

So, what can you do to ease these transitions, and along the way lose fewer people and create future leaders for your business?

At senior management level, most of us have been exposed to 360-degree feedback, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator profiling and other tools that give us insight into ourselves and equip us to use that information to become better managers and stronger leaders.

If you’re serious about developing the more junior managers and supervisors in your team, it makes sense to offer them similar opportunities. After all, as Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks International put it, “Leadership is about first leading yourself.”

Implementing such programs for teams is not necessarily as costly or as complex as it might sound. One tool that I have found to be very effective is the Everything DiSC tool, which fosters self awareness and helps people lead themselves better as a first step to becoming more effective with their employees and managers. DiSC also teaches you how to recognise other peoples’ styles and adapt your behaviour to manage others more effectively. It works for managers at every level.

Like the better-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC identifies a person’s primary or preferred style, using four categories: Dominant, Influencing, Steadiness and Conscientious. I’ll go into more detail about the characteristics of each of these styles in a future article, but in summary, all styles are equally valuable, and people with any style can be effective managers.

Watching individuals and teams flourish and transform makes the effort and relatively low expense of implementing a program like DiSC extremely worthwhile.

Equally importantly, learning and development tools like these offer you a valuable opportunity to differentiate your business from other employers in the industry while enhancing the overall skill base of your organisation. At the same time you’ll be giving your brightest stars and the people around them a greater chance of success and a lifelong foundation for their personal and professional development, leading to a win-win situation for both management and staff.

If you want to know more about DiSC and how it can help develop your team, give me a call on (61) 407 262 475.

Let’s get the service right then worry about payroll

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At one of the hotels I work with there has been an ongoing discussion around service and manning levels. The owner’s argument finally won through to put extra staff on to ensure service for the guests.

Low and behold not only has service improved, but profit has not been affected and sales have in fact increased.

What else? The staff are more energetic and engaged.  I also reckon that staff turnover will decrease along with the amount of time management spend on staff issues and customer complaints.

So it reaffirms for me that the starting point is to get the service right and deliver a good product, someting that can be forgotten whilst worrying about payroll costs.

Where is your focus – service levels or reducing payroll cost?

Are you leading for the future?

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It is clear that our business world is in the throes of transition – to what we do not know, but there are many changes happening that present new challenges. How we respond to these challenges will shape our future.

Whilst we look to leadership from government, industry bodies, the Reserve Bank amongst others; at such times, it is important that we look at our own leadership to take us through this change.

History shows that it is the companies that are able to ride the wave of change and find the new opportunities that thrive and eventually set the new benchmarks. The likes of Apple, Virgin, and AAPC were not led, they were the leaders. Taking control of our own destiny and finding new ways to succeed is essential.

Churning out the same business plan with the same ways of doing business will clearly not work, if we do then we will surely be dumped by that wave. Doing what we have always done and hoping for different results is one well known definition of insanity.

Strong and effective leadership from individuals and teams at all levels has never been more important. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team about your leadership.

  • Do you have a clear vision for the business over the next 3-5 years that is known and shared by your team at all levels?
  •  Have you clearly defined the values and created the culture to support success?
  •  What are your three key areas of focus for the next three months and how will you measure success in these areas?
  •  What do you have to do differently today that will make the biggest difference tomorrow?
  • How well is all of the above communicated throughout the business and to its stakeholders?
  • Are you walking the talk?

 There are many more questions; hopefully these ones prompt some thinking and help you take a step back and re-examine your business and give you renewed energy and focus.

Measuring success – look forward not back

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The annual budget is done for the year and there is a business plan written around the budget. Once the budget is approved the business plan will often go into a drawer to be adjusted for next years budget.

We then measure success on the monthly results: there is a great deal of analysis, debate and discussion on those historical results so much so that the future is often forgotten.

Its all very short term; what about the long term – beyond this year, the next five years?

What relevance does a 12 month budget have when it is hard enough to forecast business one month ahead in today’s dynamic environment?

Who builds that long term strategy?

How is its delivery measured and rewarded?

In the case of hotels, the success comes when the owner has clearly defined the long term vision for the asset and what they want from it and then supports the hotel manager to build the strategy to deliver that vision.

With this done the monthly reporting measures success against the delivery of strategy not just financial results; the focus is on the future.

Oh and the budget? Well as some operators are now doing, work on a three month forecast and adjust expectations up and down based on the forecast rather than be locked into a budget that can be unachievable or too easy after 2 months.

It remains to be seen how incentives are managed, but they should be based on acheiving forecasted targets not budget.