It is a perfectly valid question. No matter what organization you are in, there are layers. In hotels, there are line level associates, middle managers or department heads and senior executives. I am not here to debate who the lifeline of the property is, but rather to discuss the importance of middle managers from several aspects. Your hotel cannot be successful without developing this intermediate layer of ‘glue’ while concurrently you will experience a better corporate culture by mentoring this group and delegating to them.
It is vitally important to identify those team members who are interested and who would excel in a leadership position that being a department head requires. Early on in my hospitality career, I was promoted to front desk supervisor, still unsure how to properly lead people. Had I not been fortunate enough to have someone at my property looking out for potential leaders, I would have had a more difficult time progressing in this role and throughout my career.
Be on the lookout
For your own purposes, you must be constantly on the hunt for frontline associates who go above and beyond for the guest and for their fellow teammates. When a problem arises, are they able to figure it out on their own? Sit down with your team members on a routine basis to check in on their career goals. Ask them if they are interested in becoming a leader. Far too often I see general managers put off their annual or 90-day performance reviews. Properly evaluating your team members is one of the ways to identify potential future leaders in your property.
Once you have determined who the future leaders are and have subsequently promoted them to their new roles, someone must take the time for proper training. Effectively onboarding middle management is a key way to improve operations. Once I received my first management title as front office manager, my general manager seemed to give me a lot of new duties. Some of these seemed like they were actually her responsibility, not mine. It took me a little while to realize that the GM wasn’t trying to pawn her work off on me; she was delegating to further develop my skill set. Once she saw that I excelled at a task, she gave me even more responsibility!
While the concept of training may seem basic and understood, there are countless GMs, and entire companies for that matter, who overlook this critical step. If you are in the role of delegating and training, take the time to explain to the manager why you are giving them the extra work and duties. Nowadays, I explain to my GMs all the time that if you are tired of doing a certain task, delegate it and train a team member. In these situations, the department head wins as he or she is learning new duties and expanding his or her skill set while the GM wins because he or she no longer has to worry about completing the delegated task.
The final step to successfully developing middle management in your hotel is to mentor your associates on a routine basis. Being a mentor is not for the faint of heart, though. Once you identify and train your department heads, you have to be there for them when the need arises. As a mentor, you must be close enough to monitor their performance but far enough to also let them fail on their own.
Mentoring a department head can be difficult as you may need to sit them down and explain how they could have handled a situation better. As long as these individuals are mature enough to realize that you are looking out for their best interest, they will respond by thanking you for the correction.
I have been fortunate enough to have a few great mentors in my career so far. They have had to intermittently give me some difficult advice, but each time I’ve walked away knowing that I was better off having heard it forthright from them.
Every hotel organization has those individuals who are clearly within the classification of middle managers. If you are successful in identifying, training and mentoring these team members, your hotel will be better off on numerous fronts. I have been fortunate enough to look back and thank my former GMs for helping me succeed in my career and I have also had the pleasure of watching some of my past department heads go on to become great GMs. Ultimately, strong middle managers lead to better guest satisfaction, more profitable hotels and aid in developing a culture that shows everyone that you care about developing your team members.