Even though Accor has embraced collaborativeness as part of their corporate vision, it is a quality that we associate more with Palo Alto start-ups than with hotels, regardless of the number stars they bear. Service requires hierarchy, and hierarchy requires verticality, quite the opposite of collaborativeness. How can a collaborative organization be defined? Harvard Business Review is never short of good definitions and provides additional insight in the motivational dimension of collaborative structures:
“Collaborative communities encourage people to continually apply their unique talents to group projects-and to become motivated by a collective mission, not just personal gain or the intrinsic pleasures of autonomous creativity.”
Could a collaborative structure be the key to hotel staff motivation and performance? As a hotel manager, have you ever asked yourself why employees don’t act the same when you are at work and when you aren’t? Why you are struggling to get the whole organization moving in the direction you envision? The answer could be: because the vision is not coming from the organization itself. Because the organization is not collaborative enough. Yet collaborativeness can be developed, grown, like a beautiful garden by a gardener. Major organizational change can be achieved at barely zero cost.
“We cherish and nurture the uniqueness of all our talents, tailor opportunities to their needs, and encourage leadership through empathy and collaboration.” – Sébastien Bazin.
Cultivate our own garden = Lead by example
When was the last time you felt inspired by someone? What attracted you in that person? What did that person have that you don’t have? The way we carry ourselves speaks louder than words. Our everyday behavior has way more impact on the world around us than we think. We know and we forget that our staff won’t remember what we said, but will remember how we made them feel. We cannot take employees where we haven’t been and we cannot teach them what we haven’t learned. What is our attitude? Are we displaying the corporate culture we preach? Are we inspired? Are we inspiring?
Richard Branson is famously both “I’m quite involved in hiring for leadership and I look to hire my weaknesses. Personality before CV. (…) I like to take chance on people, and whenever possible, promote from within – it sends a great message to everyone in the company when someone demonstrates a passion for the job and leadership skills at every step along the way and is rewarded with a leadership role.”
Fertilize to boost the bloom = Make people feel important
Christian Clerc, former EHL graduate now Director of Worldwide Operations at Four Season Hotels once wrote “You can’t teach someone to care. Either you care or you don’t”. Actually It should read “Either YOU care or THEY don’t.”
Our job is not to become psychologists, our job is to treat our employees and customers the best we can. For example, Centara Hotels & Resorts has created an “Inspiration Room” where each employee can learn and get advice in order to grow in their specific department. The results are increased performance and a more committed staff. They understood that investing in employees is a game changer. The staff is happier and so are the guests. We must stop thinking that our co-workers will bloom and get great at work if we care about everything except them. Lonnie Mayne, founder and CEO of Red Shoes Living puts her money where her mouth is:
“Treat your employees like the incredible humans they are. When you get this right, engagement naturally follows.”
And incredible humans include housekeeping.
Let go of the weeds = Let go of bad control
Angelica Fuchs was formerly an intern at the world famous Hôtel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel in Paris. “My experience at Rosewood Hotels was extremely rich. Right away we were considered as Rosewood family members and were given to possibility to create. Even though I was only an intern, I was trusted to launch a committee and could train the new staff, this is why this company impacted me in a profound way.”
There are two sides of control. One is good, the other is bad. Good control is when it comes to matters, management decisions or the new concepts that newly implemented. Yes, these things need control.
On the other hand, bad control is people control. The painful truth is that we control people because we fear. We lack trust and we are afraid something will go wrong. Control is the only remedy that will make us feel good. Are we controlling because we don’t trust employees? Are we controlling because we don’t believe in ourselves? We need to get rid of the fear of failure because controlling staff might be the very thing that make them riot when we are not here. They feel pressured, and as soon as the cat is gone the dancefloor is open!
At Rosewood hotels, instead of making new staff prove their way to the top, they welcomed and empowered them right from the beginning. This made new staff feel trusted and believed in, rather than managed and controlled. Back in the days, hotel staff at Four Seasons took upon themselves to get a recipe and then bake a loaf of gluten-free bread for one particular guest who had requested it – years before gluten-free products were readily available. “This only happens when employees feel they’re empowered to do something.” noted Christian Clerc.
In a nutshell. 3 practical gardening tricks for hoteliers to grow collaborativeness:
- Demonstrate through your actions the vision you want your staff to have. (start with your OWN garden)
- Show your employees that you genuinely care about them through personal concrete actions showing trust. (Fertilize to boost the bloom)
- Don’t be afraid of failure, give space to your employees and learn to celebrate initiative. (Deweed your garden beds)
If hoteliers apply these simple and low cost tricks they will see their hotels evolve towards the collaborativeness that tech companies were born with and hotels now need to compete.