Judge a leader by what they’re passionate about and if they don’t have this passion as their no.1, then it might just all be smoke and mirrors.

I’m in and out of hotels each week with one eye dedicated to consultancy and problem solving, whilst the other remains entrenched with historical inspector vision that sees most things.

Within an hour of milling around any given hotel I can tell you what drives it’s leadership, what drives the board room conversation and narrative, and what drives its prospects for success, short term to long term. Ultimately, what drives the leadership of any business can be found within the passions of its leaders, what the guys in sharp suits live and breath, dream about, and bounce out of bed every morning to immerse themselves in.

What leaders are passionate about and how this translates to their business varies greatly which is why hotels vary so much in facility driven scope and personalised enduring style.

When it comes to being passionate about anything in business, the intuitive passion of wishing to make oodles of money is to be avoided as making money in of itself can only be fulfilled by maximising energy, interest and enthusiasm in other areas. So if your passion first and foremost is to make money, then you’re putting the proverbial cart before the horse. You generally need to excel at something, anything to make money. That said, a passionate FC is a great aide in measuring the growth of profit.

What also doesn’t work in elite leaders is a passion for allowing other people to be passionate without joining and managing them within their passions. This puppeteer approach actually creates a disconnect with a relatively low operational altitude with capped ambition that undermines the leader. The elite leader needs to be more passionate about those areas in which eager specialists already exist, as only you see the bigger picture and how maximised departments dovetail into each other, e.g. Matching food quality to restaurant service; matching bedroom quality to housekeeping; harmonising guest care with a sense of overall value. The GM needs to be overtly and genuinely passionate about everything.

Some hotels provide a stark imbalance of passion with some examples below:

1. The huge hotel that focusses on size, style and physical quality without focussing on service levels that match.
2. The hotels that major on F&B but have very ordinary bedrooms.
3. The hotels that obsess about luxury but struggle to control costs?
4. The hotels that major in C&B to the extent they shouldn’t qualify as to what you and I expect of a hotel.
5. The hotels that focus on volume and economy of scale with a transient client base so strong, disappointing them doesn’t matter.

The list goes on.

But getting back to what leaders should get really passionate about and what comes top of the list is the PEOPLE in the business time and time again.

If people aren’t you’re passion you can expect the following things to happen.

1. You attract people who just want a job. You might get lucky with a few career driven individuals dipping in and out but the majority couldn’t care less whether they work for you or someone else.
2. Your staff churn will be of a level that any level of operational consistency you can depend on will be difficult and harder to achieve.
3. Because you struggle to establish departmental experience you end up investing more in payroll. The old adage that 5 experienced and highly trained waiters can do the job of 8 untrained waiters is true every day of the week.
4. With staff churn, building meaningful relationships with guests and clients becomes fractured.
5. You’ll develop high levels of long service with people working at the wrong level because workers who get away with stuff, without passionate corrective management, will end up hiding in plain sight.
6. Managers and staff tend to focus on the process rather than the commercial opportunity.
7. You end up over promoting people.
8. Managers might not be clear around their medium to long term role objectives or the future vision of the business.
9. The mood of the staff will eventually sit counter to key business objectives.
10. Good people in the minority will leave to seek an environment of like minded professionals elsewhere.
11. You team will struggle to flex and grow.
12. Your team (and your business) may fall below the comp set in terms of skill and capability.

The biggest struggle for any owner or GM is creating and sustaining the optimal working culture. If you’re passionate about people then this task becomes a lot easier. The culture however is set by the board. It can be set my department heads but will be lost when department heads move on, if it’s not coming down from the top.

To the staff I ask, what do you think your board are passionate about?

To the board I ask, do you really put your people first in a measurable way that makes you an employer of choice? If the answer is no, get in touch.

How your passion for people becomes diluted.

Despite the best efforts of every leader who values their staff, circumstances can transpire to diminish the very best of intentions of any employer. In terms of what these circumstances might look like, take your pick – Covid, War, Cost of Living Crisis, Interest Rate Rises etc. However, whilst the team might recognise they may not be as favourably treated as they were during the good times, trust that they have good memories of your faith in them and they’ll support you until good times return.

Another factor in how your passion for your people becomes diluted is when you have fractures in your org chart – managers who may be under performing, managers who haven’t lived up to interview expectations, managers who may have personal issues who take their eye off the ball – you can’t control everything.

Leaders who have a passion for People are remembered.

After 36 years working in industry I’ve been blessed to have come across (worked for) only 4 leaders who demonstrated a genuine and natural passion for people. These people shaped my career, my values, and my work ethic. More importantly, they taught me the imperative of being passionate about people.

At some point in the future, I hope you did right by your staff sufficiently so that you too will be remembered and leave a legacy of caring for your people, whilst leaving an indelible mark on our industry.

What does it cost?

A couple of times a year I’m asked to undertake financial reviews for businesses. Within these financial reviews a top down review of the Profit & Loss account is required. One line that often jumps out is the line for Staff Welfare, a line where monthly costs accumulate for what is basically the generosity of the business to its staff. What’s telling about this line is that businesses that are experiencing difficulties will often have £0.00 set aside or planned for staff Staff Welfare.

If you’re a multi million £ business, think of an annual benchmark figure that will enrich the working lives of your people. It could be 0.75% of revenue, or maybe another similar, small figure. It might also be token gestures like chocolate eggs at Easter, a bottle of wine at Christmas and a thoughtful card on their birthday, along with a small bonus after 5 years service. Doing nothing will get you nothing.

Charity begins at home. Many hotels will have an active charitable status to reward the needy in society. Such initiatives are incredibly worthy. In my view, if you’re happy to raise funds for strangers in need, think about how can you assist those who ultimately assist you?

Your people are the life blood of your business. Look after them with a passion.

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