Lessons Learned From My Biggest Critic

I have recently learned that I have been a Coach in one form or another most of my life. Being a hospitality service guru and trainer was only a part of it. The beginning of my coaching journey started when I became a mom, and I never realized it. Being a mom shaped me into the Leader I have become today.

As I reflect and put things into perspective, I am humbled by how much I have learned.

When you are leading people, you quickly learn how to manage and lead, or you become controlled by situations, and you spend too much time being reactive. You learn the difference between a leader and a boss. Some of those lessons are absorbed hard, others you miss. I think about my daughter, who is my most prominent critic and my greatest fan and I cannot help but reflect on many parental practices that I brought into my work world that shaped my teams and taught them empathy in a way that was sincere, loving, and practical. It helped me to get the best out of the people I worked with.

My daughter was always honest and gave things to me straight. Even when very young she never minced words. I was clear when it came to her. No matter how large or small the request. I think about how I applied this in the office, and I mirrored her behavior. I was clear with my team. They knew what was expected and together we all worked toward a common goal that was clear to all of us.

Watching her grow up was terrific and intricate. I stopped breathing every time she went somewhere without me and did not start back until she was safely home to me. It was as if my heart was running around on the outside of my body and I was fearful of what damage could happen if I were not careful enough. I also felt this way about the teams I was trusted to lead.

I treated my teams the same way. I gave everything I had as a leader, and when they had projects and presentations to present, I was the breathless parent until the task was complete helping them to succeed at all cost. If they failed then so did I. That was something that permeated a culture I maintained and reciprocated.

Now she is a healthy, vibrant adult. She now gives me advice. Our roles are changing and evolving the older she gets. I grew with her, I learned from her and made sure she was safe and successful. Steve Jobs said, “You do not hire smart people to tell them what to do, You hire smart people so that they can tell you what to do.”

When we are leaders, our roles change. We should grow with our teams and make it our duties to ensure they have the tools they need to be successful. We should trust our teams. (after all, we hired them) We are also responsible for making sure we pay it forward.

When we get the harsh feedback from our teams, we need not ignore it or be offended by it, but rise to the occasion and address it. Our teams are a reflection of who we are as leaders. Just like our children are a reflection of who we are as parents.

I never thought lessons such as these could guide me. They have and continue to in my coaching practice with my clients. I challenge you to bring to your leadership style, truth, authentic conversations, genuine feedback, support, and empathy. You will be pleasantly surprised with your results.

Why Do I Need A Coach?

There are so many ways we self-sabotage ourselves from partnering with a coach. It could be for any number of reasons however I often find that the main reason is that we do not understand the role of a coach and how a coach can help to enrich our lives. The following are just a few things we say to ourselves to talk ourselves out of progress:

1.   I am fully aware of what I need to get done I’m only procrastinating.

2.   I am a high functioning executive who has challenges with organization why do I need help from someone to tell me how to organize?  You are probably thinking: “I am a leader in this organization, this is a non-issue.”

3.   The things that I need assistance with too small to get a coach involved. I should be able to figure it out on my own.

4.   I am in a rut. It will pass it always does.

5.   Asking for help is a weakness. I am the person people seek out for help. What would this look like to others?

Here is my question: If you are so smart, why are you still buffering in the same space? A coach helps stretch those boundaries. If boundaries need setting, then a coach helps with that as well. Coaches believe we are all whole, creative and resourceful and that we know ourselves better than anyone else.

Coaches have a myriad of tools that help to usher and create change. Change is something we sometimes cannot do on our own.  Think about it; we seek personal trainers when we want to become physically conditioned; we find nutritionist when we want to make a conscious change in our diets.

Who do we seek when we need to be inspired and want to expound on our personal and professional potential? A coach! A coach helps to stretch our comfort zones; they assist and explore the reasons for the inability to ask for help, or the failure to delegate appropriately. Time management, disciplinary sessions, etc. whether it is personal or professional a coach can be a great asset to anyone’s life.

One of the best things you need a coach for is summed up in one-word accountability. While we seem not to have issues holding others accountable, holding ourselves accountable is a different situation.

There are many coaches available to us today. Many companies retain them to partner with HR for their teams, and they assist with many things. If you have a question that needs an answer if there are ideas you want to explore, but you do not know how to go about it, do your self a favor and find a coach! It is the most significant investment you can make in yourself and your future!

Entitled Enabled Rockstars

 

Ever hear the expression: Same issue, different place? When you hear this expression, are you able to apply it to a current situation in your life right now? Whether it is work, home, or otherwise? You are probably able to do so because there is a negative pattern that has developed that needs to be interrupted and changed and you haven’t bothered to do for fear of “rocking the boat.”

 

I remember saying “same issue, different place” very vividly while working as Director of Front Office for a prestigious boutique hotel in Chicago. The hotel was a fairly new property and all the rage. I was so happy to be part of the team. I was impressed with the property but absolutely astounded at how low team morale was. Here we are a new hotel that is the talk of the city, has the top nightclub in the city, and a well-appointed spa, it was literally the place to be and yet there were so many unhappy employees. After observing a few weeks I figured out one of the reasons why. I witnessed a team member who was chronically late. They were late all the time and they were unapologetic about it. In fact, no one ever expected them to show up on time. It had become a running joke. I found myself paying unnecessary overtime. I asked a couple other managers why this was the case before I addressed it and I was told: “That’s just how they are.” They get away with it because the guests love them.” I was completely taken aback by this statement. First because of how cavalier the person was stating it and then I soon discovered it was not isolated, it was not conjectured or hyperbole. It was the truth and for me unacceptable.

We have all seen this in one form or another: Whether shows up in attendance or grooming, taking extended breaks, etc. It is a shame that this was allowed. No manager or leader should allow this behavior to exist by turning a blind eye or practicing willful ignorance, to do so is implicitly giving approval. It undermines everything put into place for reasons of order, it sends the wrong message to the team and it DESTROYS employee morale. You also lose the respect of the team. Not to mention what is the incentive for the people following the rules working hard to come to work on time. Setting this kind of precedent is dangerous and leads to all sort of challenges. Just because we have associates who are rock stars does not mean they are above the law or not governed by the same rules as everyone else.

 

After observing and investigating, I immediately addressed the issue and of course the associate was unhappy and appalled I had the audacity to address this with them and follow it with written documentation. The associate told me, “I have never been written up before.” Followed by, “I get great guest comments and I always have issues coming on time. I have no control over public transportation.” I asked the right questions, I offered a different shift (they had seniority), and I showed empathy and compassion. I was smart enough to understand that this did not just start happening. I did not assume (even though I had evidence) that they were being careless and deliberate. So that told me that they knew on some level that they were wrong. I won’t go into the entire counseling session suffice to say I no longer had challenges from this team member and they continued to flourish as a rock star. Believe it or not, sometimes they want the guidance and correction; it’s part of grooming them into leaders. Once the team saw that no one was exempt from rules and consequences morale took a swing in the right direction.

No manager or leader ever wants to be the one to wear the proverbial black hat. Sometimes we end up inside scenes of a script that we did not write. It is up to us to correct the service fractures and heal them with fairness, consistency, and empathy. We are not helping anyone when we turn a blind eye to mistakes and misbehavior; in fact, we cripple them, no matter who they are or what they bring to the table. We should all be excited and proud of our work and our work ethic, passionate about what we do, as well as our place in the company. Live and lead by example. If you have to manage an entitled, enabled, rock -star have a conversation. The person who managed them into the person they have become failed. You need to be the leader to right the ship! They will eventually be thankful for the structure you create and the relationships you foster.

How Do You Show Up? (Part III) Nasty People

It was fall 2005. I was in the prime of my training career at one of the best hotels I have had the pleasure of working for. It was my favorite hotels not just because it was beautiful, but the people I worked with were just divine. The leaders made it easy to work there. It was the springboard that started me down the path I remain on today. While working for this hotel I had the pleasure and opportunity to pair with some pretty diverse people. Some of them impacted me in a very positive way and others in a word simply just brought me down. I am naturally a bubbly, happy person and this strange phenomenon of me allowing people to affect my mood baffled me. So I started researching this and came across this great book aptly titled “Nasty People” written by Jay Carter. The book was my first epiphany into this sort of human behavior that promotes negative feelings by invalidating people and emotionally bullying them. I thought it fitting to wrap up our final series with some tips and techniques that I have not only learned from this book but used in my personal and professional life as well.

It has been 21 years since I started my hospitality service career. I have to say I have seen it all. I have seen every kind of person, personality, situation, or occurrence. You name it I have seen it, heard of it or experienced it. The one thing that remains a constant in all of this time that has not changed and probably will never change is toxic people on both sides of the spectrum. From the agent giving service, to the guest receiving it. Toxic personalities have no color, respect of person, religion, creed, or sex. Toxicity is not biased in any way. I have endured toxic bosses and team members. The following are a few traps and pitfalls to avoid. While reading this article make sure you perform a pulse check on yourself to make sure you are not an offender.

There are two categories; The invalidator and the victim.

  • Jay Carter states that an invalidator is described as one person injuring or trying to injure another. A rolling of the eyes can be an invalidation as much a punch in the nose. However the sneaky mental invalidations cause the most damage. A truly skilled Invalidator is most times difficult to recognize. They bypass the scrutiny of your logical mind and the victim oftentimes will find themselves feeling bad and not knowing why. Ask yourself if you have come across one of these people. Is it you? Have you had an invalidating boss, spouse, and co-worker?
  • Invalidators chop away at your self-esteem. How you ask? Sometimes by giving backhanded compliments. They can praise something you are proud of, and then later make a negative insinuation about it. If we look at teams we have worked with that have morale issues, sometimes this is the case.
  • Uncertainty, keeps you guessing about things, projection, takes their feelings and puts them onto others, and judgment are tools the Invalidator uses in his day to day arsenal to manage or supervise people.

I was once told: “Every Victim has a Villain.” Victims are compelled to stay victims in invalidating relationships. If you are a victim, work on breaking the cycle.

  • The victim has a martyr’s complex. Allowing themselves to be under the constant stress of having to react to the invalidator. This brings about so many other issues negatively impacting emotional, physical and mental health and easily spills into your personal life.
  • Victims start out as go-getters and team players. However after being put down and under appreciated and judged they go into a shell and avoid everything even constructive critical input just to escape the feeling of always appearing to be wrong or misinformed.
  • The victim starts projecting their negative feelings and emotions. Victims will project bad feelings onto to others and earn the label “complainer” or “Debbie Downer.”

If you see yourself in either of these profiles, take the initiative to turn things around. Be honest with yourself. If you are an invalidator start breaking the pattern by finding genuine things to compliment and praise in others. Replace the word but in your vocabulary with the word and, use WE and not YOU or I.

If you are the victim, understand you are the captain of your soul. Figure out where your self-doubt is coming from and work to conquer it and don’t take it personally. Think about changing the work environment if you can and remember the fun part of what you do.

 

How Do You Show Up? Part II

One of my mentors once said to me: “If I lie for you, I will lie about you and I will lie to you, if I steal for you, I will steal from you”.  He reminded me to think about these things when speaking to people and interacting with them. Pay even more attention when they are those who are close to you.

You might be asking what does this have to do with “showing up?” How does it relate to this series? Well, the kind of people we are sometimes hides associates. Think about how many times you have been in a meeting, facilitated a meeting or attended a conference or gathering of any kind. Whether it is a work function or personal, there are always those “busy bodies” who have something to say about everyone. Yes! They know all the water cooler talk. They always seem to gravitate to you with some new and interesting. The first mistake you make is giving them an audience. Think about it. What are they saying to others about you? Part of who you are and how you show up definitely plays to these peoples less nobler motives. They feel it is ok to waste your time and energy with nonsense.

When you are interacting with your co-workers or acquaintances, it is up to you to teach them how to present. I call these people “fire starters.” If you stop the gossip in its tracks by not giving it the attention it seeks, then it stops with you. It should never be part of your character and we should never be seen as the “manager” or person who gives an ear to whispering, hearsay, or malicious talk. Here are three things that will aid us in honing our interactive skills so that we present our best selves:

  1. We teach people how to treat, behave, respect or disrespect us by how we carry ourselves. If you believe you can make a difference, you will. If you take control of your space and what conversations you are exposed to many will think twice before entering your path with anything other than something wholesome or positive. If you correct the conversation of a gossiper, and they react poorly or move away from your circle, allow them to. Keep in mind that all fires need oxygen to survive!
  2. Do you want to be the person or leader who governs a kingdom of compliance or the person or leader who shares a kingdom of cooperation and has reverential respect of peers and colleagues? The latter is a more powerful and effective form of leadership that we should all aim for.
  3. Practice full engagement, be authentic and honest with yourself and others. By managing your energy, not your time, you will improve your performance and see it reflect in a positive way in your personal life while watching your professional life transform. When you are fully engaged you draw on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy that will enable you to avoid gossip pit falls. As in The Power of Full Engagement; by Jim Loer, You will easily move from the person people avoid to the one they gravitate to for guidance and creative energy. Set your intent, be clear about it and see it through to fruition.

In the coming weeks we will wrap up our three part series with “Nasty People”. How to identify them and how to avoid becoming one of them.

 

How Do You Show Up?

How many times have you been in a meeting or an event and that one person comes into the room and sucks the air right out? If you are not familiar with this phenomenon perhaps you are that person?

Many people often wonder why or how they give off “mean” vibes. In fact, they have been doing it so long it has become part of who they are. If you are the person people “politely” walk away from, it is time to take notice, especially if you are a leader in charge! Of course, no one will ever tell you this or dare mention it to you because chances are, you are the one who signs the checks. Yup, I said it the BOSS. The BOSS! The one who managers, supervisors, and associates report to.

This is not always the case. However in my professional opinion, in my 30 years of experience, this is the case at least half the time. This is your year for positive change; own this issue, acknowledge it, and recreate your management strategy. Get to know your team members, create memorable experiences, manage by walking around and tell them you appreciate them and recognize a job well done. It is nice to be able to hear from your boss when it is a good thing they have to say. You know you will hear from them when things go awry.

You do not need to be all warm and fuzzy. However, letting your associates know you have a pulse will gain you the respect and adoration that has been missing from your work-life balance.

You set the tone. You create whether or not your workplace is one of compliance or cooperation. I do not need to use statistics or site studies that basically tell you “it’s nice to be nice” or a happy worker will produce for you. All these things have been tried, tested and proven and they all play into how you show up when you enter a room and interact with the team.

The other side of this is: “The energy you put out is the energy you will get right back.” If you enter the room with a superior attitude and less than interested energy, well you will suck the air out of the room and people will avoid you like the plague. If you go in with an open mind no matter what, if you go into it with a goal of learning something new you did not know before you entered, genuinely… You will be surprised with your results.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss the do’s and dont’s of positive interaction with How Do You Show up parts 2 and 3. Until then remember…for every action there is a reaction. The energy you present or put out is the same energy you will get back.

Exceeding Expectations

“Just having satisfied customers is just not good enough anymore”. Spoken like a true hospitality guru.  Ken Blanchard’s book Raving Fans have some excellent training tips and advice for those of us who are serious about service.

I have to admit we all get complacent. We all become disappointed with the way humans act and behave toward us as service professionals. When things are not quite as they should be through no fault of the agent/clerk at the receiving end of the infraction. When we get there we need to dig deep for rejuvenation! We should look for it in the most unlikely places. I had that experience today and I have to say I have become a “Raving Fan” of Elan. It is a furrier company located in the city of Chicago. Here is how the day started, I spent 4 hours calling places to take my fur coat to have it stored, glazed and repaired.

I finally ended up contacting Elan furs and the lovely Anna answered the phone. I asked about the specific service I was looking for, and also pricing then she told me and then I asked about location. Before I could shriek at how far it was she said: “WE CAN PICK IT UP”. Somehow she was able to discern in my voice that I was disappointed with the location. She exceeded my expectation. I was completely not expecting that. She realized there was a need and anticipated it! It was not about price, it was about gaining a loyal customer! It was about knowing that I will tell other people about such a painless positive experience, about making sure I was happy. I have to say I was not just satisfied, I was grateful. Not only did they come to pick up the coat but they came in the time frame that they quoted me. I did not have to stay home the whole day waiting.

Discernment. As hospitality professionals, a huge part of our jobs is in the powers and abilities of discernment. To be able to grasp when things are going wrong and when we can improve on them. This builds companies up and tears them down.  If you are in the service industry, it is your duty to know what the guest needs are even before they do.

The Gift Of Empowerment

Empower: To give power or authority to; to authorize; to enable to permit.

In one word “trust.” Empowerment is sometimes the blessing or curse of any company. Where there is no empowerment, generally there is bad service, and the quality of the product begs positive attention.

Yesterday, I went into one of my favorite produce markets. I’m a frequent shopper at this market, but, after yesterday, I have some reservations about ever returning. Towards the end of my shopping trip, I came across the most amazing cakes: red velvet, German chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple. The store sold these cakes as wholes and as halves. My eyes finally landed on caramel! Yay!! Oddly enough, the bakery had whole caramel cakes, but not halves. So, I asked the lady behind the baker’s counter if I could have the caramel cake in half. She answered right away.

“We don’t have any. You need to buy what’s there.”

I was taken aback. The other cakes were being sold in halves, so what was so special about this one? I explained that my family is quite small and that an entire cake was a bit much (and a waste, we would never finish it all!). I spoke up.

“Is there a way to have half sliced?”

“I don’t think so.” She replied. She didn’t make an attempt to honor my request. She didn’t even care that I was a customer with over $100 dollars worth of groceries in my cart. It obviously didn’t register that I had options and choices of where I could have shopped. She had not one shred of empathy.  This, of course, did not rest well with me. As a professional in the service insudtry, I immediately knew that the issue was not with her–it was with how the store was managed. So, I very nicely asked her if there was anyone else who could help me? She reluctantly told me to wait one moment.

The manager came out, and I asked her the same question. Right away she said, “No problem! to which I replied: ” Well it was a problem a few minutes ago! I asked the manager why the other associate couldn’t do that and she stated,

“She’s not a manager.”

“It’s cake.” I retorted. I had just stood there for 15 minutes begging the other associate for half of a cake and she couldn’t cut it without permission?

I then asked: “How would you feel if I left this entire cart of groceries because you all roughly stole 15 minutes of my life that I will never get back?”

The manager apologized, smiled, and said, “You’re right, it’s cake.” I giggled with her and mentioned that if they trusted and empowered their team just a little, the store would see huge results! Empowerment is good morale booster for the team, and the customers would be pleased, not just content.

How many of us have been in situations where we are working or managing in handcuffs? It is not fun for us or for guests. No one wants to have to wait for a manager. This is what we (hoteliers) have trained and taught travelers, and it is the number one reason why guests will request a manager for the most minute things–things that team members can make decisions on, like late check outs.

A manager’s time needs to be focused on bettering the brand, creating memorable experiences, driving service scores, and revenue, not granting late check outs or extending reservations. While no manager is ever above doing these things, their time can certainly be used doing other things. If we trusted and empowered our team members, we would in turn have happier teams and happier guests. This all starts with the culture of the company. A little trust goes a very long way for morale, and a long way for morale leaves more time for managers and supervisors to work on other things.

Here is a fun fact: The next time you are in a situation where you think you may need a manager…..before you ask for a manager,  understand that many times the person in front of you can probably help with requests that are not too big.

For all of the companies and associations who choose not to empower your teams, good luck looking up to see bottom. You will never get ahead, win awards, or drive service scores by not trusting your teams to make decisions on behalf of the client or guest. If the employees are given the tools they need to recover service when there are fractures it only make the company, the GM and bosses look good.

“Sneeze Guard Effect”

Have you ever been to a restaurant where they have “sneeze guards”? These nifty devices are in place to protect open food from germs and dirty hands. I for one am grateful they are in place! Subway, Chipotle, Quiznos? Have you ever watched and monitored your behavior or the behavior of people around you when ordering?

I actually never paid this any attention until a friend of mine mentioned it to me. When you step up to order you start to tell the person preparing your food how you would like it,what kind of meat, toppings ect. How many times do you actually look up at the human being preparing your meal? Many of us don’t. We look up when it is time to pay for the food. When we acknowledge the person taking our money. Somehow this person deserves our attention more than the person handling the food? Why is that?

This is the same way in hospitality. We have stopped having authentic conversations with the service agent processing the interaction. Whether we are checking in or out of a hotel, there is an invisible sneeze guard up. This is not true for everyone but for many of us it is. The agent on the other side is insignificant until there is a service challenge or issue then we take notice. We get names and give eye contact. Why is that?

Have we as hoteliers groomed society to treat service people this way? Is the guest going off of the vibes the agent is putting out? How have we gone from a polite, kind people to over indulged, entitled selfish humans?
How do we reverse the “sneeze guard” attitude and bring back positive warm dialog and exchanges?

Guest are not numbers and service professionals are definitely human with human emotions and needs. That old adage is true: “You win more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”. Starting today, make a conscious effort to make eye contact and talk to the person assisting you in the service industry! It will go a long way for you.

This Thing Called “Hospitality”

Do you ever wonder how we existed before online travel agents? You know all the travel sites that end with .com? What did we do when we wanted to book a hotel room? Who did we call? How did we choose? Was it word of mouth? Brand familiarity? Sales? Deals?

20 years ago I was fortunate enough to work at the front desk of a large brand. They had a loyalty program that started at basic and plateaued with diamond. If you were invited by the president or general manager you were labeled a black level member. Each level had specific perks based on the number of stays accumulated in a calendar year. People were nice. Service was important. The golden rule actually worked both ways.

Guest reached out to travel agents (people) who booked rooms for them with hotels that did not necessarily give a great rate but was known for service and the style said guest was accustomed to. There were corporations who had administrative assistants and travel departments that made arrangements and acquired negotiated rates. Travelers both business and leisure were happy and satisfied. (Nice) Then 911 happened and we entered a hospitality world that demanded that we do MORE, BETTER, WITH LESS.

We welcomed our online channels as they were keeping hotels afloat. Properties went from 20% reservations being booked online to 60% of them being booked online. At some point during all of this, we forgot how to be human to one another. The word hospitality and service have now become bastardized by travelers who are not respectful of the human being on the other side of the desk there to service them. The training programs have become obsolete and the people behind the desk are working jobs and not necessarily interested in a career. How are we to turn the page from this dilemma? How do we bring back the passion on both sides?