I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and as I am reaching my first half century it’s something I am planning to invest more time in, and write down stuff I can reflect on.
Hoteliers have been put to the test during this pandemic, and with pressure from corporate offices and owners, their own reputations can be at stake if the decisions they make, or are forced to make, affect their employees’ wellbeing and the brand’s reputation.
We all have heard of retrenchments, furloughs and reductions in the number of staff or salaries since early this year, and it look as if it will continue for at least the remaining of 2020.
Rocco Bova is general manager of Chablé Yucatán in Mexico.
What does that mean? Leaders have to step up to the challenge, take responsibility for their actions and understand the consequences. I hope this brief article can give you some food for thought.
We have recently witnessed the likes of Keith Barr, Arne Sorenson, Chris Nassetta, Sébastien Bazin, Mark Hoplamazian and David Kong, the CEOs of the world’s biggest hotel companies, sharing their views on the current situation, talking to their respective countries’ presidents and seeing how can they ‘’fix’’ a situation in which the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people they employ and whose livelihood depends on getting a salary at the end of the month. You could see their expressions on their faces, their worries and weight on their shoulders.
Yes, the people above and all the decision-makers in business are indeed going to be remembered for what they did and what legacy they will leave behind for their companies and staff.
What I have seen in the past six months are the following traits which are (supposed to be) ‘’regular’’ in leaders but that, in my opinion, have been highlighted by the circumstances. Even this recent HVS survey shows (in particular if you look at questions 3, 4 and 5) how companies have performed in this aspect of integrity and empathy.
The fact that a leader can be powerless in front of an ‘’invisible enemy’’ is also the realization that we all have weaknesses and we need to recognize that. I have observed many leaders talking in front of audiences and openly saying how little they can do while facing this enormous challenge. I guess that one of the most difficult moments for many of us is trying the keep the morale high and the spirit positive for oneself and others, despite all the odds.
Kindness and generosity
Many people have been furloughed from one day to the next. However, I have never seen so much solidarity as there is now. Everyone put their efforts together to share resources, produce content, create useful reading materials and reports that have been keeping busy those who were jobless – through webinars, e-books, industry reports and seminars. Even hotel schools put together their hands and provided free education. This is a clear sign of care and, in hospitality, we are all well trained for it.
Compassion and empathy
The saying of giving a shoulder to cry has been incredibly helpful to those who went into depression and high level of stress. Many experts and professionals in the field of coaching and mentoring have given their time to those in need to be listened and provided them with valuable tips on how to get out of stress and avoid to fall into a downward vortex. It can be very easy to fall into depression and become a victim instead of standing up and walk again. Feeling empathic for one another is our duty as leaders and we all have the responsibility to alleviate the pain and help whenever possible
I am sure those leaders charged to make tough decisions have had a lot of sleepless nights. In their hands is the future of the company and the survival of the business. It’s an enormous burden to have to communicate to the people you have been working with, sometimes for years, and decide their immediate future. Even to just communicate the temporary closure of the business was (at least for me) the most daunting task as, from that day, the income of the staff would be severely affected. There are many people living paycheck to paycheck, and that is the norm in many parts of the world.
We have all learned that a great leader or company ‘’walks the talk.’’ Now more than ever the values and vision of an individual or a company are becoming more important. It’s all well and good to have those beautifully laminated and framed posters along the corridors of the back of the house, but it all falls apart the moment we do not apply them when making the toughest decisions. Why say that people are the company’s most important asset when the first ‘’asset’’ to be culled is them? Here is a chance to think about those values and visions once again.
Resilience is the ability to thrive during challenging times and recover quickly from a difficulty. Well, there is no better time than now to hone this skill. The power of resilience can take you through these challenging times and survive even the toughest storms. This is how some people conquered the highest summits and went all the way to the moon. Through resilience, anything can be accomplished.
A leader that encompasses all of the above is one that inspires and always has an optimistic vision of the future. This pandemic will teach us a lot, including who are we going to be after it’s all over.
The billion-dollar question is: When we start again, who do we want to be and who do we want to represent? My recommendation is to not pick a job. Pick a leader – or a great company.