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The Best Hotel General Manager – How Do You Measure-up?

One of the nice things about being in the twilight of a thirty-year career in the hotel industry is that it gives one the ability to reflect back on the many great people who have shaped and influenced that career.

After many years in hotel operations as well as sales and marketing, both on-property and as a corporate V.P., I was exposed to many different managers and their management styles.

Management styles, experience, and talent are as varied as their numbers, but they all had something to offer if one paid attention. Observing people and their habits has always been sort of a hobby for me. I believe that everyone has something to offer if you are looking to learn from them.

I would like to think that I learned something from each and every one of them; even if it was only to decide which traits I did or did not want to emulate. I could probably write an entire book detailing the actions and styles of the worst of these managers, but most people don`t recognize their own bad traits, even if outlined in an article, so that would be fruitless.

Recently, a client asked me what I thought the most successful general managers have in common; what makes the best managers stand head and shoulders above the others. Circumstances certainly have great influence on ultimate success; outstanding hotels can produce successful managers. But what traits make a good manager rise above given circumstances; creating success where there was none and creating even greater success where it already existed.

The Best Hotel General Manager I ever met accepts responsibility for top-line revenue.

All too often, I have heard managers lament how they would have made more profit if only they had more top-line revenue; as if hinting that increased revenue was out of their direct control. The fact is that many general managers feel a detachment from their hotel`s revenue lines. Ironically, this most often occurs when revenues are failing. Accepting ownership of poor revenues as well as healthy revenues is a telltale sign of a good general manager.

The best general manager I ever met takes responsibility for revenue production, whether or not he/she has a separate sales team. The best general manager is the true sales leader at the hotel; involved in every aspect of generating business. The best general manager leads morning sales meetings; displaying his/her personal involvement. The best managers know their top producing clients and contribute to servicing them.

For hotels lucky enough to have a sales team, the best general manager takes on specific hotel sales accounts; both, to be involved in larger accounts, and to be an example to the sales team. Sales leadership is the most important general management role.

Many articles have been written extolling the necessary skills and work habits of hotel sales people, but little is said about the role of general managers in the sales process. We have all seen how easily a poor general manager can negatively influence even the best people on their staff. By contrast, there are many mediocre people that have been guided to lofty success by great general managers.

As a corporate vice president, I always found it interesting to see whether or not a general manager got involved in sales training programs. Anyone who has done property sales training can tell you how seldom general managers participate in these programs. I don`t know who decided to separate sales from operations, but the best general managers have the ability to merge these functions into powerful programs.

Sadly, many companies set themselves up for failure by directing sales activities with the sales team without the participation of the one who is truly responsible…the general manager. The best general manager I ever met would never let this happen.

During my coaching programs with various owners and general managers, I have heard many managers pound their chests with pride because they sometimes make sales calls with their sales people. This is great, but do they remain involved in the progress of those accounts? Do they demonstrate to the sales team that follow-up is the key to booking business, by their own follow-up practices? For some, it`s merely a good way to get out of the building for a little while.

The best general manager I ever met reviews and signs off on all sales activity for his/her team; and directs new activity through the hotel director of sales or directly if no sales director exists. The best general manager I ever met functions as the true director of sales. Now some directors of sales might take exception to this statement, but experienced sales directors know how much easier their job can be when the G.M. is involved in the process.

The best general manager takes on the sales role, where there is no sales team, through intense community involvement, reading to find new ideas, and constantly seeking ways to improve business.

The best general manager leads the hotel`s eMarketing effort for web site, GDS, and third-party aggregators. These areas demand G.M. involvement; even if the hotel is lucky enough to have a dedicated revenue manager.

The Best Hotel General Manager I ever met is focused on success.

This trait may sound quite basic to many of you, but focus can be elusive. Focus, in this sense, is what prompts a manager to analyze each hotel profit center to target improvements in successful programs as well as failing ones. Managers who concentrate only on failing areas have a tendency to play the catch-up game, constantly putting out fires to save failing programs, while successful programs go bad from neglect. Some failing programs need to be allowed to disappear.

Focus is what directs a manager towards those activities which matter most. The best general manager realizes that just being busy is not as important as being busy doing the right things. The 80/20 rule is amazing in its myriad of applications; 20 percent of everything you do will result in 80 percent of your successes. Finding the right 20 percent takes focus.

The Best Hotel General Manager I ever met looks for small successes.

I could not count the number of times I have heard hotel team members lament about being criticized for doing wrong, yet being ignored when things go right. I can`t imagine how frustrating this can be. The best general managers look for his/her team`s small successes and reward them, even if it is only a public `well done`. This may sound simple and basic to some of you, but it`s less common than you might think.

For those of you who think you do these well, think again. Often an insincere facial expression or casual insincere comment belies the true intent a manager seeks. Praise in public, criticize in private; the best general manager I ever met looks for opportunities to provide sincere rewards. A sincere comment can be the biggest job motivator.

The Best Hotel General Manager I ever met is a great communicator.

Communicating is a two-way process; talking and listening. As I teach new sales people, having two ears and only one mouth should indicate that one should listen twice as much as talking. The best general manager I ever met demonstrates this daily.

Managers who listen to their teammates find new opportunities to help them perform their jobs better. Good leadership comes from understanding the needs of the team. Understanding comes from listening, not from smooth talk.

For those of you who expected me to actually name the best general manager I ever met, I assure you that I have met a few managers who deserve this title. But, more importantly…how do you measure up?

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