A flair for the obvious

A flair for the obvious

I reach out to you from Mendocino County in northern California this week, where I am collaborating on a project at the home of world-famous concierge, speaker and author Holly Stiel. Even though we are long-time friends, Holly exhibited rule number one for every serious hotelier and sought to personalize my visit. Well hosted, we settled in to share juicy tales of business.

Laughter quickly filled the room, and as our business mentor TJ always says, where there is laughter, there is truth.

Here’s a valuable lesson: Many years ago, I suddenly was called to step up as director of housekeeping of a 1,600-room hotel. The current leader had defected a day before the Republican National Convention descended upon us for two weeks to use our hotel as their headquarters. Upon review of my success at the end of the convention, complaints were way down in the department, walkthroughs showed the hotel to be cleaner than ever before and morale was at an all-time high. I left my boss’s office humming along.

One month later we reviewed the results of our employee opinion survey (a quantitative hoax foisted upon our industry in its current form). I was called back into my boss’s office for a review of the results. I was “raked across the coals.” Along with every department and, as occurs with most organizations, the rating for communication was poor. I was dumbfounded. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in communications and studying at the Hotel Reality School of Hard Knocks, I was conscientiously uber-communicative, so how could this be? Every morning, I held pre-shift meetings with the first shift. At 3 p.m. daily, I met with the second shift, and twice per week I met with the overnight crew. I not only had an open-door policy, but I had the door removed. And if we weren’t communicating, how did we create such measurable results in what mattered? Cleanliness, NO guest complaints, high morale, etc.

I endeavored to discover what happened. One day, at the start of the meetings, I stated, “Good morning. This is communication.” At the end of the meeting, I said, “Thank you. This was communication.” Follow-up results improved dramatically, and that was the only change I made. Sometimes, it pays to state the obvious.

Holly, can you please turn up the sauna and pass the loofah?