The 10 essential traits of a great GM

The 10 essential traits of a great GM

Of all the positions in hospitality, none is more revered or desired than that of general manager. When you reach this level, you are at the pinnacle of our profession — in effect, the proverbial “captain” of the ship!

The road to GM-ship can be long and arduous. There are many different career paths that will lead to the position; thus, there is no single guaranteed road to success. In my numerous communications with GMs throughout my career, however, I’ve come to appreciate some of the essential traits that epitomize excellence. Here is my own personal list (note the focus on the “soft side” of the business):

1. Care 

Care for their property. Care for their guests. Care for their employees. Watch a GM stoop down to quickly pick up a soiled tissue on the floor of an elevator. Why? Their hotel is their home.

2. Time 

GMs seem to have endless time for their guests, employees, meetings and, yes, their owners, too. If you’re thinking the job is 9-to-5, forget it. Try a 12-hour day, six or more days per week. 

3. Acquired knowledge and a great memory 

How is it that a GM knows so much? From F&B to housekeeping, from capital cost analyses to OSHA specifications, not to mention remembering the names of hundreds of past guests. 

4. A love of people

This is a people job. Every GM I know relishes the opportunity to be with people. The perfect host, the best GMs make everyone feel comfortable around them. And a great GM has a keen ability to build an incredibly successful team and get the most out of them.

5. Patience  

No plan survives contact with the enemy intact. Great GMs seem to understand this, being able to “pivot” on a dime and recast their objectives based upon the shifting sands of the job.

6. A keen sense of humor 

Let’s face it. Not everything works the way one expects. Being able to joke when all seems lost is an incredible life skill.

7. The ability to never give up 

Imagine having to grow ADR, RevPAR and occupancy every year. It’s impossible. Yet somehow, GMs continue to stay motivated to climb the mountain again and again.

8. A sense of fair play 

I have never seen a great GM disparage a competitor, let alone do anything illegal or immoral. GMs are tough competitors but follow an exceptionally strong moral code. They also respect their suppliers — tough bargainers, but fair.

9. Energy 

How do you motivate your early shift staff at 6:30 a.m., run a planning committee meeting all morning, lunch with key clients, join an afternoon FAM, attend a marketing presentation, smile through the cocktail hour manager’s reception, then drop in on an evening wedding rehearsal? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

10. Love of the job 

GMs love their jobs. There is nothing on earth they would rather do. This feeling permeates their work. You can feel it. After all, if you love what you do, then it doesn’t feel like work.