Hospitality Leadership Skills

2 August, 2015
  • 16 min read
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We all perceive the world in a different way. We all wear different glasses that colour the way we label our experiences. In a shared moment, we see and learn different things. Please allow me to let you look through my glasses at the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) conference 2014 in Washington. I visited the ASTD looking for new learning trends, tools and techniques for Future Hospitable Leadership Skills.

Memorable Moments
Two impressions jump out. The first, meeting one of the many ASTD faces that guides us through the programme.

Her name is Shoshanna, she welcomes me, makes eye contact and asks me how she can help me. She points me in the right direction, but not before explaining to me she is working as a volunteer. For every day she works as a volunteer, she gets a free day pass for the conference. I am impressed. Not only is she an excellent example of hostmanship, it also shows new ways of obtaining a motivated workforce. My second memorable moment is when I choose to lead the way. I am a trainer, not a leader, and I usually sit in the passenger seat and coach the driver to reflect on his driving. As I take control of the wheel, I take a group of 15 delegation members on a 25 minute detour before finding out I took them in the wrong direction. Right road, wrong starting point. 

Learning to Lead

What do I find out about leadership? I attend a session of Ken Blanchard, who turned 75 that week.

His presentation is just a story, but his message about Servant Leadership meets my needs. New leaders need to facilitate their employees, not tell them what to do. Samsung describes their secrets of success. I am triggered by their Regional Specialist Programme. High potentials are send out to different international locations to understand local culture and customs and to build new connections. They get freedom in how and what they do, they must deliver one blog per week to share their experiences with the company. Again an inspiring way of learning, a clear frame and a LOT of freedom to design and learn by themselves. Facebook talks about the importance of continuous innovation to be successful. It cannot just be a belief, a company must train their employees in innovative skills and create an atmosphere in which taking risks is stimulated.

And then an internal research from Trelleborg, a global player with its headquarters in Sweden and a workforce of 15,000 employees. They did an internal research on their own gen Y.

Conclusion: They are not lacking work motivation, just need to be challenged and allowed to handle more responsibility, they want to be taken seriously. They have a need for feedback, platforms for knowledge sharing and face to face communication. 

ASTD Chairman, Matha Soehren, tells us to take calculated risks, to be bold. And keynote speaker General  Stan Mc Chrystal talks about the adaptability gap, the world changing faster than we learn. In his model of of Organic Adaptability he explains how true leaders facilitate a shared consciousness and empower their staff to be able to execute. One other inspiring session was an experiential session. A new coaching tool, a card game called Points of You. In our lives we have a tendency to look at a moment from one point of view, we focus on what’s before us. By looking at the same image from a different point of view, we can be in the same moment with another pair of glasses. Learning to look at things from different angles will help us grow.

A Packed Programme

The programme is packed, there is no way I can visit all sessions. From my convention members I get leads for further investigation. I want to read more from Clark Quinn, Buckingham, Phillips and David Rock. During lunch I sit next to a stranger. Cheryl and I introduce ourselves to each other and in these 15 minutes we share she helps me out with a challenge of getting students to class. Instead of making sessions mandatory we find a way to change ownership and make them accountable for each other’s learning environment. I exchange my business card with trainers from all over the world and ask them if I can occasionally send them training ideas and ask for how it would work in their culture.

I meet up with two alumni of our school Kristian Nenchev (Portfolio Revenue Manager at Marriott International) and Kimberley Kappler-Dunaier, (Guest Experience Analyst at Hilton Worldwide) at 8 am for a breakfast meeting. This is America! Here I see two of our future leaders. They are driven and smart, and they tell me they sometimes find it difficult to having their more experienced colleagues take their opinion serious. Where have I heard this before?

Guarding and Guidance

This was my first ASTD, my first 4 day conference abroad. I had no experience with the overload of possibilities, the tips and tricks of the programme, or the city. It was wonderful to connect with the Dutch/Belgian Delegation. I felt autonomous, but part of the pack.  I learned and laughed.

 I learned by looking through my own glasses, but was often allowed to look through someone else’s.

I put on a different pair of glasses. The card I ended up with from the ‘Points of You’ session, made me reflect on one of my memorable moments.

By leading the group into the wrong direction I experienced what it feels like to make mistakes. It is this feeling that I must make our students comfortable with. For innovation cannot happen without daring to take risks - and checking the starting points ;)

About the author

Anne Smulders

Anne Smulders is Trainer Management Skills at Hotelschool The Hague.

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