Viewpoint: Leaders: get out from behind your desks

05 February 2020

Don't become invisible, get out there and see the people who run your business, says Hand Picked Hotels operations director Douglas Waddell

As we embark on another decade, it seems an appropriate time to focus on the importance of leadership within the business environment to set the tone for change and direction.

Market conditions facing all businesses in the hospitality sector remain challenging. Since 2014 there has been ongoing pressure from low revenue growth combined with significant cost increases in every area of the profit and loss account. This has meant that the search for sustainable profitability or even acceptable returns on investment has become increasingly critical.

In this age of advanced technology, with sophisticated tools and analytics, business leaders have never had as much access to live data to help them run their operations.

The delivery of statistics, from financial performance to service quality and HR/ people metrics, provides a constant stream of information designed to help optimise performance across all areas of the business. This is undoubtedly beneficial, but has this surge of new and ‘live' data contributed to leaders of today becoming officebound, not by choice but through necessity, in order to process information and appropriately react to it?

If they are not careful, leaders can quickly become invisible to their guests and, critically, their people, at a time when they need to be seen and heard the most. Leaders can only help businesses achieve commercial goals by balancing the demands of modern-day leadership with finding the time to be visible within the business, as good old-fashioned hotelkeeping dictates.

Ensuring that any team is delivering the best level of service to its guests and customers has become even more important, and giving consistently good service remains one of the best ways of driving and improving revenue in any organisation.

There may be a ‘dashboard' for measuring this and everything else, but leaders need to be out and about, living and breathing their business. This is how they will truly understand what is working and what is not for their guests, customers and team.

The workforce of today requires and deserves a high level of support, challenge and genuine consideration from their leaders. While the UK as a whole is still enjoying record levels of employment, recruitment and retention within the hospitality industry remains a challenge. The sector's transient nature means those in the industry need to be given real opportunities to develop and grow – without them, they will simply move on.

Great leaders and the leaders of this coming decade will make people a key priority, making sure they are nurtured and developed by those who are visible within the business and who have a real presence – and genuine interest – on the service floor and the wellbeing of their teams.

The challenge for this next decade will be finding and training great people who are focused on delivering consistently great service for leaders they trust and engage with, which will in turn drive increased revenues. If we do not excel in these two areas, then financial goals cannot be achieved.

The role of the leader in achieving this cannot be underestimated. Leadership will be the battleground of the 20s, and great leaders should be prepared for combat.

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