What does it take to be successful in business? For years the adage was ‘location, location, location.’ Recently though, I was fortunate to sit down with an amazing leader that when I asked the question: “to what do you attribute the success of your business?” she replied: “people, people, people.”
I have now, without exaggeration, stayed well over 2,000 nights in a hotel in over 40 countries worldwide. I consider myself to be able to discern a great hotel experience from a good, mediocre, or crappy one.
Last month, my wife and I were in Siem Reap, Cambodia and we stayed at the Park Hyatt. And, after 2,000 plus hotel nights under my belt, I can safely say (and I have my wife’s backing on this), this is the most outstanding hotel I have ever stayed in.
What is the difference? Of course, the hotel is beautiful, and the rooms are very comfortable (but so are so many other hotels I have been in). The difference here though was the people.
To start with, all key leaders were highly visible. From check-in to check-out.
The Executive Chef (Pisith Theam) came and introduced himself while we were checking in. We ate breakfast every morning at the hotel and every morning, Executive Chef Theam would go table to table asking guests what he and his team could do to make their day better. One day, I asked him if we could get a packed lunch for the next morning as we were going on a sunrise visit to the famous Angkor Wat Temple. His reply was amazing… He simply said: “Don’t take a meal with you. The quality won’t be as good as if you ate at the hotel. Watch the sunrise. Visit the temple. Then have the tour guide (we were going to be with a private guide) bring you back to the hotel for a proper breakfast. After that, you can continue on to visit more temples with your guide.” Wow! And he was right, it made our day to be able to sit down and have a great breakfast with fresh coffee after being up at 4:15AM that morning!
Another Chef (Sarath Chheng) would greet us at our table every morning and ask us how he could make our day better and if he could make us anything. One day he asked us what we had planned for the next day and after telling him, we had no set plans he said: “Great! Come with me to the market and I will show you how we shop for the hotel. After that, I will take you to a local village and show you how they make rice noodles the way they have been made for hundreds of years (my wife and I even got to ‘get in there’ and help with the process). Then we will go to a pottery place and make some Cambodian pottery (again, my wife and I got our hands dirty making something that loosely resembled bowls).” And finally, back at the hotel, he made us an amazing lunch using Cambodian farm to table ingredients. This doesn’t happen… ever at any other hotel. But it does there.
In the afternoon for Happy Hour, we would sit in the hotel courtyard and again, two very key leaders (Tola and Susan) would always stop at our table and ask us how they could make our day better.
On the third day of experiencing the Park Hyatt ‘Wow!’ factor, I asked if I could see the General Manager. I write and speak about leadership all over the world, so I always want to talk to other leaders.
Now, when I do this at other hotels, two things always happen. First is the team member I give the request to right away looks frightened or worried. Second, the General Manager rarely, if ever, comes out to see me. When I asked Chef Sarath if I could see the GM, he said; “Sure!” And cheerfully went off to find her. A few minutes later, Rina Mariani walked up to our table and sat down with us. We talked for an hour (and, as the GM of a very busy hotel I know she has other things to do!).
I asked Rina what her leadership secret was. Her reply was simple: “People, people, people.” She went on to say that as a leader, she had learned a long time ago to be authentically herself (because everyone else was already taken). And that being able to do that frees her up from any hang-ups (that some other leaders may have) about hiring people that are better than her.
Mariani calls her team “Cultural Insiders” that are free to bring their own culture alive amongst the guests and share with them all the beauty of their country. They are free to suggest new ways to ‘Wow!’ guests (that’s why Sarath got to take us out for the morning and we got to truly experience Cambodia through his eyes). This ‘authenticity’ could be felt with every single team member we interacted with.
The big take-away for me – besides this being my benchmark hotel experience – was that when leaders are comfortable enough to be a real human being and their team feels that they are freed up to do the same.
As leaders, we are all in the service business. We are in the business to serve our people so that they can serve the customer.
Leaders with inflated ego’s that think they sit at the top of the pyramid and that the team is there to serve them, are the ones leading business where customers do not see or feel valued.
People, people, people. It is a simple formula.
Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, #1 Best Selling Author, International Keynote Speaker, and TEC Top Speaker of the Year for 2018. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, connect with Robert on LinkedIn.
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