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Defining Leadership: The ability to persuade others to seek objectives enthusiastically

That fact makes leadership the most important management skill in determining the success of your business. But when I say leadership, I’m not referring to having a commanding presence or using approaches learned in the latest management books. In my mind, leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek objectives enthusiastically. When this happens, everything else falls into place.

In an organization with effective leadership, all employees understand their roles and the importance of those roles within the organization. They have the tools and the knowledge they need to do their jobs. And they know that everyone within the organization has clear performance goals and is expected to meet them.

Each of these ingredients is a natural result of good communication within the organization and a caring leader. Although it’s great if you happen to have a dynamic personality, employees are more interested in working for a leader who treats them with respect, gives them the tools they need to be successful, and builds an infrastructure and culture that rewards performance. In the long run, your personal style isn’t as important as the substance of what you provide to employees.

Effective Training

Effective training is about more than knowing how to do a particular job. It’s about understanding the organization, and how the employee’s role contributes. When I was a hotel general manager, I met all employees before they were hired to discuss the organization and their roles within it. I wanted all employees to understand how they contribute to guest satisfaction and the overall success of the organization. They needed to know that to ensure the longevity of their jobs, we needed to create great experiences for guests.

It’s also important that training continue throughout employees’ tenure. This fulfills two imperatives. First, it assures that employees have the knowledge to do their jobs correctly. Second, the investment in your employees that training represents demonstrates that you care about employees.

Standards and Rewards

Now that employees know how to do their jobs, they also need to understand the standards they must meet to be successful in your organization. Setting high standards-and adhering to them-is an important step to motivating employees to do their best. If you accept mediocrity, you perpetuate it. If employees are allowed to slide by, not carrying their weight, other employees will notice. This knowledge is demotivating to the rest of the team.

Regularly provide feedback to employees. Scheduled performance reviews-at least twice a year-provide an opportunity to do so. But you should also be visible around the property, so that you can see employees performing their tasks. Providing immediate feedback allows you to coach employees citing specific behaviors that are appreciated or need to be remedied, i.e. “guests really appreciate your warm smile during checkin,” or “the lobby bathrooms need to be cleaned immediately.”

Share feedback from guest surveys with your staff, rewarding your staff when appropriate. For example, if guest comment cards are exceptional one month, it’s easy to make a small gesture such as bringing in some donuts to say thanks to your staff. For bigger achievements, bigger rewards are in order. Have a high-performing staff member bring in their spouse for dinner at your hotel’s restaurant on the company. If an employee is taking a vacation, call the destination and see if a sister hotel can comp a room for their stay.

In the business world, managers are often quick with criticism and slow with expressions of appreciation. That’s too bad, because appreciation is truly a value-creating activity. It energizes people and makes them want to exceed their goals and perceived limits.

Dignity and Respect

But perhaps the most important step to effective leadership is a commitment to treat employees with dignity and respect. They must know that you respect their input and care how they feel.

Having an open-door policy is just one way to show that you care. Employees should know that if they have a concern that can’t be solved with their immediate supervisor, they can go to you resolve their problem.

The term “management by walking around” may have become a clich’e, but it’s still important. I very rarely needed to have staff meeting because I was out walking around or having lunch with employees. Take the time to discuss their ideas. Ask questions about their jobs, what you learn may surprise you.

All managers need to understand how their actions affect employees’ personal lives. It’s a responsibility to take seriously. A recent American Management Association study found that 50 percent of a typical employee’s job satisfaction is determined by the quality of his or her relationship with a manager.

Although you can’t control everything that happens to your employees, you can control how you interact with them. By providing effective leadership, you can create the opportunity for both them-and you-to reach your goals.