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 Seven Ways to Be a Better GM – Today!
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By Bruce Wienberg, CHA
May 2006

In my role as Regional Service Manager for Best Western International, I consult with out member hotels on quality assurance and training to help them maximize the value of their affiliation with Best Western, and offer the best product they can. I am fortunate to work with over 50 hotels in my region, ranging from small rural limited service “mom & pop” operations, to large 300+ room, city centre conference properties (and everything in between)! When I compare this breadth of experience and diversified operations to when I was a GM at a single property, it’s amazing what can be learned. Rather than being focused on one hotel, I now have the unique opportunity to “look from the outside” at what works and doesn’t work, no matter the size or complexity of the hotel operation. 

There are many traits and techniques to being a better manager, as well as management philosophies (just visit your local bookstore), and a better GM specifically. I want to focus on seven key areas that can help you run a better hotel. Ideally, you should pass this article on to your Department Heads and supervisors also, as a large part of your job is to instill these traits in your management and staff.

1. Be Expendable

A hotel runs 24/7/365. I’m willing to bet that you can’t be there all the time (no matter what you told your owner). So, for everyone’s sanity, you need to create systems and backup plans for your functions, and the functions of your management team. Then put it on paper, into a binder, available for your employees to access if required. Review the binder quarterly, with your management team, and make revisions. Perhaps a new, capable employee has recently been hired that can be trained to assist. 

The real test of a good GM is how well the hotel runs in your absence. Without you there, who is the manager on duty? Do they know what do to, or who to call, if various emergencies happen? What happens if the MOD is sick? Who takes over then? Planning for these eventualities will make your job less stressful, and more productive, knowing that you don’t have to always be at the hotel.

2. The Fourth “P” – Procedure

In a previous article, I wrote about the “three P’s”: Price, People, Property. However, there is a fourth P, the P that ties the first three together… Procedure. Similar to #1 above, you need to ensure that your entire operation has procedures that can be followed and referred to for all situations. Your operation needs to be set up so that the organization “survives” any person leaving, at any time. Someone else should be able to refer to the procedures and complete any task. 

If you have to create the procedures, don’t assume you have to reinvent the wheel. Remember that yours in the not the first hotel in the world. By and large, hotels run the same way. So you should be able to take current procedures (perhaps supplied by your head office, or your franchise, or a fellow hotel), and modify them to suit your property. Best Western, for example, has extensive materials, for all departments, that can be used in this way.

3. Focus on Service

Remember the “good old days”, where GM’s weren’t asset managers, but were glorified hosts? You would hang around the coffee shop, or the restaurant (or the bar, at the end of the day!) and greet guests, pour them coffee and just chat about their stay? Tough to do much of that in today’s environment. But you can spend 20-30 minutes in the morning at your breakfast bar or restaurant, chatting and – more importantly – listening (see #6, below). And be at the front desk as guests are checking out. Find out what they thought about their stay. In the afternoon, try to spend some time at the front desk as guests are checking in. You will be amazed at what you will find out, and your guests will be impressed that the General Manager cares enough about their guests to make the time to meet them. Lastly, your staff will see your care and attention to the guests, and will emulate your attitude. Remember that your employees and management team are always watching you, taking their cues on how to work from you. Attitude is always “top down.”

4. But Don’t Forget the Room

Despite the endless paperwork, emails, phone calls, etc., remember what your product is: hotel rooms. You should know each and every room, and the state they are in. Do you inspect rooms every day? You need to, ideally with your Executive Housekeeper and Maintenance Manager. Keep a list of what rooms you inspect, so that you do every room at least once per month. If you inspect five rooms per day, you will do 100 in a month. You can then be confident that all the rooms are well maintained and cleaned, and can provide instant feedback to your staff on how well (or not) they are doing. Have you taken home your amenities and tried them out? Have you stayed overnight in your hotel, to try out the bed? To see how loud the elevators is? Or how loud the ice machine is at 1 am? You need to know what your guest is experiencing, to be able to improve your hotel.

Do you visit your competitor’s hotels? On vacation in another city or country, do spend a few minutes looking at new hotels? As a hospitality professional, you need to be looking for new ideas, ways to make things better, ways to make the guest’s stay more comfortable and memorable.

5. Be a Coach, Not a Cop

Firstly, let me apologize to all of the police officers out there – some are even my friends! To me, a cop is the person who, if following you or watching you, makes you nervous. Think about when you are driving down the highway, doing the speed limit and minding the rules of the road… and then a police car pulls up behind you. What do you do? You suddenly slow down, start thinking about every move you make, and second-guess your actions. You start looking for the things that you are doing wrong. If you are a “cop” manager, this is also the reaction your staff will have when you are around. They will not take chances to create the best guest service experiences possible; they will not try new things; they will not become creative. They will, however, be very careful of every move they make, so they don’t get “caught.” They will second guess what they do, instead of doing what comes naturally.

A “coach” manager will instill a sense of achievement in his/her staff, and that anything is possible by working harder and together as a team. A “coach” wants to catch the staff doing something right, not wrong.

6. Shut Up and Listen

Do you find yourself talking more than listening? Do you jump into conversations and give your opinions, before others are finished talking? In today’s work environment, good leadership and management is more inclusive than in the past. You need to listen to your staff (and your guests) and their ideas, so that a shared vision can be created. Employees that are not listened to, will feel devalued, unrecognized and not “engaged” in the organization. This is one of the main reasons why employees leave a company. And if you aren’t listening, your team won’t feel respected or motivated to perform. In a 24/7 operation like a hotel, that’s a recipe for disaster. 

So the next time you have a meeting, think to yourself “shut up and listen”. Really listen to what is being said. Don’t just jump in. Stop talking, show interest, watch the non-verbal cues, and don’t interrupt. Think about your response before you say it. Remember that as a GM, or manager of any capacity, you are responsible for your words and their result.

7. “Think Like the CEO”

This section is a short one, because I’m going to cheat…someone else wrote it!

I just finished reading a book called “How to Think Like a CEO” by D.A. Benton. The subtitle says it all: “The 22 Vital Traits You Need to Be the Person at the Top”.

It’s an easy read, and will instantly give you ideas, tips and techniques you can use today to make you a better, more effective manager and leader… even if you aren’t one – yet!

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Contact:

Bruce Wienberg, CHA
Best Western International, Inc.
Regional Service Manager
Member Operations Support
SE British Columbia, Alberta & Saskatchewan
phone: 250-423-8034
email: bruce.wienberg@bestwestern.com

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Also See: The 3-Ps of Successful Hotel Management / Bruce Wienberg / May 2005


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