Reflecting on 25 years in the hospitality industry, Aaron Kaupp, General Manager of legendary Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris, recently shared some of the most important hotel management and leadership lessons he’s learned throughout his career. Kaupp is one of more than 35 global luxury hoteliers profiled in A Wealth of Insight: The World’s Best Luxury Hoteliers on Leadership, Management, and the Future of 5-Star Hospitality (Black Truffle Press). An exclusive excerpt of his profile is below.
“Harnessing social media to connect with people around the world in a way that sparks an instant day-dream is a powerful proposition.”
Staff need to be empowered to take ownership and responsibility of their roles. In such a dynamic and fluid operation as a restaurant or hotel, micromanaging leads to setting boundaries, but your team needs to be able to improvise and be flexible. This empowerment leads to mutual trust, and if your team trusts you, they will look out for the best interests of guests and the company as if it were their own.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
If a general manager picks up an empty coffee cup on their way through the lobby, or stays in the office until the middle of the night to greet a VIP guest, that shows dedication and passion. If leadership does not display such commitment, regardless of how big or small the task, that lack of interest will filter down throughout the organization into staff, and ultimately the guest experience.
PEOPLE COME FIRST
To build a successful team, leaders must invest heavily in getting to know colleagues, including their strengths and weaknesses. They must also celebrate colleagues’ successes along the way to show appreciation and recognition. This translates directly into the guest experience. At the end of the day, we are in the business of the human touch—in treating both guests and staff. The two are dependently linked.
EQ, NOT JUST IQ
Early in my career, a manager that I was reporting to saw me one day, overworked and tired, but still pulling my weight. He pulled me aside, took me out for lunch and sent me home, finishing my shift for me. At first, I thought I had done something wrong, but when I returned the next day, ready and rested, he asked whether I felt better. Acknowledging how hard I was working and being valued for that effort cannot be overstated. He took care of me, knowing I needed to be at my best for my department to succeed, even if that meant finishing my shift for me. This is the kind of culture and spirit critical to success.
THE HUMAN TOUCH
Today, we can teach someone to shake the perfect martini or to read a profit and loss statement, but what we cannot teach is the human touch, and being a people person. When hiring, I inquire about difficult situations applicants have faced in the past at work and how they have handled them. Being able to empathize, reason and resolve issues professionally, calmly and intelligently is a very important quality in this industry.
AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Our clients are international travelers who have stayed in many of the world’s leading luxury hotels. They are always looking for something familiar or elevated. In other words, luxury today is recreating an experience of what a guest already has at home or would like to have at home. At the same time, luxury means different things to different people. For some, it means that their pillows are monogrammed. For others, their favorite drink is stocked in the minibar or their favorite fruits are served upon arrival. Beyond these gestures, we need to connect on an emotional level to maintain their interest and loyalty.
On one occasion, we had a guest who was traveling solo for business. Our team felt that she really missed her fiancé, having just recently been engaged. While out for dinner, our staff filled her bedroom up with 100 helium balloons with a photo of her soon-to-be husband on each. When she returned, she was not only shocked but moved that we had gone above and beyond to touch her heart in a way that she will truly never forget.