Season start


I am having a look at the clock. “Come on honey, we gotta go now, even without your egg. Your ski school is about to start.” Big hassle on the tables, in the big hall, in the basement for skis. “But… I want to eat my egg…” Our daughter, 4 years old, is despairing. My husband, on the other hand, rolls his eyes. “When are they going to get the timing right?” The night before, some guests had even left the restaurant before the main course due to overly long waiting times. And other service areas are also definitely not working on the standards one is used to from the same hotel from the years before. Other guests’ luggage is delivered to our room, we do not get our laundry back. All in all, not such a big deal. But in sum, these incidents are a matter of concern for a hotel with rather high standards.

That evening we are invited at the table of the hotel owner. It is not because of the egg incident in the morning – we have known each other for a long time. “What actually has happened here?” I ask her. And she cannot hold herself back: the enormous challenges of the season start for a hotel that operates only half a year grow from year to year. The challenges for hotel management and employees are reinforced now by the outflow of experienced managers and employees, an increasing scarcity of German-speaking hospitality staff and the ever-growing expectations of international guests. Combined with the fact that important processes and standards have not really been documented in the past but exists more in the heads of the experienced staff, non-existent time for instructing newcomers and missing expertise in leadership and cooperation – all this is leading to a crisis for an ambitious organization that basically needs to start every year in December from scratch.

In the course of the conversation, we develop the idea of a “Power Team Coaching” for each area of the hotel: kitchen, restaurant, bar, reception, housekeeping, and doormen. Blended with a set of Executive Coachings for the director and her managers. The aim is to form productive teams that are built on trust and to establish a cooperative mindset to unleash the teams’ underused potential. The idea is to let them identify their pain points and develop solutions to effectively address them. We kick it off the next day in the childrens’ playroom which is empty during the skiing day. We spend the first 30 minutes in each team to get to know each other – so far the team members barely know each other’s first name. I introduce myself as their coach during these sessions - being now at their service (and not being the guest anymore – even though my experiences as a guest definitely help to focus on the major pain points later and to judge on the effectiveness of the proposed solutions). Already after the first 30 minutes however, the employees seem to be much more familiar with each other. Their social intercourse is now shaped by warmth, empathy and understanding. Then, we really get going. Instead of coping with the challenging black slopes, today we put our energy into improving processes and interfaces of the business. The flip chart is being filled, the discussion flourishes in different languages, and employees help each other out with the translation into different languages.

In this way, each department works out an individual concept on how to operate a day at full capacity. The daily milestones are displayed in a daily time table with standards and responsibilities. One of the baristas has studied originally architecture, so she is taking charge of developing spatial plans based on which the work is re-organized. Another staff member is creating a book of recipes for the most important drinks at the bar. Furthermore, in the interface coaching we discuss the ways of improving cooperation between the different departments. For this matter, we agree on 10-minutes power meeting each morning and each evening to be attended by all managers. Priorities are set, where it seemed that capacities were not enough e.g. by cutting the a la carte menu, when gala menus are served. Hence, kitchen and restaurant start working on a system that improves the delivery time and makes sure no table being forgotten. Also, the hotel reception is re-organized between duties that require presence and those administrative ones that require concentration and will be executed in a more silent place. For special days like Christmas and New Years Eve, we work out rules for all involved departments that enable managing the extra load of work. So, the employees end yet another tough work week – but this time with a supportive team spirit and better equipment to master their daily black slopes.

As we leave the Galamenu that evening with satisfaction, my husband looks surprised at me “I don’t know what you did, but tonight they are walking and working completely differently here. They seem more sorted and confident. Seems that this Coaching thing does work after all?!”

A few weeks later I receive a letter form the restaurant manager: “I am just returning form a team meeting – and we are all so motivated! What we have developed in our team coaching - it really works!” Attached to his email is a commentary from a hotel evaluation portal “What a fantastic team this restaurant has – all are incredibly friendly, close to the customer and highly professional – it is a true pleasure to be their guest”.

authored by Julia N. Weiss


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