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Of late I was delivering a course on team work and management and we were discussing the different prerogatives that the person in charge has.

When you’re in charge of a business, when you’re leading a team, you are in an unique position to :

1.      always be happy

2.      always show empathy

3.      be lonely most of the time

4.      never falter

Of course, this is said with some humour, but when really reflecting on this, there is an amount of truth in this.

In the past, I had the pleasure of working together with a team of about 160 staff. I tried to generally be in a good mood but, just like most, didn’t always succeed. My HR of the time told me it’d be good to do a little test.

Would I show up in the morning without greeting team members and going straight to my office?

I repeated this 2 or 3 days in a row and immediately rumours started to spread throughout the hotel : there was something wrong, the hotel was in danger, we were being bought, I was fired, and more of the kind.

What actually happened is that staff stopped working, stopped paying attention to the customers and spend more time gossiping and trying to find out who was on the “winning side”.

So being grumpy is no option.

As a leader you should always display empathy, you can never expect the reverse from your team.If you do, it will backfire. Imagine asking the staff for sympathy because you didn’t have the time to give them what they wanted, however small. Their answer will be swift : “you wanted to be the guy in the drivers’ seat, the rest is your problem”. And right they are too, because with the position come a number of givens, this is one of them.

The situation could evolve to staff not trusting you anymore for telling you their issues or problems and when staff don’t trust the boss, they look for another person to turn to. That is how parallel organisations are born.

When you’re a team member or a department head, there is always a colleague you can turn to. You can discuss working conditions, compare experiences, moan if you must. However, as soon as you become GM, all of that stops. You cannot go upstairs to get sympathy, lest you’re found to be weak, and you certainly cannot look to your team lest you lose all or part of your credibility.

It takes a good and strong organisation to support business unit leaders effectively. I’ve been fortunate to work in one or two but I also worked for others where any sign by the GM that he needed sympathy was considered to be a weakness.

Now I know that when you work in an organisation and that you are in a responsible position, you must also take ownership and responsibility. Still, managers are human, just like the people they lead.

It has become easier over the years, as generations change, to show weakness in the work environment. As mentioned before, we’re all humans.

In certain cultures, showing weakness at a top position is still not done. But it is the right thing to do, for it will show the people we work with that we’re no robots and that managers or leaders too have their off moments.

The question will always be how and what you do about it.

Of late, stress has become an important topic when talking about business.Stress could account for 1/3rd of all work related illness. Sometimes it’s called a burnout when really severe. So why would anyone aspire to become a business leader or a manager? Taking responsibilities home, losing sleep on difficult business issues, being put under pressure by customers, by staff, by owners, bankers and more…..

That was the question those participants asked me : can you become a leader?I think the answer is no, you either are or you’re not.

You can become a better manager, leader and person though, through experience and training. But also through mistakes and through feedback from others.

For more on developing your leadership or management skills, visit us on www.lhcconsulting.com

Join our CMP programme from June 12th to 16th 2017 : My Leadership, My Brand


Photo P.Verbeke 4×6

Pierre Verbeke Senior Consultant at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting

Pierre Verbeke is a Senior Consultant at LHC. He has an extensive career in hotel operations, pre-openings and re-brandings. He is first and foremost an operational person having managed several hotels in Belgium and having set up many pre-opening teams in different countries. He also has gained a wealth of experience opening hotels for a large Hotel Operator in various European, North African and Eastern European countries. He is particularly at ease with project management and knows how to deliver the highest quality of service within the agreed timeframe.

Pierre has experience with leased, managed and franchise properties and undserstands the various demands from owners, investors, and operators within the different projects. Pierre is an alumnus of Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. He speaks Dutch, German, French and English, with some notions of Spanish.