INTERVIEW: What makes a good hotel manager?

In this exclusive interview, Gary Dodds, VP HR, Marriott International, Middle East & Africa, analyses the difference between a good manager and a good leader, drawing on the inspirational leadership of J. Willard Marriott, whose values still permeate the Marriott business today.

1. What makes a good manager?

As an organization rich in culture and legacy, identifying the characteristics that make a good manager within Marriott International, is simply returning to our Guideposts to Management, The principles that J. Willard Marriott used to successfully build his business. These were passed down as guidelines to run the company in a letter from father to son when J. W. Marriott, Jr. became Executive Vice President in 1964.

In The Marriott Management Philosophy, A living tradition of values and beliefs, J. Willard Marriott, said:

“A businessman once said, ‘A business succeeds not because it is long established or because it is big, but because there are men and women in it who live it, sleep it, dream it, and build great future plans for it.”

“We have realized for a long time that you can’t have a service business with a lot of employees without having people who know how to manage. So we have been teaching our management how to manage, as well as our employees how to take care of their jobs. Good management and trained personnel are the most important factors in our business.”

“Good personnel will work for a competent manager. Go to every length to find, hire, and train good employees and treat them like your family. This is the crux of your whole operation.”

“‘When we had six or seven Hot Shoppes, I’d drive to every one of them every day, sometimes twice a day. Every time I visited, I’d find something was wrong: the root beer was flat or wasn’t cold; the lights hadn’t been turned on at night; or the barbeque machine wasn’t clean. There were just a lot of things our management didn’t do or didn’t see. So I decided then that if we were going to have a lot of places, we had to hire supervisors to do what I was doing – going from one store to the next, training managers.”

“Some of my remarks may appear to be too detailed, but it’s the little things that make the big things possible. The close attention to the fine details of any operation – restaurants, hotels or what-not – makes that operation first class.”

“I think today people have to be better prepared. There’s so much competition today that you’ve got to know your business and what you’re doing.”

“My life experience tells me that success is never final, but the decisions we make along the way determine the end and final outcome.”

2. What makes a good leader?

A good leader is a visionary that inspires, engages, challenges, develops and empowers his team to exceed expectations…drive further and grow.

3. What is the difference between management and leadership? In what ways are each important?

My personal opinion is that we all manage situations, events, people, but manager’s tell others what to do, leaders guide and lead others to make the right decisions for themselves. You manage people to do a job, or you inspire and lead someone to do it for themselves.

4. Can management be taught? Can leadership be taught?

Yes, as long as the desire is there to learn. At Marriott we have training programs that develop both. With over twenty different programs, managers develop the skills and knowledge necessary for outstanding performance within our Core Leadership programs. Courses are taught by certified trainers, professional external experts and property-based management. Other courses are self-directed, including internet-based learning.

5. The importance of empowerment

Empowering our associates is a corner stone within Marriott’s culture. When associates are empowered, they are engaged within the business which directly relates to our financial performance.

6. The impact of good managers and leaders on an organization

Good Managers and Leaders equal organizational growth/profitability.

7. The dangers of weak management for an organisation

Associate (staff) turnover, employer brand reputation, loss in market share, stakeholder investment, etc. After all, “people leave managers not companies.” As Markus Buckingham said in his book, First Break All the Rules.

8. How to spot where training is needed

This too goes back to our culture and standards. As a leading global hotel organization, to spot where training is needed is to look at all aspects of our operation and measure. Are we living our culture, are we exceeding guest expectations, do our associates have all the tools necessary to do their roles and are empowered, who are the rising stars that are our next generation of leaders, what can we do more of, what our associates and stakeholders telling us? Besides gaining feedback and asking these questions, it is also comes down to simply being present within the operation, not managing from your office.

9. Do you have any anecdotes of challenges and how they were overcome and who are the good managers in your eyes?

An HR director, now one of our two area DHR’s who noticed when he was on property that room service guest satisfaction survey results in room service had dropped successively over three months. He reviewed them and saw that they related to specific areas of timing of breakfasts and basic items missing. SO he took the initiative to put together with Room Service management a refresher training, and attended himself, explaining how critical it is for guests to have breakfasts bang on time and attention to detail was everything. Over the following three months guest satisfaction scores rocketed up above where they had been over the previous three years.

10. Who are the best consultancies for management and training?

Your own seasoned leadership across your business.

Author: Hotelier Middle East Staff

Retrieved from:

Date of published: Mar 24, 2014

Date of visited: July 27, 2015

Related Posts