Driving for Hotel Management Success

Do you remember your first great manager? I do. Looking back on the first 25 years of my career working in hospitality, I’ll never forget a hotel general manager I worked with who was great at her job. She had a knack for putting the right employees into the right positions. She always knew the right time to step in and lend a helping hand. And she was one of the most empathetic people I’ve ever met. Not only was she a great manager, she ran an ultra-successful hotel.

During my time in the hospitality field, and later in my academic career, I have always wondered: What was her secret to success? The truth is, there wasn’t just one thing she did right. Rather, an inherent understanding of the importance of strong leadership, empowering employees and developing a unique culture are what made her and other hotel managers, who recognize these principles successful.

The following tips may give you a fresh perspective on how to apply these insights about successful hotel management in your organization:

Hotel Management Tip 1: Cultivate a Strong Leadership Team

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to effective hotel management—individual leaders have their own style. But, in general, strong leaders demonstrate employee-centric leadership styles. As J. Willard Marriott famously advised his own hotel managers, “Take care of associates, and they’ll take care of your customers.”

strong leaders demonstrate employee-centric leadership styles

The general manager plays a key role in driving success, as the one setting the tone, cultivating the culture and empowering staff, while maintaining an active role in sales and marketing efforts. It is also important for the general manager’s second in command to have a complementary management style. Keep in mind, however, the cohesiveness of the leadership team must extend beyond the general manager and second in command.

A strong leadership team demonstrates teamwork, camaraderie, and excellent communication among all members regardless of level or function—from direct report employees to frontline hotel staff.

By being approachable and accessible, leaders can empower employees to come to them for anything, whether they have questions, need direction or can’t solve a problem on their own.

Hotel Management Tip 2: Nurture and Empower Employees

In our industry, exceptional customer service is often the differentiating factor among businesses—but don’t allow the customer focus to outweigh your focus on employees.

don’t allow the customer focus to outweigh your focus on employees

Successful hotels also place a strong emphasis on person-organization fit or hiring the right employee for each job. These are typically people who are customer service-oriented, motivated to come to work every day and work well with others to achieve a common goal. One measure of fit is the unwritten rule that all employees put customers first.


READ ALSO: Shift General Manager Leadership Styles to Drive Hotel Success


Beyond hiring the right people, successful organizations prioritize ongoing employee development. There are many ways to do this, including departmental cross-training, developing a mentor program, prioritizing internal promotion over external recruiting, and using creative staffing to utilize the unique strengths of each employee. For example, if an employee is great with people, make sure they are in a customer-facing role.

Cross-training benefits the business because when there is turnover, leadership can effectively fill the positions with internal candidates, saving time and resources when searching for talent. Those employees can then use their multi-department learning in future management positions to support one another and improve cross-department collaboration.

Simple actions such as recognizing and rewarding employees for a job well done, and taking an active role in service recovery, can also help you focus on employees’ needs while creating positive guest interactions.

Hotel Management Tip 3: View Culture as a Competitive Advantage

Today many large chains are trying to move away from the “cookie cutter” hotel approach—but they often have top-down brand standards that allow for little personalization. At the same time, guests increasingly value unique cultures and experiences.

Culture is one area where leaders can assert some influence and create a competitive edge. Based on what I’ve learned over the years, hotel cultures often have similar values and norms, but their manifestation may be very different.

For example, some hotels exhibit a culture of inclusiveness by hiring employees with diverse cultural backgrounds and highlighting these cultural differences with monthly potluck lunches for employees to share specialty foods with their co-workers. Others can demonstrate a culture of philanthropy by coordinating all-staff community service events.

The most successful hotels have a culture that serves as a source of strength both internally among employees and externally among competitors and the public—and at the end of the day, contributes to the bottom line.

Done well, culture can even garner awards and recognition, helping position your hotel as a leader in the market and thus enabling you to charge premium rates, bringing more profits to the management company and the hotel owners.

Successful Hotel Management: The Bottom Line

When trying to stand out in a sea of sameness, there are several things hotels can do to differentiate themselves from competitors and sustain a high level of success.

A lot of it comes down to cultivating strong leadership, hiring the right employees and fostering a unique culture. While they may take shape in different ways for each organization, these are the common elements I’ve seen in ultra-successful hotels throughout my career.



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