Many of the qualities shared by five-star leaders are common to all. A great quality of a leader is the belief that their team can be great. They should ask themselves if their team is not capable of doing great things. Or if they have low expectations that are hindering their potential to do great things. Low expectations encourage low performance and average performance. High expectations promote high performance. Many managers of low-performing groups blame their staff for their teams’ poor performance. “Oh, we don’t have the talent”, “we don’t pay enough wages,” etc. These excuses are not valid. I have seen businesses that provide the same product and hire from the exact same labor pool but offer vastly different services. The only thing that can make a difference is the leadership of the building. Even a 5-star hotel can go from achieving exceptional service ratings to being mediocre. The staff, labor pool, and tools were all the same. Only the senior Brandon Long Denver had changed. In the beginning, the hotel had a general manger who believed in the endless potential of the staff’s service abilities and treated them like professionals. The hotel has changed significantly since then, as the general managers who followed didn’t believe the team was possible.

Many employees want to work with a leader who is high on expectations and believes strongly in them. Recently, I had the chance to spend a night at Marquis Los Cabos resort near Los Cabos in Mexico. It was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. I was greeted warmly by every employee during my three-day stay. Every employee was eager to help. I asked the general manager of the hotel what kept the service standards at the resort so high. She said it without hesitation, “Keep the employees very happy.” That’s it. You may have heard it before as a business leader: Happy employees equal happy customers. There was something else about her words and her delivery. It was clear that the phrase “Keep the employees very happy” wasn’t just HR or public relations jargon. Her voice was loud and her intense eyes showed that employee engagement is a priority for her hotel. Marquis Los Cabos’ general manager believes that high employee engagement is linked to exceptional service delivery. Engaged guests are the result of engaged employees.

One of the best things about benchmarking, is that you can find many examples of highly successful leaders who are able keep their employees engaged. Leaders who can build and sustain a high-quality service culture are five-star stars. They do this by keeping their employees engaged.

These leaders do the following things:
o They have high standards for the service they are expecting to receive (no exceptions! ).

o Each member of their team is a key part of providing a great service experience.

o Never allow any member of the team to give less than 100%. Five-star leaders understand that one member of a team can be a hindrance to the team’s progress.

o They speak about excellence every day. Newsletters are often used to share the “standard of day”, company mission statement and story of service excellence as well as business results such as occupancy %. Five-star leaders understand that engaged employees make for better leaders.

o They reward outstanding performance on a daily basis (usually daily).

o They are an integral part the on-boarding process (hiring and interviewing, orientation). Every employee, from dishwashers to front-office managers, is interviewed by the Marquis Los Cabos general manager. Many of the finest properties in the world don’t permit new employee orientation without the general manager.

o They make sure that the purpose of each role is communicated at the interview and during on-boarding (ex. Your job is not too open, but it is to greet guests and make them feel valued and cared for).
o They invest continuously in employee development (this doesn’t have to be a training course, it can be book clubs, one-on-1 meetings, mentoring or cross-training in other departments). Not only are five-star leaders aware that employee development does not depend on financial woes, but they also know the importance of long-term planning.

o Require that all members of the team treat each other with the same urgency, excellence, and attention as an external customer.

Ensure that everyone is aware of their benefits. You can also use lunch-and-learn sessions and other ad-hoc activities.

o To work with team members as needed. Early in my career, one of my most fondest memories was of a 5-star general manger. We were late in setting up a large banquet room for our restaurant colleagues. The general manager arrived at the hotel with all the other managers to assist us in setting up the room.

Once I was told that if you have to say you are a gentleman, you aren’t one. Your actions should speak for you. A leader of 5-star caliber should be the same. You can be a living, breathing example of excellence in service. Encourage your team through actions and words. The delivery of exceptional customer services is only 20% of the equation, according to 5-star leaders. It is the other 80%, employee engagement processes, that create a culture of service excellence.

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