Whether it's voting for a new political leader in a general election, the appointment of a new football team coach/manager, or the announcement of a new Director of Revenue (DOR), Hotel General Manager (GM), or company CEO, we exist in a universe that looks for and expects, positive change to come from the top.
But what if we've got it wrong? Could the pyramid be turned on its head for greater effect?
In my hospitality leadership consulting job, I coach companies and leaders as they transition from control-based leadership to system-based, dispersed leadership. The latter relies heavily on a structure to aid micro and macro decision-making. I.e. A clear and well-articulated vision that sets the direction. Core values that convey expected behaviors and shape the desired culture. SMART goals, or OKRs that guide day-to-day focus and create accountability, etc.
While all these valuable tools are essential ingredients for system-based, dispersed leadership and empowerment, they are not the keys to truly unlocking peak performance. And none of these aspects are what made the best teams I have been involved with, or witnessed, special.
So, what did?
Well, they all lead themselves.
The best teams I've been on never relied on the coach, CEO, GM, DOR, or department boss for leadership. They weren't dependent on an authority to hold them accountable. And they didn't need to be motivated.
Maybe you're a DOR and waiting on your boss to unveil a big/wonderous commercial driver triggering budgetary stardom. Perhaps you're working in a revenue team and waiting for your DOR to unearth an elusive, ground-breaking revenue stream to propel you and your teammates into the stratosphere. This edition of ERM Dispatch, suggests neither is likely to happen and you'll be waiting for quite some time.
So, how DO you become special?
You take the platform your leader has set - the vision, values, goals, and tone - and you build on that foundation by taking unreasonable ownership.
In my experience, unreasonable ownership begins with one person. Like a former captain of my boyhood Australian football team, Essendon FC; the great James Hird.
After a long, enduring season eventually losing a disappointing Grand Final, his teammates dragooned him into attending the end-of-year players' trip to Ibiza, Spain. While on the trip, where the team was supposed to be unwinding, James would wake up at 5 a.m. every day and start the day by running 10km. He would follow his run with a big workout session in the hotel gym and a 2km open water swim. James had convinced himself that if he was to train more than any other player, he would have an edge at the end of games when others were tiring.
Upon returning from his run one morning, he crossed paths with a teammate returning from a famed Ibiza foam party. That teammate was Mark McVeigh who having seen James covered in sweat returning from a run, became ashamed of his own self-indulgent partying. Inspired by James' dedication, the following day Mark decided to join him on the run, workout, and subsequent swim.
Slowly, word began to spread about the duo training while still on their end-of-season vacation. Eventually, the entire group took it upon themselves to start their next year's preparation. Inspired by one person's actions, the team took unreasonable ownership and began the process of making amends for their raw, and excruciating Grand Final loss.
One player's act of self-leadership sparked the beginning of a team revolution. It shaped a culture that saw the team not only win the next year's Grand Final but dominate the competition for the next three years.
You see, James Hird had decided that he wanted to be special. Without direction from club coaching staff or leaders, he elevated his efforts and established high standards, first for himself, then for a teammate, then another, and another, until it inevitably became contagious and rubbed off on the whole group. Before long, it was normalized. If you were a teammate who didn't strive for excellence, you didn't fit into the group and were an outsider. Rather than being toxic and pressured, people wanted to be part of the success.
I believe all great teams operate this way, irrespective of their arena. In our case, the arena is the hotel industry. The decision to outthink, outsmart, outwork, and outplay your competitors is for YOU to make - not the figurehead. Sure, the titled leader establishes standards, but for the team to become truly special, ultimately leadership comes from within.
Today, when I consult with hotel brands and companies on performance, I always look for the source of leadership within the business. Is it in the form of a 'top-down' conventional pyramid? Or is the pyramid inverted and leadership is coming from within?
Both are critical, but the latter is what drives special performance.
About the author: Rob Paterson was a 15-year veteran of Revenue Management before entering the C-Suite and eventually being named CEO of Best Western Hotels Great Britain in 2018, a role he occupied for almost 4 years. He now resides in the US and is the founder of the Grind Leadership Academy and Elite Revenue Management Community. To learn more about how Grind Leadership Academy can help elevate yours' and your company's performance, check out the services page and schedule a call or join one of the upcoming podcasts listed on the ERM LinkedIn group.
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