Successful resorts don’t happen without great management. If employees aren’t inspired, job duties aren’t clear and high standards aren’t demanded, it won’t matter if there’s a beautiful view and luxurious accommodations, guests won’t receive great service and maintenance will suffer. Similarly, even “experienced” properties can receive glowing comment cards and provide top-notch accommodations when employees are motivated and well-trained.
But how can you know if the job candidate sitting across the desk from is the one who’ll lead your team to the mountaintop? Resort Trades checked in with three industry experts to see how they identify management talent and what it looks like in action. Here are some key things to look for.
A great manager exudes enthusiasm. “You can spot it in the way they move; you can hear it in their voice,” says Dale Goodman, president of Newport News, VA.-based Goodmanagement. “They have to have a passion for this job, which includes caring for guests, caring for employees and caring for the resort.”
That passion is infectious. “Their attitude becomes their team’s attitude,” adds Ken McKelvey, CPA, RRP, who serves as CEO of Myrtle Beach, SC-based Defender Resorts. “Guests may be here just seven days, but we want them to be the seven days that they look forward the whole rest of the year. I want someone who understands this and will do all things with the end goal in mind–enhancing our guests’ vacations.”
Lisa Wanzenried, vice president of marketing at Carlsbad, CA-based Grand Pacific Resorts, lists this as her No. 1 criteria for new managers. “The value of the team is so much greater when management is driven by the team experience,” she says. “You want someone who has experience leading a team and supporting that team. They have to appreciate that our customer is not just our guests, but also our internal customer, and that we have to support each other.”
McKelvey agrees. “I hate hearing the word I, as in ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that,’” he says. “I want someone who sees themselves as part of the team.”
A great manager has to know how to inspire others and get buy-in. However, what motivates one person may not work for someone else. “In interviews, I ask management candidates to provide examples of how they motivated different types of people to see if there’s any variation in how they did it,” Wanzenried says.
“A great manager must be a superior communicator,” Wanzenried says. “No team can function without clear communication. It’s not just about verbal skills, though. It’s also the whole way they present themselves, including their body language.”
The second part of communicating is listening to what others are saying. “It’s true what they say: the lord gave us two eyes and two ears but only one mouth for a reason,” McKelvey says. “Whether it’s a guest or an employee, you have to take the time to hear what they are saying instead of formulating your response while they are talking.”
While a great manager has to be authoritative, they also have to consider employees’ ideas and feelings. “While there are many different management styles, I like to see a leader be inclusive,” Wanzenried says. This is even more essential when managing Gen X and Millennial employees. “This new generation of employees wants to be heard. You do much better when you explain the rationale, examine the circumstances and then get employee buy-in. Even if the end decision isn’t the one they prefer, it’s better when employees know you took their opinions into consideration.”
Empowering employees to take control of their own jobs is part of it. “I have a controller who has earned both her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree while working here,” McKelvey says. “Since she worked her way up, she knows exactly how to do every job in her department. Yet when I see her explaining to employees how she would do something, she doesn’t demand that they do it exactly that way. She lets them decide how, as long as the get the same result.”
A great manager is decisive. “They can’t be afraid to make a mistake,” Wanzenried says. “We want someone who thrives on the experience of trying new things and sometimes failing.” Once they make a decision, they need to stand behind it unless there’s a good reason not to.
“You want someone who can take what might be a pointed question from a board member and give an informative answer without being defensive,” McKelvey says.
“A good manager has to be able to set goals and then make a plan to get there,” McKelvey says. This includes researching options and ensuring that staff members have the tools and resources in place to do their job. “Everyone who works here know that I work for them,” Goodman says. “A guy from the military who spoke to my Rotary Club explained it best. He said, ‘for every steely-eyed people killer, there are seven people supporting him.’ It’s our job to make sure they can do their jobs.”
A great plan only works when it’s actually carried out. The value of execution was recently demonstrated. “We had a resort that was unfit for occupancy after being hit by a tornado at noon,” Goodman recalls. “We had 157 units occupied, but by 6 p.m. everyone was relocated and those who needed to go the hospital were at the hospital.” In this case, a disaster plan was in place, but more importantly, the resort’s employees had received training on the plan and new what their roles were. The resort manage had identified resources, and they were all available when needed. “The plan was followed to a ‘T,’” he says.
“They need to be ethical,” McKelvey says. “Everything they do reflects on the company.” Also, employees respond better to a leader who has their respect and trust. “A great manager is authentic and doesn’t have a secondary agenda,” adds Wanzenried.
Are they born with it?
All three experts agree that when it comes to great managers, some things can be taught, but usually they’re “born that way.” “I think it has to be there in their personality,” Goodman says. “If they aren’t exciting, if they can’t motivate people, I’m not sure you can teach that. If they’re not the right type of person, then it’s not a good fit.”
Yes, it’s important that managers understand the industry and what their people do. “Other things can be taught, but common sense and moral standards are innate,” McKelvey says.
“A manager must know how to delegate and empower their staff; they don’t have to know exactly how to do all the day-to-day work,” Wanzenried says. “It’s their job to be a resource and to create the vision of where the team is going.”