by David Bowd, Founder of Salt Hotels
A part of a new editorial series produced by BLLA and StayBoutique jointly with the goal of providing a platform for Boutique Hoteliers to communicate with each other.
Ariela graciously asked me if I would contribute to this new blog and it is my total pleasure – actually it is a bit of a godsend during what has been the most trying week of my 36 year hospitality career.
When I say trying, I think a better word to use is emotional.
The speed of change has been mind-blowing during this epidemic and I don’t think there is anyone in our industry that has been truly able to keep up.
This has been a tough week for us all, we have had to let people go, ask people to change jobs, ask our leaders and teams to take significant pay reductions and all the time trying to stay calm, run hotels for the few guests that are left and be a walking example of what we expect of everyone else. Many of us, including industry icons such as Arne Sorensen in his video to Marriott staff and the world, have heard and felt our voices crack under the responsibility and pressure of being a hotel leader during this terrible time.
This morning I read a dreadful letter sent from a General Manager at the Coylumbridge Hotel, a Britannia Hotel in Northern Scotland, to his staff sacking them “on the advice of the government” and for those that have live-in accommodation to vacate it immediately. Whilst it is without doubt one of the worst and uncaring letters I have ever read I am not blaming that specific General Manager as I am sure he was acting under instruction from above but it made me realize what my message today should be and what we all need a reminder of;
Lead with Kindness
Not a single one of us is going to make all the right decisions, we have no guidebook for every situation we are facing right now but if we take a step back on every decision and contemplate “Am I doing the right thing? Am I being Kind?” then we will all come out of this better. That is the goal, not to come out of it the same as we were before, not to have learnt and changed nothing, but to learn from every day of this crisis and to lead and teach those in our care the very best examples. We must remember our teams now will be the leaders and CEOs of the future and when we have retired, let them make better decisions following what they learnt from us over this pandemic.
Take this moment as a hotelier to focus almost entirely on your employees, many of whom you have had to let go, what can you still do to help them?
-Is it a free simple hot meal once a day?
-Is it providing rent-free accommodation for a short time?
-Is it setting up a hotline or email communication with anyone that may need your help?
-Is it calling employees landlords to help with rent delays?
-Is it writing letters of recommendation, call local supermarkets, offer to train our staff on their systems for short term employment.
-Is it setting up virtual fitness and social events online?
We have a personal responsibility to check in on those that we have had to let go, isolation is a significant contributor for mental health issues and one call, one facetime, one offer of help can make a huge difference.
Gather your senior leadership team, thank them for their support during this time and work together to put an action plan in place of how you can collectively help those less fortunate than you all.
No one can blame you during this time for laying off staff, making tough and unpopular decisions – but they can blame you for how you deal with it. Please, whatever level you hold within an organization from CEO to front line staff – lead with kindness and together we really will all get through this.