My first job after graduating from university in the mid 1980’s was a wedding planner in one of Scottish and Newcastle Breweries ex-seaside hotels in Tynemouth. The hotel had certainly seen better days, a little like Norma Desmond, exuding an aura of faded glory, but times were pretty tough for graduates back then, so I was simply delighted that I had found work. Little did I know that I was about to step into a place that would change my approach to life forever…
The hotel was run by two of the most amazing people I have met, with a brilliant outlook on life, sharp business acumen, and a single minded focus on making the experience of every guest that stepped into the hotel as magical as possible. On my first day I arrived at the hotel feeling rather nervous, and I was greeted by the general manager, Steve, who said to me that he, and the Deputy Manager Eric, were about to start their day with a 20 minute meditation – I was welcome to sit in with them if I wanted to. As part of my induction, he had arranged for me to take part in a meditation training programme should I wish to do so – this all sounded very weird to me! I knew little about meditation, and thought it was something connected with the 1960’s and flower power, and I had read a few articles about The Beatles discovering the technique on a trip to India – so I thought I had give it a try – after all I didn’t want to upset my boss on my first day.
Working in the hospitality sector, and running a busy hotel, is very hard work, physically, intellectually and emotionally. The hours are long, the team of people you are working with are often very low paid and there is always something to go wrong – and yet, this time is the happiest I have been at work, and the job was hugely rewarding; it was completely due to the operating environment that Steve and Eric created – today it is probably referred to as culture, but such a concept was not part of our vocabulary in those days! It was just ‘the way things are done around here’ and everyone appeared to love being there.
Each day at 9.00am and 6.00pm we would hold a team meditation for 20 minutes (the offer to learn meditation was given to all staff who worked in the hotel regardless of their position – it wasn’t a forced thing, and those who did not want to take part were never disadvantaged) before we would hold the stand-up meeting with the team leaders who were on duty. At the end of each meditation session we would set out our intention for the shift ahead which was:
To be fully present and engaged in what we were about to do
To care about the people we were working with
To create a magical experience for everyone visiting the hotel that day
To have fun and enjoy our work
This was also the point of focus after each ‘standup’ or function team meeting.
As I shared with you at the start of this article, the hotel was certainly no 5* Deluxe venue – it was a 3* seaside hotel in need of a serious makeover and yet, despite the huge amount of competition around, there was a great demand to use the hotel, and a waiting list of people who wanted to work there. The hotel had created a strong reputation as a fantastic place for a wedding reception venue, and we could host anything up to 7 weddings on the same day at the height of the summer, and still make each bride and groom feel as if they were the centre of our world.
So why did magic happen?
The leaders (managers and team leaders) created an environment where they demonstrated that everyone working in the hotel really did matter – from the General Manager to the Night Porter – and promoted an ethos, that in order to be effective and successful, you needed to take care of yourself and others around you – everyone was important. It was a clear expectation that you arrived at work with a strong sense of ‘presence’ and wanting to give of your best. This approach created strong teams – with mutual support and a common focus – teams who wanted to create magic. They also generated a belief that although we may not have been the most prestigious hotel in the region, we could create an experience where everyone would be made to feel amazing – magical.
Long before I became aware of Organisational Development, Employee Engagement and Customer Service Philosophy I discovered working in this little unique oasis of positivity – each day we would check in with our team members to remind ourselves why we did what we did, and the response would be – to make magic happen for our customers and make them feel special – we all knew exactly why we were working at the hotel – what we had to do – and the way we had to work to create magic, being fully present each and every day and creating the best possible experience of every customer .
There was no folder full of HR policies – no one off annual appraisals – no procedures for talent development – the recruitment process was focussed in the main around behaviours and everyone was expected to spend a shift experiencing what it was like to work in the hotel before a job offer was made. There was a clear and compelling vision why we existed – to be the number 1 destination for weddings and banquets in the North East – a strong business ethos with stretching targets that had to be met in order to be profitable. Alongside this we also had a very clear statement about the people who came to work at the hotel (it certainly wasn’t about money as the wages would always be at a minimum level) but it was about treating everyone with compassion and respect – enabling everyone to develop qualities that would set you apart – allowing you to flourish and be part of creating magic. The fact that everyone mattered, and genuinely appreciated for what they brought to the team, thanked and their contribution celebrated was the foundation for the reason why people loved working there.
This is what the Mindful HR approach is all about:
Together, our mindful approach will create a fresh outlook that will enable you to connect with people on a human and everyday level by:
· Re-aligning your HR function
· Co-creating opportunities that will involve people meaningfully in decision making
· Leading people creatively and experimenting with different ways of doing things
· Redefining and simplifying the core HR policies that make the difference to business performance
· Co-creating a workplace where people LOVE:
* Who they work for
* Who they work with
* What they do
There are clear tangible benefits:
Your people – will be motivated, with higher levels of performance, lower levels of stress and absence, and willing to give that discretionary effort.
Your business – will be more profitable, creative and innovative and will be known as a great place to work.
Your customers – will benefit from an enhanced experience, have a greater sense of loyalty to your business and will spread the word about the quality of your services/products which is magic in itself.
This is a way of being for me, and I am delighted to be able to share with you my ideas about how you can create effective, resilient, low-cost responses to increasingly challenging problems.
The learning I unexpectedly fell into over 30 years ago has been the foundation of everything I have done, and believed in since – for Steve and Eric it was ‘just the way things are done around here’ and magic certainly did happen and I would love to share that learning with you.
If you want to discuss further, I would be delighted to hear from you – please do call me on 07504 208696.