Okay, class, hunker down and pay attention … It’s time for your second lesson in “How to Be a Hospitality Pro … or, How I Became One in My Spare Time.”
You may remember from my last article, “The Hospitality Professional: Part One,” that a Hospitality Pro is far different from a hospitality worker. A hospitality worker works in the hospitality industry. But a pro is something different. Let’s go over the definition once again.
Hospitality is defined as … to create an enriching and sustaining environment for others.
And professional is defined as … one who through long years of study, preparation and experience has become an expert in a particular subject or field of endeavor.
So a hospitality professional is … one who through long years of study and experience has become expert in the act of creating a sustaining and enriching environment for others.
No matter what the level, from frontline to supervisor, from executive to vice president, if you wanna’ be great, then you got to be a professional (and I know many of you are, whether you knew it or not).
Checklist of professional skills for the Hospitality Pro
So, without further ado, the next item on our checklist of professional skills for the Hospitality Pro.
Last time, I spoke of the pre-shot routine and how every professional uses it to “GET UP” for whatever challenges face them, from a tricky court case to a delicate surgery to a shift on the casino floor on a Friday night. You gotta “GET UP” for it.
Today the subject is another favorite of mine, and probably the most critical skill that a pro must develop and hone. I call it … em-pa-the-tize. That’s right, pronounce it just like I spelled it … em – pa – the – TIZE.
Empathy vs. em-pa-the-tize
Okay, I made it up, but it is basically empathy with a capital “THY.” And by empathy, I do not just mean to have empathy for other’s feelings. That’s why I made up a special word for it. Because it encompasses the regular aspects of empathy, along with one very important addition. The ability to understand that IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU!
YOU don’t matter.
YOU aren’t important.
YOU are simply an agent of the company whose overriding goal is to make it about THEM.
It is all about THEM.
THEM is who matters … not YOU.
This manifests itself in many ways, probably the most important of which is the ability to not take things personally. No matter the situation, no matter the crisis, the hospitality professional is skilled at repressing their own feelings and being objective in everything they do. And not just being objective, but factoring in the feelings of the others (read: guests) involved.
To be able to read and assess the emotional make-up of any situation while remaining outside that emotion and in complete control of your objective faculties and abilities, well, that is a skill worth developing and mastering. For those are the ones who keep their heads when all around them are losing theirs. Those are the ones who inspire us with their leadership during a crisis, their motivation during a challenge and their ability to lift us up in the darkest of moments.
And how do you cultivate this ability, how do you em-pa-the-tize with every individual and every situation you encounter, be it back-of-house or front, boardroom or locker room, team member or guest?
Well, it aint’t easy. And I’m not sure that I really know the answer. But I know for me that it was a matter of working on my own emotional control, stepping back and developing my listening skills, and patience, and most importantly, discipline. To recognize my weaknesses in this area and constantly work on them.
Top ten guidelines for mastering em-pa-the-tize
So, here, in no particular order, are my top ten guidelines for developing and mastering em-pa-the-tize as part of your professional skill set:
- Listen, don’t talk.
- Study and master the interpretation of body language.
- Learn to be accepting of others’ needs and wants, EVEN IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH THEM.
- Never give something to someone in anger; give it freely and warmly, or don’t give it at all.
- Identify those mentors in your past who had this quality and then constantly ask yourself, “What would they do in this situation?”
- Always first answer the question, “What do they really want or need from me, or us?”
- Keep at it until you find the “WIN-WIN.” Don’t accept any less of a solution.
- Drop the titles, drop the authority, drop the power and money. Just be a person. Just be you.
- No matter what someone else says (or yells), they don’t truly know your mother. Let it go.
- Try to be the last to speak. That way you’ve gathered all the knowledge you can, and whatever you say or do should incorporate all of that earned wisdom.
And the bonus round goes to …
- Be creative, do something, do anything, but above all else, whatever you do, like the physician’s credo … at least DO NO HARM.
Once again, there are no clear-cut solutions, answers or tactics for this. The key is simply to be aware of it. To realize that it is a skill you need to develop and master, and then work at doing just that … for the rest of your career.
Your team members, your peers, your guests, your organization, even your parents will thank you for it. And the world will be a better place.
Thanks for listening, have fun and keep making it about THEM!