EP #26 – Conquering The Leadership Gap In Hospitality, with Sarah Pittson

Sarah PittsonIf you’ve been in hospitality for any length of time you’ve probably been told the keys to exceptional guest service are things like anticipating the guests’ needs, showing empathy, creating a connection, etc.
Our guest today, Sarah Pittson, says those things are all true but there’s a component some hospitality establishments are missing.

On today’s show, Sarah shares what that component is, how to know if you’re missing it and what to do if you are. She also explains the difference between managing a team and leading them. Be sure to listen in for all of that and more on episode 26 of Hospitality Academy!

Essential Learning Points From This Episode:

  • What is FOOT training?
  • Why we sometimes need to unlearn things in order to learn them.
  • Can empathy and connection be taught? If so, how?
  • What is the difference between managing a team and leading them?
  • Are leadership skills measurable?
  • And so much more!

Sarah’s hospitality career began when she was hired as part of the opening team for a hotel in Washington state. Her first role was as a room attendant, then as a breakfast bar hostess and eventually, she took on various front desk roles.

When she was hired at a Holiday Inn and Convention Center, she was fortunate to have a director who was a proponent of training. This director hired great trainers to speak with the staff about excellent guest service and conflict resolution.  These trainings brought out Sarah’s innate passion for being on teams that excelled, a thread that would weave itself throughout her entire career.

Sarah went on to become a front office manager, an assistant GM and a GM, before working as a brand consultant on the brand service consulting team for IHG.

Today’s she a certified leadership trainer, coach, and speaker with the John Maxwell team. In her role, she coaches clients on how to break through their personal barriers, starting with self-leadership.

When I asked her to talk about the leadership gap within the hospitality industry, she explained that we all hear and read experts say the key to creating a meaningful and memorable experience is to have your team members gain a connection with the guests and anticipate their needs, uncover issues and show empathy.

These are all true, but they are not as easily implemented. Sarah saw this pattern and asked herself what was missing? She analyzed hotel performance from a scientific perspective, and asked questions like what specifically makes a hotel successful? What do hotel teams need to do well to perform at high levels? She also looked at why aren’t high performing teams doing the things they’ve been taught, the things they know to do?

Sarah has found it is far more about the “how”, then it is about the “what”. Everyone knows what to do, but not everyone knows how to do it. And often teams don’t know how to do it every single time, intentionally.

Another topic Sarah touches on is measuring leadership skills. Can you actually measure them? A lot of people say no but Sarah says yes. She says you can measure leadership skills by looking at guest feedback reports, employee engagement reports, and the relationship between those reports and revenue.

[ctt template=”5″ link=”c8MOb” via=”yes” nofollow=”yes”]”You have to lead yourself before you can lead someone else.”[/ctt]

If you look at guests reviews on TripAdvisor you can see if there is a leadership gap. If you examine both guest reviews and how hotel employees are responding to the guests’ issues, you can find existing leadership gaps. Employees imitate how their leader treat them, which in turn carries over into how guests are treated.

When your team is treated with kindness, connection, and empathy all the time and in overflow, it will translate to your team treating your guests that way. But it has to be done consistently and not just as a one-off.

Also on this episode, Sarah shares what differentiates her training as well as the signs you should look for to know if leadership training is right for you and your team. You’ll hear all of that and more on episode 26 of Hospitality Academy!

Important Links & Mentions From This Episode:

Thank You for Tuning In!

There are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, but you chose mine, and I’m grateful for that. If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it by using the social media buttons you see at the side of this page.

Also, kindly consider taking the 60-seconds it takes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on iTunes, they’re extremely helpful when it comes to the ranking of the show and you can bet that I read every single one of them personally!

Lastly, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live!