Hospitality sector is the ultimate people business

by Carmen To

Hotel management involves psychology and empathy

In the hospitality business, it is vital to understand individuals and be able to deal with them however the situation demands. As general manager of the Majestic Hotel in Guangzhou, David Ho has therefore made a point of developing this quality in order to work successfully with both staff and guests.

"Understanding different personalities is a tough job, but it is a part of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of employees," he says. "Then you are in a position to recognise good performance or improvement and work on other areas. If you do that right, it can give a sense of satisfaction that is hard to describe."

Success also depends on having a passion for the business. "That is what inspires interest and commitment and makes you want to have responsibility for fixing the problems that come up every day," Mr Ho says. "It helps you see them as a challenge and means you appreciate it every time you see a customer thanking a member of staff for doing a good job."

Mr Ho originally trained at the prestigious Glion hotel school in Switzerland in the 1970s. After returning to Hong Kong, he set about gaining professional experience and realised there were no shortcuts if you wanted to do the job well. "When you get to the level of managing a team, you see that psychology plays an important part in getting things done, and so does empathy," he says.

In mid-80s, Mr Ho made what was then a brave move by accepting an offer to work for new hotel projects in the mainland. He was involved in planning, development and management. One of the biggest challenges was maintaining good staff relations and getting people to understand the importance of teamwork.

There are now more than 11,000 hotels in China and the government has rated them according to design, concept and standards of service. "People see the need for brand building and realise it can give an edge," says Mr Ho. Part of that is to find recruits with professional qualifications and knowledge of international hotel practices.

"Average salary levels are not much different from Hong Kong but people who decide to work in the mainland can really benefit from the experience, cultural knowledge and making new contacts," he adds. "If you have a clear career goal, you can definitely move up from your initial position to become a general manager and then reach regional and even international management level."

Management techniques

  • Understand the job from different aspects and on different levels
  • Know the people and delegate tasks depending on individual ability
  • Reward good performance and encourage improvement where necessary
  • Build a sense of belonging by working towards common goals

Taken from Career Times 04 August 2006
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