Amery was guest speaker at The Business League recently where she shared her experience and learnings around leadership and the importance of leading in your own authentic way in order to get great results.
Apart from being the first female General Manager in the Sofitel chain, Amery is also in charge of around 200 people — and in an industry which is renowned for its transient nature.
When I caught up with Amery, I asked her about her leadership style and how she builds loyalty among such a large team.
How high is the workforce turnover in hospitality and how to do manage that?
“In our industry, having 50% turnover in hospitality is not unusual, depending on the market that you are in.
The Gold Coast obviously has a lifestyle that people enjoy, so turnover is naturally a little bit lower and it’s probably around 30%.
With specific strategies that we use in our business, we keep it down. So this year it’s 17%, last year it was 19%, so it’s having very specific strategies to make sure that you’re creating an environment for our people, that they want to be in.”
What is something specific that you do to get that level loyalty from your staff?
“Many, many years ago, I never forgot the first time … I’ve only had it happen to me twice. I was given a hand-written card from our General Manager. That was 25 years ago. And so every year on one of my staff member’s birthdays, I write every single staff member a birthday card, and in that birthday card, I recognise something special that they have done as an individual that has contributed to the success of our business.
It could be something about their personality. It could be something that they are really warm and bubbly, their attention to detail, the great comments that they get from the guests, and that recognition that they get is personal.
That’s a game changer. People, when you show them that you see them, and that you value them, they show that appreciation back to you by being loyal to you.”
So beyond paying your staff, they need to feel valued?
“Workforces are very different these days, and they do want to contribute. As a business leader you have to consider, how do you make your people feel valued? How do you see them?
I walked up to one of my painters and said, “I love that wall colour you painted.”
And he says, “How did you know that the wall changed colours?”
Like, “Because I walk around and look at what you do.”
It’s those little things, and it doesn’t take much effort, and it costs no money. It’s just a great and easy way to lead your people.”
How important is attention to detail as a leader of an organisation, small or large?
“I’m from the States and there is this continuous drive for improvement.
You constantly want your business to be better but we are human, so we make mistakes.
When people send feedback, they start with, “I am so sorry to have to tell you this…”. My response is like “Oh, it’s a gift. Thank you so much for being honest and sharing that with me.”
So I look at feedback, but it is about the attention to detail, and looking around and making sure you stop and be very present at work.
When you walk into an area and it doesn’t look quite right and doesn’t feel quite right, what’s not there?
It’s taking that time to look at your business through, perhaps, somebody else’s eyes, to understand how you could improve, and I’m constantly looking for that.”
What place do intuition and feeling have in business, specifically in leadership?
“It is interesting. There are two very distinct schools around intuition. Some people say: absolutely not, stick with facts and figures and other people say: how can you run a business without intuition? I suppose you take both.
I approach something truthfully. If it is intuition, or if it’s just the environment and the vibe.
So, when you walk in, a person can have a vibe… a room can have a vibe. I walk in, and I do inspections of hotel rooms, and I will walk in immediately, and I will know whether that room was cleaned with love, and attention and care, or if it hasn’t.
So, then, when you get the feeling, then you start connecting with facts and figures. OK, so who is the person? Was it really messy? You look for facts and figures to, I suppose, validate the feelings and the intuition that you are having, but I do spend a lot of time feeling my business, and feeling my people, and understanding how I am feeling, because sometimes that has a bigger impact than anything.”
What impact can your own vibe have on your team and how do you manage that?
“Not every day is a good day, and we are not all perfect. We are human, and we do have feelings, and we do have things happen in our lives. A lot of it happens outside of work, and it does have an impact on what we bring to work. Everybody says, “Oh, you leave it at home.” But, as the leader, sometimes you forget that you might have a smile on your face, but the people around you can actually feel how you are feeling, and they can understand something has happened.
If you are not in a good mood, then it does create a little bit of fear, because at a really base level of survival, they want to know that they are safe in their environment, and if you are cranky, does that mean that just all of a sudden, you are just going to say, “Just get out! Go away. You haven’t done a good job today”?
So, you have to make a choice, and I know that if I am having a particularly bad morning, I do deep breathing exercises. I do a meditation. I make the choice, 100% a choice to say I have to go in there with a vibe. I have to go in there excited for the day. Not a cheerleader, but a subtle corporate cheerleader, but I understand that I have to think positively. I have to see the silver lining in every situation, and it’s a choice.”
If you would like more information about leadership and staff support strategies’, then please book in a call and we will talk you through what it means for you and your business.