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22nd Master Innholders #GMConf sets hoteliers’ agendas for 2015

Dougal Bulger FIH
The Master Innholders’ 22nd Annual General Managers’ Conference saw more than 400 of the UK’s leading hoteliers congregate within London Hilton on Park Lane on 19th and 20th January, to hear anecdotes about the past year and to share tips and experiences that will shape business in 2015 and beyond.
Reflecting on the event’s role in the general manager’s calendar, Master Innholders chairman Jonathan Raggett FIH MI said: “There are a huge number of conferences and trade shows for our industry now, but I still believe this is the most important meeting of minds for general managers serious about achieving excellence right across their business.”

The injection of interactivity via the dedicated conference app, designed by Crave Interactive, was a first for the conference, enabling delegates to pose gritty questions to speakers, which appeared in real-time on large screens on stage, alongside a rolling feed of audience reactions and advice sound bites captured within tweets using the hashtag #GMConf.  

Day one delivered a strong message about the general manager’s instrumental role as the motivator who shapes team performance and the leader responsible for developing relationships and interpersonal skills in team members.  

Keith Hatter, CEO of K2 Performance Systems, made comparisons between elite athletes and hotel general managers to describe the difference between performance and results: “Athletes relentlessly work on their capability to increase their performance to enhance their ability to achieve the result. What we always get told is that performance is results. If you confuse performance with results you start having conversations about whether you’ve hit the target. You shouldn’t coach outputs, but coach inputs.  

“Your role is not to motivate your people. They’re already motivated. Your role is to create a climate where your people have a choice about how they perform, to induce a sense of autonomy and choice. We’ve worked with banks who don’t understand performance. They coach outcomes and attach money to them. In sport, when you coach outcomes and you attach money to it you get corruption.”  

Liz Timoney-White from Franklin Covey talked delegates through four simple ‘disciplines of execution’ for achieving more – Focus, Leverage, Execution, Accountability – advising that most people come unstuck at the stage where leadership strategy needs to be communicated to the team, to enable that strategy to filter through into the organisation’s culture.  

“Focus on the wildly important rather than having too many goals. Less is more. There are always going to be more ideas than there is capacity to execute. You can’t achieve all goals with excellence if there are too many. Choose one thing and by changing that one thing, you could make a massive difference to the performance of your business or team,” said Timoney-White.  

Presenting the findings of its Global Leadership Forecast 2014/15, which quizzed more than 13,000 leaders, DDI’s Jo Lane surmised that leaders simply aren’t ready for the top challenges that face them, which are human capital, customer relationships, innovation and operational excellence.  

‘CEOs know their organisations cannot retain highly engaged, high-performing employees without effective leaders who can manage, coach, develop and inspire their multigenerational, globally dispersed and tech-savvy teams’ reads the report.  

“There’s a big gap in what leaders think is valuable to their colleagues and what organisations actually feel is valuable,” said Lane. “Organisations are placing more value on managing and administrative tasks and we need to hold leaders responsible for interpersonal skills and relationships.”  

With a theme of self-development infiltrating the afternoon sessions, delegates heard inspirational stories from recent Master Innholders Scholarship alumnus Michelle Wells MIH, general manager of the Park Plaza County Hall, and Aspiring Leaders Diploma graduate Craig Jackson, guest relations manager at Northcote. Both Wells and Jackson spoke of their life-changing opportunities to further their professional qualifications in the company of talented aspiring and established leaders from hotels all over the world, encouraging conference delegates to consider becoming involved in the Master Innholders’ programmes and helping share knowledge to develop the next generation of hospitality industry leaders.  

“My two-week programme at Cornell allowed me to move from being a competent operator to a very strategic general manager, having a vision for my team and developing them through my key learnings,” said Wells.  

Other highlights of the afternoon, included a jovial history lesson from Dougal Bulger, Clerk to The Worshipful Company of Innholders, proudly celebrating the livery company’s quincentennial anniversary this year, marking 500 years since the granting of their first Royal Charter. An engraved silver plate was presented by Raggett on behalf of The Master Innholders to the Middle Warden Charles Attlee, of The Worshipful Company of Innholders.  

The BHA’s Martin Couchman OBE underlined legislative focuses for the hospitality industry in 2015, including changes to zero hours contracts, the working time directive, holiday pay, shared parental leave, business rates and the National Minimum Wage.  

Ufi Ibrahim FIH, chief executive of the BHA, later expressed her dislike of the term ‘zero hours contracts’ during an on-stage interview about the BHA’s ongoing government campaigning, led by Peter Hancock FIH MI, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels.  

“They are not zero hours contracts, they are flexible hours contracts. In the modern era I think flexible hours contracts are right and I fully support having them. I do not like the term ‘zero hours contracts’ though. I think we as an industry need to very careful about the language we use and not fall into the traps that government set for us.”  

After a motivating day of theory based learning, day two was designed to energise and inform with a firm focus on behaviour-shaping technologies.  

Mario Jobbe, COO of digital agency Circos Brand Karma, unpicked the wants and wishes of ‘millennials’ [also known as Generation Y – categorised as being born between the early 1980s and early 2000s] when they travel and told of the control millennials now have over a brand’s messages as a result of social media and user-generated hotel review websites.  

Low-touch luxury, brand-to-consumer marketing using conversational platforms like WhatsApp, and a shift from price to an exchange of value were all cited as responses to millennial travel behaviour traits. The technologies predicted to disrupt hospitality in the coming months and years include the use of virtual reality for creating new, immersive experiences both on-site in hotels and in the booking process, advances towards 4K photography and video quality and the growth of Google Now, which involves predictive and proactive information sharing by mobile devices based on users’ lifestyle patterns.  

A gala dinner sponsored by Moët et Chandon brought delegates together for an evening of networking and entertainment by the London Community Gospel Choir and guest speaker Tom Parker-Bowles, award-winning food writer and restaurant critic.  

The achievements of Exclusive Hotels and Venues' managing director, Danny Pecorelli, were also recognised in front of his peers, as Mark Lewis, publisher of The Caterer, presented him with the award of Hotelier of the Year 2014.  

The Master Innholders Annual General Managers’ Conference 2015 was sponsored by Technogym, Avvio, Café du Monde, Crave, Condé Nast Johansens, Gold Key Media, Mazars, Moët et Chandon, Newby Teas, PSL, Sky, The Independent Newspaper, VDA Group, VingCard Elsafe, ACT Clean, Beck Interiors, Hildon Natural Mineral Water, Wellocks, CGA, Production Plus, The Hotel Nanny and Wedding Dates.

Supporters of the event included BDO LLP, Bibendum Wines Ltd, Boutique Hotel News, British Hospitality Association, Custard Communications, Hotel F&B, Independent Hotel Show, Institute of Hospitality, London Hilton on Park Lane, PSD Portfolio International, Savoy Educational Trust, Strattons Advertising, The Caterer and Worshipful Company of Innholders.

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