What are the most important characteristics to possess in the hospitality industry? This question was recently posed among a highly experienced group of hospitality industry attorneys. Responses to the question included: enthusiasm for customer experience, working as a team, reliability, honesty, and being proactive as among the most important characteristics to possess in the hospitality industry. We thought the question was worth a deeper look.

On Bill Marriott’s list of 12 Rules for Success he states that “it is more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.” So what are the qualities Bill Marriott was referring to and how do they match up with some of the responses to our question? 

We start with enthusiasm for the customer to have the best possible experience. As hotel lawyers we work on excellent financial engineering and detailed management agreements. At the same time, the hospitality industry is always going to be a guest and customer focused industry. As a service industry we also appreciate the importance of providing the best possible service so the guest comes back again and tells friends and family about the experience.

How about teamwork? In many service industries, including hospitality, the ability to work collaboratively and as part of a team is valued. It takes many people to run a hotel and they have to work together as a well coordinated machine in order to provide the best possible guest experience. To achieve this goal, employees also have to possess or be trained to acclimate to rapid changes in circumstance and then to adapt to these changes. This leads us to add flexibility to the list of characteristics.

Finally, there are the general qualities that make a good employee, such as reliability, honesty and being proactive, and self-motivating. In order to be the best employee, one has to show up and work hard, but it is an added bonus if the employee takes the initiative to go above and beyond their job description.

Nelson recently moderated a panel of hotel company CEOs at the Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging Leadership Symposium hosted by the Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging Association. The panel was focused on the Fundamentals of Effective Leadership in Hospitality including: inspiring a vision of success, excelled communication, and superior judgment. The panel also discussed what characteristics a leader needed in the hospitality industry including: acting and inspiring action by others, fostering a positive service culture, and nurturing employees to have happy and loyal employees. The tricky part is to take the larger vision of the CEO and cause it to flow all the way down to the front line employees who have the task of taking the important elements of the vision of the CEO and deliver it to the guest in the form of consistent excellent guest services leading to a consistent positive guest experience.

We spend our days working with our clients on the financial aspects of a hotel or the management and franchise relationships, but this serves as an important reminder that we are still working in the hospitality industry. More than one hotel company CEO has made the point and will continue to make the point that our industry needs happy employees. If the hotel employees are happy, they are going to make the guest happy.