Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Improve Any Relationship with STOP, START and CONTINUE


During my first year of management, as a Courtyard housekeeping manager, my straightforward manner of speech was often negatively perceived by some members of my staff.  On many occasions my inability to communicate effectively, especially during stressful periods, was the cause of misunderstandings between my staff and me.  On one particular occasion, my General Manager, Dee Harrington, asked me to report to her office regarding a conversation I had earlier with a housekeeper.  I came face to face with the pain my tone of speech was inflicting on others. 








As I sat and listened to Mary give Dee her renditions of our conversation, crying as she spoke, I felt as if a dagger was being pushed further and further into my heart.  Up until that moment, I had prided myself on my ability to get along with others.  It was a watershed moment, for me and Mary as I apologized to her for the manner in which I spoke to her and how it had made her feel. I was disrespectful to her feelings and I needed to admit this to her face. The childhood rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me” is a lie.  Words have the power to help, heal and hurt.





After Mary left the office, I apologized to my boss, and assured her that I would make every effort, from that point on, to be mindful of how I spoke to members of the hotel staff.  I took this experience to heart. I decided to conduct one-on-one meetings with each member of my housekeeping staff in which I simply wrote on a stack of index cards the words, STOP, START, and CONTINUE.  I asked each staff member to simply write on an index card what actions they felt I should STOP, START and CONTINUE doing as their manager. I also asked them to complete an index card on themselves, writing on that particular card what they felt that  they needed to STOP, START and CONTINUE for our team to be better and stronger. I informed them that I would place the index card they filled out on themselves in their personnel file.


As you can imagine, the meetings with the staff was not easy but they were necessary if I was going to succeed as a manager. My staff was brutally honest with me just like I asked them to be.  I did not attempt to dissuade them of their perceptions.  My primary purpose of the meetings were to get honest feedback that could help me serve them better as a manager. If it meant holding my tongue and not getting offended by someone else truth, then so be it. The process of getting the information was not easy on my emotions, but I struck gold. 


 Armed with this candid feedback, I began to be mindful of how my approach influenced staff members. At the end of each one-on-one meeting, I made a commitment to each staff member and they made a commitment to helping me create a better and stronger team.  As my staff witnessed the change in my response to them as a result of the information that they shared with me, the level of trust among us grew and as a result increased our communication and effectiveness as a team.


The one-on-one meetings with staff members became a stapler in my management toolkit as I continued to be promoted within the hotel.  During the five and half years that I worked as a department manager in the Courtyard, our employee satisfaction dipped below 85% once and for three of the five years we scored at or above 90%.  I was willing to recognize and own up to behavior that was negatively impacting members of the hotel staff. I was fortunate that Mary was brave enough to stand up for herself. If I had continued to display the habit of approaching individuals without regard to their feelings then I am convinced that I would never have been able to grow into my leadership potential. I could have easily gone years getting in the way of my own success.


It's Your Move ~ Aspire Higher